6 Places Of Importance in Michigan

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  1. MICHIGAN CENTRAL DEPOT AND VICINITY
    (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.

2. MICHIGAN ROAD MARKER AND TOWN SQUARE [To The Top]
(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


3. MICHIGAN CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY [To The Top]
(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.

5. SITE OF FIRST LOG CABIN IN MICHIGAN CITY
(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.

6. CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
(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.


Some La Porte County Historical Sites

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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

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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

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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.