Chesterton Tribune

'Walk Through Porter' program presented at Historical Society

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Ackerman Drive in Porter is named for Robert F. Ackerman, the first local man killed in World War II. Wagner Road from Beam Street south used to be called Sherman Street. In 1874 the town of Porter had eight brick yards. A train wreck in Porter in 1921 killed 37, injured two and left 51 people unharmed. A tornado in 1948 damaged 140 homes but caused no fatalities.

These are just a few of the interesting facts learned when Nancy Hokanson and Rita Newman of the Friends of Porter took members and guests of the Duneland Historical Society on a virtual “Walk Through Porter”. They used old photographs and maps along with recent photographs in a power point presentation to trace the development of the town through the histories of its homes, business buildings and churches.

Printed guides for the walking tour including maps and property descriptions are available at the Westchester Township History Museum, 700 West Porter Ave. There are two parts to the tour, each with its own guide and each starting at the Hageman Library, one going west and the other east.

Part 1

Hageman Library, 100 Francis Street, was built in 1974 on the property where Porter School (later named Hageman School) stood from 1895 until 1973. Porter Town Hall, 301 Franklin, built in 2003, replaced the 1913 town hall which included a library and a jail.

A Queen Anne style duplex, 208 Franklin Street, built c1895 was the home and office of Dr. John Theorell. The building at 200 Franklin Street, also c1895, was built by Thomas Grady a Chesterton butcher and housed Peter and Victor Hokanson’s butcher shop and, until 1954, their grocery store.

100 East Beam Street is the address of the Porter United Methodist Church. The first building on this site c1886 was built as a Swedish Mission church. In 1892 it was sold to the Porter Congregational Church and in 1922 renamed the First Evangelical Church of Porter. The current building was finished in 1943.

Across Wagner Road at 100 West Beam Street is Yost School which was built in 1951 on the site of a clay pit for Chicago Hydraulic Press Brick Co. Evidence of the clay pit can be seen in the low area between the school building and Beam Street.

Notable structures on Wagner Road (formerly Sherman Street) include the building at 100 Wagner Road which dates to 1880 and was first a general store owned by Peter Wistrand. It has housed many businesses, apartments, a post office and a gas station.

116 Wagner Road is the well known Beam house which was built in 1883 of Porter brick by William Beam, Superintendent of the T. Moulding Brick yard.

Lincoln Street

The house of Porter brick at 106 Lincoln Street was built in 1893 and now houses a violin shop.

124 Lincoln, built in 1895, started as a drug store, then was a meat market, a feed store and now is Santiago’s Restaurant.

128 Lincoln, built to house the Eklund Hotel in 1885, is now the Village Tavern. 130 Lincoln was built before the turn of the last century and was the location of Foss’s Sample Room. It became Zahrn’s Pharmacy in 1919, Imhoff’s Pharmacy in 1930 and is now the law offices of Tilden and Tilden.

212 Lincoln, the Pillman Building, was built in 1891 by August Pillman and has been home to many businesses including Satur-day’s Child Coffee House from 1965-1975.

The lot at 222 Lincoln was the site of the George Lowry’s popular Porter Hardware Store which burned in 1970. It is now owned by Porter Bank and the gazebo located there is the restored cupola from the 1913 Porter Town Hall.

At the corner of Lincoln and Francis Streets are the First State Bank of Porter and the Jacobson building. The bank which has undergone remodelings and additions was built in 1920. The Jacobson building built in 1913 of Porter brick had the same architect as the town hall built that same year. It began as a general merchandise store and is currently a bead store.

Part 2

219 Francis Street, now Old Pathway Baptist Church, was the original home of St. Paul Lutheran Church starting in 1871. The parsonage for the St. Paul Church was built next door at 217 Francis in 1890.

19 acres for Hawthorne Park was purchased by the town from the Porter Riverside Land Company in 1933. 15.9 acres was donated by the Hokanson family in 1974 and more land added later at the corner of Waverly Road and Lincoln. Low spots in the park indicate the location of clay pits for the brick yards.

In the park is the community building first opened in 1941 and remodeled in 1986. A bronze tablet honoring Joseph Bailly was erected in 1936, a Veterans Memorial in 1946 and Millennium gazebo in 1999.

On the east side of the park on Waverly Road is a building which is believed to be the oldest house in Porter. It is a frame building covering a log cabin built in 1845 by Henry Hageman. It is now used as a storage shed.

The tour guide booklets describe many homes in the historic portion of Porter including a Lustron home, Sears homes, duplexes, bungalows and homes occupied by prominent Porter citizens.

Town history

The town traces its beginnings to the coming of the railroads and dates its founding to 1858, the same year Augsburg Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized.

Porter Station was platted in 1855 about 1¦2 mile west of the present Porter downtown and a post office started there in 1865.

Henry Hageman platted the village of Hageman c1871 or 1872 and a post office was established there in 1874. Because most people wanted to get on and off the train in Hageman rather than in Porter Station, the train station was said to have been physically moved from Porter Station to Hageman and the name changed to Porter. The town was incorporated in 1908.

For the DHS program pictures and descriptions of historical properties outside the walking tour were included. Some of those properties are Augsburg Lutheran Church and the Burstrom Chapel, The Carlson Planetarium, The Spa Restaurant, Enchanted Forest (now Splash Down Dunes), Coronado Lodge on U. S. 20 which was built in 1933 and razed in 1999 and the Nike Base which was built in 1956 and is now the headquarters for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Major highways pass through Porter. U.S. 12, called the Dunes Highway, was built in 1922. U.S. 20, built in 1932, was called the Dunes Relief Road, and I-94 was completed in 1972.

Other members of the committee planning the “Walk through Porter” were Vern Odom and Richard LaHayne. Ron Trigg was photographer. Research assistance was provided by Eva Hopkins of the Westchester Township History Museum and Tory Duhamell of the museum helped put together the power point presentation.

Next Month

The Duneland Historical Society will meet October 16, 7:30 p.m. at the Library Service Center when the program will be presented by the Company Singers, composed of members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Members will receive information about the fall dinner which will precede the program at 6:30 p.m.


Posted 9/24/2008