The Two Carmels: Indiana and California


I know everyone out there is annoyed about the snow lately and the frigid air stinging your face as you walk your dog in the morning, but there’s good news!

I just looked it up online and it should be 70 degrees and sunny this weekend! Hurray!

Oh wait, I think I looked up the wrong Carmel. That’s the one in California. Whoops.

Our temperatures are going to be in the 30s, maybe 45 at the most.

You know, that’s a problem we run into a lot here in Carmel – not “carmelle” with the extra “l” sound – that we get confused with the name-twin to the west.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard (here in Indiana) said it comes up all the time. He’s gotten to know the mayor and the people in California, which call their city Carmel-By-The-Sea, because he often gets mistaken e-mails, letters and calls.

“I think once they saw they were on one of some list online for some kind of best city and they got really excited and it turns out it was us,” Brainard said with a laugh. “Of course, that’s a great place to live too and it’s 70 degrees and sunny almost all year round so I think they’re pretty happy there.”

carmel by the sea


At the Current in Carmel, my editor jokes that she often gets story pitches and press releases only to find they were actually meant for the west coast city.

My family’s business, Donatello’s Italian Restaurant, has gotten phone calls meant for the other Carmel. A person will call and say, “I want to make a reservation for 7 p.m. tonight.” And my dad will respond, “But it’s already 8 p.m. now. Do you have the right Carmel?”

So I thought it’d be fun to compare the two Carmels.

Most famous mayors:

For Indiana, it’s probably Brainard who is now running for his six terms and has served two decades in office. For California, it’s actually an Oscar winner who famously spoke the phrases, “Go ahead, make my day,” “Do you feel lucky, punk?” and “Get off my lawn!” Actor-Director Clint Eastwood decided to run for mayor of Carmel-By-The-Sea in 1986 because he was tired of the bureaucracy and red tape in local government. His breaking point came when he tried to construct a small building in the downtown and was turned down by a preservationist-dominated council. He won with 72 percent of the vote and his salary was $200 a month. He opted to not run for a second two-year term, but he did film two movies while in office: “Heartbreak Ridge” and “Bird.” His proudest achievements were getting a tourist parking lot built, opening a library annex and preserving/remodeling buildings.

The Arts:

This is something where the two cities have a lot in common. Both are well-known for arts festivals, galleries and events. We are all familiar with the wonderful things going on here with regards to the arts in Carmel, Indiana (The Palladium, The Indiana Design Center, The Carmel Arts & Design District), but our California cousin has a number of competing theaters, including outdoor theater venues and an arts and crafts hall. The California city hosts the Carmel Bach Festival every year among other cultural events and the list of artistic luminaries to come from the city is quite impressive. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the California town was inundated with artists who congregated in the village’s artist colony and author Jack London even wrote about it in one of his books.

Demographics and Culture:

Carmel, Indiana is a much bigger city with more than 80,000 residents compared to less than 4,000 for the California version. Both are considered affluent areas. Both cities tend to favor locally owned businesses instead of endless strings of fast food drive-thrus and big-box discount stores. And interesting enough, both cities show an aversion to an abundance of traffic lights. The Indiana city uses lots of roundabouts instead of traffic lights and the downtown village of the Carmel version has no traffic lights or parking meters (those buildings don’t even have numbers so people have to go to the post office to pick up their mail – not that’s a commitment to tradition!).

Famous People:

clint eastwood


No offense to my hometown, but in this category we really get beat by the California city. We really only boast NBA star Josh McRoberts and Franklin Booth, influential pen-and-ink artist. Of course, we have plenty of prominent politicians and business leaders here and many famous people – such as Colts and Pacers players and IndyCar drivers – might be called “from Indianapolis” but they often buy their homes in Carmel. But nonetheless – it’s just a fun competition, nothing more – Carmel-By-The-Sea can lay claim to notable people such as Eastwood, photographer Ansel Adams, actress Betty White, actress Jean Arthur, actress Doris Day, actress Phillis Diller, actor Dick Sargent, basketball legend Jerry Colangelo, football legend John Madden, author Upton Sinclair, author Robert Louis Stevenson, actor Craig Kilborn, author Beverly Cleary, novelist Jack London and community organizer Saul Alinsky. Of course, that’s if Wikipedia can be trusted. I don’t know if those people were all born there or grew up there or just lived there for a short time.

Another confusion that we also run into here is that there’s another Hamilton County nearby in Ohio. Every time I search for something online, such as the number for the local Republican Party or something, I have to make sure I’m on the correct Web site. Brainard said it can sometimes cause marketing problems when you are trying to encourage businesses to relocate to Hamilton County, you have to do a good job of making sure they know where we’re located. Fortunately, he said that Tim Monger at the Hamilton County Alliance has been working hard to improve awareness for the city and the county.

One last thing: I looked it up and there’s actually another Carmel and it has more people than Carmel-By-The-Sea. There’s a Carmel in New York state’s Putnam County with 34,305 people.

Carmel NY

Carmel, New York

According to its Wikipedia page, it seems like a quiet enough place. Among notable events on the Wikipedia page, it lists that a scene for the Adam Sandler movie, “Mr. Deeds” was filmed at a Wendy’s parking lot in their town. “Although most of the scene was edited from the film, they do show the helicopter sitting in the parking lot in the movie. Wendy’s burned to the ground in December 2006. It was recently rebuilt and reopened in September 2007,” the Wikipedia page posts. I’m not saying that to tease or make fun, just to note that it seems like a place removed from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

But hey, do you know who’s from there? Captain Lou Albana. What? You don’t know who he is? He was a former professional wrestler and – most importantly to me – he played Mario in the 1989 TV series Super Mario Bros. Super Show! I still remember the song he did at the end, dancing and telling people to “Let’s Do the Mario!”

In the end, it sounds like all of the Carmels appear to be great places to live. The East and West Coast version appear quieter and less populated than our booming growing city with its developing urban core. And we keep making lots of “best-of” lists so we can’t be too jealous of our California cousin’s 70-degree weather.

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