Kokomo ( /ˈkoʊkəmoʊ/) is the county seat of Howard County, Indiana, United States. Kokomo is Indiana's 12th largest city. It is the principal city of the Kokomo, Indiana Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Howard and Tipton counties. Kokomo's population was 46,113 at the 2000 census, and 45,468 at the 2010 census. On January 1, 2012, Kokomo successfully annexed more than 7 square miles (18 km2) on the south and west sides of the city, including Alto and Indian Heights, increasing the city's population to nearly 57,000 people.
Kokomo was named after a Miami Indian referred to as a chief, but later found to be local legend Ma-Ko-Ko-Mo, which is sometimes spelled as "Koh-Koh-Mah" or "Kokomoko". His name translates to Black Walnut. There was a trading post for commerce between Native Americans and European-Americans here in the early 19th century. David Foster founded the first trading post in Howard County. In 1844, Foster donated 40 acres (160,000 m2) of his land to create a county seat in Kokomo, which was a log courthouse, for use in the community. It was incorporated as a city in 1865.
On October 6, 1886, natural gas was discovered in Kokomo, leading to a "boom" in business. This discovery was directly responsible for Elwood Haynes' move to Kokomo, as he was a superintendent with a gas company with interests in Kokomo and Howard County. The Diamond Plate Glass Company began in Kokomo in 1887, lured by the cheap and plentiful natural gas. This company later became part of Pittsburgh Plate Glass, or PPG. The Kokomo Opalescent Glass Works started making stained glass in Kokomo in 1888 and has been in continuous operation ever since.
On July 4, 1923, Kokomo achieved national notoriety when it hosted the largest Ku Klux Klan gathering in history. An estimated 200,000 Klan members and supporters gathered in Malfalfa Park for a mighty Konklave and the elevation of D. C. Stephenson to Grand Dragon of the Indiana Klan. A huge flag was used that day to collect a reported $50,000 for construction of a local “Klan hospital” so that Klan members would not have to be treated at the only local hospital, which was Catholic. At that time Indiana was a Klan stronghold, and as much as 50 percent of white males in parts of Indiana were Klan members. Both men’s and women’s Klans held weekly rallies and initiations in Malfalfa Park, and Kokomo’s Klanswomen held meetings at the armory, the local headquarters of the Women of the Ku Klux Klan, and churches. A speech at a Baptist church was attended by 1000 Klanswomen.
Much of the town was damaged or destroyed on April 11, 1965, by an F4 tornado that was part of the Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak.
"City of Firsts"
Kokomo is officially known as the "City of Firsts" for, among other achievements, being a pioneer of United States automobile manufacturing, with Elwood Haynes test-driving his early internal combustion engine auto there on July 4, 1894. Haynes and his associates built a number of other autos over the next few years; the Haynes-Apperson Automobile Company for mass-production of commercial autos was established in Kokomo in 1898. Haynes went on to invent Stainless Steel flatware in 1912 to give his wife tarnish-free dinnerware. In 1938, the Delco Radio Division of General Motors (now Delphi) developed the first push button car radio.
Kokomo serves as the "City of Firsts" in the food industry as well. In 1928 Walter Kemp, Kemp Brothers Canning Co. developed the first canned tomato juice because of a request by a physician in search for baby food for his clinic. Kokomo is also home to the first mechanical corn picker which was developed by a man named John Powell in the early 1920s. Kokomo was home to the first Ponderosa Steakhouse, which opened in 1965. Kokomo opened the first McDonald's with a diner inside, locally called "McDiner." This McDonald's theme failed nationally. Eventually, the "McDiner" closed and was converted back to a regular McDonald's restaurant.
These inventions are associated with Kokomo:
- 1894 – Elwood Haynes makes the first successful trial run of his "horseless carriage" on Pumpkinvine Pike, which is now Boulevard east of U.S.31.
- 1894 – The first pneumatic rubber tire was invented by D.C. Spraker at the Kokomo Rubber Tire Company.
- 1895 – The first aluminum casting was developed by William "Billy" Johnson from the Ford and Donnelly Foundry.
- 1902 – Kingston carburetor developed by George Kingston.
- 1906 – The first Stellite cobalt-base alloy was discovered by Elwood Haynes.
- 1912 – Stainless steel tableware was invented by Elwood Haynes as a response to his wife's desire for tableware that wouldn't tarnish.
- 1918 – The Howitzer shell, used in World War I, was created by the Superior Machine Tool Company.
- 1918 – The first aerial bomb with fins was first produced by the Liberty Pressed Metal Company.
- 1920 – The mechanical corn picker was created by John Powell.
- 1926 – Carl Molin developed Dirilyte golden-hued tableware.
- 1928 – The first canned tomato juice was created by Walter Kemp from Kemp Brothers Canning Company in response to a physician's need for baby food.
- 1938 – The first push-button car radio was created at Delco Radio Division of General Motors Corporation.
- 1941 – Globe American Stove Company manufactured the first all-metal life boats and rafts.
- 1947 – The first signal-seeking car radio was created by the Delco Radio Division of General Motors.
- 1957 – Delco Radio Division of General Motors developed the first all transistor car radio.
Kokomo served to symbolize the nation's early misunderstanding and ignorance of AIDS in the mid-to-late 1980s when Ryan White (1971–1990) was expelled from school due to his illness. White was a teenage hemophiliac who had been mistakenly infected with HIV during a medical procedure. The teen had been attending Western Middle School but was ostracized by his classmates, and forced to eat lunch by himself and use a separate restroom. Many parents and teachers in Kokomo rallied in support of banning White from attending the school. A lengthy legal battle with the school system ensued, followed by death threats and violence against White and his family, including a bullet being fired through the window of their Kokomo home. Media coverage of the case made White into a national celebrity and spokesman for AIDS research and public education. In 1987, the White family left Kokomo for Cicero, Indiana, where Ryan attended Hamilton Heights High School, and was welcomed by faculty and students who had been educated about the disease.
The Kokomo Gas Tower had been a symbol of Kokomo since it was constructed in 1954. The tower was 378 ft (115 m) tall and had a capacity of 12 million cubic feet (340,000 m³). Due to high maintenance costs of $75,000 a year to maintain and up to $1,000,000 to paint, the gas company decided to demolish it in 2003. Other ideas were reviewed before settling on this decision, including a plan to turn the tower into a giant Coca-Cola advertisement. On September 7, 2003, at approximately 7:30 a.m., the Gas Tower was demolished by Controlled Demolition, Inc. (CDI). Pieces of the tower were sold to the public for $20–30, and proceeds went to a planned Kokomo technology incubation center and Bona Vista.
According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 18.56 square miles (48.1 km2), of which 18.50 square miles (47.9 km2) (or 99.68%) is land and 0.06 square miles (0.16 km2) (or 0.32%) is water.
Location of the Kokomo-Peru CSA and its components:
Kokomo Metropolitan Statistical Area
Peru Micropolitan Statistical Area
|Source: US Census Bureau|
Kokomo is the larger principal city of the Kokomo-Peru CSA, a Combined Statistical Area that includes the Kokomo metropolitan area (Howard and Tipton counties) and the Peru micropolitan area (Miami County), which had a combined population of 137,623 at the 2000 census.
As of the census of 2000, there were 46,113 people, 20,273 households, and 12,204 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,847.2 people per square mile (1,099.0/km²). There were 22,292 housing units at an average density of 1,376.4 per square mile (531.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 85.10% White, 10.34% African American, 0.38% Native American, 1.14% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.17% from other races, and 1.84% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.61% of the population.
There were 20,273 households out of which 28.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.2% were married couples living together, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.8% were non-families. 35.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.90.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.0% under the age of 18, 9.4% from 18 to 24, 29.0% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 14.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 89.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.8 males.
The median income for a households in the city was $36,258, and the median income for a family was $45,353. Males had a median income of $38,420 versus $24,868 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,083. About 9.6% of families and 13.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.5% of those under age 18 and 9.3% of those age 65 or over.
In December 2008, Kokomo was listed third by Forbes in a list of America's fastest dying towns. This is attributed to the financial problems of the automotive industry. However, in May 2011 Forbes listed Kokomo as one of the "Best Cities for Jobs" after the city ascended 177 places in their rankings. The same article described Kokomo's success in the past few years as "inspirational". In June 2011, Conexus released a report touting Kokomo's "rapid bounce" after the recession.
City Hall and Police Department building.
Kokomo's current mayor is Democrat Greg Goodnight (2008–present). The two previous mayors were Matt McKillip (2004–2008) and Jim Trobaugh, both Republicans. The mayor is elected in a citywide vote.
The city council is known as the Common Council. It consists of nine members. Six members are elected from individual districts. The other three are elected at-large.
- WFIU-FM, Jazz, Classical, NPR – 106.1 FM
- WFRN-FM, Christian Radio – 93.7 FM
- WIOU-AM, Talk, News and Sports – 1350 AM
- WIWC-FM, Christian Radio – 91.7 FM
- WJJD-LP, Christian Radio – 101.3 FM
- WMYK-FM, Rock – 98.5 FM
- WSHW-FM, Light Rock – 99.7 FM
- WWKI-FM, Hit Country – 100.5 FM
- WZWZ-FM, Bright Adult Contemporary – 92.5 FM
- Kokomo Christian School (K-5)
- Redeemer Lutheran School (K-6)
- Sts. Joan of Arc and St. Patrick Catholic School (K-8)
- Temple Christian School (K4-12)
- Victory Christian Academy (K-12)
- Acacia Academy (K-8)
- St. Joseph Hospital, opened in 1913
- Howard Regional Health System, incorporated in 1958
Howard County Historical Society
The Howard County Historical Society occupies the Seiberling Mansion, the Elliot House, and their carriage houses. The Seiberling Mansion was originally the residence of one of Kokomo's richest citizens, Monroe Seiberling. The building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972. The Elliot House also began as a residence and was then converted into office space. These buildings are in the Old Silk Stocking Neighborhood, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the only neighborhood in Howard County on the register.
Parks and Recreation
Old Ben – Born in 1902 and acclaimed as "The largest steer in the world"
The Vermont Covered Bridge
– Another attraction to be found in Highland Park
- Kokomo Rib Fest, mid-June, downtown
- City of Firsts Soapbox Derby, Last Saturday in June
- Haynes-Apperson Festival, Independence Day weekend
- Howard County 4-H Fair, mid-July, in Greentown, Indiana
- Taste of Kokomo Festival, mid-August, downtown
- Koh-Koh-Mah & Foster Living History Encampment, mid-September
- Oktober Fest, 1st Saturday in October, downtown
- New Years Ball Drop, December 31 at Downtown Square
- Indiana Mustangs, Mid Continental Football League (1991–2006)
- Kokomo Dodgers, Midwest League (1955–1961)
- Kokomo CFD Saints, semi-pro baseball (1989–2002)
- Kokomo CFD Knights, semi-pro baseball (2006–2007)
- City of Fists Roller Girls, (started 2010)
- CFD Investments Stadium in Highland Park
- Kokomo Speedway
- Memorial Gym
Kokomo has a 12-screen movie theater, called AMC Showplace Kokomo 12, located on 1530 East Boulevard. In addition to AMC, Kokomo also has several forms of live entertainment, including choirs, a Park Band Association, and three live theatres.
The city's major mall is Markland Mall, which features Carson Pirie Scott, Sears and Target. The Kokomo Town Center, the former Kokomo Mall, underwent a major renovation in 2011 when it became an outdoor mall.
- Kokomo Municipal Airport
A major roadway traversing through Kokomo, nicknamed "stop light city", U.S. Route 31 has become one of the state's most congested roadways. In Howard County, there are currently 15 traffic signals on US 31. US 31 connects Indianapolis, Kokomo, and South Bend. Kokomo is working on a new interstate-style roadway on the east side of city limits. It will have interchanges at SR 26, Boulevard, Markland Avenue, Touby Pike, as well as where the current US 31 meets the new US 31. There will be similar changes to areas near South Bend and Indianapolis. The construction in Howard County will cost roughly $340 million. Construction started on the County Road 200 South bridge on November 1, 2008; construction will continue for the next 2 years and be ready at the end of 2013.
- Railroads 
- Bus Service
- Trailways service to Indianapolis and South Bend (Schedules)
- Cityline Trolley A fixed-route transportation system,Two buses run past a total of 108 bus stops, passing each stop once every hour, from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday (Schedules )
- Wildcat Walk of Excellence - The Wildcat Walk of Excellence consists of over 3 miles of paved trail that roughly follows the Wildcat Creek. The trail connects several of Kokomo's parks including Foster, Future, Waterworks, Miller-Highland and Mehlig Parks with a pedestrian bridge connecting Foster Park and the Kokomo Beach Family Aquatic Center.
- Industrial Heritage Trail - Construction beginning in 2011, the Industrial Heritage Trail is currently 1 mile in length and follows the right-of-way of a railroad corridor. The northern terminus is the intersection of Main Street with Markland Avenue and the southern terminus is the intersection of Boulevard and Home Avenue.
- Nickel Plate Trail - Currently connecting Rochester to Peru, the trail ends in Cassville with plans to connect to Kokomo in the near future.
Notable people and groups
- Elmer and Edgar Apperson, automotive pioneers
- Brandon Beachy MLB pitcher, Atlanta Braves, Northwestern High School (Indiana) graduate
- Alicia Berneche operatic soprano
- Rupert Boneham, Survivor contestant
- Norman Bridwell, author of the Clifford the Big Red Dog books
- Quautico (Tico) Brown, former Continental Basketball Association player
- Steve Butler, six-time Sprint Car National Champion
- Calibretto 13, band
- Kaitlyn Christopher, Miss Indiana USA 2005
- Elwood Haynes, inventor, automotive pioneer
- Nellie Keeler, child circus performer
- Don Johnson, professional bowler/PBA Hall-of-Fame member
- Steve Kroft, 60 Minutes correspondent
- Jim "Goose" Ligon, former ABA basketball player
- Strother Martin, actor
- Clay Myers, photographer, animal welfare advocate
- Kent C. Nelson, past CEO of United Parcel Service
- Anthony Norris, professional wrestler
- John O'Banion, singer
- Jack Purvis, Jazz musician
- Jimmy Rayl, Splendid Splinter, Indiana Pacers 1967-1969, two-time All-American Indiana University
- Tavis Smiley, PBS presenter
- "Sylvia" (Sylvia Jane Kirby), singer
- Floyd Talbert, soldier (of Band of Brothers fame)
- Joe Thatcher, pitcher for MLB San Diego Padres
- Pat Underwood, former MLB pitcher, Detroit Tigers
- Tom Underwood, former MLB pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Oakland A's, and Baltimore Orioles
- Ryan White, AIDS activist
In popular culture
- A Romance of Kokomo (1917), a silent film
- Terror Squad (1987), starring Chuck Connors and resident Michael W. Gordon, was filmed largely in Kokomo
- The Ryan White Story (1988), starring Judith Light and Lukas Haas
- In the 1947 film Mother Wore Tights, Betty Grable and Dan Dailey sing a song entitled "Kokomo, Indiana".
- In the animated movie Cats Don't Dance, the protagonist (Danny) hails from Kokomo.
- The Blues Brothers (film) featured a fictitious Kokomo bar, Bob's Country Bunker, where patrons threw beer bottles at the band on a stage protected by a chicken wire cage.
- City Connection (A NES video game) 5th Level is located in Kokomo.
- In the television miniseries Band of Brothers, Kokomo is referenced in first episode Currahee when Floyd M. Talbert receives a package from the Chief of the Kokomo Police Department. He sent him a revolver. Also in the third episode Carentan the end of the poem read says "...he lunged he thrust both high and low and skewered the boy from Kokomo" again referencing Talbert, a native of Kokomo.
- The song Kokomo (song) by The Beach Boys is mistakenly thought to be named after Kokomo.
- The song "First Snow in Kokomo" off Young, Gifted and Black, written and performed by Aretha Franklin, refers to Kokomo.
- Kokomo mentioned in Elton John book. "Ryan saved me from myself" said Elton John.
National Register of Historic Places listings in Howard County, Indiana
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- ^ Kokomo Speedway
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