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Tour of Historic Points of Interest

Tour of Historic Points of Interest

1) Lighthouse and Pier

Built in 1904, the lighthouse has become the most popular symbol of Michigan City, and is the only public operating lighthouse in Indiana. The elevated walkway, known as the "catwalk", was used by lighthouse keepers for 29 years to access the light tower. In 1933, this light on the east pier was electrified, and in 1939, the U.S. Coast Guard took over the service. The catwalk, no longer in use, was threatened with demolition. Local citizens rallied and succeeded in saving this landmark structure. The pier is a favorite spot for fishing and watching sunsets, and is frequently painted and photographed by local artists.

Lighthouse and Pier

2) Heisman Harbor

Pleasure boating received a big boost from the establishment of the Michigan City Port Authority and the creation of the yacht basin. In 1965, a 30-acre marina was built with room for 315 boats initially, and 600 boat slips later. This picturesque harbor was named for Dad Heisman, an expert boat builder and sports enthusiast.

Heisman Harbor

3) Observation Tower

A Works Progress Administration project from the 1930s, the stone lookout tower was designed by Fred Ahlgrim in an Art Deco style. It can be reached through the Washington Park Zoo. The tower provides a spectacular view from its summit, which is about 220 steps above street level. Washington Park, a beautiful municipal park with public beaches and many historic structures, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Observation Tower

4) Castle in the Zoo

Several historic structures contribute to the unique character of Washington Park Zoo. The Rotary Children's Castle, a stone building with crenulated towers, was modeled after the insignia of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It houses the zoo's reptile collection.

Castle in the Zoo

5) World War I Monument

Sponsored by the War Mothers, this monument depicts a World War I "doughboy" in battlefield attire. The 6-foot bronze figure stands on a 13-foot granite pedestal. The inscription reads, "Lest we forget our boys". It was dedicated in 1926.

World War I Monument

6) Old Bandstand

For many years, municipal bands performed weekly concerts in this open-air bandstand, designed by H. M. Miles. It was built in 1911, and is maintained today by the Questers. The old bandstand is still used for weddings and other festive events. In 1995, it served as the speaker's platform for President Bill Clinton.

Old Bandstand

7) Civil War Monument

The towering monument at the entrance to Washington Park honors the soldiers and sailors who died in the Civil War. The female bronze figure at the top is 12 feet tall and represents Victorious Peace. William O-Donovan and Jonathan Hartley, both New Yorkers, were the sculptors. The monument was donated to Michigan City in 1893 by John H. Winterbotham, a local manufacturer, bank director and state senator in the late 19th century.


8) Old Lighthouse Museum

Built in 1858, the old lighthouse had a lantern with a light that could be seen from 15 miles. Sperm oil originally fueled the beacon; the use of kerosene began in 1880. This building also served as a house for the light keeper and his family. Today, it is a maritime museum and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Click here for additional details.


9) Armory and Bridge

The Naval Armory is a white stucco, Art Deco building set off by glass block windows and three stylized front entries. It stands at the base of the drawbridge constructed in 1932 to mark the bicentennial of George Washington's birth date. The bridge railing is notable for its geometric Art Deco designs.


10) Michigan Central Railroad Depot

The railroad depot is a vivid reminder of the transportation industry that contributed to the development of Michigan City. It was built circa 1914 for the Chicago-Detroit passenger service. The train still stops here. The depot is a Prairie-style building with broad overhanging eaves to shelter passengers in all kinds of weather. Housed in the depot today - Swingbelly's Restaurant.

Railroad Depot

11) Richard Hunt Sculpture

"Hybrid Figure", an 85-inch bronze, was done by noted Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt in 1978. It is an abstracted female form, winged and horned, with rippling hair. The sculpture was commissioned by the Lubeznik family to stand at the entrance to an office building for local restaurateurs at 101 West 2nd Street.

Richard Hunt Sculpture

12) Courthouse in Michigan City

Like most public buildings from the early 20th century, the LaPorte County Courthouse in Michigan City is Neoclassical in style, with a columned portico and sculptural figures set in the front pediment. It is made of Indiana limestone, and was completed in 1939. The courthouse is on the corner of U.S. 12 and Washington Street.


13) Michigan City Public Library

This high-tech building won an American Institute of Architects First Honor Award in 1978. It was designed by internationally renowned architect Helmut Jahn of C.F. Murphy Associates, Chicago. The unusual saw tooth roof was planned to distribute light evenly throughout the building.


14) Scarff Sculpture

In the courtyard of the Michigan City Public Library stands a bronze sculpture by Chicagoan S. Thomas Scarff. The abstracted female form, holding an open book, is entitled "Centura", and commemorates the library's 100th anniversary. It was commissioned in 1997 by John and Edward Vail in memory of their father William W. Vail, who had served on the library's board for 43 years.

Scarff Sculpture

15) Barker Mansion

Barker Mansion was a gift to the city from Catherine Barker Hickox, daughter of John H. Barker, industrialist and philanthropist. John H. Barker was president of the Haskell and Barker Car Company in 1883, which later merged with Pullman Inc. to be known as Pullman-Standard. The mansion, as it stands today, is one of the most tangible evidences of Barker success and enduring wealth. Originally built in 1857 and extensively remodeled and expanded in 1900, the beautiful English manor-type mansion was finally completed in 1905. Its decor is typical of "turn-of-the-century" opulence: marble, abundantly used rare woods, lavish furnishings, and plentiful art objects.

Barker Mansion