Peru is one of a string of towns that grew up along the Wabash and Erie Canal. It is on the Wabash River and was first settled in 1834, a few years before the canal was built. Peru was a small industrial center and agricultural marketing hub by the late 1800s. A traveling circus was established by Ben Wallace in 1884 in Peru. That circus grew organically and through acquisition until it was purchased by Ringling Brothers in 1929. Other circuses chose to winter in Peru as well around the turn of the century and Peru became known as Circus City. As many as 4,500 people worked in the circuses Peru at their peak. Acrobats, clowns, animal keepers and others left town on the circus trains every spring and returned in the fall. It remained the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus until 1944 when they relocated to Florida. My grandfather lived for much of his childhood in Peru during the circus period. Since the circuses left Peru, the town has suffered from the same lack of economic development and deindustrialization as other nearby cities. In the 1950s and 60s citizens of Peru began an ongoing effort to preserved the town's identity as Circus City. The local high school has its own circus which preforms in the Peru Circus Building (photo above). There is a circus parade every year with a circus queen. Peru hosts a circus festival and there is a Circus Museum in the Circus Building. The museum mostly contains photographs but there are also a number of costumes and props. It's very much worth visiting if you're in the area. There is also a Circus Hall of Fame, which I haven't been to, just east of town at the site of the Ringling Brothers camp. Several period circus animal barns are still standing at the hall of fame and there is another small museum on site.
Aside from the Circus Building, Peru is an ordinary looking small Indiana city. There are a number of excellent mid 1800s brick residential and commercial buildings in town in various stages of repair. There is a great little coffee shop (Aroma) next to the Miami County History Museum downtown and a nice park along the river. The industrial building below was built between 1893 and 1899 and originally housed C. H. Brownell, a manufacturer of telephone booths. It was later occupied by Peru Auto Parts and now houses Kuepper Flavor Company.
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