Is Historical Tourism in Northwest Indiana Possible?

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In researching my work-in-progress– an historical tale about Prohibition in Gary, Indiana– I came across the Rum Runners Tour in Windsor, Ontario.

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Detroit (background) from Windsor, Ontario

The tour probed the area’s connection to the Prohibition Era in the United States. On the tour, we drove around an area known as Walkertown, where Hiram Walker and his family supplied a dry US with his Canadian Club Whiskey across the Detroit River.

We were then treated to the most interesting and entertaining retelling of Windsor in the 1920s, replete with costumed actors depicting bootleggers, police officers, temperance workers, and speakeasy owners. I had a ball (the morning whiskey tasting didn’t hurt either!)

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Lunch and entertainment at a Canadian “speakeasy”

With as much fun as I had and the amount of history I learned, I wondered–does northwest Indiana have what it takes to create tours like this?

As readers of this blog know, this Gary, Indiana girl has a soft spot for the city and the region as a whole. When I tell people where I’m from, they ask, “Is that close to Chicago?” as if that is our only claim on the map. There is so much history here, I used to think that anything I wrote would only interest other history nerds like myself. But with the number of people who’d signed up to ride in a cramped school bus on a rainy, humid day in Windsor, I figured, why not offer something like that here in northwest Indiana? What would my ideal tour of the region be?

There are lots of things to consider if I were to confine my tour to just the city of Gary. There’s the steel mill, of course, but with today’s terrorist climate, that might not be the best idea. Several wildlife and nature preserves offer tours in that area of interest. There are also beautifully preserved mansions in the Holley District of Crown Point, Indiana.

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Lake Street Beach, Gary, IN

The pioneer era was interesting as well. One could recreate a sod dugout or set up a horse-drawn wagon route to simulate the grueling journey newcomers had to take through dunes and swamp to get here in the late 1800s.

There is Gary’s Golden Era in the 1920s with its architecture boom. Though rundown, some of the buildings from that time still exist (folks still visit the ruins in Rome, right?)

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Ruins of City Methodist Church, Gary, IN

Tourists to the area could be treated to a recreation of what once was the greatest school system in the world–the platoon or work-study-play model, with someone portraying William Wirt (I think the Gary school board might benefit from studying that point in history, in my humble opinion).

So I ask, if you were in charge of tourism in northwest Indiana, what sites/themes would you include?

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About Michelle McGill-Vargas

Michelle hails from Gary, Indiana where she enjoys writing historical fiction, flash fiction, and short stories. Her writings have appeared in "Lutheran Witness", "Splickety Magazine", "The Copperfield Review", and "Typehouse Literary Magazine." She also currently serves as interim vice-president of the Indiana Writers' Consortium. Until the day her historical fiction manuscripts get published, she pays the bills as a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing. Read her short stories at www.shortfictionbreak.com and visit her blog at www.michellemcgillvargas.wordpress.com
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10 Responses to Is Historical Tourism in Northwest Indiana Possible?

  1. I love the idea of promoting tours of historical sites. Europe has them all over. Perhaps include Orville Redenbacher and Valparaiso.

  2. catherine garner says:

    NICE MICHELLE !!!

  3. michelle dykhuizen says:

    Crown Point, the whole Dillinger connection..not to mention Ridge Road, Indian trading posts were all over.

  4. Paula Jusko says:

    There is a heron rookery in Highland, just west of Cline Ave near I94. Also one to the east between US 12 and 20 off of rte 149. Don’t forget the Peerless Potato Chip Factory!

  5. Helen M. Brandt says:

    Hi Michelle, How about Waldheim cemetery on Grant and 19th Ave (I think) Lots of Tolleston people buried there. I’ll keep my thinking cap on.(smile) Love, from your Godmother.

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