Alpha Dog Agency South Bend

A Look Back At The History Of South Bend

March 15, 2017

 Can you tell the story of South Bend's rich history?


I'm embarrassed to admit, having lived South Bend nearly all of my life, I had little knowledge of the history of the city. Sure, I was familiar with names like Potawatomi, Bendix, Coquillard and Colfax but I couldn't tell you much about their relevance to the city's history. So I decided to do some research, because in order to appreciate where you are going, you have to understand where you've been.


So let's take a look back to see what events led us to where we are today. You can read a more thorough timeline in the South Bend Tribune, but here's a recap of some important events in South Bend's history.


Circa 1600: The St. Joseph Potawatomi inhabit the region.

1820: An agent for the American Fur Company arrives and establishes a trade post with the Potawatomi.

1823: The founder of the city, Alexis Coquillard, establishes a trading post on the St. Joseph River.

1830: The town's name is changed from Southhold to South Bend.

1844: The first dam on the St. Joseph River is completed.

1847: The first bridge over the St. Joseph River is constructed.

1851: The first train arrives in South Bend.

1852: The Studebaker brothers open a blacksmith shop.

1860: The Hoosier Base Ball Club is organized by Henry M. Benjamin.

1861-1865: The Studebaker brothers supply wagons during the Civil War.

1865: South Bend in incorporated as a city.

1868: Singer Sewing Machine Co. opens a plant in South Bend.

1868: South Bend Iron Works Co. (which later becomes Oliver Chilled Plow Works) is established.

1869: Schuyler Colfax of South Bend becomes vice president of the United States.

1878: Development for the city's first park, Howard Park, begins.

1882: The first electric streetcar in the United States is put into service on Michigan Street.

1889: Brick paving starts on the South Bend streets.

1902: Potawatomi  Zoo becomes the first zoo in Indiana.

1902: Studebaker begins selling their first automobiles.

1903: The area's first interurban railroad line is opened.

1908: The South Shore Railroad between South Bend and Chicago is completed.

1922: The Palace Theatre, later renamed the Morris Performing Arts Center opens.

1923: Bendix Corp. starts in South Bend.

1929: New Union Station train depot opens.

1931: Bendix Airport (later renamed the South Bend International Airport) opens.

1956: A route of the Indiana Toll Road opens, just north of South Bend.

1963: Studebaker Corp. announces the closure of its South Bend plant.

1965: Some of the city's oldest buildings are demolished at the start of an urban renewal.

1977: The Century Center is built.

1980: South Bend experiences its first recorded population decline.

1984: The East Race Waterway becomes the first man-made white-water rafting course in North America.

1987: The home of the South Bend White Sox, Stanley Coveleski Regional Baseball Stadium opens.

2009: City renames the former Studebaker Corp. area Ignition Park.

2015: South Bend celebrates 150 years. 

2015: The South Bend Cubs play their first home game at Four Winds Field.


South Bend has struggled through some decline, so much as being named one of America's Dying Cities by Newsweek in 2011. However, in just a few short years, South Bend has proven this prediction wrong.


Joe Abraham, author of a book called "Entrepreneurial DNA" recently spoke at the South Bend Regional Chamber's 'Salute to Business.' In an interview with WNDU he said, "You're on the verge of some explosive growth based on a lot of trends I've seen in explosive communities."


He concluded his keynote with these words, "So, South Bend. Notre Dame. Elkhart. St. Joseph County. Whatever local brand you most associate with, I would encourage you to know that your best days are ahead of you."


I also feel strongly that our best days are ahead. It's up to us as a community to embrace our history and press forward into the future.


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About the author:



Tina O'Connor is the Creative Director for Alpha Dog Agency. Born & raised in South Bend, Tina has a love for Notre Dame and the Chicago Cubs. When she's not working, you'll probably find her hanging out with her miniature pinscher, Deuce. Follow along on Instagram where you can experience life through her lens.


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