Newsletter – September 2008
Calumet Heritage Partnership
To identify, preserve and reclaim the natural, historical and recreational heritage
of the Calumet region of Illinois and Indiana
13300 S. Baltimore, Chicago, Illinois 60633 (773) 646-0436 www.calumetheritage.org
The next meeting of the Calumet Heritage Partnership will be held Thursday, September 18, 7:00 p.m. at the offices of the Southeast Environmental Task Force and Calumet Stewardship Initiative at 13300 S. Baltimore in Chicago. .
CALUMET HERITAGE CONFERENCE: Included with this newsletter is the brochure for the ninth annual Calumet Heritage Conference, which will be held on Saturday, October 18, 2008, at Indiana University Northwest in Gary. The conference committee of Steve McShane, Mike Longan, and Mike Siola have put together an intriguing day of activities centering on the theme, “Calumet Crossroads: Changes and Challenges in Regional Transportation.” It observes the centennial of the beginning of rail operations on the South Shore railroad across northwest Indiana and rolls that into a broader discussion of transportation pasts and futures in the region.
The region was a transportation crossroads prior to European settlement. Routes across the Midwest were pinched together at the shore of Lake Michigan, following the east-west trending stems of the Calumet river system and the sandy paths that lay between them. Important routes were established in the fur trade and through the development of the Great Sauk Trail from Western Illinois to Detroit. After railroads made a beeline through the marshes; after rivers were canalized and ports built; after highways soared above and around the region, the Calumet region had fulfilled the transportation promise of those earliest paths. In connecting this part of the globe to everyplace else with unusual efficiency, it would become a transportation corridor with a rich heritage.
This year’s program reflects our mission in the partnership to identify, preserve and reclaim aspects of this heritage. Bob Harris and John Hankey have played a major part in bringing to life the history of the South Shore railroad, the nation’s last interurban. Cynthia Ogorek, who leads the afternoon field trip, has brought to the fore the history of the nation’s first posted transcontinental highway – the Lincoln Highway. As planners, Tom Murtha and Craig Phillips work with citizens to ensure that the transportation template of the past is serving the needs of tomorrow’s region.
Recent conferences have also looked Janus-like to both past and future. Last year focused on “doing history” after the artifacts are gone; the year before we looked at the work of Alfred Meyer in uncovering the region’s transportation and developmental path and the application of his work to ongoing planning efforts; the year before that the conference focused on the steel industry – what it was and what its prospects are.
The conferences have also been a way to bring folks together from different parts of the region – and from across the state line – at least once in each year. The practice has been to rotate the venue between college campuses on either side of the line. We look forward to the hospitality provided by Indiana University Northwest this year. The traditional afternoon tour is a way to look at parts of the region in new ways along with new and old friends.
The conferences also provide a chance for local organizations to display their recent work and to highlight their accomplishments. Exhibit space is set aside at the Savannah Center for the purpose. It doesn’t cost anything to exhibit, and it’s a good way to network. We’ve tried to provide a bit longer break in the schedule this year to give folks a chance to view the exhibits. For more information on exhibiting, please call Mike Siola at 773 995 2964.
MAKIN’ TRACKS TO PULLMAN: Two events at Pullman beautifully demonstrated how entwined the Calumet region’s transportation heritage is with its social, political, labor, and economic heritage and future. 350 people turned out for a Labor Day event in the just restored Clocktower/Factory building, surrounded by artifacts from the Acme Coke facility, and tuned in to the voices of labor past and present. The setting underscored the drama of the occasion, as actors portraying early labor leaders Eugene Debs, Jennie Curtiss, and A. Philip Randolph spoke to events that happened in just this and nearby spaces. On this warm afternoon, Les Orear of the Illinois Labor History Society conjured images of work conditions on stifling summer afternoons from the past.
Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, State Representative Connie Howard and leaders in the labor movement also spoke to the crowd. Actor R.J. Lindsey did a spot personification of Franklin D. Roosevelt, coming to the stage as the members of the crowd sang “Happy Days are Here Again.” FDR was on hand to note the 75th anniversary of the New Deal.
Calumet Heritage Partnership was among the sponsors of the Labor Day event.