The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority (SSCVA) has put in a lot of time and a lot of effort to turn the dream of relocating the John Dillinger Museum to the Old Lake County Courthouse in Crown Point. But today, on the 81st anniversary of the death of the original “Public Enemy Number One”, the dream finally became a reality.
“This move has been a long time coming,” SSCVA President and CEO, Speros Batistatos said. “And we wouldn’t be here today without the vision and partnership with Marty Wheeler and the Lake Court House Foundation; the City of Crown Point’s Mayor Uran; Group Delphi, the company who designed the museum, and ARC, the Crown Point business that printed and installed the panels; MJ Electric, and the many individuals from all of the businesses who worked with us to complete the museum.”
Marty Wheeler, Chairman of the Lake Court House Foundation, had nothing but praise as well for the SSCVA for making this dream possible.
“I want to thank the SSCVA for this,” said Wheeler. “I do not think I have ever worked with such a hard-working and nice group of people.”
Guests at the reopening reception were treated to food and drinks, as well as a tour of the museum itself; which took wanderers on a linear chronological journey through Dillinger’s early life all the way up to his death in 1934.
The tour, as Chief Technical Officer, Katie Holderby, who was in charge of making Group Delphi’s designs become a physical reality, was to tell the story of Dillinger in an arc that reinforces the museum’s motto: Crime doesn’t pay.
“We wanted to design the museum this way to show not only his life, but end it with the fact that crime really doesn’t pay,” Holderby said. “It was a different era back then during Prohibition, and bank robbers were glorified. We wanted to show that in the end the FBI won.”
And there is perhaps no better reminder that real life is different than the movies and the folklore, than the wall just outside the museum listing the names of Lake County Officers who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.
“We wanted to remind people that this is real life,” Holderby added. “And there are people out there protecting us every day, and some of them have sacrificed their lives to do that.”
Wheeler and Batistatos agreed.
“If you take only on thing away today,” Wheeler said emphatically, “it’s that we wanted to show that crime doesn’t pay.”
"The crimes of Dillinger helped spur significant advancements in law enforcement and crime fighting," Batistatos added. "The museum tells the story of Dillinger and his gang with a strong 'crime doesn't pay' message."
However, some attendees who were there weren’t there to learn about a man they've only seen in movies or read about, but to explore the history of a family member.
For nephew and great nephew of Dillinger, Mike and Travis Thompson, Travis now a Chief of Police, the museum now being in Crown Point felt right to them.
“The space and the layout of the museum is great,” Mike Thompson said. “And the fact that it is in Crown Point now with all the historical connections feels like the right place to be. Everyone did a really good job on this.”
And for Kathy Condon and Susan Hoeing, who are also related to Dillinger’s family, they appreciated the SSCVA’s attention to detail.
“We came all the way up from Kokomo for this,” Condon said. “It’s really nice and has a really nice layout. But there’s key information all around and I appreciate their attention to the historical facts. I appreciate this because for us, obviously, it’s family.”
“We grew up with John’s stories,” Hoeing added. “It’s hard to tell where he went wrong, and to see this stuff and look at the stories that broke my grandmother’s heart it’s very different. And it’s very nice to see this and this exhibit be as accurate as it can be with a story like John’s. ”
And while many came for different reasons and the theme of the evening may have ultimately been crime doesn’t pay, it was clear from all the reviews that hard-work and dedication to creating something great for the residents of Northwest Indiana truly does.