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The 812 List, | May 02, 2017

8 gems of Vincennes

Discover the secret places of Indiana’s oldest city.

On the banks of the Wabash River. /Photo courtesy of Kimberly A. Musgrave

Indiana’s oldest city, Vincennes is home to some of the state’s oldest buildings and institutions. It served as the governing capitol of the Louisiana Purchase, the Northwest Territory and the Indiana Territory and played crucial roles during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. While Vincennes is famous for its George Rogers Clark Memorial, it holds many other hidden treasures. I loaded up my family for a day-long exploration that turned into a weekend adventure. Here are eight little-known gems for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

1) The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier is the oldest parish in Indiana and home to St. Aufidia relics. Just behind the beautiful architecture and stained glass of the basilica stands the Brute Library, the oldest in Indiana, with over 11,000 rare books in a collection that once rivaled the Library of Congress.

2) Grouseland, the former home of Territorial Governor and President William Henry Harrison, was built as a fortress with an internal well for water when under siege and a drainage system for waste disposal in the basement. Residents could seek shelter within its walls during attack.

3) Vincennes’ State Historic Sites include Indiana’s first university (Jefferson Academy, now Vincennes University), newspaper (The Indiana Gazette), bank (Old State Bank) and social club (The Harmony Society, which is still active today).

4) The Indiana Military Museum is home to the tank from “The Blues Brothers” movie, a gas mask for a horse and rare WWII tanks. It will soon welcome the USS Indianapolis nuclear submarine.

5) Procopio’s Pizza & Pasta is a repurposed 120-year-old building that offers authentic Italian cuisine from Procopio Palazzolo’s original creations and Sicilian family recipes. For some light American fare, head downtown to Pea-fection for mouthwatering soups, cheesecakes and tortes.

6) Comedian Red Skelton was born here, and you can tickle your funny bone at the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy.  Adults and children alike can laugh and play in the sound studio, watch videos and create their own clown faces using a digital makeup mirror.

7) Haus Edelweiss is a bed and breakfast on 20 acres with fishing ponds, walking trails and gardens just two miles outside of town. 

8) On your way out of town check out John Ivers’ backyard roller coaster in Vincennes’ neighboring town of Bruceville.

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