I write. My brother paints. We are both preserving history.
Since the early 1960’s our parents took us to the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Indiana to play in the water and waves of Lake Michigan. We hiked the trails, explored the blow outs, climbed the sand dunes and conquered Mount Tom and Mount Baldy.
It was a place for us to roam freely with acres and acres of sand dunes vs our suburban neighborhood with houses built side-by-side.
On a cold day in 1967 while we explored the beach, my brother, Jacob, sat in the sand and made sketches of an abandoned cottage that still stood on the lakefront. He later created this painting. Shortly after, the cottage was demolished. All of the cottages that once stood are gone.
However, fifty years later the memory of this cottage remains as the picture hangs in my living room. And it preserves an era of cottages that were built one hundred years ago by owners who, like us today, relished their hours spent on this beautiful lakefront.
We don’t know the original owners or history of this specific cottage, but in the early 1900’s many folks from Chicago traveled to the Indiana side of Lake Michigan to enjoy a time of recreation at the Indiana Dunes.
It was so well-liked that eventually a group of Chicagoans incorporated the Prairie Club in 1911 and two years later built a beach house for members. Members would come to spend weekends and the summer and slept in tents.
Later in the 1910’s and 1920’s landowners began renting small parcels to these Chicago folks. Simple, inexpensive one story wooden cottages along the lakefront would be built on the rented parcels.
Alarmed by industrial sand mining destroying large areas of duneland and steel company land purchased, the Prairie Club members and others began a campaign to create a state park. The cause to preserve the Dunes began in 1916 and that campaign finally came to fruition in 1926 when the Dunes opened to the public as the Indiana Dunes State Park.
In 1966 with the drive of Illinois Senator Paul Douglas to save the dunes, the park was authorized as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. With perseverance from multiple groups the preservation of more land was granted.
The Indiana Dunes today stands at 15,000 acres. What I will remember of that extensive amount of land, because of my brother’s sketches and painting, is the small portion of land where a cottage was built and an unknown family or individual’s memories were made.
I have over fifty years of good memories made of experiences at the Indiana Dunes from my childhood and with my children and eventually with my grandchildren, and I have recorded my memories on paper.
Pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of the Indiana Dunes or of your nature preserves for your descendants to read.