New Carlisle Indiana has been a quiet but significant center of trade and commerce for nearly 200 years. An Indian trading post was established within the current town boundaries (although it was then called Bourissa Hills) in about 1830. In 1852, the South Shore Railroad came through the community, establishing it as an important commercial node on what became two railroads -today's continuation of the South Shore, which is now a commuter railroad, and a main line along a route of the New York Central. Flour mills and saw mills were among the early industries in the community. Today, twentieth century industry has replaced those early plants, and that industry continues to provide jobs for many people and tax base to the town. Boasting several restaurants, gift shops, antique stores, the Black Cat Bowling Lanes, and Town Hall, downtown New Carlisle continues to be a trading center that serves residents of the town, and residents of surrounding areas, including Hudson Lake and rural subdivisions scattered in Olive Township and parts of LaPorte County. In addition to downtown, there is new commercial development in the triangle around the Ambrosia Banquet Facility and a significant commercial node growing at County Line Road and U.S. 20.
New Carlisle today is a community of approximately 1,600 residents, with an effective service area with at least three times that many people. Its residents are justifiably passionate about its small town charm, but they clearly enjoy such modern additions as the public library and the local elementary school.
The town is located in St. Joseph County, Indiana, approximately 20 miles from downtown South Bend. New Carlisle occupies a strategic location situated within close proximity to railway lines, US Highway 20, major electric lines, and near a major water source, the Kankakee Aquifer System. Its location has been a major factor in the Town's past growth and development, particularly in the area of industrial development.
New Carlisle's historic downtown area gives the community a quaint atmosphere and serves as the hub of commercial business. Located along U.S. 20-known locally as Michigan Street-are several historic buildings and historic homes that lie generally west of the downtown. The architectural styles and periods of construction vary adding to the historic character of the community. The large majority of these properties are lovingly maintained and inhabited by owner-occupants.
Many small Midwestern towns have witnessed a steady decay of the physical characteristics and community resolve that once sustained their distinctiveness. New Carlisle has willfully kept its historic downtown core intact, placed a keen emphasis on historic preservation efforts, and maintained the cultural amenities that provide for its endearing small-town charm and appeal. Its town center boasts no fewer than six independent restaurants, a vibrant new public library, and a host of gift and antique shops. The historic downtown is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has an abundance of well-preserved 19th-century mansions. New Carlisle's cultural amenities are many and varied with contributions from several long-standing places of worship.
Nearby Bendix Woods, Spicer Lake, Hudson Lake, and the St. Joseph River provide ready access to natural retreats. Also, the Southern reach of Lake Michigan, only fifteen miles away, provides added recreational opportunities along with a golf course and bowling. Additionally, New Carlisle produces its own regular newspaper, the New Carlisle News, and has conference and meeting facilities -amenities not often found in similarly sized towns.
New Carlisle also enjoys a rich tradition of hosting festivals and parades, culminating each year with the annual Christmas in New Carlisle Holiday Celebration. These community activities, stimulate civic pride and contribute considerably to the town's cozy and friendly atmosphere.
New Carlisle's downtown district, much of it on the National Register of Historic Places, offers a contrast to the industrial eastern part of town. In fact, New Carlisle has an active historic preservation organization called Historic New Carlisle Inc., which is comprised of more than 400 members. In April of 2002 Historic New Carlisle received the Servaas Memorial Award from the Historic Landmarks Foundation ofIndiana's for the extensive restoration work done on the Old Republic, a prominent historic mansion in downtown New Carlisle.
On a broader scale, New Carlisle's location grants it ready access to an even greater array of cultural amenities. The cities of South Bend, LaPorte, Michigan City, and Niles, Michigan are each within a half hour of the town center. The metropolitan centers of Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis are readily accessible in less than half a day, and the South Shore Line provides rail service to Chicago from a nearby stop at Hudson Lake. Proximity to such varied town and city centers directly influences what New Carlisle was, is, and -especially -what it will become.