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A live weekly radio adventure through Indiana history with host Nelson Price. Airs live on Saturdays from noon to 1 pm ET at WICR 88.7 in Indianapolis. 

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June 10, 2023

The largest Dune and why it’s gone

As by far the biggest of the Indiana Dunes on Lake Michigan, the legendary Hoosier Slide was a national tourist attraction. Sometimes likened to a sandy version of a Swiss Alp, the massive Hoosier Slide near Michigan City, Ind., stood 18.5 stories high and was the setting for wedding ceremonies, picnics and endless frolicking, with climbers and gawkers traveling by train or ferry to the towering dune during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

By 1920, though, the Hoosier Slide had disappeared.

Hoosier History Live will explore the heyday of the Hoosier Slide, the reasons it vanished from the landscape and the flourishing of Michigan City as a lakeside resort during the era that the huge dune captivated so many tourists. In particular, visitors from Chicago enjoyed spectacular views from atop the Hoosier Slide of Lake Michigan as well as Michigan City's vast lumberyards.

Nelson's studio guest will be Christopher Taelman, who lives in Granger, which is a few miles north of the University of Notre Dame, near Indiana's state line with Michigan. Chris serves as chief development officer of the Hospice Foundation based in Mishawaka.

For several years, Chris, a South Bend native and civic leader, was a manager with NIPSCO (Northern Indiana Public Service Co.). It's a utility with a generating station that now sits on the site of the Hoosier Slide, which Chris calls "a wonder of the Hoosier State and a lost landmark of Indiana's Lake Michigan shore."

According to Chris' research, excursion business to Michigan City to view the Hoosier Slide began to flourish as early as the 1880s. For comparison purposes with the Hoosier Slide's height of 18.5 stories, today's tallest Indiana Dune, Mount Baldy, is 11 stories high.

During a 30-year span from 1890 to 1920, though, the Hoosier Slide's sand was hauled away, mined for use by commercial endeavors in Indiana and Illinois. Initially hauled by wheelbarrows, massive amounts of sand eventually were transported from the dune by railroad cars. Among the businesses that used the sand was the glass-making industry, including the Ball Brothers in Muncie that became nationally famous for its canning jars. Glass-making businesses, which used sand in the production process, thrived in east central Indiana beginning in the late 1800s with the discovery of natural gas in the region. Hoosier History Live explored the Natural Gas Boom during a show in 2014.

Michigan City also thrived during that era as a result of recreational and business ventures. "Michigan City offered some of the first large-scale recreational developments along the Indiana Dunes shoreline", Chris Taelman says. By 1910, steamer boats carried as many as 10,000 passengers a day to Michigan City's lakefront, he notes. Postcards featuring the Hoosier Slide were distributed across the country.

Meanwhile, trees on the Hoosier Slide were being cut down for use as lumber in the construction industry. "By removing plants and the root systems from the dune, sand began to blow and blanket Michigan City’s main business district", Chris says.

In addition to benefiting from the lumber and tourist industries during the late 19th century, Michigan City also flourished with commercial fishing and shipping industries. During this era, the Michigan City Salt Co. shipped 150,000 barrels of salt annually, according to Chris’ research.

The Hoosier Slide often was touted as "Indiana's most famous natural landmark". But just as the Natural Gas Boom ended when the gas was depleted, the sand that created the Hoosier Slide eventually was gone.


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Roadtrip: Historic Cold Springs Resort in Steuben County

Guest Roadtripper Tim Shelly of Elkhart, who is a partner with the law firm of Warrick & Boyn, LLP, suggests a visit to the 125-year-old seasonal Cold Springs Resort, which sits on the northeast shore of Steuben County's Hamilton Lake in northern Indiana. The historic resort and hotel is currently operated by the fifth generation of the Watkins family. Named for the natural springs originally found on the grounds, the resort's history traces back to the 1870s when the Watkins' first developed a campground, catering primarily to fishing and lake activities. The next two and a half decades saw cabins, concession stands, and boathouses added. In 1897, a hotel was constructed expanding entertainment options to include bowling, golf and baseball.

Religious orators preached and politicians delivered campaign speeches at the resort, including William Jennings Bryan during his 1900 presidential campaign. Seventeen years later, the hotel was expanded with the addition of a third floor and the introduction of electricity. Important at this time, the expansion converted the bowling lanes to a dance pavilion. For decades following, dance music resounded during the summer months; first, jazz, then the big band sounds, including Woody Herman, Glenn Miller, and the Dorsey brothers, all playing Cold Springs. Those bands ultimately gave way to early rock and roll performers; The Beach Boys, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny and the Hurricanes all performed at the dance hall. 

Today, bands still play six times a summer, slightly less than the six times weekly that Cold Springs Resort experienced in its heyday. In addition to offering rooms, golf and lake activities, the hotel also hosts weddings and reunions. Open Friday through Sunday, the resort's restaurant continues to serve its famous frog legs!

Trivia prizes and southside restaurant sought

Would your business or organization like to offer prizes for our trivia on air question? Or, are you a restaurant on the southside of Indy, or near the University of Indianapolis, and open on Saturdays at 1 pm? Would you like to host Hoosier History Live guests for lunch after the show on Saturday? Contact molly@hoosierhistorylive.org for details.  

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We'd like to thank the following recent individual contributors who make this show possible. For a full list of contributors over the years, visit  Support the Show on our website.

  • Marion Wolen
  • Jane Ammeson
  • Kathleen Angelone
  • Bruce and Julie Buchanan
  • Mark Ruschman
  • Robin Winston
  • Phil and Pam Brooks
  • Rachel Berenson Perry
  • Kevin Murray
  • Susan Bielawski in memory of Jane Bielawski
  • Jill Lough Chambers
  • Sandra Hurt
  • Tom Swenson
  • Peggy Hollingsworth
  • Mike Freeland and Sharon Butsch Freeland 
  • Dr. William McNiece

Molly Head, executive producer (317) 506-7164 
Nelson Price, host and historian
Corene Nickel, web designer and tech manager

Richard Sullivan and Ryan DeRome, tech consultants
Cheryl Lamb, administrative manager
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer


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Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Twitter logo for Hoosier History Live.Acknowledgements to WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Monomedia, Henri Pensis, Leticia Vasselli, Heather McIntyre, and many other individuals and organizations. We are independently produced and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorship and through individual contribution at the yellow button on our newsletter or website. For organizational sponsorship, which includes logos, links, and voiced credits in the show, contact Molly Head at (317) 506-7164 or email her at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org.

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