Chesterton Tribune

Photos: Map collection details Chesterton and Porter growth and change from 1893 to 1951

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The old mill: A postcard from the early 1900s pictures the two-story mill building with its tall chimney at what is now Calumet Road and Porter Ave.

An early postcard view of what is now South Calumet Road shows the old mill building at Porter Avenue and nearby houses. The history of this building was explored by Eva Hopkins at the February Duneland Historical Society meeting.

The mill building at what is now Calumet Road and Porter Ave. was owned by H. L. Cooper in 1905 when he ran this ad for his business. The history of this building was explored by Eva Hopkins at the February Duneland Historical Society meeting.

Original 1912 Sanborn maps such as this one owned by the Westchester Township History Museum provided a great deal of information for insurance companies. Downtown Chesterton is shown with the early street names. Main Street is now Broadway and the Valparaiso & Michigan City Road is now Calumet Road. The large building in the lower left side is the Chesterton grade school and next to it is the early Methodist Episcopal Church. There are vacant lots on the east side of what is now Calumet Road. The buildings shown were brick buildings constructed after the 1902 fire. The buildings in the first block of what is now Broadway are all color coded as brick. The second block has one long brick building and the rest are frame.



Duneland Historical Society members and guests who braved the weather on February 15 were treated to a trip through history by way of Sanborn maps from the Westchester Township History Museum.

Museum intern Stephanie Poegel told the history of the the Sanborn company and the maps themselves and researcher Eva Hopkins described the local history revealed by them.

Maps of Chesterton and Porter in the museum collection are from 1893, 1899, 1905, 1912, 1922, 1935 and revisions added to the 1935 maps in 1943 and 1951. Some are copies but those from 1912 and 1935 are originals, color coded to show the construction materials used in buildings.

Sanborn maps were used by insurance companies and contained a wealth of information. In order to assess the risk associated with a piece of property, insurance companies could see drawings of the building shapes, how the buildings were used, construction materials and contents such as chemicals.

The D. S. Sanborn National Insurance Diagram Bureau began in New York City in 1867. By 1902 it was called the Sanborn Map Company and mapped about 5,000 cities and towns. The peak years were in the 1920s when the number of mapped areas was 13,000.

Following the depression the company began pasting changes on existing maps to save money. That system worked at the time but causes confusion today for historians using the maps for research.


The earliest map, 1893, shows a small town with a railroad running east and west and a wooden passenger and freight station. The map includes six saloons each with an ice house, three barbershops, the three-story Central Hotel, two hardware stores with tin shops, livery, harnessmaker, two blacksmiths and wagon shops, a saw mill and flour mill at what is now Calumet Road and Porter Avenue and the Chesterton Tribune over the bank on Main Street (now Broadway).

In the 1899 map a telephone exchange had been added and Harrigan’s Hotel on Main Street was competition for the Central Hotel. Most of the other businesses still existed.

Brick Buildings

By the time the 1905 map was drawn many brick buildings had been built in downtown Chesterton to replace buildings lost in the big 1902 fire. There was a fire station/town hall with a jail in the basement, John Hoham’s large brick building for his bakery and the new Tribune building.

Chesterton and Porter were becoming factory towns with an asbestos factory, pickle factory, organ factory and brickyards. The glass factory building was shown as not in operation.

In 1912 there were a number of lodge halls in the second floor rooms of business buildings, the livery was now a livery/garage and there was still a harnessmaker.

Porter Town Hall

Porter Town Hall and the new First State Bank of Porter showed up on the 1922 map along with Emil Anderson’s Lumber & Coal Co. and Anton Schmidt’s china plant. In Chesterton there were two new brick depots.

Street names had been changed, the public libary was in the 200 block of Broadway and the post office on Second Street. The Gary Chemical Company was manufacturing chemicals in the old organ factory. The map listed the chemicals by name.

1935 maps show the original location of the bandstand in the downtown park and the many fillings stations in town.

The most recent map is the version of the 1935 map which has added revisions made in 1943 or 1951. One revision is evident because Yost Elementary School in Porter is marked and it was built in 1950.

History of the Old Mill

Eva used Sanborn maps together with other sources to research the history of the old mill building at the corner of Calumet Road and Porter Avenue. The 1899 map shows a two-story mill building. A picture from 1910 taken from Porter Ave. shows the back of the mill. It was a two-story building with a tall chimney built in a depression which went on east to Coffee Creek.

The revision added to the 1935 map in 1943/1951 shows a one story building. A closer examination reveals that at some point the site was filled in and for the purposes of the maps it became a one-story building with basement.

A detailed history of the property begins with a notation in The History of Porter and Lake Counties, 1882, which says “A sawmill was built here about nine years ago (1873) by Thomas Johnson who in about a year sold to Mr. Ingraham who in two years sold to Thomas Blackwell having in the meantime added a gristmill...”

The 1893 Sanborn map shows the footprint of a large one-story wood sawmill - flour mill including an office, machine shop and a 55 foot brick chimney in the back. There were five outbuildings, a wagon shed, lumber shed, three storage buildings and a wooden shoe factory with a vacant paint factory in the same building.

That mill building burned in 1895 and Blackwell built the two-story brick building shown on the 1899 map and by then owned by John Ketring.

The 1905 map also shows the building and the owner is Horace L. Cooper. In 1912 the building is shown as vacant and the 1922 map is without notation as to its status.

Beginning in 1922 it was used by Blanchard Battery and Tire Shop and in the early 1930s by Claude Brunk’s Chesterton Dairy.

Harry Smith had an auto repair business and filling station in the building and the 1935 map shows gas tanks in front. Smith Motors operated there until 1975 when Richard Smith sold the dealership to Jack Connors.

The building is now owned by Hugh Hopkins and houses a small engine repair shop and several other businesses.

The Duneland Historical Society will meet at 7:30, March 15 at the Library Service Center when the program will be “Shipwrecks and Marine History of Southern Lake Michigan” by Jim Jarecki, President/Archivist of the Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago.


Posted 3/2/2007