6 Places Of Importance in Michigan
- 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.
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.