04 April 2013

Chesteron: when you know you're not in Kansas anymore

The Martin Young House was built in 1878 in the Italianate style.  It is individually listed on the National Register.
A few things put this small Porter County town on the map.  The annual Wizard of Oz fest is one, and the community's claim at the gateway to the Indiana Dunes is the other.  I could, at least, find it on a map in 2008.  Now my car knows the way....including the best local coffee shops.

I developed a close association with a non-profit organization that was doing National Register work in Lake and Porter Counties by the end of 2008.  They asked me, as a pilot project I believe, to complete a nomination for a historic neighborhood on the west side of Chesteron's downtown.  At this point, what I knew about Northwest Indiana was merely what could be viewed from the toll road.

The Henry Christianson Home was built by the owner who was a brick mason in c. 1880.
Chesterton was established by two families during the early 1830s.  It took the name "Coffee Creek" from a creek by that name which flowed through the settlement and after which the post office had been named.  During the 1850s it was changed to Chesteron, after Westchester Township it was located in.  Regarding industrial development, possibly the most important early industry of Chesterton was the Hillstrom Organ Company, founded in 1869 by Swedish immigrant, C. O. Hillstrom and relocating to Chesterton in 1880.  The historic neighborhood has a great collection of homes that are well-maintained and speak well of the community.....and no doubt support the small downtown district.

A Queen Anne style home in Chesterton
Of particular note to the settlement history of Chesterton is the influx of Swedish immigrants to the area which saw its earliest concentration in the early 1850’s.  Their primary trade was cutting timber for the new railroad and local markets.  Swedish immigrants built some of the most outstanding homes in the Chesterton Residential Historic District including Par Johnson, Oscar Peterson, Richard Anderson, and Henry Christianson who was a masonry contractor. The construction of the Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church and the former Catholic church were built by Christianson and other Swedish immigrants.  The neighborhood was placed on the National Register in 2009.



 

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