The beautiful Brown Mansion, built in 1885, is now home to the Westchester History Museum. Inside, visitors have the opportunity to explore over 10,000 years of Indiana Dunes history.
According to the museum curator, the biggest eye-catcher is a Mastodon bone discovered right here in Porter County. The front calf bone is on display in the museum year-round as part of a permanent exhibit tracing Indiana Dunes history all the way from the prehistoric period to the present day. The bone is complemented by various artifacts of the same era when massive ice sheets covered Northwest Indiana—it’s hard to imagine something so big walking across a frozen Lake Michigan!
Another beloved artifact in the museum is the Brown family Bible, printed during the Temperance movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Browns carefully scripted names and dates throughout the Bible to record important events in their family’s history, although one conspicuous blank page labeled “Temperance Pledge” seems to shed light on the Brown family’s stance on Prohibition. Looks like they may have been looking ahead since Indiana now sells alcohol on Sundays!
The museum also contains interactive artifacts like the stereopticon, a device a user holds and looks through to view the first incarnations of 3D images. Two copies of the same photo are placed at the end of the lens, and when viewed through the scope, the picture comes to life. While there is so much to see in the museum, the stereopticon adds a nice hands-on element to the experience.
Adding to the notable artifacts in Westchester’s possession is Jesse Morgan’s gun from 1752, which was passed down through the Civil War—legend has it that this was also Benjamin Franklin’s gun at one point. Knowing the hands that have touched this incredible artifact makes it all the more powerful when you visit the display at the Westchester Museum.