Rundgang durch Lafayette mit Ron Hancock ©Laurent Burst Star City

Star City

Lively and charming, authentic and underrated: Lafayette is different. Yet the many attractions of this city of 80,000 in America’s Midwest only reveal themselves upon a closer look. A tour with special insights.

Who knows Duane Purvis? In Lafayette people like to have the football player for lunch. The Triple XXX Family Restaurant menu proudly displays his name along with those of many other local sports heroes. The city’s most famous diner turns them into tasty legends. Purvis’s 1,802-yard record (1,650 meters) for career rushing on the playing field at homegrown Purdue University was unbeaten for more than 30 years. His unparalleled career has been immortalized in the “The Duane Purvis All-American” burger—a favorite even now, long after his death in 1989. It’s an unusual taste treat with an added slab of peanut butter for $7.85.

“If you eat here then you really have to try it,” says Ron Hancock. Hancock, now 65, was already a fan of the distinctive blackand- orange striped building (built in 1931) on Salisbury Street when he was a boy. Today he works in the development lab at Wörwag.

Going for a drive in Lafayette with Hancock is like traveling through time. What looks like retro at first glance often turns out to be the real thing. Lafayette was never any different. Diners like the “Triple XXX” have always been like that. Time seems to have stood still in other places, too, like the popular hotspot Original Frozen Custards, where the ice cream has been delighting generations of residents since 1932—and not just generations of Hancocks.

Lafayette, the small city in the great state of Indiana, doesn’t skimp on its charms.

Modern Lafayette has its charms as well. A side trip to the Lafayette Brewing Company on Main Street is a must on any itinerary. Ten different beers have been brewed here since 1993, each with its own distinctive character. The popular “Tippecanoe Common Ale,” for example, contains Amarillo hops that are grown by only one farm, located in the state of Washington. It is to that the beer owes its fruity taste.

Welcome to Lafayette in the great state of Indiana. It is located 100 kilometers (63 miles) northwest of Indianapolis and 200 kilometers (105 miles) southeast of Chicago. Together with West Lafayette, the city becomes Greater Lafayette with 80,000 inhabitants. The Wabash River runs between them, adding significantly to the city center’s appeal as well as providing an ideal setting for the many music and cultural festivals.

The suburbs may look like those in any other American city: the Wörwag plant is located in a typical commercial area on Kossuth Street, along with shopping centers, motels, gas stations, and fast food restaurants.

The historic center, however, is characterized by Victorian buildings, rustic shops, and the local art scene. The old court house with its distinctive dome embellishes the city center as much as the bars, taverns and restaurants do. Axl Rose, singer in the rock band Guns N’ Roses, was born in Lafayette. Bernadette’s Barber Shop is striking in its own unique way —you can have your beard trimmed there for $5. But beyond the women’s and men’s haircuts that Kate Sweeney and Kristen Rupp spiff up their customers with, the shop interior fascinates with its mix of kitsch and art on the walls and in the furnishings. America straight up.

The 40,000 students, including 8,000 from 120 different countries, also exert a major influence on the city’s atmosphere. Purdue University’s strength in engineering—and particularly in aviation and spaceflight technology—has made it one of the most prestigious universities in that field in the country. Neil Armstrong and Eugene Cernan, the first and last (for now) men on the moon are among its graduates.

Rundgang durch Lafayette

Lafayette is also crazy about sports. In the college football scene the Boilermakers, as the university team is called, fill the Ross Ade Stadium, which holds up to 60,000. The Mackay Arena with its 16,123 seats is the basketball team’s home court.

Rundgang durch Lafayette

In Mary Lou Donuts nothing but doughnuts in countless varieties have been sold since 1961. Very calorific, but simply heavenly. One highlight: chocolate doughnuts filled with whipped cream. The traffic on 4th Street gets especially congested on Saturdays—for understandable reasons.

A puzzling star

Back to the starting point of the tour: the Triple XXX menu not only pays homage to the city’s famous natives of the past, but also living legends. The “Boudia” sandwich was added to the menu in honor of David Boudia. In 2012, the high diving champion won Olympic gold in London.

So many stars, including a puzzling one. When asked why Lafayette is also called “Star City,” not even Hancock is able to answer that. His colleague Derek Stetler can’t get the question out of his head, so he does some research. The result: when Lafayette became Indiana’s leading trade center in 1825, thanks to the Wabash River, it was given that nickname. The city flag still has the star emblazoned on it as testimony to that past.

Ron Hancock

has worked in the development lab at Egyptian Lacquer since 1976—with only a short interruption. Wörwag acquired the company in 2000. He was born and raised in Lafayette, then studied at Purdue University. Leading a tour of his hometown is therefore something that is especially near and dear to him. “Lafayette is a wonderful place to live and have family and friends.”

Text: Michael Thiem

Photos: Laurent Burst