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Whiting, Indiana 119th Street Commercial District

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Historic Homes of Whiting, Indiana

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Historic Structures of

Whiting, Indiana

119th Street Commercial District

Whiting Indiana (pop. 5,155) is a city with good harbor facilities on Lake Michigan just southeast of Chicago.

Because it is nestled between the cities of East Chicago and Hammond and has areas of dense development, this 1.3 square mile community gives the impression of being bigger than it is. Whiting and the nearby cities of East Chicago, Hammond, and Gary are part of the Calumet region, one of the nation's most highly industrialized areas. Products manufactured in Whiting include chemicals, metal products, and soap products. Whiting is the home of Calumet College of Saint Joseph.

Whiting's "main street" is 119th Street. The city is fortunate to have maintained a viable downtown area throughout its history. As a result Whiting boasts a large number of well-maintained and occupied historic structures, and 119th Street maintains a unified and attractive appearance. Whiting is the home of picturesque neighborhoods and block after block of significant historic structures.

The city began its growth around the railroad crossing that intersects 119th street and connects Whiting to Chicago. But the real driving engine of Whiting's development was the Standard Oil Co. refinery, which almost single-handedly laid out the town. In 1889 that company began buying up Marsh and duneland for the construction of what would eventually become the world's biggest refinery. Whiting became a town in 1903 and experienced a period of dramatic growth during the 1920's.

In 1905, Standard Oil donated land and the Carnegie Foundation granted funds for a public library. The outstanding Romanesque Revival building was completed that same year.

Whiting's architectural assets are so great that it has received four pages on this site. Surprisingly, Whiting has not adopted historic tax credits or applied for recognition on the National Register of Historic Places, something it should do to maintain the appeal of its historic areas for the future.

Whiting, Indiana 119th Street Commercial District

Downtown Whiting exudes historic charm.
Buildings of the 119th St. commercial district.

Whiting, Indiana 119th Street Commercial Building

Commercial Building
1309 119th St.
Commercial Vernacular
c. 1925

Whiting, Indiana 119th Street Commercial District storefront

Detail of an authentically preserved (unmodified) storefront window.


Whiting, Indiana 119th Street Commercial District - Gothic storefront

Clipper Pub
This distinctive building has an unusual Gothic Revival storefront level.

Next door to this historic building is a two-story billboard; atop the roof is a very large satellite dish, in a humorous juxtaposition of the old and the new. Nevertheless, the building seems to be well-maintained, and the Gothic Revival storefront is, for the most part, unaltered.

According to a visitor to this site, the reason for the unique storefront is that, many years ago, it was originally...a funeral home! (Specifically, the Ruzich Funeral Home.)

Whiting, Indiana 119

1449 119th St.
c. 1920

Whiting, Indiana Illiana Hotel

Illiana Hotel and Hoosier Theater
Colonial Revival

A mixed-use structure, this building serves as storefronts, apartments and a Theater lobby.

 Whiting, Indiana Hoosier Theater

Illiana Hotel and Hoosier Theater
Colonial Revival
Shown here is the massive Theater building behind the apartment and storefronts.

There is a fascinating story behind this building. It was bought and renovated by Thomas Sinstad, a man with a double career.

He began as a carpenter foreman but suffered a back injury while lifting scaffolding. During recovery he turned to computer programming and became a successful author of software for Commodore computers. His programs, in fact, became the best selling software for the platform of all time, according to a Post-Tribune (Gary, Indiana) article.

While looking for a local printer to produce documentation for his programs, he found a print shop in this building. After striking up a friendship with the owner, he was encouraged to buy up the entire building, which at the time was mostly vacant.

He applied his construction knowledge in rehabilitating the apartments, 18 months after the occupants had been asked to leave by authorities because the furnace was no longer operational. He found the apartments in bad shape due to neglect, but received $150,000 in federal rehabilitation loans for the project, through programs administered by the Lake County Community Development department.

At one time demolishing the theater to make way for a parking lot was under consideration. Fortunately this was reconsidered.

According to the Post Tribune article, the Hoosier Theater opened in 1924 and featured top vaudeville acts. The theater is now the only operating movie palace in Northwest Indiana. It boasts an ornate interior and a two-story-tall screen.

Theater buildings that also include a hotel or apartments were not uncommon. They provided a double source of revenue to the building owners. This building now consists of 10 apartments.

The structure is certified as a historic landmark by the State Department of Historic Preservation of the Department of Natural Resources.


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