Cedar Lake, IN
As a "resort community", Cedar Lake has had a history full of excitement and change. Early historians say the Potawatomi Indians first roamed the area now called Cedar Lake. It was documented that the land was part of the Indians main food trail as they traveled from what is now East Gary through Cedar Lake to Momence, Illinois. The Indians found good hunting and fishing in the spring and fall and were friendly with the white men who settled the area in the late 1830's. The Indians stayed until a mass movement forcing them to the west in the 1840"
A lodge built in 1834 to accommodate European hunters still exists today and overlooks the lake from a high bluff on the east side. Through the years it has been covered by modern siding, but if it could, its interior walls could tell some wonderful old tales.
Geologists say the lake was the result of a melting glacier and the collection of its water in a clay-lined depression. Although it is approximately 794 acres today, experts say it was much larger 150 years ago. Today the lake is 2.1 miles in length and 0.9 miles in its widest point. It is 16 ft at its deepest but averages 8 to 9 ft.
With the establishment of a railway in the 1870's, Cedar Lake became a popular resort with many vacationers arriving from the north to spend days or weeks at the various hotels that lined the shore. For the visitors convenience, local hotels also provided excursion boats to bring the visitors from the Monon train station on the west side of the lake to the various facilities. The visitors were able to soak up the sun and enjoy the water. Through the years approximately 55 hotels were located on Cedar Lake. The sad tale is that none of those marvelous frame structures continue in business today.
One recorded incident suggest the Monon Railroad brought out thousands of employees from the Marshall field store in Chicago for picnics and family outings. The trips on the Monon added to the resort image of the area. The railroad in fact, purchased acreage along the western shore of the lake which they named Monon Park.
In later years the Moody Bible Church purchased the property and later it became the Cedar Lake Bible Conference Center. Today the Center offers private housing in addition to offering a place for retreats for young and old alike.
In looking at Cedar Lakes early industry much of it revolved around the lake. During the winter months the ice industry employed local residents as well as itinerant workers brought them from Chicago by train to cut large blocks of ice from the lake. These giant cubes were sent to the meat packing houses like the Armour Meat Company in Chicago. Many of the tools used to cut ice can still be seen at the Lake of the Red Cedars Museum located on the lakefront adjacent to the present Town Hall.
In the ensuing years, cottages were built around the lake and in many instances mothers brought their children out for a week or a month of vacation while fathers visited on the weekends. True to a resort image, many of those cottages were built on small 25ft lots because of the seasonal use.
The resort feeling began to change in the 1940's during WWII when workers came up from the south to work in the Gary steel mills. Workers quickly converted the summer cottages to year round homes for their growing families. Unfortunately, in many cases the small cottages and lots did not fit year-round use but many of the new comers made do. In later years when the economy improved, many of the early cottages were torn down and larger houses built.
While Cedar Lake became a town in 1967, legal issues forced the incorporation to cease over two years. Finally in 1970 with everything in place Cedar Lake was once again on the map as an "official" Town. The towns population stayed between 6,000 and 8,000 for many years until a swing in growth throughout the county brought new faces to the area. The Census Bureau list the 2005 estimated population at 9,901.