South Bend, Indiana, so named from its position on the southernmost bend of the St. Joseph River, is the fourth largest city in the state and the county seat of St. Joseph County. Originally settled in the early 19th century by fur traders, it was incorporated as a city in 1865. At the last United States Census, the city had a population of 101,168; its metropolitan statistical area had a population of 316,663 and combined statistical area of 544,582.
The St. Joseph River shaped South Bend’s economy through the mid-20th century, its access facilitating heavy industrial development. Likewise, South Bend’s location on a rail line between Chicago and Detroit, the two automotive manufacturing centers at the time, further encouraged its growth. Three of the biggest corporate names growing out of this era were Bendix, Studebaker Corporation and the Oliver Chilled Plow Company.
Since 1960, with migration to suburban areas for lower property taxes as well as the decline of heavy industry, the economic base of South Bend has shifted, and today health care, education, small business and tourism have come to the forefront of South Bend’s economy. Remaining large corporations include AM General and Honeywell Aerospace. The University of Notre Dame is now the largest employer in the county. Memorial Health Systems is the largest employer in the city.
Culturally, South Bend was influenced by a large influx of Polish Catholic immigrants in the late 19th century. The city and surrounding county have 23 Catholic churches and 11 Catholic schools. Three Catholic colleges and universities are located nearby in the unincorporated city of Notre Dame, Indiana; the University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross College.
The city is rich in museums, art and entertainment. The South Bend Museum of Art features a large variety of artists from South Bend and the Michiana region and offers workshops for adults and children. The Northern Indiana Center for History is the headquarters for the Northern Indiana Historical Society. The Studebaker National Museum holds a large collection of wagons and automobiles from the 150-year production history of the Studebaker Corporation.
The Morris Performing Arts Center, built in 1922, included the Palace Theater, a venue for vaudeville. Today it houses the Broadway Theater League, the Palais Royale Ballroom and the South Bend Symphony Orchestra.
The South Bend Silver Hawks, a Class A minor league baseball team, was originally affiliated with the Chicago White Sox and bore the name of the parent club. In 1994, it was renamed “Silver Hawks” as an homage to the once popular Studebaker Silver Hawk automobile. In 1997, the team switched affiliations to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
South Bend’s Potawatomi Zoo, opened in 1902, is the oldest in the state. It features more than 400 animals on its 23-acre site. Additionally, there are over 50 parks, golf courses and recreational areas throughout the city.
For more information on South Bend retail, dining, nightlife, arts, recreation and entertainment, please visit www.downtownsouthbend.com.