Monday, December 21, 2015
HILLS and DALES Neighborhood History
Alexander Sganga, Pranay Shoroff, Julian Belal Ms. Stacy Nall
15 December 2015
Hills and Dales: Old is Gold
West Lafayette is a town primarily fueled by Purdue University and the business it brings with its many students from all corners of the world, but it is seldom recognized that there is a more permanent community that resides outside the more direct influence of the University.
Though not nearly as old as some of its neighboring communities, the Hills and Dales community located just northwest of university campus has been deeply intertwined with Purdue’s affairs since its conception in the 1920s.
The Hills and Dales community has—for the most part—remained relatively unaffected by decades of depression, war, and other national crises and many houses from its original construction remain today as historic icons. One must wonder then, what kind of a role did politics play throughout the Hills and Dales community? This chronicle attempts to give its reader a short but thorough glimpse into the different issues that the community faced from its construction in the 1920s to present day, as well as compare and contrast the community’s life with that if surrounding West Lafayette.
To understand politics in Hills and Dales it is useful to look at the larger area that represents Hills and Dales: West Lafayette. Present day West Lafayette rises above the tumult of its founding. But quite a twisted founding it did have. As local pastor and councilmember Peter
Bunder of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd puts it, “The city of West Lafayette has a checkered history. It’s 3 little towns. For a while you cannot send mail here because nobody knows what West Lafayette is. [...] It’s land speculators from the east who buy land along the river and are sort of jockeying for position.”
The jockeying was not a little thing. In the area of what is now West Lafayette, several settlements popped up before West Lafayette became what it is today. First, in the 1820s, the settlement of Jacktown came to be. Then in 1836, Augustus Wylie established a settlement peculiarly called “West Lafayette.” But that is not the West Lafayette of today, this previous iteration failed. 1855 saw Jesse Lutz found the Town of Kingston and 1860 was the year the Chaunceys came to town. Well, actually it was not. The Chaunceys were those eastern land speculators that Bunder mentioned earlier. The Chauncey family was a wealthy Philadelphia family who never lived in West Lafayette and might have never even graced its land.
Nonetheless, the Chauncey family founded the Town of Chauncey. These towns Jacktown, the Town of Kingston, the Town of Chauncey, and not the previous West Lafayette were the three towns Bunder mentioned that make up West Lafayette. In 1866, these towns started cooperating, and, by the turn of the decade, the three became one. The three became Chauncey. In 1871, Chauncey asked to be annexed by Lafayette but was denied due to transriver infrastructure costs. It was not until 1888 that Chauncey changed its name because, as Bunder mentioned earlier, nobody could send mail there. The town changed its name to West Lafayette, and all its mail was routed through Lafayette. Afterward, without Lafayette and with Purdue University, the town of West Lafayette grew to the point that in 1924 it became a city. With growth came the
development of more neighborhoods and, in the same year as West Lafayette’s establishment as a city, came Hills and Dales (New Chauncey Neighborhood Plan).
The cooperation between those three little towns that led to the creation of West Lafayette can still be seen in the contemporary politics of the area. West Lafayette is a small city and Hills and Dales is by no means a big community, facts which have not changed over the recent decades.