New Albany is a city in Floyd County, Indiana, United States, situated along the Ohio River opposite Louisville, Kentucky. The population was 36,372 at the 2010 census. The city is the county seat of Floyd County. It is bounded by I-265 to the north and the Ohio River to the south, and is considered part of the Louisville, Kentucky Metropolitan Statistical Area. The mayor of New Albany is Jeff Gahan, a Democrat; he was elected in 2011.
The land of New Albany was officially granted to the United States after the American Revolutionary War. The territory had been captured by George Rogers Clark in 1779. For his services Clark was awarded large tracts of land in Southern Indiana including most of Floyd County. After the war Clark sold and distributed some of his land to his fellow soldiers. The area of New Albany ended up in the possession of Col. John Paul.
New Albany was founded in July 1813 when three brothers from Albany, New York—Joel, Abner, and Nathaniel Scribner—arrived at the Falls of the Ohio and named the site after their home. They purchased the land from Col. John Paul. New Albany was platted by John Graham on the land owned by the Scribner brothers. In 1814 Joel and Mary Scribner built their home in New Albany, the Scribner House still stands today.
New Albany was incorporated as a town in 1817 as part of Clark County. In 1819, three years after Indiana was admitted as a state, New Albany became the seat of government for newly established Floyd County. A courthouse was finally built in 1824. New Albany was incorporated as a city in 1839. It would remain one of the largest cities in the mid-west for the next 50 years.
The steamboat industry was the engine of the city's economy during the mid-19th century. At least a half-dozen shipbuilders were in operation and turned out a multitude of steamboats and packet boats, including the Robert E. Lee, Eliza Battle, the Eclipse, and the A.A. Shotwell. Shipbuilding was accompanied by a wide range of ancillary business including machine shops, foundries, cabinet and furniture factories, and silversmith shops. Its second largest business was the American Plate Glass Works. By 1850, New Albany was the largest city in Indiana due to its river contacts with the South. New Albany's size and economic influence overshadowed all of its neighboring cities, including Louisville.
In 1853 the New Albany High School opened, the first public high school in the state. The original school was built at the corner of West First Street and Spring Street. New Albany would also be the first in the state to create a consolidated school district several years later.
Before the Civil War, over half of Hoosiers worth over $100,000 lived in New Albany, making it by far the wealthiest part of the state.
Ashbel P. Willard, governor of the state of Indiana and a native of New Albany, dedicated the Floyd County Fairgrounds in 1859. That year, the Indiana State Fair was held in New Albany. During the Civil War, the fairgrounds were converted to become Camp Noble and used as a muster point for the area's regiments.
A new larger courthouse was built in 1865 which was used until the 1960s when the current City-County courthouse was constructed, also the first in Indiana.
During the American Civil War the trade with the South dwindled, and after the War much of Indiana saw New Albany as too friendly to the South. The city never regained its stature, remaining a city of 40,000 with only its antebellum/early-Victorian “Mansion-Row” buildings to remind itself of its boom period. New Albany’s robust steamboat industry ended by 1870, with the last steamboat built in New Albany named, appropriately, the Robert E. Lee.
During the second half of the 19th century New Albany experienced an industrial boom despite the collapse of the steamboat industry. The advent of the railroad created economic opportunity for the city as a pork packing and locomotive repair center. A bridge was built across the River in 1886 providing a rail and road connection with Kentucky. American Plate Glass Works opened in 1865 which employed as many as 2,000 workers. When the factory relocated in 1893 New Albany lost a large part of its population and went into economic decline.
In the early 20th century, New Albany became a center of plywood and veneer, and its largest employer was the New Albany Veneering Company. By 1920, New Albany was the largest producer of plywood and veneer in the world with other producers including Indiana Veneer Panel Company and Hoosier Panel Company.
On March 23, 1917, a tornado struck the north side of New Albany killing 45 persons.
Interstate 64 came through New Albany in 1961 and led to the construction of the Sherman Minton Bridge. The project cost 14.8 million dollars. The bridge was named for US Senator and later Supreme Court Justice Sherman Minton who was a native of nearby Georgetown and practiced law in New Albany. The bridge was named the "most beautiful long-span bridge of 1961" by the American Institute of Steel Construction.
Charles Allen Prosser lived in New Albany for much of his life. Charles Allen Prosser School of Technology was named in honor of his accomplishments as the "Father of Vocational Education." In the mid and late 20th century, New Albany became an innovator in using electronic media in education. New Albany High School, a public school, started WNAS-FM in 1949, which is the nation's oldest continuously operating high school radio station. In the late 1960s, Slate Run Elementary School started WSRS, a non-licensed student-produced closed circuit television service for its classrooms, one of the nation's first in an elementary school.
Ohio River flood
In January 1937 a terrible flood affected New Albany and the region. New Albany, like the other river towns, had no flood walls and no methods of regulating the river. The Ohio River rose to 60.8 feet at New Albany leaving most of the town under 10 or more feet of water for nearly three weeks. The flood would be the worst disaster to ever befall the city.
After the flood New Albany was the first city in the region to begin construction on massive flood walls around the city. New Albany's flood walls would serve as examples for those that would later be constructed around Louisville and Clark County.