• By Kirk Gaw

10 Must See Tourist Spots In Walkerton

Tourism is alive and well in Walkerton! Located between 4 counties on the banks of Pine Creek, and the Kankakee River Marshes. Our community is home to history, and destinations that inspire tourists! Not only is Koontz Lake 2 miles south but, Potato Creek is 9 miles north, and Kingsbury State Park Grand Kankakee Marsh is 5 miles west. Walkerton is the birthplace to Nobel Prize Laureate, Harold C. Urey, father of the Atomic Age and NASA! Born on April 29th 1893 on Ohio St. The friendly townspeople are so full of knowledge about their community! They are eager to please visitors! Here is the top 10 must see locations of Walkerton:

1. Urey Park - located in downtown Walkerton at the northeast corner of Roosevelt & Illinois St. Harold Urey himself was employed at the Railroad Station ticket booth/ Newspaper stand that once sat on the corner. He fed the ducks and sold tickets to earn extra income from busy travelers destined for New York City, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. The old train station was one of 4 in the town. Walkerton was built as a haven for railroad workers who served the Lake Erie & Western Railroad founded by James Walker.

The fountain at Urey Park as photographed by Katie Moore.

Harold C. Urey's father was the Walkerton School Superintendent who raised him with his Mother on Ohio St. until he passed away when Harold was 6. Urey visited Walkerton when he could. Today, you will find the Historic Marker bearing Harold C. Urey's name. Also, you will find the new fountain, landscaping, and the Town Clock.

Harold C. Urey fed the ducks that flew to the bandstand and train station. He once helped operate the ticket booth newspaper stand on the corner. Today, the area has changed and the train center is gone. It is a park honoring Dr. Urey for his contributions to humanity.

2. DeSimone Mansion at Ohio & Roosevelt. This magnificent Turn-Of-The-Century home built for one of the promoters of the first Lake Erie & Western lines connecting Indianapolis-Peru-Chicago. It included a ballroom for his wife Ruth to entertain the community. You will find a unique curved glass window, a rooftop balcony off the upstairs ballroom, and a carriage house in the back-for the many horses and vehicles used to transport his family.

At some point in the 1950's Ruth outgrew the home. She decided to convert it as a Nursing Home dedicated to the elderly and disabled in the community. By 1973 after the Millers Merry Manor facility was built a mile away, the home was converted into apartments to sustain the need for rental housing in Walkerton.

Today, the mansion is a reminder of the glorious gilded age. It was nearly the same size as the other mansion that once stood at Illinois St. next to the barber shop. The D.V. Wolff Mansion was of equal stature. Sadly, it was demolished in 1979 to make way for a parking lot for the once popular Ray's Supermarket. The DeSimone Mansion is a rare example of the "Queen Anne, Free-Classic" style.

It has a hipped roof and lower cross gables which are predominate for the time period between 1880-1910. This style accounts for nearly 50% of all Queen Anne houses with steeply pitched hip roofs and one gable facing the front and another facing the side. This example is a large high style house and looks to be very well maintained.

The "Free Classic" sub-type uses classical columns. It is an example with fluted Ionic columns set on a well defined pedestal above the railing. The height shows exaggerated volutes at the column cap. . The railing has decorative spindles which are typically uncommon in this sub-type which is predominate after about 1890- 1895.

The style was named and made popular by the English architect Richard Norman Shaw. The name is not appropriate as it has nothing to do with the actual styles popular during the time of Queen Anne! Though, the "Free Classic" style sub-type is distinctively American. The front porch at the left side of the front elevation that is enclosed is relatively uncommon; it is likely an addition, or later enclosure of an originally larger front porch.

3. Heritage House Museum / Dr. Elliott C. Frash Optometric Office - This corner lot building at Michigan & Van Buren St. appears as a home. Built in the 1870's it once served as a fashion center for eyewear! I'm not sure what else this address served? Today, it is home to the magnificent Walkerton Area Historical Society collection and operates as a museum! Visitors may make an appointment to see the many historic artifacts reflecting Walkerton's long history!

Heritage House home to the Walkerton Area Historical Society Museum collection.

4. New York Central Rail Yard - B & O Interlocking Tower. The third floor was removed in 1972 after Conrail took over the old New York Central Line Rail Yard. It was the center built for the junction of the Lake Erie & Western/ Nickel Plate, New York Central, and B&O Railroad lines. It not only housed a train station where you could buy tickets and wait for a B&O Train on the boardwalk, but you could use the restrooms on the 2nd floor, and the 3rd floor kept the lookout control tower for the interlocking equipment operators.

From the March 22, 1895 "The Railroad Gazette": The National Switch and Signal Company has received an order for interlocking the crossing of the New York Central with the B & O, and Lake Erie & Western/ Nickel Plate Railroads, at Walkerton, Ind. The machine will consist of 44 working levers and 8 spare spaces, operating 21 switches, 7 locks, 14 facing point locks, 3 crossing bars and 25 signals. In order to obtain view of all the tracks within the limits of t he interlocking, the tower is to be 25 ft. high to the operating floor.

This 40 acre yard was once part of a massive complex once evident before Conrail demolished much of it in 1972. It actually crossed US 6 and went on into what is today the eastern portion of the Walkerton Cemetery. Before 1978 you could see trains storing boxcars behind American Door and Modern Door Corporation. Not much is left today except for several spurs near the old B&O Interlocking Tower.

For 100 years or more you would find an entire neighborhood here! Including saloons, boarding houses and the Florence Hotel. The rail yard even went as far as beside the old Urey Middle School and on into the parking lot passing Adams St. This was the original settlement of the community beginning with the name West York, then Washington, and last the west end of Walkerton.

Staging area at Conrail Train Yard on westside of Walkerton.

5. The abandoned Polk Township Schoolhouses of Tyner and Teegarden. Photographed many times on the internet. The two are worth the road trip to see a part of the educational history of America. From a time when one room was all it took with one teacher with children of all ages. Built in the 19th Century students learned the basics. The one near Teegarden is on 1st Rd. at Sycamore in Marshall County. The other which is in better condition is near Tyner on W. 4B Rd.

Old time photo showing the construction of Polk Twp. Schoolhouse at 1st Rd. & Sycamore.

6. The Railroad Trestles over Pine Creek. Two of them exist. One is visible on the east side of town near the old Welco's Parking Lot.

Harmony Lynn Inman and her son explore the eastside Nickel Plate trestle over Pine Creek.

You can see it from US 6 crossing over Pine Creek, and it is also visible from Underwood Rd. on the other side east of Harrison St. built for the Nickel Plate Railroad.

The other wooden trestle is on the west side of town on Adams St. It is behind the old Plas/Steel Polygon complex and was built by the New York Central Line. It is visible from the Adams St. bridge.

The westside trestle over Pine Creek once serving the New York Central line as photographed by Anthony and Katelyn McGriff.

7. The United Bretheren / Wesleyan / Evangelical Church at Michigan & Van Buren St. The Turn Of The Century house of worship was once an outpost for the Wesleyan branch of the United Bretheren built with a bell tower and a unique corner bay with ornate stained glass windows. Both gables on each street facade include stained glass clerestory windows allowing rays of light to bath the angled chapel area with light. The exquisite woodwork enrichens the pastoral experience! The basement includes classrooms and a banquet hall. It is one of the most lovely buildings in all of the town.

Also, see the United Methodist Church at 1000 Georgia St. It is the symbol of the union between the Evangelical United Bretheren and Methodist Church. 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the EUB-Methodist merger. It was in 1968 that General Conferences of the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) and Methodist churches approved the merger of two denominations to create the United Methodist Church.

In Indiana the union was overwhelmingly supported by churches and delegates to the annual conferences. The vote in support of union in the EUB Indiana Conference North was 241-21. The decision for merger was the easy part.

The difficult part was to figure how to take two traditions, two structures, two sets of bishops and superintendents, two camping programs, two women's' organizations, two youth organizations, two mission boards, two Sunday school publishing companies, two hymn books, two pension programs, and make them function as one. The building includes a wing showing an arch symbolizing the union raising to the sky.

8. Victorian era Walkerton Commercial District 500 - 700 blocks Roosevelt Rd. These ornate buildings built right off the railroad line at the Illinois & Roosevelt, Nickel Plate Train Station were meant to keep travelers busy shopping, and draw the community together. Farmers and townspeople from the railroad industry and other trades kept their business along this 3 block stretch for day to day commerce.

Travelers could stay at the Starr Hotel, get their portraits taken at the George Ewing Photo Studio, get a bite to eat at one of the restaurants, shop for clothing at the Globe Clothiers, or watch a vaudeville act at either the Hudelmayer Operahouse, or the Rialto Theater? Residents came here for banking, the post office, or to buy foods at one of many dry goods stores?

They came to see the town band play at the bandstand, or to hear people speak at the fraternity halls? They came to drink at the taverns, or to buy a car? At one time Walkerton competed with South Bend as a regional center. The gilded, ornate, bay windows, and rooflines continue to reflect the detail that makes the town business center feel special. The alleys continue to carry residents to and from their homes in upstairs apartments.

9. First Presbyterian Church at 512 Georgia St. It includes the Fellowship Hall, and combination Christian Education building. The Sanctuary is the chapel where services are held. Built in 1967. It reflects a contemporary bauhaus style and has natural wood beams arching cathedral heights over the seating. The soft glow of sunlight reflecting inside from under the roof eaves. It is a local modern masterpiece.

10. Koontz Lake - Kramers Beach, N. Tippecanoe Drive, and Koontz Lake Brewery are highlights on the west side of the lake if you are traveling from Walkerton on SR 23. Visitors will find Kramer Beach at the end of Cherokee Rd. If you travel south down Tippecanoe Dr. you will find many old cottages built for summertime tourists during the early 20th Century.

Today, it continues to be destination for leisure seekers looking to escape the big cities. Once, grocery stores, sports shops, and hamburger stands dotted the tree lined lanes named after indigenous tribes. Koontz Lake has been a resort community since the 19th century. Once steamers, and paddleboats carried passenger across the waters. The only working brewery in the area, Koontz Lake Brewing Co., is located at 7747 SR 23.

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