By KEVIN NEVERS
The new office of the Duneland Chamber of Commerce, in the historic New
York Central passenger depot at 220 Broadway, is only 400 square feet
larger than the old one across the street.
But somehow it seems twice as large. And infinitely more comfortable and
"We're not gaining that much in
space," Executive Director Laurie
Franke-Polz told the Chesterton Tribune Thursday, "but it works better.
Plus I like the ambiance."
Typically, she said, the chambers of commerce in small towns like
Chesterton take up residence in older buildings, as a way of establishing
their commitment to the community. Leased to the Chamber by the Town of
Chesterton, the 87-year-old depot--last used by a commuter train in
1964--is a reminder of the way things used to be here, busy and
prosperous, but also a pledge of things to come. "This has been a good
move for us. I think it gives a more permanent location for the Chamber.
And it cements in the minds of the community that we're here to stay."
Although the Chamber moved into its new digs just a week ago, Franke-Polz
and her staff are already squared away and their quarters shipshape,
thanks in large part to the efforts of an army of volunteers who converged
on the depot to paint it, fix it, and organize it.
Twenty-six members answered the call-out for help to paint the interior,
she said--a mint green on dark green which roughly duplicates the old
colors of the New York Central--and in a single day managed to do the
whole thing: walls, brick, and trim.
The kitchenette, on the other hand, proved something of a challenge. Jeff
Larson, who teaches voc-ed at Chesterton High School, had his students
work on the plumbing, a good lesson for them, Franke-Polz said, inasmuch
as it gave them an opportunity to work on seldom-seen copper and iron
piping. But the 17-inch solid brick wall stymied the kids, and so Rudy
Sutton of R V Sutton Inc. was good enough to volunteer a core drill, a
crew, and a couple of hours to finish the job.
Then PMS, Professional Moving Services, a new Chamber member, furnished
the brute strength to make the actual move, in exchange for "creative
in-kind service," she said. "They basically came in and packed and moved."
In all likelihood, however, the Chamber would never have considered the
depot as a home had not its former occupant, Charlie Ray and his Duneland
Group, refurbished the building and "brought it back as much as possible
to its original condition," she noted.
To Ray goes much of the credit for the placement of the depot, in August
1998, on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department
of the Interior.
Franke-Polz also tipped her hat to the town itself, which offered the
Chamber the long-term lease it was seeking. "I like the partnership with
the town," she said. "I think it's a good partnership and it will
continue to be a good partnership."
Franke-Polz has set up her own office in what she believes was the
telegraph room of the depot, a portion of the building which juts out
oddly from the main structure and has windows cut to the north, east, and
west. From her desk Franke-Polz has a clear view up and down the tracks,
as the telegrapher would have the better part of a century ago. The
original ticket window is also cut in the interior wall of her office and
opens into the lobby of the Chamber.
Although Franke-Polz had initially planned to install three-quarter height
glass partitions to provide a little privacy--especially for the
conference area--she has since reconsidered. "I like it all open,"
Franke-Polz said. "It feels right. I don't know if we'll need to put in
the three-quarter walls."
But the depot is nicely compartmentalized and offers her two full-time
staffers, Bookkeeper and Office Manager Marilyn Zengler and Administrative
Assistant Julie Brown, a lot of "workable space." It has a basement as
well with plenty of storage area. "It's very well organized," she said. "We know where everything is. Everything has a spot. Even the Christmas
The depot may have one drawback, however. Not surprisingly, the trains
"I'm a train
buff," Franke-Polz said. "I have been all my life." And
so, unable to resist the opportunity to watch a day's worth of trains ply
the tracks mere feet from her windows, she opened her blinds. But if
Franke-Polz could see the trains, their engineers could just as easily see
her. "They were slowing down and waving at me and blowing their horns."
Then she closed the blinds. "And it ceased."