Lawrence is a Unigov Excluded Town located about 10 miles northeast of the Circle. It was originally platted in 1849 as the town of Lanesville. 

Traction Station in Lawrence, 1909 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Named for a prominent resident, Lanesville was sited near the Bee Line Railroad and Pendleton Pike. In 1866, county commissioners changed the name to Lawrence, after the township post office south of the town. About 20 years later, Lawrence, with a population of nearly 150, prospered as a trading center for farmers and merchants supplied by the highway and the railroad.

In 1903, the federal government purchased 2,000 acres north of the town to establish Fort Benjamin Harrison. The fort played a vital role in the economic life of Lawrence, particularly after 1953 when the U.S. Army Finance Center opened on the base. In the early 1990s, the fort was the largest employer in Lawrence with nearly 10,000 civilian and military employees. Although the Defense Department announced in 1991 it would close Fort Ben, the city submitted a bid to retain the Finance Center and in 1994 received word from the federal government that the center would remain open.

Fort Benjamin Harrison Duplex Field and Bachelors Officers’ Quarters, 1950 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Incorporated in 1929, Lawrence experienced significant growth from 1950 to 1980. As WESTERN ELECTRIC, Ford, and Chrysler plants opened on nearby Shadeland Avenue in Indianapolis, subdivisions sprouted in Lawrence. In 1950, the town counted about 2,000 residents; in 1960, 10,000; in 1970, over 16,000; and by 1980, more than 25,000. Some of the growth resulted from the controversial annexation of Indian Lake and Oaklandon, a decision which Indiana courts upheld in 1976. Fort Benjamin Harrison was annexed in 1970, despite objections from the U.S. Army. The Geist Reservoir area was not annexed, yet extensive residential and commercial development there and in nearby Castleton also contributed to growth on the north side of Lawrence.

As an excluded city under unigov Lawrence has a mayor and a city council, police and fire departments, a municipal water company, and a parks department. Despite the loss of manufacturing jobs on Shadeland Avenue and the closure of Fort Harrison in the 1990s, Lawrence continues to grow, primarily as a middle-class residential suburb.

Lawrence North High School Graduation, 1994 Credit: Jill Kramer, Indiana Historical Society View Source

Much of the growth has occurred at the site of the former military base. Over 800 acres of the decommissioned Fort Harrison Army base was transferred to the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority who has redeveloped the area to include a state park, golf course, retail locations, dozens of new homes, and dozens of repurposed buildings. The Fort Ben/Lawrence Iu Health urgent care clinic serves the area and a branch of the Indianapolis Public Library is projected to open in 2021.

In 2020, Lawrence boasted a diversifying population and was growing at two times the rate of the rest of Indiana. The Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township is the ninth-largest in the state. Four early learning centers, 11 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, 2 high schools, the McKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology, and an alternative high school serves area students.

Revised April 2021

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