Chesterton Tribune

Depot history: When the trains stopped

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By KEVIN NEVERS

If you want to mix business with the pleasures of history, you couldn't do better than to drop by the new office of the Duneland Chamber of Commerce, in the old New York Central passenger depot at 220 Broadway.

Susan Collins and Marilyn Zengler, the editors of Duneland Digest, the newsletter of the Chamber, have compiled a fine biography of the depot, and note in an article in the February edition that the original depot was constructed of wood in 1852. "The building," they write, "housed grain storage facilities, a freight room, passenger waiting room, and the telegraph office."

But the fire fiend took the depot in 1913--as it had much of the downtown in 1902--and the building as we know it was rebuilt from brick in 1913. "The last commuter train stopped here in Chesterton in 1964," Collins and Zengler write.

The last occupant of the depot, Charlie Ray and his Duneland Group, restored the building much to its original condition, and his efforts were rewarded in August 1998 when the U.S. Department of the Interior placed the depot on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Town of Chesterton owns the depot and has entered into a lease agreement with the Chamber.

Like the depot itself, the Chamber has gone through a number of permutations. Research by Collins and Zengler, and information provided by Warren Canright, publisher of the Chesterton Tribune, have revealed that from 1921 through 1933 a Chesterton Chamber of Commerce was active in town. But the Depression hit Chesterton hard, the town's businesses were unable to support a chamber, and it disbanded. Nevertheless, an organization did evolve to promote sales and as a chamber would it sponsored many community events, including an annual arts and crafts fair and Christmas decorations.

The Chesterton Chamber was reformed in 1955. Then, as Duneland gradually acquired an identity of its own, Collins and Zengler have shown, it became the Westchester Chamber in 1958 and finally the Duneland Chamber in 1988.

At various times the Chamber has found a home at 135 S. Calumet, presently occupied by the Country Loft; at 119 Broadway, now the shop of Diane's Gifts; and finally at 303 Broadway.