History News Feed - LaPorteCountyLife https://laportecounty.life Wed, 29 Jan 2020 08:13:44 +0000 en hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 The Man Who Killed Belle Gunness – Part 1 https://laportecounty.life/event/the-man-who-killed-belle-gunness-part-1/ Sat, 02 Nov 2019 20:26:25 +0000 La Porte County Historical Society https://laportecounty.life/event/the-man-who-killed-belle-gunness-part-1/ On Tuesday, November 19, 2019, the La Porte County Historical Society will host the program “The Man Who Killed Belle Gunness (Part 1)” presented by La Porte County Historical Society Board member Judge William Boklund.  The program is free to the public and will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the Museum, 2405 Indiana Avenue, La Porte.  

Often when the story of Belle Gunness is told, it ends abruptly after the discovery of her crimes, leaving unexplored the great mysteries of the case.  Did she die in the fire, or did she get away? Was she murdered by Ray Lamphere, or did she poison another woman and place her corpse in the cellar?  Some of these questions may never be completely answered, but we can determine if the prosecutor proved his case beyond a reasonable doubt.

In this program, Judge Boklund will pick up the story where others have left off, examining the sweeping madness that spread through the country after discovery of the Gunness crimes, and the things that made the criminal investigation and jury selection almost impossible.  He also will take a closer look at the testimony of the four doctors who autopsied the bodies that were recovered from the cellar.  Their testimony was the only evidence the prosecutor had that could have proven that the adult body in the cellar was that of Belle Gunness, and that she had died as a result of the fire.  Judge Boklund will share these and other new insights into the Gunness mystery!

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The Man Who Killed Belle Gunness – Part 1
Kersting’s World of Motorcycles Museum- a hidden gem in Pulaski County https://laportecounty.life/article/kerstings-world-of-motorcycles-museum-a-hidden-gem-in-pulaski-county/ Thu, 31 Oct 2019 19:53:54 +0000 Kayla Belec https://laportecounty.life/article/kerstings-world-of-motorcycles-museum-a-hidden-gem-in-pulaski-county/ Justin Kersting still has a vivid memory of trailing after his grandparents, Jim and Nella Kersting, as they furnished their retirement project, the World of Motorcycles Museum. The pair had just turned over their successful cycle dealership, Kersting’s Cycle Center, to their kids Sandy, Randy, and Jason. Used to hard work and business, they weren’t entirely sure how to manage all of the free time that fell in their hands. 

“They looked at each other and kind of asked, ‘What now?’, and my grandma said, ‘Why don’t we start a garden or something?’, and my grandpa said, ‘Nah, honey, let’s start a museum,’” Kersting laughed.

A far-fetched sounding goal, but with Jim’s extensive knowledge of all things cycle-related and growing collection of rare motorcycles, it made sense. Besides, the two had built Kersting’s Cycle Center from the ground up in the ‘60s, so they knew how to embark on successful ventures. In those days of his childhood in the early 2000s, Kersting and his family didn’t realize just how successful the museum would become. 

The World of Motorcycles Museum now contains more than 219 bikes, 24 cars, 20 bicycles, two tractors, and wall-to-wall memorabilia. And it’s still growing. Resting between the small towns of North Judson and Winamac, the museum attracts a steady flow of visitors from out of town and across the world.

“Just today, some German tourists were here, and a few weeks ago a Polish family stopped in,” Kersting said.

Kersting attributed the draw of the museum to a unique combination of variety and charm. A small town in Indiana is rarely on international travelers’ radars, but when there’s such a wide array of collectibles, that niche interest delivers. The machines on display span nearly nine decades of history and come from dozens of different countries—France, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, Japan, and more. Many of the items on display have all but disappeared from existence outside of the museum.

The charm, Kersting said, comes from the memorabilia sprinkled liberally throughout the museum. Apparel, toys, gear heads and parts, and other high-value collectible items are nestled beside the antique machinery. Framed photos of the Kersting family through the generations complete the ambience. 

“The main thing people tell me is that you can walk through this museum so many times and still see something new,” Kersting said. “No other museum of this nature has this mass amount of memorabilia. I’ve been to the largest motorcycle museum in the country, and I can tell you it does not have as much charm as ours.”

While Kersting maintains an earned bias in this opinion, most people who visit the World of Motorcycles Museum agree with him. To see Jim’s very first item in the collection, a 1931 Indian 4 cylinder he purchased at an auction in 1967 and which the Kersting family went to great lengths to ensure stayed in Jim’s possession during financial shifts, is to see a piece of the most avid enthusiast’s heart. The 1916 Harley-Davidson® model J on display is now a highly coveted relic of Harley-Davidson® history, one of many Jim spent careful time selecting. And, of course, the photos of the Kersting family lining the walls are also pieces of history, ones Kersting helped his grandmother Nella hang. 

After the museum had its grand opening in March of 2003, Jim and Nella Kersting got into a motorcycle accident just a handful of months later. That July, Nella passed away. To celebrate her memory, and every bit of labored love she bestowed on the museum and dealership, the Kersting family commissioned a plaque in her honor. Visitors can experience firsthand the personal touch and devotion that went into the collection, a charm not found in many other high-caliber museums. 

Even now, Jim Kersting visits his museum nearly every day. He’s still adding to his ever-growing collection, often with the help of his grandson. 

“I’ll visit and say, ‘What do you want to do today, Grandpa?’, and he’ll say, ‘Let’s go to the museum,’” Kersting said.

Kersting recalled an email he received recently from a German traveler who visited the museum some years back. Kersting and his grandpa had struck up a conversation with the enthusiast, and they still keep in semi-regular contact.

“He had just visited a [motorcycle] museum in Germany, and he said in his email, ‘Man, I just can’t stop thinking about your grandpa’s museum, though.’”

And there’s the draw.

“My grandpa always says, ‘It’s worth nothing if you can’t share it with people,’” Kersting said. “And that’s what he loves doing. He can tell you anything about the cycles and cars in the museum. He loves to share that.”

The World of Motorcycles Museum is typically open Tuesday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Eastern/Standard time, and 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays. Admission is $5 per person. To learn more about this hidden gem and Kersting’s Cycle Center, visit https://www.kerstingscycle.com/. Be sure to visit the World of Motorcycles Museum’s Facebook page for updates and more photos.

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Kersting’s World of Motorcycles Museum- a hidden gem in Pulaski County
Barker Mansion Adults-Only Blackout Tour https://laportecounty.life/event/barker-mansion-adults-only-blackout-tour/ Fri, 11 Oct 2019 20:28:24 +0000 Barker Mansion https://laportecounty.life/event/barker-mansion-adults-only-blackout-tour/ Back for the fourth year, Michigan City’s Barker Mansion is hosting Blackout Tours this month. The tours offer a different look at the mansion: one viewed in near darkness. During the event, tea lights and glow stick necklaces, worn by guests, are the only sources of illumination. Guests are led through the mansion by staff who tell stories of unusual and eerie historic happenings, taking place both at the mansion and throughout Northwest Indiana.

“The purpose of the Blackout Tours are not to scare or frighten anyone,” explained Interim Director Jessica Rosier. “There will not be zombies or ghosts popping out, and there will be no paranormal equipment. These tours are, however, and chance to view history from a much different angle.”

The tours were conceived by Heritage Interpreter TJ Kalin in 2016, now serving as Assistant Director. The idea came to him as he realized that many of the mansion’s tour guests wanted to know what happens behind the scenes, when all the lights are off.

“A lot of people ask if the mansion is haunted,” said Kalin. “We don’t talk about that on normal tours, since our primary purpose is to interpret the Barker legacy. People are still curious, though, so that’s why we created the Blackout Tours.”

Advance reservations are required for the tours, which typically sell out in advance; walk-ups are not permitted. Tours will be offered on October 18, 19, 25 and 26. Two time slots are available: an 8 pm Central Time tour is geared toward families, and a 10 pm tour is for adults only. Tickets cost $15 per adult and $10 per youth and are available on Eventbrite or by calling the mansion at (219) 873-1520 x5.

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Barker Mansion Adults-Only Blackout Tour
Barker Mansion Family Blackout Tours https://laportecounty.life/event/barker-mansion-family-blackout-tours/ Fri, 11 Oct 2019 20:25:45 +0000 Barker Mansion https://laportecounty.life/event/barker-mansion-family-blackout-tours/ Back for the fourth year, Michigan City’s Barker Mansion is hosting Blackout Tours this month. The tours offer a different look at the mansion: one viewed in near darkness. During the event, tea lights and glow stick necklaces, worn by guests, are the only sources of illumination. Guests are led through the mansion by staff who tell stories of unusual and eerie historic happenings, taking place both at the mansion and throughout Northwest Indiana.

“The purpose of the Blackout Tours are not to scare or frighten anyone,” explained Interim Director Jessica Rosier. “There will not be zombies or ghosts popping out, and there will be no paranormal equipment. These tours are, however, and chance to view history from a much different angle.”

The tours were conceived by Heritage Interpreter TJ Kalin in 2016, now serving as Assistant Director. The idea came to him as he realized that many of the mansion’s tour guests wanted to know what happens behind the scenes, when all the lights are off.

“A lot of people ask if the mansion is haunted,” said Kalin. “We don’t talk about that on normal tours, since our primary purpose is to interpret the Barker legacy. People are still curious, though, so that’s why we created the Blackout Tours.”

Advance reservations are required for the tours, which typically sell out in advance; walk-ups are not permitted. Tours will be offered on October 18, 19, 25 and 26. Two time slots are available: an 8 pm Central Time tour is geared toward families, and a 10 pm tour is for adults only. Tickets cost $15 per adult and $10 per youth and are available on Eventbrite or by calling the mansion at (219) 873-1520 x5.

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Barker Mansion Family Blackout Tours
Mayor Krentz declares October 9 Alan Barcus Day https://laportecounty.life/article/mayor-krentz-declares-october-8-alan-barcus-day/ Tue, 08 Oct 2019 01:14:44 +0000 Gena Demuth https://laportecounty.life/article/mayor-krentz-declares-october-8-alan-barcus-day/ It was a time for honor and celebration at the La Porte City Council meeting when Mayor Mark Krentz proclaimed October 9, 2019 as Alan Barcus Day.

Barcus, a talented as a lyricist, composer, and singer, was honored for a song he wrote for the city of La Porte titled, La Porte Will Always Be Home. The song is written with fondness for La Porte, a fondness that many residents share and hold close, no matter where they travel.

Music was not Barcus’ first love. At an early age, he dreamed of being a baseball player, but his mother Nellie had other ideas and sent him to piano lessons. He would quit piano for a time and play cello reluctantly before discovering a love for jazz instead.

“I felt that the girls didn’t come to the orchestra concerts—they came to the jazz band concerts,” Barcus quipped. “I thought I would play the trumpet and I really liked that for a while but I wasn’t planning on getting into music. It was by accident. I never took a course.”

Alan attended college at Indiana State University where he was named a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) All-American in cross country and track and field and received his master’s degree in business. Barcus discovered playing the piano before meets would calm his freshman pre-race nerves.

“The music building was open all night, and I would go down to the practice rooms and play what I remembered. And then, all of a sudden, I had forgotten how nervous I was,” Barcus said, “so I started doing that before all the meets.”

Barcus went on to a career teaching and coaching in Brazil, IN. With music becoming more and more important to him, he knew he needed to move to a larger city. He, his wife Ann, and daughter Katy decided to move to Chicago .

“I remember when I called my mother and told her we were moving to Chicago to get into music,” he said. “Her goal in life was for me to play the piano, yet her first words when I told her was ‘Oh no! But you have tenure!”

In Chicago, Barcus conducted an orchestra before being hired as a musical director creating 2,498 TV and radio spots including campaigns for McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, State Farm Insurance, and Pepsi.

Mayor Mark Krentz and his wife, Laura, had been fans of Barcus for many years. While driving back after hearing him play at the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, MI in 2017, Krentz discussed with Laura his idea to ask Barcus to write a song about the city.

When Barcus set to work on the song, he said it did not take long for the music to flow.

“It writes itself when you get going. When I first sat down it took maybe thirty minutes but then I started tinkering with it, adding the piano parts and the lyrics to the song itself,” he said.

Music speaks when words fail, and for Krentz and Laura, Barcus’ music spoke like no other.

“When we went down and heard Alan play it the first time, we were moved to tears,” Laura said. “He is an incredible storyteller, and being able to tell the story through just the right notes and words that nailed it, it was so incredible.”

“Alan’s songs are words of truth, and I think that’s why everyone loves his music,” Ann Barcus said. Her favorite song of his is Last of the Cowboys.

As if his musical accomplishments were not enough, last summer Barcus and teammates won the Gold Medal at an international basketball tournament in Helsinki, Finland.

“Alan Barcus continues to be an inspiration to us all,” Krentz said.

La Porte Will Always Be Home will be performed for the first time on Wednesday, October 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the La Porte High School Performing Arts Center Choral Concert by a combined chorus of 260 voices.

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Mayor Krentz declares October 9 Alan Barcus Day
Indiana Barn Foundation Annual Barn Tour https://laportecounty.life/event/indiana-barn-foundation-annual-barn-tour/ Tue, 17 Sep 2019 02:15:30 +0000 La Porte County Historical Society https://laportecounty.life/event/indiana-barn-foundation-annual-barn-tour/ The Indiana Barn Foundation is hosting its Annual Barn Tour on Saturday, September 28, 2019. Featured on this year’s tour are five barns and one church within La Porte and Porter Counties. Tour hours are 10:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. Central Daylight Time.

The first stop of this self-driving tour is the La Porte County Historical Society Museum, 2405 Indiana Avenue, La Porte, for registration, tickets, maps, and instructions. Tickets are $10 and may also be purchased at the Indiana Barn Foundation website, www.indianabarns.org. A limited number of tickets are also available for purchase in advance at the Museum.

The barns on the tour include the c.1855 Dinwiddie Barn, La Porte; the c.1910 La Porte County Home Barn, La Porte; the 1917 Forrester Barn, La Porte; the Kosmatka Barn, Chesterton; and the Ledgemere Barn, Chesterton. Barn experts and owners will be on hand for in-depth discussions about the structures and their history.  As an added bonus, the 19th century Carmel Chapel in rural La Porte will be open for touring. Garwood’s Orchards, a sponsor of the tour, will also be open for tour-goers.

The Bicentennial Barn Quilt will be on display at the Museum on the day of the tour. The quilt contains 92 squares, each representing a different county in Indiana. It was sold to a private collector who has graciously loaned it to the Indiana Barn Foundation for the day. In addition, the book, Indiana Bicentennial Barn Quilt, will be available for purchase. It tells the story of each barn depicted on the quilt.

The Museum will be open to tour goers at a reduced admission fee of $3.00 for the day. Hours at the Museum are 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more details, please visit the Indiana Barn Foundation website, www.indianabarns.org, or Facebook page.

Photo: Barn Quilt with Carolyn Rahe (left), Founder, Indiana Barn Foundation; Joy William (center); Karen Pence (right), wife of Vice-President Mike Pence.

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Indiana Barn Foundation Annual Barn Tour
Art and Social Memory in Peru 1980-2000 https://laportecounty.life/event/art-and-social-memory-in-peru-1980-2000/ Mon, 16 Sep 2019 23:41:01 +0000 Purdue University Northwest https://laportecounty.life/event/art-and-social-memory-in-peru-1980-2000/ Margarita Saona is the head of Hispanic and Italian studies at the University of Illinois Chicago. Her research interests include issues of memory, cognition, empathy, and representation in literature and the arts. She has published numerous articles and books on literary and cultural criticism (Read the full abstract and bio)

To request a disability-related accommodation for this event, please contact the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at edi@pnw.edu or (219) 989-2163 for the Hammond Campus or (219) 785-5545 for the Westville Campus five days prior to the event.

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Art and Social Memory in Peru 1980-2000
Bulbs, Buzzers, and Silk Wires: Electrifying the Barker Mansion https://laportecounty.life/event/bulbs-buzzers-and-silk-wires-electrifying-the-barker-mansion/ Wed, 04 Sep 2019 19:09:57 +0000 Barker Mansion https://laportecounty.life/event/bulbs-buzzers-and-silk-wires-electrifying-the-barker-mansion/ In 1905 the Barker Mansion became one of the first homes in Laporte County to have electricity. On this unique tour, you can learn how the mansion was able to reach that feat. Guests will be able to see the inner working of original electrical outlets in the floors and walls as well the original switchboard, hidden call buttons in the walls, Tiffany lamps, nickel plated telephones, and many more details normally hidden to the public. Follow the construction and installation of the telephone, lighting, and servant call system through the original work orders and contracts the electricians used in 1905. Experience the impact of electric lighting on American culture in the late nineteenth century; learn how working conditions, social customs, and urban crime changed with the onset of indoor and outdoor lighting.

Tour begins at 7 pm CST and last ninety minutes, cost is $5 for general admission.

The Barker Mansion is located at 631 Washington Street in Michigan City. Visit www.barkermansion.com for details.

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Bulbs, Buzzers, and Silk Wires: Electrifying the Barker Mansion
LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS PARTNER FOR 9/11 REMEMBRANCE CEREMONY https://laportecounty.life/event/local-organizations-partner-for-9-11-remembrance-ceremony/ Fri, 23 Aug 2019 23:56:15 +0000 Michigan City Salvation Army https://laportecounty.life/event/local-organizations-partner-for-9-11-remembrance-ceremony/ The Salvation Army of Michigan City, the Guardian Riders and the Michigan City Fire Department are partnering together to create a memorial program to take place in Michigan City this year, honoring and remembering those who died during terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

A 9/11 Remembrance Program and Stair Climb will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 7:30 am at the Michigan City Elston YMCA, 1202 Spring St., Michigan City.

Keynote speaker will be Major Becky Simmons of The Salvation Army of Michigan City who will share her story of visiting Ground Zero in New York City following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.

“Many officers within The Salvation Army receive training to respond to emergency disasters and crises such as tornados, hurricanes and fires.  This was an opportunity for me to visit a disaster site and offer my services not only as a pastor, but as a social worker to help the first responders who were doing such important, yet emotionally devastating, work,” said Simmons, who was specifically trained by The Salvation Army in critical incident stress management.

Also taking part in the event will be firefighters with the Michigan City Fire Department as well as students of the A.K. Smith Career Center’s fire science class, who will be conducting a stair climb tribute throughout the event.  This includes climbing 110 flights of stairs in the YMCA gymnasium, equaling about 2,200 steps, in honor of fallen firefighters on September 11.

The Guardian Riders, a local organization that works to help active duty military personnel and veterans, were key in developing this program to honor the 9/11 victims. 

Stacey Gembala, club secretary for the Guardian Riders, said, “The benefit of doing a program like this is to keep the memory of 9/11 alive locally, here in Michigan City because every red-blooded American shared the sadness, the fear, the losses of our neighbors hundreds of miles away that day.”

She added that the Guardian Riders are proud to partner with The Salvation Army and the Michigan City Fire Department on this event.  “We like to work with other organizations in our community to help as many people as we can.  This event, we believe, is something Michigan City needed as a way to remember and honor all involved in the events that occurred on that day.”

Other groups and individuals who will participate in this event include the Michigan City High School JROTC, which will present colors; the American Legion Post 37 providing a 21-gun salute; Leigh Morris, who will sing the National Anthem; and Pipe Major Craig Brooks of the Celtic Guard Academy, who will close the ceremony.

This event is free and open to the public.  More information is available by contacting The Salvation Army of Michigan City at (219) 874-6885 or the Guardian Riders at guardianridersIN@gmail.com.

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LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS PARTNER FOR 9/11 REMEMBRANCE CEREMONY
HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION MEETING AGENDA https://laportecounty.life/event/historic-preservation-commission-meeting-agenda/ Fri, 12 Jul 2019 00:42:57 +0000 La Porte Historic Preservation Commission https://laportecounty.life/event/historic-preservation-commission-meeting-agenda/
  • Call the Meeting to Order
  • Pledge of Allegiance
  • Roll Call
  • Minutes: 18Jun2019 Meeting
  • Claims: None
  • Hearing of Visitors
  • COA(s): 101 E Street – Paint and Roof (staff approval)
  • Demolition Report: 409 Lakeside; 114 E Lincolnway
  • Letters of Support
  • Treasurer’s Report
  • Old Business
  • New Business A. Indiana Landmarks De-Designation Educational Meeting – August 5 / 12 / 19 / September 9 / 16; Michigan City; 6:00 pm
  • Other Business
  • Announcements
  • Adjourn
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    HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION MEETING AGENDA