Evansville is the commercial, medical and cultural hub of Southwestern Indiana and the Illinois-Indiana-Kentucky Tri-State Area. It is the third-largest city in the U.S. state of Indiana and the largest city in Southern Indiana. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 117,429 and a metropolitan population of 358,676. It is the county seat of Vanderburgh County.
The city is situated on a gentle horseshoe bend on the Ohio River and often referred to as "River City". The area was first settled by mound builders from at least 8,000 BCE, with complex sites still intact at nearby Angel Mounds. It was first settled by Americans in 1812 and incorporated in 1819.
The broad economic base of the region has helped to build an economy which is known for its stability, diversity, and vitality. Five NYSE companies are headquartered in Evansville, along with two other companies traded on the NASDAQ.
The city has several well known educational institutions. The University of Evansville is a small private school that is consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top ten regional universities in the Midwest. The University of Southern Indiana is a larger public school just outside of city limits to the west. Located in the city's downtown district, Signature School is a charter school consistently ranked as one of the top high schools in the United States. The Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library has also achieved national notoriety.
One of the most popular attractions in the region is Casino Aztar, the first riverboat casino in Indiana. In 2004, Evansville was named an "All-America City" by the National Civic League. In 2008, it was voted the best city in the country in which "to live, work, and play" by the readers of Kiplinger, and in 2009 the 11th best.
Evansville soon became a thriving commercial town, with an extensive river trade. It was incorporated in 1819 and received a city charter in 1847. The building of the Wabash and Erie Canal, which connected the Great Lakes to the Ohio River, greatly accelerated the city's growth. The canal was finally completed in 1853, the same year that Evansville's first railroad, Evansville & Crawfordsville Railroad, was opened to Terre Haute. The founder of the E&CR built the Hotel del Coronado on the peninsula guarding the harbor to San Diego, California. He would take hosts of friends on his private rail cars and celebrate Twelfth Night and then return to Evansville; the new hotel would remain unoccupied for the remainder of the year until the next Twelfth Night. By the U.S. census of 1890 Evansville ranked as the 56th largest urban area in the United States, a rank it gradually fell from in the early 1900s.
The first highway bridge to cross the Ohio River and connect Evansville with Henderson, Kentucky was built in 1932. After the devastating Ohio River flood of 1937, the city established the Evansville-Vanderburgh Levee Authority District. It built a system of earth levees, concrete walls, and pumping stations designed to protect the city.
During World War II, Evansville was the largest inland producer of LSTs (Tank Landing Ships). Evansville also produced a specific version of the P-47 Thunderbolt known as the P-47Ds, which were assembled in a factory constructed for this purpose during the war. The factory was later used to manufacture Whirlpool appliances, primarily refrigerators. These planes were also produced in Farmingdale on Long Island, New York. The Evansville craft were given the suffix "-Ra" while the Farmingdale planes were given the suffix "-Re". Evansville produced a total 6,242 P-47s,almost half of the P47s made during the war, and 167 LSTs during the war.
In the early 1950s, industrial production in the city expanded at a rapid pace. Culturally, Evansville evolved in the 1950s with the construction of subdivisions on the outer reaches of the community. This shift in population led to other developments as shopping started to shift from the downtown area into suburban shopping centers. In 1963, Washington Square Mall became the first enclosed mall in the state of Indiana.
During the final third of the 20th century, Evansville became the commercial, medical, and service hub for the tri-state region. A 1990s economic spurt was fueled by the growth of the University of Southern Indiana. The arrival of giant Toyota and AK Steel plants, as well as Casino Aztar, Indiana's first gaming boat, also contributed to the growth of jobs.