New York - Paris auto race Porter County, Indiana, because of its location at the southern end of Lake Michigan east of Chicago, is and has been crossed by countless transcontinental and even world-girdling travelers. The Indians tromped back and forth through here. The French explorers paddled by here. Important roads, such as the Lincoln Highway, were built across here. Hands Across America was here. (There were gaps.) The Olympic torch passed through. (Its repeatedly going out wasn't considered a problem.) And the great New York to Paris automobile race brought a little excitement to Porter County in 1908. Read local perspectives of its progress in a few old newspaper articles I've transcribed and HTMLized just for you.
Wouldn't it be fun to look at pictures of the racers passing through Porter County? Yeah, it sure would. I'm in four Porter County historical societies but none of them have any photographs of 99% of the hundreds of exciting things which have occurred here over the last century-and-a-quarter. If you have any old photos of important events of the past, please let me or your local historical society know about them. No, we don't want to wrest your family treasures away from you. (I don't anyway.) We just would like to copy old images to share with others. Surely someone in northwest Indiana snapped a picture of one of the racers.
For a comprehensive, insightful history of the New York-Paris Race, look elsewhere. For some local newspaper articles, split into four web-pages, look here. These span from 20 February, 1908, to 30 January, 1909.
For those of you unfamiliar with northwestern Indiana, here are some of the place names you will encounter in the dispatches:
The Lake Shore road refers to the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad, later the New York Central, Conrail, and whatever it's called now (simply the Norfolk Southern?) It runs through South Bend, Rolling Prairie, Burdick, Chesterton, Porter, Hammond, and Chicago.
- Kendallville, a city in Noble County 86 miles east of Porter County on US 6.
- Goshen, the Elkhart County seat city 57 miles east of Porter County on the (original) Lincoln Highway.
- Dunlap, an Elkhart County village on the old Lincoln Highway between Goshen and Elkhart.
- Elkhart, an Elkhart County city 50 miles east of Porter County on the (original) Lincoln Highway and the Toledo road.
- South Bend, the Saint Joseph County seat city 35 miles east of Porter County on the Michigan Road/Lincoln Highway.
- Rolling Prairie, a LaPorte County town 16 miles east of Porter County on the Michigan Road.
- LaPorte, the LaPorte County seat city eleven miles east of Porter County on the Sauk Trail/Chicago-Detroit mail route/Joliet Road/Lincoln Highway.
- Michigan City, a LaPorte County city on the Michigan Road at Lake Michigan and touching Porter County. The Chicago Trib reporter's dismissing it as a "little Indiana village" must've been due to Michigan City's having been expected to grow into a larger, more important city than Chicago.
- Burdick, a village eight miles south and four miles west of Michigan City on an old east-west trail. I don't understand myself yet why driving from Michigan City that far south to Burdick made sense, even with the different condition of various stretches of roadway. Unless the racers left Michigan City already decided upon using the New York Central tracks, which the newspaper articles don't indicate.
- Westchester Township includes Porter, Chesterton, and half of Furnessville.
- Furnessville, a village on one of the many different Chicago roads. Now on US 20 (different from the old road.)
- Chesterton, a town on the old, long-gone Chicago-Detroit mail route.
- Porter, a town just northwest of Chesterton.
- Valparaiso, the county seat city on the Sauk Trail/Joliet Road/Lincoln Highway.
- Wheeler, a village on SR 130 between Valparaiso and Hobart.
- McCool, a village on the route between Chicago and the east. Now part of the city of Portage. McCool is on no highway. Desirable routes used to depend on which roads were in the best shape at the time. When the state (and later the federal) government developed highways, McCool was ignored as a more direct route was improved.
- Hobart, a Lake County city on Ridge Road and touching Porter County.
- Hammond, a Lake County city on all the roads to Chicago at the northwestern corner of the state.
The Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railroad used to terminate in Chesterton. It runs southwest from there through McCool and Hobart to Illinois.
Hop to the race newspaper articles.
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This page is at http://members.tripod.com/~Ogden_Dunes/roads/ny-paris/index.html.
Posted 16th & updated 21st August, 1999. Reposted 13th April, 2004, after being knocked off-line four years ago.