Bethany Lutheran Church
Civil War Camps
Civil War Hospital
Community African Methodist Episcopal Church
Dr. Samuel B. Collins Building
First Baptist Church
First Log Cabin
First United Methodist Church
Fox Memorial Park
Holy Family Hospital
Indiana and Michigan Avenues
Pine Lake Cemetery
Pine Lake Inn
Ruth Sabin Home
Sacred Heart Church
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
St. Peter's Catholic Church
Soldier's Memorial Park
LaPorte has a long distinguished history, The first settlers in the area began to arrive in March, 1830, attracted by the beautiful appearance of the area with its lakes, oak trees and prairie, as well as the cheap government land. In 1831, Warfer Wilson, Hiram Todd, John Walker, James Andrew and Abram P. Andrew Jr. bought 400 acres of land at the Michigan Road land sales in Logansport. These five men were determined to found and settle a town on their new property. In May, 1832, LaPorte County was incorporated and because of its central position, population and the efforts of its founders, the infant town of LaPorte was chosen as the county seat. This decision is probably the primary reason for making LaPorte the service-based community it is today. People throughout the county had to conduct all of their legal and much of their commercial business in LaPorte. Soon, doctors, lawyers, skilled craftsmen and other professional men of some education and stature began to settle in LaPorte. In 1862, the location of the Michigan Southern machine shops in the town seemed to insure its industrial future but in 1870, this major industry moved. Other industries soon followed and LaPorte's population dropped 5.9%. The community's commercial growth slowed considerably and by 1880, Michigan City had far surpassed LaPorte in population and industrial strength. But the interests of the original settlers, education, culture, and self-improvement, prevailed and LaPorteans enjoyed an active social and cultural life. Churches, the Library Association and independent clubs and organizations led the way in bringing guest speakers, musicians and others to LaPorte. Many church groups held summer meetings here, making the lakes a popular vacation spot. Civic pride embellished the town with fine buildings and lined the streets with maple trees. A few large industries, the Fox Woolen Mills and the Rumely Company, sustained the town commercially; population growth was slow and steady. During the Depression of the 1930's, WPA projects built city parks and water works. The years of WW II found many LaPorteans working at the nearby Kingsbury Ordnance Plant, one of the world's largest ammunition-loading plants. Many who had migrated north to work at KOP remained in LaPorte after the war's end, adding significantly to the racial and ethnic mixture of the population. During the war, Allis-Chalmers LaPorte's largest peacetime employer, manufactured anti-aircraft guns as well as harvesters. Other agribusiness industries developed following the tradition of feed and grain stores and blacksmith shops present since the community's beginnings. Today, in 1978, LaPorte is almost an archetypical small Midwestern town, one that is working to preserve and improve its physical and financial environment.
George Talbert's chemistry students assume scholarly poses for their yearbook portrait. Many county students ended their formal education by the eight grade, replacing school lessons with factory jobs. Others found work as farm hands or household help.
LAPORTE COUNTY COURTHOUSE
Since 1835, there has always been a courthouse on this City block in LaPorte. Abram Andrew, one of LaPorte's founders, deeded the land to the city, without charge, for as long as a courthouse stood on the site. Court was first held in a log cabin at Clear Lake, but in June 1835, a brick courthouse with a very elaborate cupola was built. Unfortunately, the brick walls began to crack. In an effort to halt the deterioration, two inch rods were run through the building along the courtroom floor, causing many falls for those using the court. In 1847, the Board of Commissioners authorized the construction of a second brick courthouse at a cost of $9,681.00. The building had a portico with columns and was in the Greek Revival style. But by 1892, this courthouse also proved to be too small for the volume of county business and the cornerstone was laid for the present courthouse. This Richardsonian Romanesque structure was designed by B. S. Tolan of Fort Wayne and was built with Portage Entry red sandstone from Lake Superior. The carving of the stones was done right on the site. The county courtroom is especially beautiful with its oak paneling and stained glass windows. The bell from the second courthouse, used to alert the citizens of LaPorte to news of momentous events, has been preserved and is hanging next to the old fire station across from the courthouse on Indiana Ave. An important part of the courthouse is the LaPorte County Museum run by the LaPorte County Historical Society. Located in the courthouse basement since 1938, the museum was moved in 1978 to more spacious quarters in the new courthouse annex. The LaPorte County Museum houses a fine collection of antique tools, clothes, and furnishings as well as a variety of objects and materials pertaining to LaPorte history. A highlight of the museum is the W. A. Jones Collection of over 800 antique firearms. The museum is open to the public for tours.
The buildings lining the courthouse square are handsome and well preserved examples of High Victorian Italianate architecture. Buildings in this style-can be found on Main Streets all over the country. These structures are tangible monuments to the rapid growth and expansion of America after the Civil War. LaPorte is fortunate in the number and variety of these buildings left in the downtown area.
CENTENNIAL LOG CABIN AND HISTORICAL MARKER
(near corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street at the depot)
Near this site was built the first log cabin within the original city limits of LaPorte. It was put up by George Thomas and his neighbors on a Sunday in October, 1832 on the shore of Clear Lake, which at that time was much larger than today. Thomas' home was constructed of slabs sawn at the first saw mill in LaPorte County, that of A. P. Andrew, located where the present NIPSCO building is on Highway 2 on the west side of LaPorte. The first session of the Board of County Commissioners met in the Thomas home. Erected in 1932 as a part of LaPorte's Centennial celebration, the present log cabin has been maintained since 1933 by the local Girl Scouts organization as a scout meeting place. The historical marker was a project of the Miriam Benedict Chapter o f the Daughters of the American Revolution in cooperation with the Centennial Committee.
Among the most valued citizens in an age of horse power was the blacksmith. The skilled smithy shod horses; built and repaired wagons; and forged plows, axes, and miscellaneous tools and utensils. The location of a blacksmith in town often enticed other settlers and craftsmen to the community.
(Michigan Avenue at the Penn Central Tracks)
The present LaPorte passenger depot was built in 1909-1910, facing the New York Central (formerly the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, now the Penn Central) tracks. It replaced an older wooden structure which contained a hotel, restaurant, waiting rooms, ticket office, baggage room, and telegraph office. The railroad reached LaPorte County in 1852 from the East. The first train was to arrive in LaPorte on March 15, 1852, and a great celebration had been planned for the event, but four miles of track had yet to be laid. A large group of LaPorteans helped the railroad crew lay this last bit of track, and by late afternoon the line was completed: LaPorte was able to have its celebration. A division end of the railroad until 1870, LaPorte grew as an important maintenance and servicing center for the trains. A machine shop and repair shop was located north of the tracks with a roundhouse and turntable for turning the engines around at Washington and Madison Sts. There was also a long shed for drying and storing wood for firing the engines. The car shops were across from the present depot. At the north end of Monroe St. stood a locomotive shop where, in 1859, a complete engine was constructed. Christened the "Charles Minot," it was the pride of the railroad for a time. The locomotive shop was moved to New York and the remaining railroad shops burned down in 1870. Instead of rebuilding, the railroad moved their shops to Elkhart, Indiana. The scene of 16 passenger trains arriving and departing daily, the depot was always a busy, interesting place with a constant stream of people coming and going. Those days are long gone, but freight trains still pass through town, creating the need for the overpass above the Penn Central tracks on Pine Lake Ave., completed in 1978.
D. M. RUMELY COMPANY
(flagpole marker in front of the LaPorte Hospital, Madison Street and Lincolnway)
In 1853, two brothers, Meinrad and John Rumely, started a small shop in LaPorte for the manufacture of corn shelters and horse-powered machines and the casting of irons for the railroad shops. In 1857, the Rumelys built their first threshing outfit. The thresher was powered by horses driven in a circle around a drum which set the machinery in motion. Farmers came from hundreds of miles around and waited for weeks for their orders of these revolutionary machines to be filled. In 1869, the company represented a capital of $50,000 and was LaPorte's largest employer, with many of the newly arriving immigrants finding work in the Rumely shops. In the 1870's the Rumely Company developed a portable steam engine which could be horse-drawn from one farmyard to another and linked to a thresher with a driving belt. A traction engine employing its own steam power to propel itself and draw the threshing machine and water wagon was marketed a decade later. In 1908, four years after Meinrad's death, Edward Rumely assumed control of the business and increased profits by the millions with the development of the kerosene driven Oil-Pull Tractor. In 1916, the firm was incorporated under the name of Advance Rumely Company. The Allis-Chalmers Company acquired the business in 1931. Although A-C produced anti-aircraft guns during the years of WW II, the company today is one of the country's largest producer of plows, discs, harrows, planters, self-propelled cotton strippers and cultivators. The 112 acre plant, which includes some of the original Rumely buildings, is located on Pine Lake Ave.
Begun in 1853 as a small foundry, the Rumely Company earned a nationwide reputation as the makers of dependable farm machinery. Many of the employees were immigrants from southern Germany, the homeland of John and Meinrad Rumely. Some began working for the Rumelys while still a young teenager and trained their sons to do the same.
DR. SAMUEL B. COLLINS BLDG.
(712 Michigan Avenue)
This elegant "marble front" building in ltalianate style was one of the two offices of Dr. Samuel B. Collins. In 1868, Dr. Collins, a former bricklayer, discovered a "painless" cure for opium addiction. The fame of Dr. Collins' cure spread and he became quite successful. In 1871, he was able to build his three story office on Michigan Ave. To make it easily identifiable, he had his name carved into the stone on the front of the building as well as having an advertisement for his cure painted on the side of the building. For six months in 1872, Dr. Collins let the LaPorte Library use the third floor of his office building. By July, 1872, his business had expanded to the point where he needed this extra office space and Dr. Collins offered to pay rental of $100 a year for the library to aid them in moving. During the 1880's, Dr. Collins built an Italianate home with a mansard roof near Clear Lake as his private residence and sanitarium. There he treated opium addicts. He also developed a picnic park on the shores of Clear Lake, about where Fox Park is now, with a concession stand and carriage race track. Dr. Collins even published a magazine, "Theriaki", to print testimonials written by people cured of opium addiction by him, to describe and, of course, advertise the cure. Dr. Collins' painless opium cure has never been discovered; it may well have been the giving of opium to addicts under the guise of medicine. Dr. Collins stands out as a successful entrepreneur and one of LaPorte's more colorful characters.
LAPORTE CITY HALL
(southeast corner Michigan and Jefferson Avenues)
The site of the LaPorte Post Office since at least 1871, and possibly as early as 1855, the City Hall was constructed as the U.S. Post Office in 1912 in a design reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance. The building is interesting in the variety of materials used and the wealth of decoration.
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
(southwest corner Indiana and Jefferson Avenues)
The first Baptists in LaPorte County were those who ran the mission and school at Hudson Lake in the late 1820's. In 1834 the LaPorte Baptist Church was formed. The congregation continued to grow through the exuberant revivals staged by the Baptist leaders during the 1800's. The Great Revival of 1876 converted so many to the faith that a new church was needed. This Gothic-Style church has had a copper roof added and various other remodeling work done since its construction in 1878.
NEW CHURCH SOCIETY (SWEDENBORGIAN)
(northwest corner Indiana Avenue and Maple Avenue)
The doctrines of Emanuel Swedenborg were first spread among the isolated early settlers of Ohio, southern Michigan and Indiana by Johnny Appleseed. A trapper and trader, Appleseed would leave his packages of apple seeds and pages of the writings of Swedenborg at the cabins of pioneers. Later, lawyers and businessmen were influential in spreading the Swedenborgian beliefs which stressed a rational as well as spiritual interpretation of the Bible. The first meeting of the LaPorte Society of the New Church was held in 1851 at the Young Men's Hall. In 1859 the church was built on a lot deeded by James Andrew on the corner of Indiana and Maple Aves. This church was later stuccoed and stained glass windows were installed. From 1887 until 1906, the congregation sponsored a New Church assembly at Weller's Grove on Stone Lake, used by Swedenborgians from all across the Midwest for religious and social meetings.
LAPORTE PUBLIC LIBRARY
(southwest corner Maple and Indiana Avenues)
LaPorte has had a library since the very beginning of the town. In 1834, the first residents generously donated some of their own books to form a little library of some 300 volumes. They also contributed money to a common fund to purchase additional books. Since there was no library building, the books were housed in the office of John Niles, LaPorte's first lawyer. During the Civil War a group of citizens, determined to improve the library, began to raise funds for additional books and space to house and use them. Their organization was called the LaPorte Reading Room and Library Association. This group took over the private library of the Working Men's Institutes collection of books made available to the laborers of the town, thereby increasing the Association's number of volumes to 700. In 1864, the Library Association was renamed the LaPorte Library and Natural History Association with the purpose of establishing a collection of natural history specimens and Indian artifacts, as well as obtaining more books and periodicals. The library and museum were housed in the old Post Office for a time and until 1896, continued to be supported solely by membership fees and contributions of private citizens. During this period, the Library Association sponsored a series of lectures featuring some of the leading intellectuals of the day, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, and Charles Sumner. In 1876, the library and museum were transferred to a new two story brick structure. It was the first time the library had a home of its own. This building, later enlarged as the library grew, still stands on Maple Ave. between Michigan and Indiana Aves., and is now the I.O.O.F. building. Near the top of the building, the word "Library" can still be seen. In 1896, the library became a public library when it was turned over to the City of LaPorte and supported by city property taxes. The present library, made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Foundation, was completed in 1920. The building was later doubled in size to accommodate continual growth and its museum specimens were transferred to the LaPorte County Museum in the courthouse basement. Plans are now (1978) afoot for a new larger building.
At the time of this 1894 portrait of LaPorte faculty and seniors, a high school education included courses in merchandising, business math, home-economics, Latin and physical education.
ST. PAUL'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
(southwest corner Michigan Avenue and Harrison Street)
Before the Episcopal congregation organized in LaPorte in 1839, members had to travel the thirteen miles to the church in Michigan City. In 1849 St. Paul's opened a school in the room opposite the public square where common and high English, Latin and Greek were taught for a short time. The present Episcopalian Church, built in 1897, is of English-Gothic style of architecture with rusticated stone.
MEETING PLACE OF THE AGAPE CHRISTIANS
(southwest corner Harrison and Clay Streets)
This 1884 church is a quaint blend of the Italianate and Gothic Styles. Though mainly Gothic in design, the ltalianate use of ornamental brackets under the eaves is visible on the bell tower and under the main roof. The wooden ornaments in the gable ends of the roof and the entryway, inspired by medieval stone carving, are characteristic of the American Gothic movement. The pointed arch windows are also typically Gothic and include some very attractive brickwork in their keystones. The church also has some lovely stained glass windows and is altogether a delightful structure.
ST. PETER'S CATHOLIC CHURCH
(southeast corner Michigan Avenue and Noble Street)
The railroads which crossed the country in the 1850's were built largely by German and Irish immigrants working their ways west. Many settled in LaPorte County. These early Catholics celebrated masses in their homes when one of the priests who traveled the territory by horseback arrived for a visit. In 1853 the first Catholic church of LaPorte was formed, the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, soon known as St. Peter's. The church was split in 1859 when the German members left the strongly Irish congregation to form a church of their own, St. Joseph's (located at C and Second Sts.). St. Peter's has also run a day school since its formation. The present church and school were built in 1930.
INDIANA AND MICHIGAN AVENUES
These two streets are located in the heart of the original town of LaPorte. When the town was first laid out, it ran from Chicago St. east to Linwood St. and north from Maple St. to Washington St. One city block was set aside for the county courthouse to insure LaPorte's being chosen as the county seat. Professional men such as doctors and lawyers began to settle in LaPorte with their families, building homes which expressed their social position in the community. The architecture of the houses along these two streets reflect the passing of styles from the 1850's to the turn of the century. Fine attention to detail, style and feeling as well as careful craftsmanship can be seen in these great old homes. One particularly interesting structure is located at 1200 Michigan Ave. This house was used as an underground railroad stop in the years preceding the Civil War. Many homes retain their combination barn and carriage houses, reminders of a slower time before the advent of the auto. The maple tree lined streets invite one to stroll about LaPorte. Most of these trees were planted by Sebastian Lay. The son of a German forester, Lay was paid 50 cents a tree by the city of LaPorte. The beauty of these trees in the fall and summer has earned LaPorte the name "City of Maples." To enhance a walking tour of these streets, a glossary of architectural styles has been included in this volume.
From LaPorte's earliest days as the county seat, beautifully-crafted houses have graced Michigan and Indiana Aves. Many of the newest home improvements of the 20th century first appeared in these homes: bathtubs, indoor plumbing, electric lights and telephones. Fancy carriage houses sheltered the family's horses and cart-pulling goat.
FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
(northeast corner Michigan Avenue and Alexander Street)
In 1832, LaPorte County was included in the district served by Circuit-rider James Armstrong. Traveling by horseback, Armstrong covered an area from Ohio to Illinois and Lafayette to Kalamazoo. In 1836, the Methodists built the first church in LaPorte at Monroe and Jefferson Sts. The congregation grew through the evangelism of camp meetings, two or three day religious festivals held in tents or outdoors. LaPorte became the first city outside of Chicago to have a church for the non-hearing and non-speaking when the Methodist congregation sponsored the LaPorte Mute Mission in 1895. Served by a pastor from Chicago, the mission moved with the Methodist congregation when the present church was built in 1928.
ST. JOHN'S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
(northwest corner A and Third Streets.)
St. John's Church and school was organized in 1857 to serve the increasing number of German Lutherans arriving in the county. The school classes were in session 10 months of the year and included the first through seventh grades. During WW I the official church language switched from German to English as anti-German sentiment grew. The church building, constructed in 1864, is presently in use as a little theater playhouse. The Lutheran congregation now worships in their church at 2100 Monroe St.
CIVIL WAR HOSPITAL
(southeast corner 1st and C Streets)
This low Colonial Style building was built in 1861-62 as a hospital for wounded soldiers returning to LaPorte from the Civil War battlefields and for those training at Camp Colfax. Primitive medical and surgical procedures earned the hospital the title of the "Butcher Shop." The hospital was one of the many voluntary efforts made by the people of LaPorte during the Civil War. To aid in the recruitment of volunteers for the Union Army, the residents of the county subscribed money to a fund which provided for the families of soldiers fighting in the war. Ladies Aid Societies were also organized to make bandages, knit clothes, raise money and write letters to soldiers. Regiments were quickly formed and sent to Indianapolis for training. All in all, the years 1861 to 1865 were years of outstanding community effort and sacrifice in LaPorte County. After the war, the hospital closed and eventually became a private residence.
HOLY FAMILY HOSPITAL
(southeast corner E and 2nd Streets)
Holy Family Hospital was LaPorte's first permanent hospital. It was begun in March 1900 by five sisters of the Order of the Poor Handmaidens of Jesus Christ in this small frame building, a former private home. Previously, the sisters had done home care nursing. The original hospital could handle only a few patients but it was as modern as any of its day. Additions were made in 1914 and 1924 as the hospital expanded. In 1966, Holy Family and Fairview Hospitals joined to form LaPorte Hospital, Inc. In 1972, the new LaPorte Hospital was opened and Holy Family Hospital ceased to exist.
BETHANY LUTHERAN CHURCH
(southwest corner First and G Streets)
The first Swede to come to this city worked as a housemaid for a family who moved from Chicago to LaPorte in 1853. In 1854, 3 Swedes arrived from Marshall County. They had been working without pay for 7 months on the railroad and decided to settle Door Prairie. Religious services were held in the homes until the Swedish Lutheran Church was built in 1857 on D St. The congregation built the present church in 1883. English was adopted as the official language in the early 1900's and the church became known as the Bethany Lutheran. Carmel Chapel on Forrester Road was an extension of the church and served the Swedish immigrants who had settled in the hills of that area.
THE RUTH C. SABIN HOME
(1603 Michigan Avenue - corner of Michigan and South Avenues)
Mrs. Ruth Sabin was a Quaker, originally from Massachusetts, who moved to LaPorte in 1870. After the death of her husband in 1886, Mrs. Sabin originated her project of constructing a home where elderly women might live comfortably and tenderly cared for in their declining years. To carry out this plan, she contributed $25,000 towards the purchase of ground and erection of a building. She also set aside a fund to provide an income for the support of the Home. The Ruth C. Sabin Home opened on Nov. 20, 1889, with Mrs. Sabin at age 88 the first occupant. The handsome red brick building set back from Michigan Ave. amid tall maple trees originally held 35 rooms. In 1926, it was enlarged by the addition of 6 rooms plus two large sun parlors. Events at the home have included social gatherings, literary and musical happenings, annual concerts by the LaPorte City Band and an annual anniversary reception in November.
Wooden sidewalks border the Sabin Home
(1401 Rumely Street)
Patton Cemetery contains the graves of several LaPorte pioneers and a Jewish burial ground. The Jewish cemetery, located on the eastern side of Patton Cemetery, was founded in 1854. Several of the tombstones are in Hebrew and many others list the birthplace of the deceased, making them perfect for genealogical research. In the southeastern section of Patton Cemetery is a grave with a most unusual history. This is the grave of A. K. Heigelein, the last victim of the infamous Belle Gunness. Belle's story in LaPorte begins in 1904 when either a meat cleaver or a sausage grinder fell off a kitchen shelf and killed her second husband. Shortly thereafter, she began advertising in lonely hearts columns for a fairly well-off husband. Interested men were invited to her McClung Road farm after first being asked to convert all their holdings to cash. Helgelein came to the Gunness farm in late 1907 or early 1908 from Dakota. After a long absence and no communication, his brother wrote to Mrs. Gunness and was told that A. K. Heigelein had returned to Norway. On April 27, 1908, Belle Gunness drove into LaPorte and made a will leaving all her possessions to her children should they survive her or to a Norwegian orphan home in Chicago if they did not. Early in the morning of April 28, her farm burned to the ground and Belle Gunness and her adopted children were believed to have died in the fire. Her handy man, Ray Lamphere, was arrested for murder and arson. Heigelein's brother read about the fire in a Chicago newspaper and hurried to LaPorte where he managed to convince the sheriff to do a little exploratory digging in the Gunness farmyard. His brother's mutilated body was quickly found, along with the remains of 11 others in various stages of decomposition. As the news spread, thousands flocked to LaPorte to see the farm on "Murder Hill." Ray Lamphere was convicted of arson but, before his death from tuberculosis in the prison at Michigan City, he revealed that Belle Gunness had not died in the fire and that he had burned the house on her orders. After his death, Lamphere was buried in Rossburg Cemetery on Hwy. 20 and Wilhelm Rd. Many of the bodies discovered on Belle's farm were found to contain quantities of arsenic in their stomachs. Whether or not Belle Gunness died in the fire in 1908, she remains a fiendish and mysterious figure of LaPorte County's past.
LAPORTE CIVIC AUDITORIUM
(southeast corner Ridge and Plain Streets)
On the grounds where this building now stands there was once an old frame house where William Walker lived with his family. His father, John Walker, had been one of the 5 founders of LaPorte. In 1857, the house was sold to a group of Catholic nuns called the Sisters of the Holy Cross to be used as St. Rose's Academy, a private school for the girls and young ladies of LaPorte. In 1875, it became the parish school of St. Peter's Catholic Church, in use until the school was moved to its present location on Monroe St. The old building was torn down in 1929 to make room for the Civic Auditorium. As a memorial to his parents, local philanthropist Maurice Fox, of the Fox Woolen Mills, donated all the funds needed for the lot, building, equipment and furnishings, a total of $450,000. In addition, he provided a trust fund of $50,000 to be used for maintenance and administrative personnel. A popular community center, the auditorium is the site of banquets, basketball games, bowling, concerts, art exhibits, high school proms, and club meetings.
COMMUNITY AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
(110 Washington Streets)
In 1862 the government brought 27 black families to LaPorte to work on the railroad. They were settled on Hagenbuck St. (now Pulaski) and paid $9 per month. A church and school were established for the Blacks at the corner of Hagenbuck and Washington Sts. The neighborhood grew as more Blacks settled in the city to work as laborers in the homes and industries of LaPorte or to begin their own businesses. The present AME church was built in 1924.
Dressed in their finest wool dresses and serge suits, these 1893 sixth and seventh grade German students gathered in front of an American flag. Many immigrant parents preferred to send their children to church schools where both the old and the new ways were taught in the language of the home.
SACRED HEART CHURCH
(southwest corner Bach and Pulaski Streets)
The first Pole to settle in LaPorte moved to this city from Rolling Prairie in 1890. In 1906 a large number of Polish men arrived from Chicago with the Planett Lumber and Manufacturing Company. This Polish colony increased after the opening of the LaPorte Woolen Mills. Many migrated to LaPorte after the Rumely family donated money to build a church and guaranteed jobs in the Rumely Company foundry. In 1912 members of St. Casimier's Society met to organize a Polish Roman Catholic Church for the Poles who attended the German Catholic Church of St. Joseph's. The Sacred Heart Church and school, built in 1913-14, is still in use today for church meetings, gymnastics, and religious classes. The new Sacred Heart church diagonally opposite the two story brick structure was built in 1970.
FOX MEMORIAL PARK
(Truesdell Avenue along the north shore of Clear Lake)
This was the site of Collin's Park, the private park owned by Dr. S. S. Collins of opium cure fame. In the 1880's Dr. Collins operated a driving club here. For a fee, members could drive their horse drawn rigs along the shores of Clear Lake. Given to the city in 1912 by the sons of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Fox as a memorial to their parents, Fox Memorial Park was LaPorte's first improved park. A beautiful pillared pavilion stood at the water's edge, offering shelter for picnickers caught in the rain. There was once a bandstand here where concerts were given on summer evenings by the LaPorte City Band. In 1928, 1200 rose bushes were planted by W. A. Cummings. The garden was later flooded out by rising water levels of Clear Lake. Today, Fox Park's 48 acres are used as a family recreation area.
Organized in 1879, the LaPorte City Band was only one of the many civic and industrial bands present in LaPorte since the 1850's. On starlit summer evenings, the City Band entertained hundreds from the Fox park Bandstand. In 1923, LaPorte was named the "Music Center of America" since a higher percentage of LaPorteans attended concerts than in any other city polled.
CIVIL WAR CAMPS - CAMP COLFAX
(Hwy 2 at corner of 2 and Colfax Avenue where NIPSCO building is now)
(site of City Park on Park Street)
Camps Colfax and Jackson were drilling and recruiting camps during the Civil War. Here new recruits were trained in preparation for combat in the South. Indiana's 9th Regiment drilled at Camp Colfax, leaving LaPorte in September 1861. Hosting the 28th Regiment, Camp Jackson was a cavalry training site: the soldiers could easily water their horses at Lower Lake. Places of great community interest and pride, the camps were sites of huge picnics during which patriotic speeches were given by prominent men of the time. Crowds attended the dress parades of the regiments and often viewed their drilling exercises. Occasionally, the commanders at the camps marched their troops through town. These were great civic occasions. Bands played and people cheered, waving handkerchiefs and tossing their hats high into the air. LaPorte County was one of the most patriotic counties in the nation. It has been said that three-fourths of all the able-bodied men in LaPorte volunteered for the army.
Camp Colfax was also the site of the first saw mill in LaPorte County, put up in 1832 by James and Abram Andrew, two of the founding fathers of LaPorte. It was a steam saw mill built on the shore of a small lake. The mill ran day and night to supply sawn timber needed by the growing settlement of LaPorte.
(North Park Street)
Among the first pioneers of LaPorte County were members of the Hicksite branch of the Quaker faith. A Quaker neighborhood soon developed north of the city as more families of Friends migrated from Ohio, New Jersey, North Carolina and Indiana to the county. Meetings were begun in 1831 and continued until 1856 when, due to deaths and removals, the Clear Lake meeting was "laid down." In 1869, meetings were reestablished after members of the Hicksite and Orthodox branches joined together and built a meeting house. A private residence for many years, this red brick structure at A and Alexander Sts. is still noticeable for its two front doors. According to the beliefs of the Society of Friends, men and women entered the meeting house through separate doors and sat apart from each other, divided by an aisle or low wall. The Quaker burial site on Park Street is very simple in the tradition of that faith. Here, fieldstones in neat rows mark the 54 known graves of Friends. Following the belief of the Society that individual recognition or adornment is sinful, some of the markers are not inscribed with names or dates. One veteran of the War of 1812, Joseph Johnson, is also buried here.
PINE LAKE CEMETERY
(Pine Lake Avenue and Severs Road)
This beautiful cemetery overlooking Pine Lake was begun in 1856 when the original LaPorte graveyard became too small for the needs of the growing population. When the remains of those buried in the old cemetery were removed to Pine Lake Cemetery, 499 bodies and many tombstones could not be identified. These were formed into an anonymous square and mass grave in the southeastern section of the new graveyard. Some of the most interesting and touching tombstones in Pine Lake Cemetery can be found here. LaPorte's most prominent citizens and families are buried in this tree shaded cemetery. Eason Chapel, the Gothic style building located to the right of the main entrance, was built in 1916 as a memorial to Seth Eason by his family.
PINE LAKE INN
(Holton Road and Boardman Drive, north end of Pine Lake)
This old hotel, now converted into apartments, is one of the few remaining structures which harks back to the glory days during the 1880's and 1890's when LaPorte had many outstanding resorts on the lakes. People from all over the Midwest came to LaPorte to enjoy many activities at the lakes, such as camping in tents and cottages, fishing, sailboating, rowing and dancing. Special excursion trains ran out of Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis and other cities, their passengers waiting excitedly for their first glimpse of the lakes as the train conductors shouted out the stop of "Lay-port." At the north shore of Pine Lake, Capt. J. T. Harding operated two steamboats, the "Lynda" and the "Emerald." Vacationers could take a ride on one of these boats all around the shores of North and South Pine Lake. High on the north shore bluff stood the hotel built by J. S. Huffman. A porch running the full length of the hotel gave visitors a fine view of Pine Lake. Capt. Harding would take people to South Pine Lake with a stop at the Fargher's Island resort, opened in 1886. Another stop was made at the nearby Holmes Island resort, opened in 1890 by Mrs. J. F. Holmes. Then the steamer would pass along the west bank of Pine Lake where cottages could be rented and finally along the sand bar which blocked passage into Stone Lake. Later, in 1895, a channel was dredged through this bar, connecting Pine and Stone Lakes. Fargher's and Holmes Island were not really islands then except when the water level was very high. Both of these islands are now residential areas on the large peninsula that almost divides Pine Lake in two.
The "city of the lakes" provided many weekend and vacation hours of steamboating, fishing and swimming. A couple rowed well-protected from the sun with hats, long sleeves and high collars.
Also located on the heavily wooded bluffs overlooking the north shore of Pine Lake were the Baptist Assembly Grounds. Indiana Baptists had obtained the land near the Pine Lake Inn and held assemblies every summer with programs of various kinds. Special outdoor meals such as clam bakes, fish fries and corn roasts as well as other weekly entertainments were held at the many resorts. There was dancing in the evenings, both on the steamboats and at a pavilion on the Pine Lake Chautauqua Grounds. The other LaPorte lakes had their resorts too, including Weller's Grove on Stone Lake. After a channel was dug from Pine Lake to Stone Lake, Capt. Harding bought a large boat, and christened it the "LaPorte". Earlier, a channel connecting Clear Lake with Stone Lake via Lily Lake had been dug. So, by 1895, Capt. Harding and others could sail from Clear Lake all the way to North Pine Lake. Soon after this, in the early 1900's, the water levels of the lakes fell and the channels became too shallow for navigation. Steamboat travel on the LaPorte lakes ended about 1904.
SOLDIER'S MEMORIAL PARK
(off Pine Lake Avenue along the north side of Stone Lake)
Soldier's Memorial Park came into being in 1938 through the planning and hard work of three LaPorte men: Judge Alfred J. Link who was city attorney at that time, Mayor John Line, and City Engineer Burtis Thomas. As early as 1858, the City of LaPorte had gained possession of "City Island", a high ridge of land once an island in back of the present Stone Lake swimming beach. Later, when people began to realize what a fine spot this would be for a park, City Island was no longer an island. There was another high ridge of land east of this across the channel between Lily and Stone Lakes known as Porter Hill. When Fred Porter and his wife gave this land to the city, they requested the proposed park be named Soldier's Memorial Park in honor of all the LaPorte men who died in wars. To reach the swimming beach, a bridge had to be built across the channel at the end of Wirdner Ave. The American Legion donated the efforts of 30 of its members to build a 60 foot bridge in just two days. By this time, the Consumers Ice Co. had sold to the city the land it owned along the shores of Stone Lake. Today, through combined gifts and purchases, the park totals 356 acres. Although much of the park has been allowed to remain in a natural state, some developments have been made: moving sand in from Michigan City to add to the swimming beach in 1932 and 1933; planting a rose garden in 1965; building Cummings Lodge in 1967 to replace the old Rumely Foreman's Club building; construction of a baseball diamond at Lion's Field; and installation of picnic, playground and boat launching facilities.
(Pennsylvania Avenue near Stone Lake)
The shores of the LaPorte lakes have always been popular as outdoor recreation and camping areas. The first of these was Weller's Grove on Stone Lake. In 1855, the Rev. Henry Weller, the first minister of the Swedenborgian Church of LaPorte, built his house in a lovely grove of trees which sloped down to Stone Lake. This house is still in use as a private residence at 909 Pennsylvania Ave. Small cottages were built nearby and the grove became a summer convention center for people of the Swedenborgian Church throughout the Midwest. A pavilion was built in the center of the grove and here dances and amateur theatricals were held. Today Weller's Grove is a charming residential area of LaPorte.
People of all ages enjoyed camping at Weller's Grove, a private campsite for members of the Swedenborgian faith.
LAPORTE COUNTY FAIR
Hwy 2, west of LaPorte
Horseraces attract hundreds to the LaPorte county Fair, located from 1880 to 1960 at the site of the present high school. When photographed in the 1920's, the county Fair was already almost eighty years old.
In 1836, only 4 years after the formation of the county, the LaPorte County Agricultural Association held its first profit-making venture: The county fair. Nine years later the days of crop and livestock exhibits and horse races were established as annual events. At first held wherever land was available, the home of the county fair for 80 years was the little hill called Mount Zion, now the site of the LaPorte High School. The LaPorte County Fair began operating from its present location in 1960. The years of fair time since 1845 have included WLS radio barn dances, Wild West shows, the Streets of Cairo, highwire and human cannonball acts and other carnival attractions. The modern LaPorte County Fair is a showcase for 4-H Club members with thousands of dollars in premiums being won by fair exhibitors of all ages.
LAPORTE COUNTY HOME
(Hwy. 2, across from Fairgrounds)
The County Asylum for the Poor, or the Poor Farm, was begun in the 1830's to relieve the suffering of the poor and improvident by providing them with work and a place to live. The original farm was located on Pine Lake almost where the Pine Lake Cemetery is now. In 1886, the present site was bought and the building erected. Now largely self-supporting, the County Home still provides a place to live for homeless or poor county residents.
Sawdust covering the floors to catch the drippings and carcasses hanging fly-specked from huge hooks - familiar sights in the meatmarkets of the early 1900's. Home deliveries of cut-to-order meat were made daily from shops such as Thrush's in LaPorte.