The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 4, Page 15.


Chamber of Commerce Has Strong Record of Service In Behalf of Community

Organized primarily for the purpose of promoting the economic, civic and social welfare of the Valparaiso area, the Valparaiso Association of Commerce, formed on June 7, 1912, has developed into a real force in Valparaiso and a decided benefit to the city. Previous to the incorporation of the chamber of commerce and organization known as the Commercial club existed as far back as 1898. John Brodie was president of the organization and others prominent in the club's activities were W. G. Windle, Joseph F. Tallcott, Claus Specht and John W. Sieb.

This club died out, and later in 1909, the club was reorganized by Dr. H. M. Evans, president; W. F. Spooner, vice-president; Edward H. Heilstedt, secretary, and George F. Beach, treasurer. It was superseded by the present chamber of commerce.

Directors of the chamber of commerce formed in 1912 were John F. Sievers, J. Lowenstine, C. F. Specht, Leslie R. Skinner, P. W. Clifford, E. H. Heilstedt, J. W. Sieb, James M. Sheldon and E. J. Gardner. Others signing the articles were George F. Beach and William F. Spooner.

The first meeting of the chamber was in the old Dr. J. R. Ryan building on the site of the present Loewnstine store. Later meetings were held at the Armory, and then in the Schleman building on Washington street. Of recent years the chamber has held its meetings in the Elks' temple building, holding its dinner meetings at Hotel Lembke.

Attorney Edmund J. Freund was the first secretary of the present chamber of commerce. Mr. Freund gave his untiring efforts to the club at little or no remuneration. He was succeeded by Attorney P. J. Bailey, who served for a number of years. Other secretaries were E. D. Hodges, Hubert M. Lackey, R. C. Breth, Wallace Sutter, J. William Bosse and George Nelson, the present secretary.

Presidents of the club have been John F. Sievers, W. F. Spooner, Dr. H. M. Evans, Edward H. Heilstedt, E. D. Hodges, Rev. Chester W. Wharton, C. L. Maxwell, Harry R. Ball, Edmund J. Freund, Byron H. Kinne, John F. Griffin, T. L. Applegate, Frank M. Clifford, Stanley B. Sink, Vernon L. Philley, Walter N. Shook, T. O. Dillon and L. L. Howard.

The chamber has long been a force for betterment in Valparaiso as well as Porter county. Among some of the early achievements of the chamber were the saving of the Valparaiso and Northern railroad, now the Gary and Valparaiso interurban by preventing the junking of the Gary Connecting line between Woodville and Gary; support of the county agent movement whereby Porter county is served by such an official; establishment of a bus line between Valparaiso, Kouts and Hebron and backing the move whereby the Valparaiso County club came into being.

The association was responsible for the establishment by the Jahns company of LaPorte of bus lines back in 1921 between Valparaiso, Kouts, Wheatfield, Westville and Tremont. When the subject of a hotel for Valparaiso was broached in 1922, the chamber took the lead and signed a contract with the late Charles F. Lembke, where the latter built the present Hotel Lembke. The same year the chamber with members of the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs fostered an automobile camp at Brown field.

In 1923 the chamber took an important fight to prevent Chicago, Gary and Michigan City interests from taking Porter county's lake front for state park purposes. The chamber made a valiant stand against the plan to take over nine miles of lake frontage by the state. Only three miles were finally taken and the remainder was saved for industrial expansion. Another action of the chamber that year was the elimination of the S-turn on Lincoln Highway, at the Malone bridge, east of the city.

Inauguration of the playgrounds project and entertainment of 112 Canadian farmers were among the highlights of 1924.

When the question of a gymnasium was advocated in 1925 the chamber placed its entire strength behind the proposition, and as a result of its efforts a holding company was formed which resulted in building of the structure.

In 1926, when the Academy of Music block was destroyed and the lives of two firemen, one from Gary and one from Valparaiso, were snuffed out by falling walls, and a dozen injured, the chamber was first to advance aid for the families of the dead men and those injured in line of duty. With the late Arthur J. Bowser as chairman, a fund of $10,000 was raised and distributed to the families of the men killed and injured. Other noteworthy achievements by the chamber that year was the support by the body of the tuberculin testing of cattle, and assistance in promoting the farm bureau corn show.

One of the greatest bits of work by the chamber was the fight made by the chamber against splitting up the Northwestern Indiana Telephone exchanges, by sale to the Winona Telephone company, a move which would have been detrimental to Valparaiso business interests. This fight, started in 1928, was carried over a period of seven years before the chamber finally was victorious.

Another high achievement of the chamber was the saving of Valparaiso university by inducing the Lutheran management to take over the school. Committees of the chamber worked long and hard on this project, and made many trips about the country to confer with Lutheran officials.

The straightening of the Joliet bridge and the widening and improvement of Lincolnway into one of the finest thoroughfares in the state was another plume in the cap of the chamber.

The chamber also had a large part in the improvement of State Roads 49, 2, 6, 130 and 20 by acquiring right-of-way and inducing the state highway commission to consider the project.

The tax committee of the chamber has been active for a number of years and through its functioning the taxpayers of Valparaiso have been saved many thousands of dollars.

The chamber was largely instrumental in securing for the city the present building ordinance back in 1924 when it brought Morris Knowles, consulting engineer, here to make a preliminary survey.

Other important projects in which the chamber has been active were the aiding of the Porter County Medical society in two attempts to promote a county hospital, both of which were turned down by voters by small margins; assistance rendered Valparaiso university officials in an endowment drive to save the school before the Lutherans came; worked with northern Indiana business and civic interests to induce the War Department to build a $3,000,000 harbor at the mouth of Burns ditch, Lake Michigan, and inaugurated various trade promotion campaigns in which Valparaiso merchants secured greatly increased returns in business.

Factories have not been neglected by the chamber. A number of industries have been brought to the city. Latest of these are the Kantro Industries and the removal of the western headquarters of the Continental Diamond Fibre company from Chicago to this city.

George Nelson, present secretary of the chamber, is now serving his fifth year in that capacity. During his regime the chamber has taken on new life and the city has made great advancement along all lines than for many years.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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