Shifting Sands: The Restoration of the Calumet Area

By Kenneth J. Schoon | Go to book overview

7
PORT VERSUS PARK
Conflict in the 50s and ‘60s

PLANS TO ESTABLISH A PUBLIC DEEPWATER PORT ON LAKE Michigan predate Indiana’s statehood. It was this early Hoosier dream that resulted in the moving of the old state boundary line (today at Porter’s Beam Street and both Gary’s and Chesterton’s Indian Boundary Road) from the southern tip of Lake Michigan to a line ten miles north. Fur trader Joseph Bailly planned for a Porter County port in the early 1830s but died before any progress was made. The dredging of Burns Ditch in 1926 for flood relief sparked new efforts to create a public port, but those efforts stalled as well once the Great Depression took hold. In 1929, Midwest Steel purchased 750 acres straddling Burns Ditch. Midwest executives and many Porter County businessmen were hoping that the federal government would build a deepwater port at the ditch. But the Army Corps of Engineers in both 1931 and 1935 rejected that idea because it would benefit just that one company.

So in 1935 a group of businessmen, led by Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce manager George Nelson, planned for a public port east of the Midwest properties and urged Congress to provide funding. Much of that land was owned by the Consumers Company of Chicago, a corporation that was already lobbying Congress for a port that would support heavy industry on the lakefront. Meanwhile NIPSCO, which owned three hundred acres of land just west of Dune Acres, was waiting for the industrial development that would need the electricity that NIPSCO could provide.

Adding to the pressure for industrial development in the late 1950s was the impending opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which would

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