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Indiana Dunes Country
History & Culture

When the world was young

Your journey through Indiana Dunes Country will introduce you to a melting pot of international cultures and a heaping slice of Midwest Americana. This land has seen quite a bit. Thousands of years of native families; hundreds of years of fur trade; French, English and Spanish rule; the stagecoach and the arrival of the railways. Each has enriched our proud Hoosier heritage.

History & Heritage

The Potawatomi people were among the first to call Porter County home. In fact, a local archaeological dig has unearthed native artifacts from up to 9,000 years ago. The first non-native visitors to the area arrived in 1650: French fur traders who founded an industry that flourished for a couple hundred years and included trader Joseph Bailly. Bailly’s homestead is now part of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. What began with the fur traders continued as pioneering spirit and then the railroads brought immigrants from across Europe. Many of their stories and traditions continue to color our way of life. You’ll discover Swedish farms and churches, Victorian homes, Irish pubs, German choirs and more.

It happened here…

Did you know that entrepreneur Orville Redenbacher launched his first gourmet popcorn product from a farm near Valparaiso in 1971? Or that the Underground Railroad, a secret network of escape routes for 19th century fugitive slaves, is thought to have included a stop on the lakeshore of Porter County? How about the fact that The Indiana Dunes was the intended site of a macabre plan by Chicago counterfeiters to hide the remains of President Lincoln until they received a ransom of $200,000 and the release of their star engraver from prison? Have you heard that the historic Civil War-era Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso was said to be a favorite venue of “The March King,” conductor John Philip Sousa, who led a concert there in 1898? The Opera House also hosted the famous Marx Brothers vaudeville comedy trio in 1919.

Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm

Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm

These two historic sites sit nearly side-by-side within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Honore Gratien Joseph Bailly de Messein, the first known non-native resident of northwest Indiana, set up a fur trading post here in 1822. The main house has been restored to its 1917 appearance and is ... More

T: 219-395-1882 | W: View Website

Beverly Shores Museum & Art Gallery

Beverly Shores Museum & Art Gallery

This tiny, pink stucco museum pays homage to the town’s history and groundbreaking architec- ture. It’s also the spot where you can catch the only inter-urban train line in Indiana Dunes Coun- try. While you’re waiting for your train, check out the intimate gallery—an ever-rotating ... More

T: 219-878-1517 

Century of Progress Homes

Century of Progress Homes

The Century of Progress Homes, originally constructed for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, were built to demonstrate modern architectural design, experimental materials and new technologies like air conditioning and dishwashers. Drive or walk past them year- round, or take a look inside during ... More

T: 219-395-1882 | W: View Website

Chesterton and Porter Walking Tours

Visit Westchester Township History Museum/The Brown Mansion to pick up walking tour guides for Chesterton ($1) or Porter (free; east and west side guides available). The museum also offers an excellent guide to area museums. Among the historic structures you can walk past on the Chesterton tour ... More

T: 219-983-9715 | W: View Website

Countryside Park and Alton Goin Museum

Countryside Park and Alton Goin Museum

This museum, located inside Countryside Park and operated by the Portage Community Historical Society, houses many cultural artifacts from the Portage region. Nearby stands the historic Trager farmhouse and outbuildings. Enjoy a walk through the park after learning about the area’s history.

T: 219-762-8349 | W: View Website

Porter County Museum

Porter County Museum

Once the sheriff’s residence and local jail, the Porter County Museum is now home to North- ern Indiana’s largest collection of area history and treasures. Exhibits are displayed through- out the building and change often—because they’re always finding new artifacts, every trip is a ... More

T: 219-465-3595  | E: info@portercountymuseum.org | W: View Website

Stagecoach Inn & Panhandle Depot

Stagecoach Inn & Panhandle Depot

Open from June through September, the Stage Coach Inn and Panhandle Depot are museums for the Hebron Historical Society. The Stage Coach Inn is a saltbox style house, built in 1849, that has variously served as an inn, residence, post office, and museum over the years. Several rooms within the ... More

T: 219-996-3192 

The Illiana Garden Railroad Society at Samuelson's Nursery

Train enthusiasts! Grab your conductor’s hat and imagination and head to the large-scale miniature train diorama at Samuelson’s Nursery. It’s a setting straight out of Americana, with baseball fields, farmland, a gold mine and an industrial switchyard. The 2,000-square-foot display ... More

T: 219-462-6924 | W: View Website

Valparaiso Fire Museum

The museum offers a fascinating view of fire- fighting from the age of leather buckets to the modern era of gasoline fire trucks. Guided tours of the museum and adjoining Task Force Tips fire suppression equipment company available. Call to reserve a group tour.

T: 219-462-6161 | W: View Website

Valparaiso University Brauer Museum of Art

Valparaiso University Brauer Museum of Art

Located in the state-of-art Center for the Arts on the Valparaiso University campus, the Brauer Museum of Art is home to a nationally recognized collection of 19th and 20th-century American art and international religious art. The museum's permanent collection, numbering more than 3,000 pieces, ... More

T: 219-464-5365 | W: View Website

Westchester Township History Museum

Westchester Township History Museum

Victorian era gardens welcome visitors to the elegant 1885 Brown Mansion, which houses the works of Northern Porter County artists and exhibits that detail the history of the area and saving the Indiana Dunes. Don't miss the exhibit that tells the story of the Prairie Club, one of the nation's ... More

T: 219-983-9715  | E: museum@wpl.lib.in.us | W: View Website

Wolf Mansion

Several times each year, Wolf Mansion, a private residence on the National Register of Historic Places, opens for tours. And throughout the year, the home also hosts groups of 20 or more that want to have a party or event there. The mansion, built in 1875 by Josephus Wolf, required the labor of 3... More

T: 219-364-8102 | W: View Website

Photograph Copyright: Jeff Greenberg