The early history of Richmond is tied to the National Road, which, after opening in 1833, brought many immigrant families through the city and Wayne County on their long journey west.
In the years that followed, Richmond became the most populous city in the state, and a center for industry and the arts. It was here in the late 19th century that cinema pioneer Charles Francis Jenkins invented his Phantoscope.
At that time Richmond was the gathering place for a number of important Impressionist artists, while in 1923 the very first recording to feature Louis Armstrong was pressed in this city by Gennett Records.
1. Historic Depot District
A few blocks north of downtown Richmond is a quirky, up-and-coming commercial district brimming with elegant architecture from around 1875 to 1910.
The centerpiece of the district is the porticoed Pennsylvania Railroad Station (1902), designed by the office of Daniel Burnham, famed for the Flatiron Building in New York and the Rookery in Chicago. More than 25 passenger trains a day stopped at this station during its peak years.
Home to the Model T Ford Museum, the Historic Depot District is an atmospheric place for a walking tour thanks to its cavernous brick buildings that once housed businesses that were vital to the development of the region.
Now these are occupied by exciting independent businesses, from galleries to pubs, bars, eateries, galleries and shops for books, records, flowers and furniture.
2. Richmond Art Museum (RAM)
From the late 19th century through the mid-20th century the city was associated with art, in particular the American Impressionist movement.
Although not a formal organization, the Richmond Art Group included the likes of Charles Fremont Conner, John Elwood Bundy and Maude Kaufman Eggemeyer.
Many of these artists were affiliated with the Art Association of Richmond, which in 1898 became the Richmond Art Museum. This venerable institution is part of a grand Colonial Revival complex that also contains the Civic Hall Performing Arts Center and Richmond High School.
In the museum’s rich inventory are pieces by Walter Shirlaw, Frank Duvenick, Henry Mosler, William Aitken Walker and William Wendt, to name but a handful.
One standout work is William Merritt Chase’s self-portrait, painted for the museum in 1915. A show to mark in the diary is the juried Annual Exhibition by Indiana and Ohio Artists, dating back more than 120 years.
3. Wayne County Historical Museum
This superb local history museum is on a campus surrounding the Hicksite Friends Meetinghouse, dating back to 1865.
This building was gifted to the Wayne County Historical Society in 1930, the first of many donations that have left the museum with a wonderful collection of artifacts and buildings.
In addition to the meetinghouse there are seven structures on the campus, including the oldest log schoolhouse in the county (1812) and a two-story log cabin raised in 1823.
Among the many things to see there’s the first Davis airplane from 1929, steam-powered tractors, early automobiles manufactured in Richmond and one of the city’s two Ancient Egyptian mummies, dating back 3,000 years.
Genuine 19th-century artifacts include an authentic Conestoga wagon, clothing, art furniture, industrial equipment and numerous everyday objects recreating everyday life at a print shop, loom house, bakery and blacksmith.
4. Model T Museum
Richmond is the headquarters for the Model T Ford Club of America, the largest club for Model T Ford enthusiasts in the world.
Although the city doesn’t have a manufacturing connection to this vehicle, you couldn’t find a more appropriate spot for a museum about Model T Fords than the Depot District with its abundant early 20th-century architecture.
The collection is spread across two buildings and guides you through the main years of Model T production, from 1908 to 1927.
You’ll see the 294th Model T to roll off Ford’s famous production line, as well as all kinds of curious adaptations, from a race car to a fire truck to a snowmobile and a mail delivery car.
Other compelling exhibits include an array of Fordson tractors and a recreated machine shop with belt-driven tools.
5. Glen Miller Park
Richmond’s favorite public park dates back to 1885 and is named for the railroad executive, Colonel John Ford Miller. The name “glen” comes from the geographical meaning of a valley with gentle slopes.
Something special about Glen Miller Park is its natural freshwater springs, noted for a high iron content.
In a traditionally upscale part of the city, Glen Miller Park falls within East Main Street–Glen Miller Park Historic District, which we’ll talk about a little later.
One of the contributing monuments is the Madonna of the Trail (1928) by the entrance, erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution and dedicated to the spirit of pioneer women in the United States.
As for amenities, the park has a splash pad, tennis courts, several shelters, a rose garden (more later) and a rambling open space on the site of a former municipal golf course.
6. Hayes Arboretum
Just east of Glen Miller Park is a stunning 466-acre managed nature preserve, founded in 1914. The Hayes Arboretum originated with a series of purchases made by Stanley W. Hayes to save tracts of old-growth beech-maple forest.
There’s around 60 acres of old-growth forest at the Hayes Arboretum, with some trees dating back as far as 450 years.
With the aim of restoring the ancient woodland that greeted the pioneers, Hayes also conducted reforestation experiments, like the Oak-Tulip Experiment, planted in 1922-23.
There’s a nature center in a dairy barn dating back to 1833. Inside you can find out all you need to know about Indiana’s native flora, while there’s also a sensory room, a live honey bee exhibit and a birdwatching room.
The Hayes Arboretum has 16 miles of trails, around half of which are designated for mountain biking.
7. East Main Street–Glen Miller Park Historic District
On the way to Glen Miller Park, East Main Street is lined with a series of imposing residences from the late 19th and early 20th century.
Sometimes referred to as Millionaire’s Row, this stately ensemble was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
One landmark that is hard to miss is the Henry and Alice Gennett House (1898), in a theatrical Colonial Revival style.
Sporting a two-story Ionic portico, this was the home of Henry Gennett, president of Starr Piano Company and the founder of Gennett Records, and is now rented out for events.
That building’s architect, John A. Hasecoster (1844-1925), designed numerous homes around Richmond, including his own Queen Anne-style house at 1907 E. Main Street, raised in 1895.
These houses are among more than 80 other contributing buildings in styles ranging from Italianate to Queen Anne, Classical Revival, Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival and American Craftsman style.
8. Thistlethwaite Falls
At the south end of Springwood Park is a scenic waterfall, tumbling down a flight of ledges on the West Fork of the Whitewater River.
Twenty feet high and sixty feet across, Thistlethwaite Falls is actually man made and is named for the sawmill owner, Timothy Thistlethwaite.
In the mid-19th century he dammed the river for his mill, redirecting over this rocky terrace. Come in summer and it’s a wonderful place to cool off on a hot day.
The waterfall is also a prime spot for hunting Late Ordovician fossils, dating back some 450 million years.
9. Joseph Moore Museum
A great reason to visit the Earlham College campus is for this excellent free museum devoted to Indiana’s enthralling natural history. The museum’s roots go back to a collection assembled in the 1870s by Joseph Moore, a professor at the college.
This started out as a cabinet, but soon expanded to a full room after he purchased the partial skeleton of a mastodon discovered in New Paris, Indiana in 1873.
Among the star attractions are live iguanas and snakes, another of Indiana’s three Ancient Egyptian mummies, the Randolph mastodon (discovered 1895) and the Ralph teetor Planetarium.
10. Gennett Records Walk of Fame
Richmond’s Gennett Records, founded by Henry Gennett in 1917, produced some of the earliest recordings by a whole raft of jazz and blues greats.
These include Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Bix Beiderbecke, Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Jelly Roll Morton.
You can visit the site of the studio next to the Whitewater River, where there’s an interpretive trail pointing out the former location of the studio and paying tribute to the many artists associated with the label.
The most famous artists are commemorated with medallions embedded in the path, designed to resemble 78 rpm records.
11. Amish Country
Richmond and Wayne County have a significant Amish population, and this becomes evident if you spend any time on local roads, as you’re sure to come across a gray-topped buggy at some point.
It’s well worth taking the time to track down the many Amish-owned businesses in the area. These might be furniture makers with exceptional workmanship, or greenhouses selling herbs, perennials, annuals, vegetable plants, seed and the like.
In Fountain City, ten minutes north of Richmond you can call in at the Fountain Acres Amish Store, for cheeses, traditional baked goods, fresh produce, candies, log furniture, flowers, hundreds of candies, home-made ice cream and much more.
12. Rose Garden
Richmond has a long-held reputation for roses, going back to a famous nursery founded in E.G. Hill 1881 around what is now Glen Miller Park.
This operation grew exponentially, and by the 1940s the Hill Flower Products Company had more than 1,000 acres of farmland in the area, with greenhouses adding up to an estimated 1,250,000 square feet of glass.
For decades this rose heritage was celebrated by a Rose Festival, which petered out in the late 1990s. There’s still a corner of Richmond recalling those times, at the Richmond Rose A.A.R.S. Garden, planted some 35 years ago on the south side of Glen Miller Park.
Now you can admire more than 100 varieties of All American Selections roses, complemented by perennials, blooming annuals and ornamental trees.
13. Middlefork Reservoir
At the very north of Richmond is a 177-acre reservoir that was built in the 1960s and continues to provide almost two thirds of the city’s water supply.
This body of water sits within a 400-acre park that has received a lot of attention from the Richmond parks department in the last few years.
With four shelters and ample greenery it’s a fine place for a family outing or reunion. The lake is of course the center of attention, for fishing trips and boating.
If you don’t have your own vessel you can rent a paddle boat, row boat, canoe or kayak from the service center. Other amenities include concessions, a cabin, a bait shop, docking facilities, an RC airplane field and Richmond’s only designated dog park.
14. Old National Road Welcome Center
Off U.S. Route 40, close to the Indiana-Ohio line is a visitor center helping you get the most out of Richmond and Wayne County.
The Old National Road Welcome Center is open six days a week, but if you come out of hours there’s a 24/7 information foyer just inside the doorway where you can pick up maps and brochures any time of the day.
The center is a handy first stop for a visit to the area, setting you on the right path for anything from Amish businesses to antiques and the unusual array of chocolate shops found in the area.
The store has a wealth of made-in-Indiana merchandise, local crafts from pottery to candles, as well as memorabilia relating to Richmond’s jazz and blues heritage.
15. Antique Alley
There’s such a high volume of antiques shops, malls and emporia in and near the city that the Richmond/Wayne County tourism bureau has created a trail to help you discover them all.
At the last count there were 1,200 dealers in the area, so for the sake of convenience Antique Alley is broken up into western (Trail #1) and eastern (Trail #2) parts.
Heading west, Cambridge City will need to be on your antiquing radar, as there are ten shops and centers for antiques in the space just two blocks downtown.
Crossing the Indiana-Ohio line, your bargain-hunting odyssey may take you as far as Lewisburg, where Brick Rhod Antiques & Bistro has 21 dealers under one roof.