A Living Piece of History

Written by Neal F. Litherland. Posted in Uncategorized

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Published on October 06, 2010 with No Comments

By Neal F. Litherland

The Furness Mansion, located at 1491 North Furnleigh Lane in Chesterton, is a building with a great deal of history behind it. Originally built by Edwin Furness in 1881, the mansion was a towering, three-story brick building. It was one of the finest homes in the area, and oversaw a great deal of the land owned by the influential Furness family. The area even became known as Furnessville as Edwin Furness is credited with being the first agent of the Michigan Central Railroad, the first postmaster of the village and bringing a lumber company and dairy farm to the area. The mansion was occupied as a family home until the mid 1990s, when it began to fall into disrepair. At least until Ari Killian purchased the house with the intent of completely restoring it and turning it into the DunesWalk Inn.

“It was really bad when we first got the building,” Killian said. “The inside was completely destroyed. You could stand in the basement and look out into the sky. We had to gut the whole thing and start from the ground floor on up.”

This happened because when the mansion was originally built, there were not the type of protective coatings and sealants that are used on houses today. This meant that the only really salvageable parts of the house were some of the windows and the walls, along with some minor parts of history. Killian and his crew started rebuilding the mansion in January, and the grand opening was held in August.

Fixing up the Furness Mansion was a huge investment of time, resources and effort, but Killian said he thinks it will be more than worth it in the end.

“The Furness Mansion is a big part of this area’s history,” Killian said, pointing out the old brick outhouse and the skeleton of a water tower on the back property that made the house the first to ever have running water in Porter County.

“People have been stopping in ever since we starting renovating, and they still drive off of the highway just to look. They’re always talking about how the Furness Mansion was here when they were kids, and how they’re glad to see that it’s still here and that someone’s taking care of it.”
Now that it is complete, the DunesWalk Inn is a place that is meant for families or couples to come and get away, and to enjoy the dunes. Killian said that many of the guests they have had so far are already re-booking for next year. When completely filled, the DunesWalk Inn can hold 19 guests comfortably in the five rooms and two suites that have been constructed.
“Even the Furness family has been out to see how we’ve updated the property,” Killian said. “They’ve told us how pleased they are with the job we’ve done and how they’re glad we’re doing something for the community and for the dunes.”

Open for only a little over two months, the DunesWalk Inn is off and running when it comes to growth. Killian said there have been requests for bridal parties and weddings on the four-acre grounds outside. Also, given the Furness Mansion’s proximity to the highway, the attractions in Michigan City like the Blue Chip Casino and Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets, along with being close enough to Chesterton and Portage for an easy drive, the DunesWalk Inn is a great location for those who want to get away from it all while still being close to it all.

Rates are available from $125-$250 per night, standard rooms and suites respectively. Guests also enjoy complimentary wireless internet, private luxury baths and flat-screen TVs, while still taking in the historical feel that Duneswalk Inn has to offer.
For more information on the DunesWalk Inn call 219-728-6393, or visit www.duneswalkinn.com.

At the DunesWalk Inn, there are two suites and three guest rooms to choose from when planning a stay.

– The Furness Suite is a spacious one bedroom suite containing a fireplace, a king-size bed, queen-size sofa bed, stove, oven, refrigerator and dining table that seats six.
– The South Shore King Room is a spacious room that comes equipped with a marble bath tub and mini-kitchenette, which includes a refrigerator and microwave.
– The Porter Queen Room sleeps two individuals and includes a mini-kitchenette, which includes a refrigerator and microwave, as well as a glass-tiled bath.
– The Indiana Dunes Double Room has accommodations to sleep four individuals with an in-room sink and a separate shower room with soaking tub.
– The Beverly Shores Suite comprises the entire third floor of the Furness Mansion and boasts 360-degree views of the surrounding area. The suite includes a fireplace, whirlpool bath, queen-size bed, queen-size sofa bed, twin bunk beds, full kitchenette and private dining area.


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About Neal F. Litherland

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Neal Litherland is a Valparaiso resident who has been a freelance writer for several years. A graduate of Indiana University, he holds a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice. He offers advice on money-saving tips using common-sense tactics. He welcomes suggestions and comments. Contact Neal: neal@thechroniclenwi.com.

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