6 Places Of Importance in Michigan


    (Washington St. and the harbor)
    This now abandoned structure was the third depot of the Michigan Central (Penn Central) RR. The original depot, built in the 1850’s, was located on the opposite side of the tracks.

It was in front of that depot that the funeral train bearing the body of Abraham Lincoln stopped at 8:25 A.M. on May 1, 1865. The train halted under a 35 foot memorial arch which had been constructed over the tracks. The arch bore sayings in honor of the president and was decorated with flap, evergreen boughs, and choice flowers.

The people of Michigan City were able to enter the funeral car to pay their last respects to the great man before the train continued on to Chicago and eventually Springfield, Illinois.

The second Michigan Central depot, located approximately at the site of the present depot, burned in 1914. A large freighthouse and handsome passenger depot built in 1856 by the Monon RR were a block further west across Franklin St. To the north, at the harbor on the east side of Franklin St., stood a large complex of engine repair shops, turntable, and roundhouse of the Michigan Central. Once a familiar landmark at the harbor, the engine repair shop building, built in 1851-52, was on the National Register of Historic Places until it was demolished in June, 1978.

The railroads, along with the harbor, once played a major part in the economic activity of the town. Now only the tracks and the small depot remain as evidence of their prominence in our past.

The grain elevator at the harbor was built by Cargill, Inc., in 1956. For a time the company shipped out tens of thousands of tons of soybeans by large commercial ships. Grain ships, along with those transporting salt to be used on highways during the winter, were the last large commercial vessels to use the Michigan City harbor.

(Michigan Blvd. and Washington St.)
The historical marker on the southeast corner near the courthouse commemorates the passage of the Michigan Road, which ran from Madison, Indiana, on the Ohio River, to Lake Michigan at Michigan City. It terminated at the corner of Michigan Blvd. and Wabash St., giving all the communities along the road access to the harbor. Completed in the mid 1830’s, the road was the main route north-south across the state.
The present LaPorte County Circuit Court Building stands on the north end of what once was the original Town Square. Set aside by Isaac C. Elston, the founding father of Michigan City, this square block was used as a park and as an open air market for various goods and farm produce. The square was later divided into lots and sold to help finance the purchase of part of Washington Park.
Important Buildings

(E. 8th St., now the Blank Center for the Arts)
The former Michigan City Public Library on 8th St. was the result of a $5,000 bequest in the will of George Ames. Quickly, prominent citizens organized a committee to establish a library. The building was finished in 1897, one-third of the cost being paid for by John H. Barker.

The old library is constructed of Indiana blue Bedford stone with a magnificent marble interior graced by 3 large stained glass windows. The library provided good service to Michigan City until it became obvious in the 1970’s that the space was inadequate.

In1977 the new Michigan City Public Library opened at 100 E. 4th St. Designed by Helmut Jahn of C.F. Murphy Assoc., a Chicago firm, this unique structure features translucent walls and a central courtyard, and has won a design award from the American Institute of Architects.

The new Michigan City Public Library building provides more space and services to the residents of the area, while the old building has been converted into a community arts center.

4. ST. JOHN’S HALL AND 400 BLOCK (Franklin St.) [To The Top]
The 400 block of Franklin St. contains almost all that remains of early Michigan City. These are the last High Victorian Italianate commercial buildings left in the old business district. Many of these buildings were built in the 1870’s and used new construction techniques such as cast iron for the bracketed pediments at the tops of the buildings and around the windows. Other structures used the more traditional stone sills.

The finest example of this Italianate style in Michigan City is St. John’s Hall or St. Johannes Verein, the 3 story brick building in the middle of the block. Built in 1877 by German immigrants, the building housed stores and a meeting hall for the Germans. An interesting detail is the cast iron pediment showing two clasping hands and the name St. Johannes Verein at the very top of St. John’s Hall.

(southeast corner 5th and Franklin Sts., near Citizens Bank)
An historical plaque marks the reputed site of the first log cabin built in Michigan City. It was constructed in 1832 by Jacob Furman, assisted by B.F. Bryant.

Shortly after construction of the Leed’s Bldg. in 1902, the owner’s pride compelled him to film the view from his second floor window. Looking east along 4th St. from Franklin Street, the camera records the presence of the McNulty Brothers Livery Stable in the old Congregational Church and of Elston School next to it.

(northwest corner 6th and Washington Sts.)
Many of the area’s first settlers were from New England, one of the homes of Congregationalism. In 1825 a congregation was formed. The first church stood about where the new Michigan City Public Library is now. In 1881, the present church was constructed.

In 1907 the structure burned and was rebuilt in 1908, a part of the money coming from a legacy of Mr. Fred Haskell of the Haskell-Barker Car Co.

The bell in the steeple is believed to be from the 1843 or 1844 church. The colors of the bricks and the stained glass in the windows blend well together and make for a very handsome Gothic-style building.

The Old Lighthouse Museum is the most historic structure left in Michigan City


The building was constructed in 1858 by the U.S. government to provide navigation aid to ships on Lake Michigan. Over the years Michigan City’s beacon became known as “Old Faithful” because of the conscientious services of its lighthouse keepers.

The most famous of these lighthouse keepers was Harriet Colfax, who worked for 43 years until her retirement in 1904. Extensively remodeled in 1904, the lighthouse served exclusively as quarters for the keeper and his assistant; the beacon light had been moved to the pier lighthouse in the late 1880’s.

The Coast Guard took over the lighthouse service after the death of the last lighthouse keeper in 1940. In 1965, the Michigan City Historical Society leased the building from the city, restoring and establishing a museum in the lighthouse. The Old Lighthouse Museum is open to the public for tours.

Some La Porte County Historical Sites


Plum Grove, on the old Sauk Trail east of the previous location of Bob’s Barbeque, was the place where the Indians were assembled to be taken to Kansas in 1838–the March of Death. Miriam Benedict came to La Porte County in 1829.

Her’s was the first white family to settle in what is now La Porte County. She bought the land in 1831, at Logansport, and, because she was a widow, she paid $1.25 an acre for it. There is a marker on her grave in what was Union Chapel Cemetery and is now Miriam Benedict Cemetery. Her house was located near Westville on what is now SR #421. The DAR Chapter of La Porte carries her name.
Another site is the old Lighthouse at the harbor in Michigan City.

The site of the Old Fort at Door Village which was built in 1832 and a marker designates the site. A young man rode his Indian pony from Fort Dearborn to this part of the country to warn the settlers that Black Hawk and his Indians were coming on the warpath. The opening between the great forests which came down from the north and up from the south, was designated by the French voyageurs as “La Porte” or the door, from which La Porte County derived its name.
The Michigan Road ran across the northern part of the county.
There were Indian Mounds along the Kankakee River.

The Kankakee River itself, along which La Salle and his men traveled in 1679, also plays an important part in La Porte County history.
The Lemon Bridge, built in 1840, was the first real bridge on the Kankakee River and was located on what is now SR #4.
The Yellow River Road, later the Plank Road, was the first road built in Indiana by a county.

There were three Civil War Camps-Camp Anderson at Michigan City, Camp Colfax near SR#2 West and Camp Jackson in La Porte. Cold Springs, south of Sauktown, was an Indian Meeting ground. Black Hawk and Tecumseh used to meet there on their way to Canada to get supplies from the British to use against us in the War of 1812.
The Carey Mission was built at Hudson in 1826. This was a school for the Indians run by Isaac McCoy.

HOOSIER SLIDE (NIPSCO generating plant site), An Excursion Place


Once Indiana’s most famous landmark, Hoosier Slide was a huge sand dune bordering the west side of Trail Creek where it entered Lake Michigan. At one time it was nearly 200 feet tall, mantled with trees. Cow paths marked its slopes and people picnicked upon its crest. With the development of Michigan City, the timber was cut for building construction and the sand began to blow, sometimes blanketing the main business district of the town on Front St., which nestled near its base.

Climbing Hoosier Slide was very popular in the late 1800’s with the excursionist crowds who arrived in town by boat and train from Chicago and other cities. The summit, where weddings were sometimes held, afforded an excellent view of the vast lumberyards which then covered the Washington Park area.

When it was discovered that the clean sands of Hoosier Slide were useful for glassmaking, the huge dune began to be mined away. Dock workers loaded the sand into railroad cars with shovel and wheelbarrow to be shipped to glassmakers in the U. S. and Mexico. Much of the sand also went to Chicago in the 1890’s as fill for Jackson Park and for the Illinois Central RR right-of-way. Over a period of 30 years, from about 1890 to 1920, 13 1/2 million tons of sand were shipped from Hoosier Slide until the great dune was leveled. NIPSCO acquired the site for use as a generating plant in the late 1920’s.

MICHIGAN CITY HARBOR Michigan City Trail Creek flowing into Lake Michigan


As early as 1828, a group of surveyors determined that the mouth of the creek provided the best location along the Indiana shoreline for the development of a commercial harbor and city.

A signal day for the new town was July 4, 1836, when the first commercial vessel ever entered Trail Creek. The small vessel, called the “Sea Serpent”, was pulled and dragged by a group of enthusiastic citizens across the sand bar that blocked the mouth of the creek. That day also marked the first federal appropriation of $20,000 for the development of the harbor.

Even though the harbor remained unfinished and inaccessible to most vessels for the next 35 years, Michigan City rapidly developed into a leading forwarding port on Lake Michigan, shipping out great quantities of grain and other farm produce which were hauled to the harbor by wagon from as far south as Indianapolis.

Temporarily stored in huge warehouses which lined the harbor, the grain was loaded into lighters, small boats which took the grain to larger ships anchored offshore in the lake.

2000 sailing ships plied the Great Lakes in 1868, many of them stopping at Michigan City with cargoes of lumber, shingles and stone. Twenty years later, at the time of this photo, lumber schooners were already archaic reminders of the past. Steamers carrying both freight and passengers had supplanted the graceful sailing vessels.

Incoming vessels brought quantities of salt, stone, shingles and other commodities. By 1875 the harbor had seen much improvement and large sailing ships were able to enter the mouth of the creek for the first time. But by then the grain and produce business had disappeared because the railroads were shipping these products directly from the hinterlands to city markets. In place of the grain warehouses, huge lumber yards sprawled across the area that is now Washington Park, lining both sides of Trail Creek with lumber piles as high as men could stack them.

The late 1800s was the time of the great timber harvests in northern Michigan and Minnesota. Huge quantities of lumber were shipped south along the Great Lakes to ports such as Michigan City, where the lumber was then shipped by rail south and west or used locally in the county by the many wood-consuming industries such as the planing mills, cooperages, chair factories and car shops. This period marked the peak of lumber shipping to the harbor, when millions of board feet passed through the hands of the dock wallopers, or lumber shovers.

Such steamers as the “Joseph C. Suit” transported millions of board feet of lumber cut from the virgin forests of Michigan and Wisconsin. Michigan City, as one of the lake’s busiest ports, shipped much of this rough wood by rail to the expanding western settlements. Other lumber shipments were transformed by local craftsmen into fancy mouldings, doors and furniture.

Coupled with this was the booming excursionist business which brought tens of thousands of visitors to the local waterfront by steam-powered excursion ships. Visitors came to town to tour the State Prison, climb Hoosier Slide and to enjoy the recreational facilities at Washington Park.

Excursion ships gradually faded out during the Depression, while the lumber ships and other commercial vessels had ceased to be important in the 1920’s, ending for all practical purposes almost 100 years of busy commercial activity at the harbor. Today’s emphasis is on summertime recreational boating and fishing.

Michigan City Public Library Michigan City, Indiana Indiana Room/Genealogy The Portable LaPorte County (Indiana) Historic Sites of LaPorte County


An early view of Franklin Street (facing south) preserves the plank pavement and hitching posts of the era; lost are the smells of open sewers and the ever-present horse manure.

Michigan City probably got its name from the Michigan Road, the great thoroughfare which had its northern terminus at the mouth of Trail Creek. Farsighted people envisioned a great lake port and city arising there which would serve the whole Midwest.

[image] Franklin Street Churches, North from 10th St., late 1880’s

Until WWI, 5th Street continued to divide the business center from the tree-lined residential area. Three Franklin Street churches are pictured in this late 1800’s photo, taken north from 10th Street: St. John’s (l), St. Paul’s (r) and the Methodist Church (7th Street.)

One of these visionaries was Major Isaac C. Elston of Crawfordsville, who bought the land containing the creek mouth in 1831. Laid out one year later, the town site was low and swampy. Two huge sand dunes (Yankee Slide and Hoosier Slide) dominated the lakefront and the creek mouth was almost silted shut with sand.

Undeterred by these gloomy prospects, the first settlers began to arrive from the East in 1833. Sailing vessels soon began to stop at the “Michigan City” to unload goods needed by settlers in northern Indiana and to take on the cargoes of grain, pork, and beef raised by them.

The early citizens were characterized as “pushing, enterprising, intelligent, and active” people. Because of their efforts, Michigan City was a major grain port for farmers as far south as Indianapolis during the 1840’s. But soon Chicago would overshadow it, due in part to the efforts of Chicago landowner, Stephan A. Douglas.

In 1852, the Michigan Central Railroad reached here, putting Michigan City on a direct rail line with Eastern markets. Industries began to locate in Michigan City, drawn by the easy access to markets and raw materials.

The Germans, Irish and the Poles were coming to the area, working in the many factories and contributing to a boom which increased the population 85% between 1870 and 1880. Services such as hospitals, police and fire protection, public schools, street lights and streetcars were introduced as the community expanded. Lumber boats and excursion ships made up the majority of harbor traffic.

Culturally, the city was dominated by the “Inner Circle” of wealthy people associated with the Haskell-Barker Car Co. Some of the nation’s finest drama companies, speakers, musicians, and vaudeville acts stopped in Michigan City on their way to Chicago. The physical environment was improved by the development of Washington Park in 1891.

By the early 1900’s, though, Michigan City was in the midst of an industrial slump. In 1917 the Michigan Central repair shops were moved to Niles, Michigan, and by 1918, six hundred families had followed.

To combat this problem, a Chamber of Commerce was formed. During the next six years they succeeded in bringing 22 new factories to the area as well as building a new sewer system and the Spaulding Hotel. Michigan City was then advertised by the Chamber as a tourist resort and convention center.

Tourists and summer vacationers flocked to city beaches, coming by car and electric interurban. Soon, Sheridan Beach and Long Beach were filled with the summer cottages of wealthy Chicagoans. Partly as a result of the Chamber’s efforts, population rose 37% by 1930. The Depression put many of the new factories out of business, but no banks closed in Michigan City and WPA projects kept many men employed.

The Legend Of The Ghost in LaPorte, Indiana


The most famous haunted house in LaPorte is currently the site of the “I” Street Clinic on the corner of “I” and Tenth streets. There was originally a mansion at the site built by Dr. George L. Andrew between 1845 and 1850. There were many families who subsequently lived in this home.

The Gwynne family who lived in the home from 1904 until 1948 was the first family to report ghost hauntings. They heard pounding footsteps up and down the staircase. Once the doorbell rang on a winter night, and when Mr. Gwynne went to the door, there was no one there and the snow was undisturbed. Another odd occurrence was when Mrs. Madeline Gwynne Kinney was cleaning an empty downstairs closet, and she heard a noise behind her. She turned to find several old coins on the floor. There were no holes or cracks in the walls to explain where the coins appeared from!

The last family to have lived in the house from about 1958 to 1963 was the Zimmermans. They also had a similar incident with the coins falling on the floor in the same closet. The Zimmermans often felt a ghost present in the house. They experienced doors closing, heard footsteps and the doorbell ringing, and they could feel the movement of air!

In the early 1970s the house was torn down and a medical center was built at the site. There are still claims that a ghost lingers there.

One legend explaining these hauntings suggests that the ghost is from the spirit of a Potawatomi Indian girl who died at this site in 1838. She was part of a group of Native Americans who were pushed westward by the white settlers. The tale says that on their journey they rested on the site where she became ill and died. This is where it is thought she was buried and her spirit still lingers.

Another explanation of the hauntings involves two women who lived in the house in the late 19th century. One of the women fell in love with a man who headed for the California gold rush. He told her that if she waited for him, he would share his riches with her.

Shortly thereafter, the carriage she was riding in was hit by a train, and she was killed. The hauntings may be her restless spirit wandering the house, waiting for the return of her loved one.

Many LaPorte residents doubt that there was ever a ghost here, but others enjoy wondering about the weird phenomena that some LaPorteans claim to have witnessed and to this day cannot be explained.

Kingsbury Ordnance Plant


The United States War Department chose LaPorte County as one of the sites for a munitions plant during World War II. It was called the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant (KOP).

There were several reasons LaPorte was chosen as a site for this munitions plant. It was far enough away from both coasts to escape invasion or bombing. Additionally, three railroads served the area, there were thousands of people available to work, there was enough land available for the plant, and there was an adequate water supply.

Approximately 13,454 acres were acquired for the plant.

The KOP was built between 1940 and 1941. The first shell was completed in 1941. KOP produced millions of shells from 20 mm to 105 mm.

There was a peak number of 20,785 employees in May 1942.

When the war ended in August 1945, the plant began the process of closing down. Beginning in 1951, it was used again during the Korean War.

In 1959, the United States government closed KOP and sold it. Part of the land is now the Kingsbury State Fish & Wildlife Area and other areas are used for industry.

This information was obtained from the following sources:

LaPorte-Now & Then, 1982-1832. [LaPorte: n.p., 1982.] 67-68.

Vogel, William P. Kingsbury, A Venture in Teamwork. New York: Todd & Brown, 1946.

Oprah, lakefront attracted show


By Rhonda E. Sobecki

“Good Morning America” producers found Michigan City’s lakefront perfect for filming after being coaxed by talk-show host Oprah Winfrey to check out Indiana for a segment of its broadcast today called “Getaway Friday.”

Michigan City Mayor Sheila Brillson said Thursday when producers decided to film in Chicago, Winfrey, who owns a country estate on County Road 600N in rural LaPorte County, told them Indiana was worth a visit.

The “Good Morning America” crew left Washington Park early Thursday evening to fly to Chicago, where it will film today with clips of Winfrey and Sawyer at an exercise class and the hosts at Buckingham Fountain.

Brillson said producers, in an effort to find the right site, began at the Illinois-Indiana state line and moved east two weeks ago. Starting at East Chicago and Hammond, the crew looked at and nixed a number of communities, including Chesterton, Valparaiso and Portage.

“They were at the lake before they came to my office,” Brillson said. “After they saw our lakefront, they weren’t looking any further. Then they asked ‘What else do you have?’.”

Brillson said the entire “Good Morning America” visit was pulled together in one week.

And the day “went off without a hitch,” she noted.

And the many police officers who worked security and provided traffic control for the GMA crew did not report one problem, according to Michigan City Police Department Public Information Officer Mark Harris.

On April 28, 2000 Good Morning America Comes to LaPorte County!


Good Morning, Michigan City

Good Morning America host Diane Sawyer stepped out of the sleek black Lear jet at Michigan City Municipal Airport Thursday morning, spread her arms and said with a smile, This is beautiful!

Sawyer, co-host Charlie Gibson and weatherman Tony Perkins were in Michigan City Thursday to film a segment of today’s program called Getaway Friday.

Soon, they embarked on an 18.5-mile bike tour across northern LaPorte County, stopping at the Mrozinski farm on County Road 150E, the Hesston Steam Museum on County Road 1000N, Long Beach Community Center and Washington Park at Michigan City’s lakefront, where the day of filming concluded with a beach party.

The scenes will be shown on Good Morning America from 7 to 9 a.m. today on all ABC affiliate television stations, including Channel 7 in Chicago.

Earlier in the week, weather forecasts called for rain, but Thursday’s skies were clear, a bright sun warmed the air and the temperature hovered near 70 degrees the entire afternoon.

The morning-show hosts were greeted at the airport at 11:30 a.m., half an hour ahead of schedule. A select few invited to the airport got an opportunity to see Sawyer and Gibson up close. They patiently posed for photos with spectators and signed autographs on pieces of cardboard and paper, all the while talking graciously with star-struck spectators.

Gibson had a sense of humor and kept the small crowd laughing until the time he left.

Michigan City firefighter Jeff Peckat said to Gibson, I watch you every morning.

Gibson responded, I keep an eye on you, too.

Another spectator asked Gibson if he was prepared to ride the entire bike tour.

I think it’s wussy if you only ride the 18, he replied. You have to ride at least 20.

Pointing to this reporter, Gibson added, Besides, I don’t want her to have to write we only rode 18.

Another spectator commented on the shiny aircraft parked nearby. Without hesitation, Gibson said, Diane rented it for the
day. I can’t afford it.

Gibson vowed to the crowd that if he couldn’t make the entire bike tour, he was going to borrow Michigan City police Cpl. Al
Green’s motorcycle.

I’m going to be on a Harley, Gibson promised.

The GMA crew was whisked off to the Mrozinski farm in rented cars, where they named a 2-week-old Belgian draft colt.

After considering more formal names such as King Charles, Prince Charles and Sir Charles, Gibson and Sawyer settled simply on Charlie.

Mrozinski said when the family was contacted about Good Morning America filming at the family farm, he thought someone was playing a joke.

Is somebody pulling my leg or what? Mrozinski said of his first reaction when told ABC wanted to film the farm. The Mrozinskis were found through the LaPorte County Extension Office, which provided producers with several farm options, Mrozinski said.

As the Good Morning America entourage neared the Hesston Steam Museum sometime around 2 p.m., a steam-train engineer gave two loud blasts of a smoke stack while another welcomed the crew and 300 bicyclists with a higher pitched toot of his train horn.

After spending about an hour at the steam museum, the group prepared to ride nonstop to the Long Beach Community Center, about 13 miles away one rider less.

Five-year-old Jeremy Fralich of Beachwalk in Michigan City wiped out and suffered a minor knee scrape shortly after leaving the Mrozinski farm. The boy was forced to rack his bike on a trailer being pulled by the Michigan City Parks and Recreation Department.

Jeremy entered the ride with his mom and dad, Kathy and Brad Fralich, his sister, Alyssa Fralich, 10, and brothers Brandon Fralich, 14, and Darren Fralich, 11.

Dad Brad said he had a backup plan before the family ever hopped on a bike. Lifting his shirt to reveal a cellular telephone hooked to
his waistband, the elder Fralich said, Cell phone. Grandma and Grandpa. They’re on their way.

Only a few others dropped out of the tour, according to Michigan City Mayor Sheila Brillson, who finished the tour without a problem, although she admitted that those last few hills were a killer.

Meanwhile, all along County Road 1000N, people stood or sat, waiting to get a glimpse of Sawyer and Gibson. They posted signs on fences, wrote messages in chalk on the road and adorned baby strollers with poster board greetings, and people gathered in small
groups at crossroads or in their front yards.

The Kaegebein family at 4997W County Road 1000N set up their lawn chairs early and waited. They waited so long that 16-month-old Amanda Kaegebein gave up after playing outside for the better part of the afternoon and fell asleep in her great aunt Mary Ann Setnicky’s lap.

A large crowd gathered at the Long Beach Community Center and Gibson and Sawyer were immediately encircled by spectators upon their arrival.

They signed autographs, posed for pictures and talked with spectators. When the entourage arrived at Washington Park about 5:30 p.m., an estimated hour behind schedule, there was even a larger crowd waiting, with The Rock Doctors providing live entertainment for the group.

The green-blue water of Lake Michigan provided a perfect backdrop for the morning-show hosts, including GMA weatherman Tony Perkins, who joined the band to belt out Roy Orbisons Pretty Woman.

This is to Diane, Perkins yelled at the song’s conclusion.

Shortly thereafter, two shiny black Lincoln Town Cars arrived. While Perkins and Gibson departed together in the back seat of one, Sawyer was whisked away alone in the other.