Chesterton Tribune

Photos: Town of Porter history on permanent display

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Porter’s musical roots: Thought probably to be among if not the oldest picture now hanging in the Porter town hall historical display is from 1895 of the Porter brass band. Its members, with serious expressions characteristic of period photographs, show off both their instruments and their spiffy uniforms. (Tribune photo by Paulene Poparad)

Historical exhibit on display: The Friends of Porter preservation group has donated a permanent exhibit of framed and matted photographs and post cards now displayed in the Porter town hall public meeting room. Viewing the collection recently, in this case a photo of the former 1913 town hall, were (left to right) R. C. LaHayne, Rita Newman and Nancy Hokanson. Recalled LaHayne, “In second grade Rita taught me how to tie my shoe strings. That’s a fact.”    (Tribune photo by Paulene Poparad)



The hard part wasn’t finding historic photographs of days gone by in the town of Porter.

The hard part was choosing which ones to include in a new permanent exhibit in the town hall’s public meeting room.

The town hall was occupied in late 2003 and when Clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy was elected shortly thereafter, she said she noticed a lot of bare, white walls. She asked the Friends of Porter group, of which she is a member, if they could do something about it.

Since the Friends already had been collecting historic photos, Rita Newman agreed to coordinate a town hall display. “Nancy (Hokanson) and I very scientifically measured the walls by using sheets of newspaper and taping it up. It evolved like Topsy.”

According to Hokanson, the Friends --- which organized in 1998 and incorporated in early 1999 --- already had used some of their historic photos to assemble a slide show to present to school classes. But choosing the pictures for a permanent display was more difficult. “We had so many to choose from and had to whittle it down. There were all kinds of ideas.”

The result is 15 professionally matted and framed photographs, some digitally restored, with a few frames containing more than one photo.

A variety of persons and businesses helped on the project, said Newman. Datagraphics enlarged to 400 percent a post card of laying early sidewalks in downtown Porter. Dan Bruhn worked on a pastoral scene of the former Indian Springs Council grounds near Mineral Springs from the Eva Hopkins Collection, which also includes various Porter postcards on display.

Brickies in Hobart helped to get the photographs ready, and Hobby Lobby did the framing. “Their computer is set for an 8 by 10 frame to cut a mat but that’s not what our pictures are necessarily; they’re all different sizes,” said Rita.

Most completed frames are 11 inches by 14 inches in size and all are in dark cherry wood to complement the custom mouldings and council table in the meeting room. The entire project cost the Friends $951 for photo processing and framing.

Adeline Janowski and Johanna Boehm, both now deceased, had donated pictures and postcards used in the exhibit. Dave Babcock as well as Bruhn loaned some photos, and the Westchester Township Historical Museum shared photographs made available through Jane Walsh-Brown.

Newman said there was a discussion whether or not to include Rose Ray’s color photo of the 1913 Porter town hall, which was demolished in 2002 so the new building could be erected on the same site. The Friends went to court to stop demolition of the 1913 building but weren’t successful. Ray’s picture of the old town hall is displayed no more or less prominently than any others in the exhibit.

Those familiar with Hageman Library can view its namesake, Hageman School, built in 1895 and razed in 1973 to make way for the library. The Congregational Church, established 1891 and now the Porter Methodist Church, shares a frame with a 1908 scene of two children walking down the street beside noticeably smaller trees.

The exhibit also includes early 1900s photos of the Michigan Central Depot in the 100 block of Lincoln Street and the Pere Marquette Depot near Francis Street.

Both the Town Council and Pomeroy are well pleased with the project, which took the Friends nearly one year to complete. “I love the photographs. I think they’re beautiful,” said Pomeroy. “Everyone who came to the (council) meeting the other night thought they were great. People all stood around, looking at them and talking after the meeting.”

The photos have that effect on people: a memory is triggered and before long a flood of recollections wash over the room.

R. C. LaHayne said the photograph of the former Diamond near 17th Street and Wagner Road where several rail lines once crossed prompted him to recall, “My uncle used to take the train from here to U.S. Steel in Gary. I used to go with my aunt and pick him up in a 1949 Dodge.” LaHayne also used to help the employee who manned the railroad gates at a time when switches were thrown by hand to change tracks.

The Porter track crossing that remains is still popular with train buffs.

The Lincoln Street business district photograph from the early 1900s shows horses stopped on the street, a bicycle leaning against one establishment and several wooden chairs lined up in front of another. A photo from the mid 1890s is of the corner of Wagner Road and Lincoln Street and the Union Block building that first served as the Busse & Jacobson general store and later Gary Long’s store and post office.

“Wagner Road, my grandfather Theodore Schultz gave the right-of-way to build it,” said LaHayne. “Waverly Road was given to Porter by the Waverly Pop Co. to the beach, which was called Waverly Beach at that time.” As a child, LaHayne remembers Oak Hill Road being only gravel.

The only vintage photo that used an early colorizing process is a 1908 street scene along Franklin looking east from Wagner Road, the dirt street lined in one area by an iron fence. The Johnson Inn at Porter Beach is captured in an undated photograph, as are bathers, the hotel and a stand where fresh fish are sold.

Vern Odom of Chesterton is an example that one doesn’t have to live in Porter to enjoy its history. “I never felt the difference between the two towns. At one point my Dad had his business in Porter.” Odom is a member and director of the Friends. “It’s the Friends of Porter, not the Porter Friends,” he emphasized.

Those who thought the large depression in front of Yost Elementary School on Beam Street was a massive detention pond are in for a surprise. One photograph shows it as the clay pit of the former Chicago Hydraulic Press Brick Co. Today soccer balls, not bricks, are tossed on the site.

Although the exhibit as originally planned for three walls is completed, “There’s probably room for more pictures,” said Newman.


Posted 2/18/2005