Encyclopedia ofChicago
Interpretive Digital Essay : Water in Chicago
Essay: People and the Port
Photo Essays:
Solitary Lives
City of Bridges
Chicago Harbors
Essay: Using the Chicago River
Photo Essays:
Goose Island
Indiana Dunes
Essay: Sanitation in Chicago
Photo Essays:
The Sanitary and Ship Canal
Water-Related Epidemics
Essay: Water and Urban Life
Photo Essays:
Houses and Water
Shoreline Development
Growing Up Along Water
Indiana Dunes

The Lake Michigan shoreline of northwestern Indiana reveals the marks of a century-long conflict over land use in the region. Sand dunes, steel mills, power lines, marsh land, and a commercial harbor share a ten-mile stretch along the lakeshore.

Located within easy water or rail access of both the iron ore deposits of the Lake Superior region and the coal fields of Illinois, and in proximity to the great industrial market in Chicago, the Dunes have been a magnet for steel mills since the early twentieth century. Running out of room to expand and develop within the city of Chicago, confronted by high land prices in northern Illinois, and attracted to a favorable tax structure in Indiana, steel corporations in the early twentieth century began moving southeast along Lake Michigan to Gary, Indiana. By the 1940s, these mills had leveled the dunes along the shoreline of Lake County and had exhausted the supply of land in the Gary metropolitan area. Additional steel corporations, however, were rushing in during the post-war years to take advantage of the country's increasing appetite for steel and steel products. These mills, new to the area, sought open land farther eastward along the lakeshore, in the undeveloped duneland of Porter County, Indiana.

Rather than open land, however, steel manufacturers were confronted by residential enclaves and by vacationing urbanites and suburbanites who had sought out the Dunes as a weekend recreational haven. The Dunes' proximity to Chicago and Gary--one of the qualities that the steel industry had found so desirable--also made the lakeshore an appealing site for a park used by residents of these metropolitan centers. Throughout the twentieth-century, and into the twenty-first, preservationists and industrialists battled for control of the shoreline.

Photo Essay Sections:

Steel Mills on Sand
Ecology and Conservation
in the Dunes
Industrial Expansion and
the fight for a Deep-water port
Finding a Playground
in the sand
Establishing the First National Park in the Middle West: The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore