150 Years of Lawrence History
From a wilderness stop along a Native American trail in 1823, Lawrence, Indiana, has evolved into an important destination community in northeast Marion County. Lawrence is one of the "Excluded Cities"—allowed to retain its city government when the rest of Marion County adopted a unified government structure in 1969.
But while "excluded," it is also "included" as the residents of Lawrence also vote for the mayor of Indianapolis (as county executive) and maintain representation on the Indianapolis/Marion County City-County Council.
The first platting of the city was a triangular tract bounded by 42nd Street, Franklin Road and Pendleton Pike in 1849. The settlement was first called Lanesville. Other names were tried, including Jamestown after the founder James White. In 1866, the Marion County Commissioners approved the name Lawrence—also the name of the surrounding township—after the Naval hero of the War of 1812, Captain James Lawrence, who is best remembered for the command, "Don’t give up the ship!"
The village became a town by the vote of 600 citizens in 1929. Growth was steady and sure. By 1940 the population of Lawrence was 1,048. Following World War II, the numbers of citizens rose dramatically. The population stood at 1,999 residents by 1950. A special census in 1956 showed 7,863 residents, and talk began of incorporating as a "fifth-class" city.
Morris Settles was the extremely popular first Mayor of Lawrence, serving the city for 24 years (1960-1983). He guided the new city through the arrival of still more residents (10,126 by 1960). But while Lawrence was growing, so was nearby Indianapolis, and the clever Settles foresaw the inevitable clash of interests between the large and small cities within Marion County.
When Robert Sterrett became Mayor of Lawrence in 1984, the population was nearing 20,000, and the status of the City of Lawrence had been clearly defined within the Unigov framework by the Indiana State Legislature. His efforts to meet the community’s explosive growth (attracted by excellent schools and a safe family atmosphere) provided a challenge that simply no one in Lawrence government had experienced before.
Thomas D. Schneider became Mayor of Lawrence in 1988, seeking and implementing solutions to the increased demands for water, sewers, street maintenance, trash collection, police, fire and EMS services created by both new and established residents.
The sudden end of the Cold War brought about the closing of Fort Benjamin Harrison, the city’s largest employer. Strong public-private cooperation has made the redevelopment effort a model for base closure activities throughout the US Department of Defense.
The population of the City of Lawrence is expected to exceed 35,000 during the Year 2000 Census. A beautiful State Park and championship Pete Dye golf course exist within the city’s boundaries. A new Lawrence Government Center sits opposite the park entrance and marks the first city center the community has ever had. Hopes run high that the development and revitalization of the City of Lawrence will continue with the same energy and success that have marked the achievements of recent years.