Built in the 1930's, Camp Indiana was a summer residence/ retreat for the Indiana Governor and his family. Secluded from the public on top of Mount Tom, east of the beach pavilion, Camp Indiana served Indiana's Governors until 1965, when because of non-use and neglect it was demolished.
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(Photo above: The Main Entrance To The Indiana Dunes State Park, 1935. Image courtesy of the Northern Indiana Genealogical Society, Steve Shook Collection.)
Brief History Of The Indiana Dunes State Park
Recreational development of the Indiana Dunes began in the late nineteenth century. By the early 1900s, development was concentrated in three areas: the Michigan City lakefront; Porter Beach and Waverly Beach, now Indiana Dunes State Park; and Miller, now in east Gary. The Chicago-based Prairie Club incorporated in 1911 and in 1913 built a beach house for members. Prairie Club members and other beach goers erected tents and rough wooden cottages for housing during their summers in the dunes. This early residential development had minor impact compared to industrial sand mining that was destroying large areas of duneland. Alarmed by this destruction and by steel company land purchases, Prairie Club members and others began a campaign to create an Indiana Dunes National Park. Despite extensive publicity and advocates including Stephen Mather, first director of the National Park Service, this effort was not immediately successful. To read more about the early development of the Dunes State park, visit The National Parks Service Web Site.
(Photo above: Steven Mather, first director of the National Park Service and members of the Prairie Club explore the Dunes. Image courtesy of the Northern indiana Genealogical Society, Steve Shook Collection.)
(Photo left: One of the most recognized buildings at the Dunes, the Bathing Pavillion and Restaurant, circa 1945. The Dunes Arcade Hotel would be to the right. Image courtesy of the Northern Indiana Genealogical Society, Steve Shook Collection.)
Photo Right: The Bathing Pavilion, Circa 1960. By the 1960's the restaurant was more a snack shop. Image courtesy of the Northern Indiana Genealogical Society, Steve Shook Collection.)
My Personal Interest In Camp Indiana
(Photo Above: The Governor's Cottage, aka Camp Indiana. Early 1930's Mount Tom is the high peak in the background. Image courtesy of the Northern Indiana Genealogical Society, Steve Shook Collection.)
Left: The first purchase of Dunes State Park on September 2, 1925. Governor Jackson and W.P. Gleason stood together on the highest point of Mount Jackson. Governor Jackson presented Gleason with a cane for commemoration. Right: Governor Jackson presented John O. Bowers a check for $32, 034.00 in payment for the first purchase of 106 acres of duneland for Indiana Dunes State Park. -Monroe County Library Collection-
Left: Governor Jackson, on top Mount Green, delivered an address to the members of the Conservation Department and the Indiana Dunes State Park Purchasing Committee. He requested speedy action of the succeeding purchases of duneland. Mount Green was renamed to Mount Jackson in recognition of Gov. Jackson's efforts towards first purchase the Indiana Dunes State Park. In photograph (left to right): Ingwald Moe, Everett Gardner, Gov. Jackson, W.P. Gleason, T.A. Gottschalk, John Bowers, and W.A. Guthrie. Right: Governor Jackson with family and household members at their cottage on Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes State Park. Governor Jackson and family vacationed at the Lake in August 1925. -Monroe County Library Collection-
The first purchase of Indiana Dunes State Park on September 2, 1925. Governor Jackson and his family pose on the Dunes shore in front of the Governor's cottage. The cottage is seen 150 feet behind them overlooking the lake and Indiana Dunes State Park. The stairs pictured lead up to the top of the Mount Jackson where Camp Indiana was located. The cabin pictured is believed to be the first Governor's cottage. -Monroe County Library Collection-
New photos: Thanks go out to Eva Hopkins at the Westchester Township Historical Museum and Brad Baumgardner from the Indiana Dunes State Park. The photo to the left is a long shot which shows the Govenor's cottage, Camp Indiana, on the top of the dune. The photo was taken in 1928 and the man with the cane is Governor Jackson. The photo to the right shows part of the roof of the main building that made up Camp Indiana. -Westchester Township Historical Museum/ Indiana Dunes State Park Collection-
There are days when memories of days gone by just pop into my brain. Since my mother's passing in 2003, quite frequently I find myself looking back on those thrilling days of yesteryear. One afternoon I was asked about where my family like to take vacations when us kids were younger. My brother was born September 1954, I arrived 11 months and 14 days later, August 1955. My earliest recollections of family vacations involves sharing a cabin with the Bruce Family, also from Lowell, Indiana, at Shaffer Lake, near Monticello. We spent two weeks there each summer. One a week or so after summer vacation started in June and another week in August, prior to Labor Day. Two years, we were on the lake on my birthday. The Monticello trips stopped in 1963, when the family who owned the cabin sold it for the Indiana Beach expansion. The summer of 1964, we vacationed at the Dunes State Park. Many relatives on my father's side lived near the State Park, so picnics and days at the beach were common for us. In 1964, we spent a whole week at the Dunes on vacation. No, we were not camping, but staying in this really big cottage, that Uncle Loren claimed was the Governor's cottage. For a nine year old, this was pretty neat stuff.
Mom and Dad explained to us kids, that we could no longer go to Lake Shaffer, but we would be spending a week in a cottage at the Indiana Dunes State Park. We would be sharing the cottage with Loren's wife Ruth and their three kids, Larry, Steve and little Cindy and the Bruce Family, Bill and Georgette, Mark and Rusty. We arrived at the State Park and discovered that we would not be able to occupy the cottage for a day, so we checked into the Dunes Arcade Hotel, near the beach pavilion. The 50 room hotel was designed by John Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was a big three story Art-Deco/Expressionist design hotel that looked more oriental, but it was accommodating. After driving into Chesterton the next morning for breakfast, we returned to the Park to wait for our transportation. When the green beach truck arrived, all our stuff was loaded in and we set off east down the beach. Loren was driving and soon we arrived at the bottom of a staircase, leading up a huge dune. We followed him, carrying all our bags and suitcases. One flight of stairs, then a long runway, then two more set of steps. Another runway and still more steps. Finally we came to the top and there it was, our home for the next few days. I made note of the rustic sign in front of the big building, "Camp Indiana." The building was huge, or at least in a nine year olds eyes it was huge.
(Photo left above: Main entrance of the Indiana Dunes State Park, circa 1958. It had not changed much in 1964 when we vacationed at the Dunes. Image courtesy of the Northern Indiana Genealogical Society, Steve Shook Collection)
(Photo Above: New Dunes Arcade Hotel, West of The Beach Pavilion. Image courtesy of the Northern Indiana Genealogical Society, Steve Shook Collection.)
(Photo Above: Dune Arcade Hotel, circa 1960. This is where we stayed overnight. Image courtesy of the Northern Indiana Genealogical Society, Steve Shook Collection.)
The screened in porch faced north. One could see Lake Michigan down below. The area was surrounded by large trees and pine trees. Back then, us kids saw potential climbing trees, but I am pretty sure they shielded the camp and provided a measure of privacy. The porch contained many lounge chairs. Through the big set of double doors and you were inside a huge hall. Loren called it the ballroom. It was immense! To the south end of the cottage were the large kitchen and pantry. On the east side of the hall were several offices downstairs and a staircase leading to the second story. There were two bedrooms on the west wall and a bathroom, downstairs, and a staircase. Upstairs to the south were two good size bedrooms and two dormitories type rooms on either side. There was also another bathroom. Each dormitory contained 8 beds. The boys stayed on one side, the girls on the other. Mom and Dad shared one of the larger bedrooms, as did Loren and Ruth. Mr. and Mrs. Bruce occupied one of the upstairs bedrooms. Once we were settled in, it was time to explore. Cautioned not to wander to far, John, Larry and Steve Weiss and I checked out around the building. Talk about privacy. We found no trails, and it looked like the only way in or out was from the beach. The trees surrounding the building were excellent for climbing, as we soon found out. It was a tall pine tree and besides being easy to climb, we learned all about the sap. Our parents were not happy when they discovered their kids covered with pine tree sap. Talk about one sticky mess.
A shopping trip was organized. All our food and stuff had to be brought in. Once the adults took stock of what was on hand, they went shopping, leaving Mom with all the kids. It was beach time, so we all trudged down to the beach. We enjoyed the lake until we saw the beach truck coming down the beach. Swimming was over, and us kids helped carry the groceries back up the stairs and to the cottage. There was enough food to feed an army, but after carrying all the stuff up those stairs, I can see why. The week was just another typical week of vacation for us kids. Today, I wish that someone on that trip had taken better pictures of the cottage and the inside. My Dad did bring our movie camera, but the only footage he shot was of us on the stairs and down on the beach. There are two very brief shots of the front of the cottage, but not very good. If time travel were possible, that is one spot I would dearly love to go back and take some photos both inside and out.
That is the vacation that sparked my interest in Camp Indiana. It was lost forever in 1965 when the State demolished the structure rather than continue the upkeep. So now I wonder if we were some of the last occupants that used the cottage built for the Governor. Interesting thought.
Recollections and stories of Camp Indiana.
So far the quest for pictures and a floor plans have turned up nothing. I found some family home movies with footage taken at the Dunes on my family's vacation back in the 60's. The footage is primarily of the people who were using the cottage, but it does show some glimpse of the front porch. i am working to have them digitalized and added to this site. The Researcher over at the Westchester Historical Museum in Chesterton has been speaking with citizens from the area, who might have knowledge and information about the Camp. Eva has done a great deal of work, and I am in her debt.
She sent me a story about one former Indiana Governor, around the late 1930, early 1940's. An elderly resident of Chesterton visited the Museum one day. When asked about the governor's cottage, the gentleman, now in his 80's, remembered the cottage and also the governor. He said when the governor, would come to town (1938-1942) to head to his cottage, he would drive a convertible with his girlfriend at his side and four other cars filled with beer and whiskey. This man even knew the girlfriend's name. She was from Gary, Indiana. They would beep the horn when they passed thru town. Apparently he would party at the cottage. The man was not sure if the Governor was married at the time.
I would like to thank Eva Hopkins, Researcher, from the Westchester Township Historical Museum for all her help and assistance with the Camp Indiana Project.
Visit The Northern Indiana Genealogical Society's Northwest Indiana Views Page.
If you have photos, and or, information about Camp Indiana, I would love to hear from you. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include Camp Indiana in the subject line.)
2012 T.W. Kepshire