Wabash Township, the initial development of what is now West Lafayette, was started in about 1822 to accommodate the overflow of keel boats unable to dock at Lafayette. Initially, honey and pelts were floated down the Wabash River to Vincennes for exchange of supplies needed by other early settlers in Tippecanoe County. The earliest settlement in the West Lafayette village area was Jacktown named after the owner of its blacksmith shop.
The town on the flood plain of the Wabash River was in continual danger of flooding so the “town was moved up the hill and out of the river bottoms. The town of then named, Kingston, was platted in 1855, and further platted the land in 1861 by the Chauncey family, who named it after themselves.
A local land owner, John Purdue, help establish a land grant college created under the Morrill Act, when he pledged $150,000 of his own money, obtained another $50,000 in pledges from other prominent citizens and donated 100 acres of land. The university was then named in his honor.
The people of Chauncey voted to change the name of their town to West Lafayette on May 21, 1888.
Few businesses had been established in “The Village” by the late 1880s, with most residents traveling across the river to shop in Lafayette. Still both towns shared the many attractions with Lafayette having the commerce and government seat of the county and West Lafayette having Purdue University.
As is true of Tippecanoe County economy, the economy of West Lafayette is heavily influenced by the presence of Purdue University, with an enrollment of nearly 40,000, more than the city's population. The university employs more than 15,500 people, most of whom live in Tippecanoe County.
Today the cities share the enjoyment of social organizations, arts and cultural groups, restaurants, shopping area, churches, and museums on both sides of the Wabash.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce recently designated the combined West Lafayette/Lafayette as their "Community of the Year". West Lafayette has also recently received several Tree City U.S.A. awards and a Main Street Award for the development of Wabash Landing.
The city's elected officials consist of a mayor, the clerk-treasurer, and a seven-member Common Council. The mayor is the city's chief executive officer and chairs the Common Council and the Board of Public Works and Safety. The clerk-treasurer serves as the finance officer of the city, the clerk of the city, and the court clerk. The seven-member Common Council holds the city's legislative authority.
The West Lafayette Parks and Recreation actively supports the enhancement of quality of life in the city by providing the best possible recreational facilities and programs for its citizens through effective management of natural, human and financial resources.
Riehle Plaza makes entry to the John Myers Pedestrian Bridge at Tapawingo Park. A symbolic link between the two cities, this site hosts musical performances, festivals and community celebrations throughout the year. Riehle Plaza is located on the Lafayette side of the Wabash River, The John Myers Pedestrian Bridge spans the river to Tapawingo Park in West Lafayette. Beautiful fountains, skyline panoramas and outdoor art can be enjoyed
Brown Street Overlook is located on the north end of Tapawingo Park and provides a scenic view of the Wabash River and the Lafayette skyline. Take some time to rest, relax and reflect on life while enjoying the ever changing Wabash River.
Close by is the Riverside Skating Center. This outdoor, seasonal ice skating rink offers open skating during the day and evening hours. There is also a food/drink vending area, lockers, public restrooms and skate rental is available. Open late November until the arrival of spring in early March.
The Wabash Heritage Trail can be accessed at Tapawingo Park. Enjoy an amazing leisure trail runs from the park to the Tippecanoe Battlefield and Museum in Battle Ground. This trail offers endless opportunities for bird watching, wildlife observation, exercise and exploration. The Trail is mild to moderate as it winds past marshy areas, buckeye, cottonwood and sycamore trees, wildflowers, and Heron Island Wildlife Preserve.
The West Lafayette Public Library offers over 100,000 books for all ages -- from novels to non-fiction, board books to large print. The library also has a large collection of music CDs as well as an extensive sheet music collection, console games for the Wii and PS2 systems, computer software for MAC and PC and thousands of videos in VHS and DVD formats, including award-winners, foreign films and a large children's collection.
Library services include a children's room, teen services, community outreach program, public meeting rooms, public computers, wireless access and printing and computer classes. The facility is located a few blocks from the Purdue campus at 208 W. Columbia Street. Phone number is 765-743-2261.