Hobart marking centennial of city’s incorporation

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Community News & People in the News, Featured

Published on June 30, 2021 with No Comments

By Steve Euvino

The year was 1921, as the Roaring Twenties were just getting started. Warren G. Harding was sworn in as the 29th U.S. president. Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act, establishing mandatory quotas on immigration. White Castle opened in Wichita, Kansas. At age 39, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was stricken with polio, crippling him for life.

And in a corner of Northwest Indiana, the town of Hobart was incorporated as a city.

A community that already celebrates with 4th of July fireworks, Market on the Lake, and the Lakefront Festival, has one more thing to celebrate – its centennial as a city.

As a community, Hobart is a spry 174 years old. It is generally accepted that George Earle founded the former Liverpool in 1847. It was incorporated as a town in 1889, when three trustees, clerk-treasurer, and town marshal were elected.

According to records at the Hobart Historical Society Museum, Hobart became a city Nov. 22, 1921. The first elected mayor was Sherman H. Henderson. Alderman serving on the initial city council were John Vincent, 1st District; Fred Walters, 2nd; Harry Hawke, 3rd; Walter MacPherson, 4th; and Julius Brahat and Harry Livingston, both at-large.

William McClaran was the city’s first clerk-treasurer. City attorney was E.E. Pierson, while William Krull was city engineer and Fred Rose Sr. was chief of police. Rose’s son and daughter-in-law would later serve as mayors.

Robert Wheaton was superintendent of water and light, as W.M. Tyler was street commissioner.

Serving on the city’s first board of health were Dr. L.M. Friedrich, Joseph Gresser, and Axel Strom.

On the school side, Hobart High School’s graduation took place May 27, 1921 in the school auditorium. The graduating class motto was “Excelsior” and its colors were green and gold. The senior class play that year was “A Modern Ananias.”

Senior class officers were Harry Hawke, president; Selma Hideen, vice president; Grace Nelson, secretary; and Alice Paine, treasurer.

School superintendent was G.A. Fowble and Hobart High School principal was J.E. Small.

As was the case with many Midwestern communities, the rail line was vital to the growth of Hobart. Trains not only brought supplies to the area; they also sent goods from Hobart to Chicago. Dairies used the milk train to send milk to Chicago. The brickyards sent bricks, and lumber was also sent to rebuild Chicago after the Great Chicago Fire.  

To continue the rail line westward to Valparaiso, Earle invested in land for a train station, leading to the Pennsy Depot in the early 20th century. 

According to Paula Isolampi, president of the Hobart Historical Society, “It was important for Hobart to have a train station for communication, as well as goods.” 

Isolampi noted that the Pennsy Depot had a telegraph machine. Families during medical emergencies would send telegrams. Prior to radio, television, and the Internet, the telegraph announced world events. 

The original depot building was moved and later sold at an auction, but it still stands, not too far from the rail lines it once served. The depot that now houses the Hobart Chamber of Commerce was built in 1911 at a cost of $25,000 and opened in January 1912.

That depot served Hobart citizens for more than 60 years until its closing in the early 1970s. The local historical society’s Save Our Station committee saved the depot from the wrecking ball. The SOS group raised funds to repair the building, including roofing, gutters, new doors, and period-looking fixtures. 

The committee later purchased the building from Conrail in 1983. In a ceremony reminiscent of land transfers between early settlers and Native Americans, a twig ceremony took place. A twig was broken, with each party keeping half of the twig. That ceremony has been repeated several times regarding the Pennsy Depot. 

The station was placed on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places on March 1, 1984.

While the Pennsy Depot still stands, its namesake rail line was not as successful. In 1970, a little under a century after the Penn Railroad had become the world’s largest transportation enterprise, the company declared bankruptcy. The line could no longer afford to carry passengers to Chicago.

Publisher note: In this industry there is not a better person than Steve Euvino to write about 100 Centennial or ANYTHING HOBART.

In our eyes, Steve Euvino is Hobart!

Photo cutline:

The Pennsy Depot, at 110 years old, stands as a reminder of the rail lines that served Hobart and connected the community to Chicagoland. Hobart is marking the centennial of its incorporation at a city in 2021.     

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