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The Former Pine Lake Grange Hall

3066 N US Hwy 35, La Porte, IN 46350

Carol Kimball

Sometime around 2015, I began to make alternate retirement (or semi-retirement) plans, after having lived in Chicago for 28 years.  I was looking to reduce my expenses yet stay as close to Chicago as possible.  In early 2017, I was ready to begin searching for a 2 bedroom bungalow or cottage in the Harbor Country area, considering both NW Indiana and SW Michigan, as it is close enough and many friends live in the area.  At the last minute, I asked my realtor to include commercial properties in our computerized search, with the idea that something interesting might show up.

Indeed it did: The Pine Lake Grange Hall.  As a musician, I was interested in hosting house concerts as a small income stream, and this property was ideal, since it had a modest slightly elevated stage at the end of the large open meeting hall room.  I made an offer and May of 2017, it became my property.

Still working full time in Chicago, I began spending the weekends, holidays and vacation time working on the property.  By March of 2019, it was ready for me to move in permanently.  Here are some before and after photos, as well as a little history.

When the Indiana Territory formed a state government, part of the transaction included the building of public (common) schools.  The Leaming or Buck School was the first structure built on the property now occupied by the grange hall.  On January 13th of 1874, about 30 neighbors met in the schoolhouse and agreed to start a Grange (which is French for “farm”).  In addition to its function as a union serving local farmers – pancake breakfasts, ice cream socials, dances – the organization also provided programs at each of its meetings and often offered musical entertainment.

In June of 1912, a committee formed to consider building a new hall.  A small parcel of land was bought for $70, the new hall was built, dedicated January 1915.

In 1937, a basement was built, with a 12’ extension that included the stage and a commercial kitchen in the basement.  Electricity and lights were added, and the current building was moved onto the basement, dedicated in 1938. 

After I bought the grange, as I was exploring all of the nooks and crannies of the place, I discovered blueprints from a 1956 plan to expand the building by 50%.  The basement was poured and connected to the existing basement, but the remaining plans were never executed.  This resulted in the basement being 50% larger than the upstairs.

What I’ve changed so far:

Upstairs: converted the coat room into the master bath, converted the adjacent storage room into a walk-in closet, and built a kitchen and master bedroom, adding large windows to complement the kitchen and back stage wall.

Downstairs: added two bedrooms, a second bathroom, removed the commercial kitchen to create a workroom, added a laundry room and sauna.

Exterior: added a 4 car garage, updated the roof, new septic system, large outdoor entertainment area, exterior lighting, and a large flower garden.

Other: lots of plumbing and new electrical work, including replacing some knob and tube in the attic, more insulation, new furnaces, and so on.  

When I look back on this project, I wonder what on earth I was thinking, but realize that I have a unique property that will take years to fine tune into what I want it to be.  I look at the photos from 2017 and realize just how much work I’ve accomplished.  It’s been worth it, to be sure.