Chesterton Tribune

Emotions high as historic Porter Town Hall is turned to rubble

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About a dozen residents gathered to witness the last moments of the long life of the Porter Town Hall Tuesday. Dozens more drove by for a glimpse of the event, while some couldn’t bear to watch and stayed home.

The emotions of those at the scene were like those of relatives sitting a death watch over a long-lived loved one.

“It’s very disheartening,” said Dana Graves, of the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana.

“It’s unfortunate there was nothing more we could do,” Graves said, noting the initial grant for research and application for listing the building on the National Register of Historic Places.

Such registration can become meaningless when government officials refuse to support the intent, she said.

“It’s really a shame,” when a building is lost “in spite of the community support there is here,” Graves added.

She said there seems to be a national “tear down trend,” in which many special structures are being lost. She said a beautiful old home, the Foster Mansion, was lost in Elkart recently and that the Gary train station is on the organization’s top ten most endangered buildings list.

“It’s tearing away at the fabric of the community,” she said, noting that Porter especially has a small number of public buildings.

“This is a hard hit for a small community,” Graves said.

She added that the building was still sound and that renovation costs were manageable. “Most rehabs cost less than a build new process,” she added.

Town board member Jenny Granat and her daughter were among the crowd. Allison, 6, chanted “Don’t you dare, don’t you dare,” just prior to the first swing of the jaws of the wrecker. Once it had begun she burst into tears.

“It’s a wrong that can’t be righted,” Allison’s mother, Jenny Granat, said. She added that residents who had tried to speak in favor of preserving the building had been gaveled down at public meetings, as she herself has been.

“You have no voice in Porter,” she said. “There has been no open honest discussion about this.”

Some of the tear down proponents were also on hand, including town council member Jim Menn, who stood watching on the lawn of the Police Station.

Sherrill Newman, who lives directly across the street from the town hall site was visibly upset.

“This is just terrible,” she said, tears tracking down her face.

Newman’s wooden sign pleading the Town Hall be spared was draped in black mourning cloth.

Granat and Newman documented each stage of the destruction with digital and video cameras, finding moments of relief when the building seemed to resist being torn down.

At 1:20 p.m., when a falling brick broke a hydraulic line on the wrecker, Granat said “She’s fighting back.”

Naomie Tavernier and Snook Pisowicz stood by, alternately crying, hugging one another and angrily denouncing the current town board members who voted to tear the building down.

“We won’t forget who did this,” said Pisowicz.


Posted 10/9/2002