Outside The Box

A semi truck drives past a farm house with a warehouse behind it
A farmhouse sits in front of a warehouse off of Interstate 65. The home belongs to Rex Windhorst’s family. Windhorst’s parents purchased the 265 acres after they moved to the outskirts of Greenwood in 1945. Now, the family owns just 17 acres.

Photo by Kaiti Sullivan

Popping up almost overnight like rogue stalks of corn in a beanfield, enormous fulfillment centers and warehouses have changed the landscape along the highways around Indianapolis. These impersonal giants loom large, but so too do the small things that make Indiana a crossroads of people as much as commerce.

Mike Hancock stands in a field
As Whitestown began to expand and change, Mike Hancock wanted to find a way to preserve the town’s history. So, the Boone County Historical Society board member started whitestownhistory.com, where he documents the Whitestown of yesteryear through photographs, records, artifacts, and storytelling. “I’m realizing that maybe some of these newer people actually want to know something about the history of the town that they’ve moved to,” Hancock says. “At some point I’d love to build a museum. But for now, the website serves as a virtual museum.”

MIKE HANCOCK lives in Whitestown, Indiana. He says the town where he was raised was once considered the middle of nowhere. But in recent years, the community has been hard to miss, especially for motorists traveling the interstate between Indianapolis and Chicago. “People joke around on the town’s Facebook page that we’ve become the warehouse capital of the Midwest.”

Whitestown might have some competition for the title. All along I-65, fulfillment centers have begun to reshape the outskirts of places such as Franklin, Whiteland, Greenwood, and Lebanon. Swaths of farmland have been replaced by concrete jungles to make way for huge facilities owned by corporations like Amazon (which has 110 fulfillment centers around the United States, 11 of them situated in Indiana), medium-sized outfits along the supply chain, and even lesser-known ones such as Quality Custom Distribution and XPO Logistics.

Hancock’s ancestors came to Whitestown in 1849, two years before the town was established​. Mike grew up on a 130-acre plot, and his dad still lives in the 1866-era farmhouse built by his great, great-granddad. “If my grandparents were to come back from the grave today, they wouldn’t even recognize this town,” Hancock says.

The ubiquity of the warehouses has an unfortunate tendency to obscure a community’s uniqueness. But residents continue to live and work. Kids play. The faithful worship. Life somehow finds a way.

A small cemetery sits atop a hill located behind a warehouse.
Thornley Cemetery sits at the top of a hill located behind a warehouse parking lot off of State Road 267 in Whitestown. According to Boone County Historical Society board member Mike Hancock, the cemetery dates back to the middle 1800s and is named after the town Thornleyville, which no longer exists.
Melody Miller petting her horse, Bubba
Melody Miller pets her horse, Bubba, at her home in Franklin. Her great-grandfather, Thomas Sefton, purchased 100 acres of land in 1927 that has been passed down through generations. Now, Miller owns just four acres of the original parcel and has recently learned that a warehouse will be built in the fields behind her home. “It is such a tight-knit community,” Miller says. “And that is the sadness of it because these people that are coming in think that it’s just land, and it’s not just land. It’s more than a dollar sign to us. It’s a legacy. I get emotional thinking about it, but there’s memories, there’s stories, there’s families.”
Melody Miller spaying weeds while sitting on her riding lawnmower
Miller sprays for weeds in her front yard from her riding mower. Home appliance brand Sunbeam recently purchased land that will border Melody’s backyard. She has been fighting the project and recently lobbied and won a battle to have a 10-foot berm placed around the proposed facility.
Siblings riding their bikes through an alleyway
Alexandria Kahn, 13, right, and her brother, Aiden Kahn, 12, bike down the alleyway behind their house on a Sunday, a short ride from several massive fulfillment centers.
Vicki Alleman takes down her clean laundry from a clothes line in her backyard
Vicki Alleman takes down her clean laundry behind her home in Lebanon that is located across the street from a warehouse. Alleman moved here from Speedway in 2020 in search of somewhere quiet. “It was just getting to be way too much,” Alleman says. “It’s cleaner out here. There’s fresher air. You’re out here by yourself, but you don’t have to drive far to get what you need.”
A street view of a housing development in Whitetown
Warehouses aren’t the only thing popping up. The Heritage, a 260-unit development under construction in Whitestown, sits on 94 acres.
Members of the Sikh community sit near a window at the Gurdwara Sikh Temple
Members of the Sikh community sit near a window at the Gurdwara Sikh Temple in Greenwood on a Sunday. The temple is located near several warehouses where many of the worshippers work during the week.
The faithful bow and kneel to the Guru Granth Sahib in the gurdwara
The faithful bow and kneel to the Guru Granth Sahib on a Sunday in the gurdwara, a shrine or place of worship that is Punjabi for “doorway to the Guru.”
"No semi parking" sign outside the Gurdwara Sikh Temple
The temple is in a busy area where trucks come and go to warehouses for Amazon and FedEx, among others.