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Michigan City, Indiana

Michigan City, Indiana

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Michigan City Lighthouse
The Michigan City Lighthouse, built in 1904. Courtesy of the City of Michigan City
Michigan City, Indiana

Nestled in between the Indiana Dunes and Michigan’s Harbor Country, Michigan City is a place most visitors come to shop. But there are also many places to eat, drink, and explore. In the summer, for example, Michigan City offers both formal gardens and nature trails at the Friendship Botanic Gardens; a regular concert series at the Guy Forman Amphitheater; and the Works Public Administration-constructed Washington Park Zoo. There is also a range of shops to explore – from the well-known outlet mall to a number of independent and vintage boutiques, many of them concentrated in downtown Michigan City.

In recent years, the area has also become home to several breweries. The largest and most popular among them – and the only one that can accommodate families – is the Shoreline Brewery and Restaurant. If you’d rather stay close to the water, though, Bartlett’s Fish Camp is a fun, local favorite for low-key seafood and drinks.

Bartlett’s is right next to the Old Lighthouse Museum, which doubles as a monument to Michigan City’s founder Isaac C. Elston, who dreamed of building a bustling port city here as far back as 1830. Elston knew a successful port would need light to guide ships safely, so he deeded his own land to the U.S. government to build one.

The Old Lighthouse Museum in Michigan City, Indiana
Miss Harriet Colfax and Miss Ann Hartwell
Left: The Old Lighthouse Museum in Michigan City, Indiana. Photo by Erica Gunderson Right: Miss Harriet Colfax and Miss Ann Hartwell, photographers and dates unknown. Courtesy of the Old Lighthouse Museum/Michigan City Historical Society, Inc.

The longest-serving lighthouse keeper here was a woman named Harriet Colfax. When a second harbor light was installed at the far end of a pier, where an iconic present-day light is located, Harriet added it to her daily chores, making her way out there twice a day, well into old age, washed by waves or struggling to keep her footing when the pier was covered in ice.

Colfax held the post for 43 years and lived in the lighthouse with her lifelong companion, Ann Hartwell. A Chicago Tribune article from the time called them “two quaint, lovable spinsters” and “bosom friends.”

Harriet retired in 1904 at the age of 80 and died the next year, just three months after Hartwell. They are buried next to each other in a family plot at Greenwood Cemetery in Michigan City.