By JEFF SCHULTZ
Visitors at the Westchester Township History Museum can step back into the
past and catch a glimpse of what it would be like to be one of the 3,500
sitting in the grandstand of the Mineral Springs Race Track on opening day
or climb the steep 200 ft. hill at the Ogden Dunes Ski Jump to watch the
international ski jump events.
History Museum curator Jane Walsh-Brown said due to the popularity of the
exhibit, the museum will keep its temporary summer exhibit open through the
end of September. She said nearly 600 had visited the exhibit just last
“It brings back a lot of memories for older visitors and our younger
visitors say they wish these attractions were still here,” Walsh-Brown said,
who said the goal of the exhibit is to educate on local history.
The exhibit, which officially opened on June 20, features a total of twelve
lost attractions, most of which are luxurious lodging facilities like the
Coronado Lodge which was located on the north side of U.S. 20 near Howe Rd.
or restaurants like The Spa Restaurant near Springhouse Inn on U.S. 12.
Walsh-Brown said the attraction that seems to catch the visitor’s eye the
most is Littleville, a miniature replica of a town built by Inland Steel
worker William Murray who lived in Chesterton. Murray began making and
selling miniature buildings in 1932 as a way to make some money during the
Murray built a small village in his backyard on 11th Street in 1937 and the
next year opened Littleville for business. The “town,” which featured
schools, stores, an oil refinery, a castle, a baseball stadium, and a
small-scale replica of Chesterton’s Bethlehem Lutheran Church where Murray
was a member, attracted 20,000 people in the first year, even folks from
Walsh-Brown said Paramount Pictures even made a short documentary film on
Murray’s tourist attraction. In its life span, Littleville saw close to
133,000 people. Older publicity posters displayed in the museum show season
tickets for Littleville were sold for 35 cents for a family.
The popularity even spawned “The Littleville News” which was printed by the
Chesterton Tribune and sold for two cents per copy.
Murray decided to close Littleville during WWII because of the wartime
rationing of gasoline and tires, but never entirely reopened the town
afterward. The Littleville Castle remained on the property as other
buildings were sold or given away.
The castle remained on site but it slowly deteriorated through the years.
Walsh-Brown said the last remains of the castle were removed by the
property’s current owner in 2009.
“The buildings still exist in people’s memories,” said Walsh-Brown. She said
the pictures of the town have brought back memories for the museum’s
Duneland residents and horse race enthusiasts may be interested to find that
the Worthington Steel facility in Porter on the north side of U.S. 20 was
the site for one of the area’s premier race tracks in 1912.
The $25,000 grandstand was opened by the Mineral Springs Jockey Club.
The track held its first race on Oct. 16, 1912, and was shut down by the
Indiana National Guard less than a week later under the charge that
underground gambling was being conducted.
The track opened for a second season in July of 1913, only to be shut down
again in August by the National Guard for gambling, this time for good.
The grandstand burned down after being struck by lightning in 1917.
The gambling fiasco even caught national attention. Displayed in the museum
is an article that appeared in the New York Times on the guard suppressing
betting at the race track.
Before there was Splash Down Dunes, there was Enchanted Forest Amusement
Park, located at the northeast corner of the U.S. 20 and Waverly Rd.
Dubbed “the playland of the Indiana Dunes,” the park opened in 1956 and
quickly became a popular summer destination in Northwest Indiana for over 35
The Kruse family who ran the park struggled financially as bigger amusement
parks began to draw away crowds in the later years. The park closed its
gates for good in August of 1991. Splash Down Dunes opened three years later
on the western parcel of the property, but also shut down this past year due
to owner disputes.
The history museum displays many items of memorabilia from Enchanted Forest,
including the large red sign for the park’s Tilt-a-Whirl with gold
Museum visitors can also see pictures of the Swingin’ Gym, the Santa Claus
workshop, the Dodgem Bumper Cars, the Skyliner Ride, the Scrambler --
“world’s greatest action ride”, and the Mad Mouse roller coaster which was
purchased by the Little-A-Merrick amusement park in Marshall, Wis. after the
Ogden Dunes Ski
A number of residents may recall a ski jump that existed in Ogden Dunes from
1927 to 1935. The jump was erected by the Chicago Ski Club approximately
where Kratz Field is today at Boat Club Rd.
The ski club chose Ogden Dunes due to the formation of the dunes making the
ski jump easier to engineer. Five international ski jump competitions were
held between 1928 and 1932 which drew crowds of up to 20,000 people.
The jump itself was nearly 200 feet with the total length of the track
totaling 595 feet.
Walsh-Brown said the jump was discontinued due to lowered attendance caused
by the Great Depression, lack of natural snow, and because admissions were
difficult to collect. She said the hill was also difficult to climb because
it was so steep.
The jump was dismantled in 1935 and moved to Rockford, Ill.
The museum features vintage film stock taken during one of the ski events
from 1930 and also publicity posters along with a map of the track.
In 1932, Reverend Eric Carlson, a Swedish immigrant with a strong interest
in astronomy, opened his planetarium to the public on the southwest corner
of U.S. 20 and Mineral Springs Rd.
The site became a popular destination for school groups and Boy Scouts.
Admission was ten cents a person.
The Carlson Planetarium held over 150 astronomy lectures in its busiest
year, 1936. Astronomy lectures were held on Thursday and Friday evenings and
The exhibit contains pictures of the Carlson Planetarium and written
memories from residents who had visited the planetarium in school or in
Museum visitors can look at menus from The Spa Restaurant and the Bailly
Homestead Inn. The menus circa 1960 contain a few interesting items like
“The Mr. Bailly” -- a ten-ounce broiled center cut top sirloin steak for
just $3.85 or “The Look Out Tower” triple decker sandwich for $1.25.
Visitors can also read about the Tremont Inn that opened in the 1920s and
was a very popular spot given its location in the Dunes. The inn closed in
Other featured attractions include the Red Lantern Inn in Beverly Shores,
the Johnson Inn on Waverly Rd. at Lake Michigan, the Coronado Lodge, and the
Dunes Arcade Hotel which was designed by John Lloyd Wright and sat west of
the Dunes State Park pavilion building.
Walsh-Brown said she designed the exhibit herself and put museum staff in
charge of researching and creating the displays. Joan Costello was in charge
of the Ogden Dunes Ski Jump Display, Cobie Ball -- Enchanted Forest, Eva
Hopkins -- Carlson Planetarium, Serena Sutliff (a summer intern from the
University of North Carolina) -- Mineral Springs Race Track. Walsh-Brown
also headed up the Littleville display.
Burns Harbor is
The museum will be featuring the history of Burns Harbor as its next exhibit
in October. The museum usually creates three to four temporary exhibits a
The Westchester Township History Museum is located at 700 W. Porter Ave.
right next to the Chesterton Middle School.
The museum is
open Wednesday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment.
Groups of ten or more are asked to call for a tour reservation at
(219)983-9715. The public may tour the exhibit for free.