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Historic Structure of

Whiting, Indiana

Whiting Community Center

Any visitor to Europe will attest to the fact that there are countless buildings in almost every town and city much older than 100 years that are well maintained and still in everyday use. In fact, whole cities there have a marvelous historic character because of the large number of historic landmarks.

But here's the paradox: in the United States a building that is just 80 years old is considered "untenable" and "too expensive to maintain.".

The United States being the world's most prosperous nation, this is hard to understand. If any country can afford to preserve its historic heritage, it should be the USA.

But the wealth of the United States may be its undoing. Unfortunately in this country we have a mentality that "new" is better than "old." Even If it costs less to maintain a historic building than it does to build a new one, since we can afford to build new, we think "Why not?" I suspect this is often the reason historic structures are torn down to make way for new ones.

This appears to be the case with the Whiting Community Center. In 2006, the Maximus Corp., as part of a study of local government, recommended that the Whiting Community Center be sold. Was this just a case of noticing an older building and taking the easy way out in suggesting a way to cut expenses?

In any event, it would be interesting to see a study comparing the cost of maintaining a historic building verses the cost of building a new one. I'll bet many people would be surprised if it found that maintaining a historic building is more cost-effective than building new. For a new building, contractors and architects must be hired. Land must be bought up and surveyed. Construction materials must be purchased and the construction company must be paid. These expenses come all at once as opposed to the cost of maintenance which is spread over a longer period.

This is not to mention the intangible benefits that a historic building adds to the community, the sense of character and uniqueness it creates in this age of cookie cutter housing and fast-food restaurants that all look alike.

In the case of the Whiting community center, there is something that really deserves to be saved. In 2007 a nine-member group was commissioned by Whiting mayor Joe Stahura to study the center. Stahura said "The Whiting community center is a huge part of our history, and we are still brainstorming opportunities to keep the building viable."

Dedication of the building on Fishrupp and Clark streets, then called the Whiting Memorial Community House, took place on Veteran's Day, November 12th 1923. According to an article in the June 10, 2007 Post-Tribune, it was dedicated by the American Legion Post 80 in memory of Whiting residents who served during World War I. The mayor at the time, Walter E. Schrage, asked that all businesses close their doors on the day of the dedication. Those in attendance were asked in the dedication program to stand at 11:00 a.m. "facing the East for 30 seconds in silent prayer in memory of all World War I dead."

The building represents local history, and especially Whiting history, in many ways. The building was a gift from John D. Rockefeller Sr. and John D. Rockefeller Jr. The building cost $450,000 to construct (in 1923 dollars), funding for which came from the Rockefeller family and the Standard Oil Co..

The buildings still boasts rich amenities of the type there no longer found in today's budget conscious architecture--wood-paneled meeting rooms, a large swimming pool, a bowling alley and 800 seat auditorium are just a few of the amenities.

The center is just as busy today as it was over 80 years ago. Piano, swimming and crochet classes are given and individual rooms are available for meetings, special parties, and wedding receptions.

Thousands of people visit the building every month. Says former Whiting mayor Joseph Grenchik, "I pray this administration and future administrations will find the will and means to keep it going."

All photos by Timothy Arends

Front exterior of Whiting Community Center


Sign in front of building reads:

Whiting Community Center

Let us never forget those who gave their lives so that we could use these facilities in good health and recreation.

Established November 11, 1923

This building was built and dedicated in memory of our American fighting forces.


Terra-cotta ornamentation over entrance doors.

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