Six site-seeing stops within 16 miles of Lansing

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photos and text by Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (May 18, 218) – When Jeff White’s carefully orchestrated plans for his May 17 Local History Class fell through, he quickly orchestrated new plans for the 27 adult students. He took them on a “mystery tour” of “places that you could go see anytime, but you just never get around to seeing them.”

The group boarded two Illiana mini buses and headed east, over the border, into Indiana, to visit the following local treasures:

1. Carlson Oxbow Park (Kennedy Avenue and 177th Street, Hammond)

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Before giving the group an opportunity to wander the walkways, White explained that the Calumet area looked much different to the people who first arrived here. Carlson Oxbow Park is an attempt to restore a sampling of land to what it looked like hundreds of years ago
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Much of this area was marsh and wetlands, but early settlers knew how to work the land.

2. Michael Jackson’s birthplace (2300 Jackson Street, Gary)

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The King of Pop—who influenced music, dance, fashion, and the entire entertainment industry—was born in Gary, Indiana. He spent his childhood in this 600-square-foot home with eight brothers and sisters.
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Gary Mayor Rudy Clay recognized June 25, 2009, as Michael Jackson Day. This plaque is embedded in the driveway of Jackson’s Gary home.

3. Jean Shepherd’s childhood home and neighborhood (2907 Cleveland Street, Hessville)

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Author Jean Shepherd based many short stories on the childhood he spent in this house in Hessville. Many of those stories were turned into the now classic movie A Christmas Story.
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Shepherd walked down this street to attend Warren G. Harding Middle School. His friend Flick (the kid who licked the flagpole) lived a few houses down, on the right.
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Schwartz, the kid who triple-dog-dared Flick, lived in this brown house a short distance from Jean Shepherd’s house.

4. State Bank of Hammond (5444-5446 Calumet Avenue, Hammond)

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On Calumet Avenue, in north Hammond, you can see the State Bank of Hammond building, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

5. Downtown Hammond

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As the sun began setting, White gathered the group in the downtown area of Hammond, Indiana, to talk about gentrification and revitalization.
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Hammond has managed to reenvision itself and become something of a “little sister” to Chicago.

6. Upper-class Hammond

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The class drove through the wealthier sections of Hammond, off Hohman Avenue, which still maintain an air of class and quiet.
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In fact, this house was once occupied by the original Dr. Jones, of Jones Clinic in Munster, Indiana.

Throughout the tour, as each stop was revealed, members of the class would exclaim, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to see this!,” confirming White’s premise for the tour. All these sites are close enough to Lansing that most of us don’t make a special effort to see them.

White’s annual Local History Class is a perfect opportunity to learn more about Lansing and our surrounding area. Each class consists of five or six evening field trips to local buildings, cemeteries, farms, and businesses, with White explaining the historical significance. The class visits different sites each year.

To receive notifications about when the next Local History Class begins to take shape, email Suzanne Yonkman ([email protected]) and ask to be put on the Local History email list.