Did you know? New commercial shopping center in Eastport

Arnold Bass

 

There are numerous stories that tout the virtues and sometimes non virtuous events that marked the county’s history. In my researching the history of La Porte County I came across articles of people, places and events that defined the county’s history. Some of the articles referenced the first person to do this or that. Others announced the first time an event or opening occurred. This is the latest in a series of articles that may bring a smile or frown to your face, or cause you to say “Oh my gosh,” or “I didn’t know that.”

Eastport commercial shopping center formally opened for business in Michigan City in February 1926. The business district was located at the corner of 11th and Michigan streets. It was housed in a beautiful, new $25,000 structure.

Among the business houses that were found in this location were Walter Zieske’s butcher shop, Elmer Mikesell's hardware store, Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.'s store, the Doherty confectionery, Henry Webb’s tonsorial shop, Tony Leizza's shoe repair shop, and Isaac Levenberg’s dry goods store. Adjoining it was the East side bakery.

With the establishment of a shopping district such as this, it was now possible for persons Iiving in the Eastport district to shop in their own neighborhood in modern stores, equipped with excellent stocks in their respective lines.

The establishment of this commercial center was made possible by Henry Phillips, who promoted and built the structure. The front was very imposing, being of pressed face brick trimmed with terra cotta, and the very latest copper fronts are found in each store. The newspaper proclaimed Phillips “…was a great believer in Michigan City… whose motto was to show confidence in the city by investing money in it and back up the chamber of commerce.” (Evening Dispatch, Feb. 8, 1926.)

In the town of La Porte in the 1850s, there was only one hotel known as Ely House. Strangers were provided with a comfortable bed and a substantial breakfast for about $1. At the only public hall on the third floor of a brick building on the southwest corner of Main Street (Lincoln Way) was the Allen Building. All public meetings and entertainments, such as dances and concerts by the Hutchinson and Baker family, were held there. In lieu of the present day movie, they had the panorama with its long stretch of painted canvas. One of the most interesting of those was Bullard’s Panorama of New York City. Among other attractions that came to La Porte, was a collection known as “freaks,” two very small in stature, headed by a “bearded lady who supported a magnificent black silken beard.” Other than that she bore no appearance of masculinity. “Her voice was sweet and low.” Her little four year old son was also part of the exhibit. He “had a growth of black hair under his chin, wonderfully developed for a child his age.”

La Porte had two weekly newspapers at that time. One was "The La Porte Times" published in 1852 on the second floor of the Allen building on the southwest corner of Lincoln Way and Indiana Avenue. The first floor at that time was occupied by La Porte Savings Bank. The other newspaper was the "La Porte Whig," thought to be located in the same building across the hall from La Porte’s first telegraph office.

"The Times" staff of editors included Dr. John W. Holcomb, Dr. Orpheus Evarts and Col. John C. Walker. Holcomb was an eminent homeopathic physician and at one time president of the American Institute of Homeopathy. Evarts was a writer and author of a collection of Indian poems. After his retirement from the editorship of "The Times," he practiced medicine for some years in Michigan City. After a time he was appointed superintendent of the state asylum for the insane at Indianapolis. Walker was not an editor or writer. He was in reality the financial backer of the Times. (Daily Herald, June 1, 1923

— Arnold Bass is a past president of the La Porte County Historical Society.

 

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