Years ago, at the forefront of WW2, the federal government quietly began buying up land near Charlestown, IN. Well – I’m not sure how quiet it was, as many were not happy about it. But in short order, the government had gobbled up homes, family farms, churches, the site of the former Rose Island Amusement Park (see a great video here as an amazing example of how nature has reclaimed this site). Sadly, elements of the community that had been around for over a hundred years were suddenly part of the 12,000+ acre Hoosier Ordnance Plant. Many long-standing families were forced to move, with some even leaving the area entirely with a sense of distaste and rejection. Ironically, much of the land was likely not even needed, with hundreds to thousands of acres still being left to woodland and agricultural purposes. A huge part of the land was not even suitable for anything. Miles upon miles of fence and rail tracks were installed.
At its peak, the plant employed well over 25,000 people, and is given credit for pulling the area out of the Great Depression. However, it could be argued that the need for employees, cheap pop-up government housing, and the fact that the plant only operated in full capacity for about 5 years, actually led to significant long-term poverty and economic depression in the nearby city of Charlestown, IN.
Over time, the plant was slowly shut down. In 1960, a small chunk of land was given over to Clark County for the 4-H center. In 1992, it was finally shuttered for good. Between 1993 and 2004, around 5,100 acres were given over to the State of Indiana to form the Charlestown State Park (including the aforementioned Rose Island property). Much of the rest (@3000 acres) has been transitioned over to the River Ridge Commerce Center, a fast-growing business and industrial park.
While the INAAP may be gone, it is certainly NOT forgotten. At least, not yet. Many remnants of the old plant still remain, and are slowly being cleaned up. A fascinating history of the plant, along with pictures, can be found here. Former military housing still stands, lost among the weeds. Public is not allowed in that area, but those who have been there report that many houses just appear as if folks up and moved without warning – appliances and furniture left behind for ghosts.
Below is a link to another fascinating photo journey through some of the remains of the old plant. Hopefully photos such as this can be retained for time as a reminder of our greatness and folly.