My last Meandering Indiana was to Clark County, one half of the region on the Ohio River that calls itself The Sunny Side of Louisville. The other half, and the subject of this blog, is Floyd County.
There are two places in Floyd County that I have visited often, and it’s always a pleasure to work with the creative people there. One is Indiana University Southeast, which has been profiled in our Spotlight section. Originally an I.U. Extension Center in Jeffersonville, the school moved to its New Albany campus in Floyd County in 1973. I have attended several events on campus at the Ogle Center, which offers cultural and performing arts events, as well as free cultural programs for school children.
My other favorite place is the Carnegie Center for Art & History, a brilliant use of the old Carnegie Library in New Albany as a historical museum and art gallery. Director Sally Newkirk has initiated any number of amazing projects over the years. An oral history research project explored Floyd County’s agricultural past and led to a photo essay called Down on the Farm, available in the Past Projects section of our website. It traces major changes in family farming from 1875 to 1996 through the words of Alois Best of Floyds Knobs.
The Carnegie Center is also a leader among Indiana institutions in research on the Underground Railroad. Counties along the Ohio River have no shortage of stories and places related to the Underground Railroad, but the quality of the Carnegie Center’s work is outstanding. A research project funded by the Indiana Humanities Council and the Indiana Historical Society let to a book by Pamela R. Peters, The Underground Railroad in Floyd County, Indiana, and then to a permanent exhibit at the Center, with an interactive feature-length multimedia presentation, Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage: Men & Women of the Underground Railroad.
New Albany in the early 1800s was known as the largest city in the state and the richest, home to many Hoosiers who made their fortunes in the area. Another Floyd County attraction I should mention is the Culbertson Mansion, a state historic site. This French Second Empire mansion, built by business mogul William S. Culbertson, cost about $120,000 in 1867. Like the Carnegie Center, it is in downtown New Albany, close to the Sherman Minton Bridge (I-64) to Louisville.