11 April 2013

Angola's Public Square: Second only to Monument Circle

Angola's Public Square
Toward the end of 2008 I was contracted by the City of Angola to place their downtown on the National Register.  Worthy of the listing?  Absolutely.  I had been to the city in northeast Indiana only a few months prior to being contacted.  The most remarkable space is their downtown "square" which evolved into a large round-about after a war memorial was placed in the center of the square in 1917.  As far as Indiana town squares go, Angola is second only to Indianapolis's famed Monument Circle, but has a hometown flare all its own.

With the opportunity to stay over at Pokagon State Park, I took the family for a weekend get-away while I worked over their Christmas break.  Unfortunately, the toboggan run at Pokagon had closed for the season.  And it was cold....I should know....I spent hours walking up and down the city streets in a brisk sub-zero wind.
Angola was platted in 1836 and was established as the county seat of Steuben County in 1837.  The town's founders incorporated a public square on the highest point in the original plat.  The purpose of the square was to serve as a space for both civic functions and for farmers to bring their crops to a public market.  As automobiles gained in popularity and the important cross streets in the square needed more definition at their intersection, the community devised a plan for a monument to soldiers of the Civil War.  The 70 foot tall monument includes an inscription of Lincoln's Gettysburg address and is topped by a statue of Columbia.
TWO downtown theaters on the Square

Some of the city's most important architecture front the public square.  This includes the 1868 Steuben County Courthouse, a large Masonic Hall, impressive First National Bank building, and the Angola Opera House.  Near the middle of the 20th century the square boasted two movie theaters, still in operation today.  The historic county jail and sheriff's residence is located immediately behind the old courthouse and is used as a museum.

In 2009 I was part of a team that worked toward new streetscaping in the square and on Maumee Street (Highway 20).  I returned to Angola in 2011 to see the finished product.  Impressive.  The downtown was placed on the National Register in 2010.  Here is a post from my first trip to Angola:  Landmarks and the Powers Church



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