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Lost La Porte

This page highlights some of the historic properties in La Porte that have been lost or defaced to the point of being unrecognizable. It is a memorial, of sorts, to the remarkable architecture that will never be able to be duplicated due to cost.

first national bank

The original location for La Porte’s First National Bank was 701 Lincoln Way (currently the Four Seasons Asian Fusion Restaurant). Construction of the 701 Lincoln Way corner building, a Gothic Victorian, began in 1867 and was completed two years later. Today, it is one of the oldest commercial storefronts remaining in downtown La Porte.  

The bank operated at the 701 Lincoln Way location for nearly 50 years until a larger bank was built at the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Lincoln Way in 1912 at 800 Lincoln Way.  

The First National Bank of La Porte was among the oldest national banks of the country having been established in 1864. The original directors were Sidney S. Sabin, John B. Niles, James Ridgway, Aurora Case, Ezekiel Morrison, H.P. Holbrook, and Henry Lusk. Its officers occupied prominent positions in the community and in banking circles.  

The architectural style of the bank at the 800 Lincoln Way location is Beaux Arts. Daniel Burnham, the chief architect of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair chose the Beaux Arts architectural style for the fair’s main buildings, characterized by classical details such as columns and pediments, and the use of stone. The 1893 World’s Fair architectural style was so influential in the towns and cities of America, that the style could be seen in America’s banks, libraries, courthouses, and city halls all across the country for several decades. The original facade of the First National Bank was a prime example of this architectural trend. 

Unfortunately, by the 1970s, the desire for modernization of these structures led the owners of the First National Bank Building to replace the magnificent columns with what-can only-be-called a cold war bunker-style facade.

City Hall and Fire Station

The cornerstone of the new La Porte City Hall located at 920 Lincoln Way was laid on September 3, 1885 with much fanfare. General Packard delivered an address and bands played. A benediction was given by Rev. A. G. Jennings, the Unitarian minister in La Porte. 

The previous wood frame building on this site that was both City Hall and the jail was purchased by Mr. William Martin and moved away. 

The new building, three stories tall, was 115 feet deep and 41 feet and four inches wide, and was composed of brick, stone, and wood with a horizontal striped effect. The building was to hold the fire department, city hall, and the jail. Space was made in a rear room, 35′ x 40′, for iron cages which was intended to be the jail. 

The architect was Cass Chapman of Chicago who also designed La Porte’s County Home. Two contractors have been given credit for its building, Henry McGill and John P. Van Kirk, both of La Porte. 

In the 1970s, in an attempt to “modernize,” the building’s unique features were removed and the facade was covered with a modern brick. 

The most recent tenant, Louie’s Café, closed its doors at the end of May, 2023. Louie Vasilarakos opened his restaurant in La Porte in 1977 and moved to the 920 Lincoln Way location in 1985. 

Today, one can stand on the sidewalk at the back of the building and see the original striped layers of brick under the current facade.

Phoenix Theatre

The Phoenix Theatre was located at the northwest corner of Lincoln Way and Clay Street, 601-03 Main Street (now Lincoln Way). Original owners may have been Howell Huntsman and John F. Decker.  

Built in 1858, it was remodeled in the 1860s. After catching fire on December 22, 1875, it was rebuilt the following year by Howell Huntsman and Sebastian F. Lay. It burned again in 1909. 

The theatre operated under several different names including Huntsman Hall, Lay’s Hall, and the Opera House. After the 1909 fire, the Phoenix Theatre was remodeled into a movie house, which also showed three nightly vaudeville shows. At this time, the stores on the first floor were removed, converting it to a regular theatre while the top part was made into a dance hall.  

Steinberg Jewelers was one of businesses on the street level. 

A later owner of the Phoenix Theatre, M. R. Sutherland, sold the theatre to James Kolar in 1915 for $15,000. “Mr. Kolar will book the very best attractions and promises the people of La Porte a high grade of pictures.” 

It was remodeled again into a store and office building in 1924. 

The building was eventually torn down, and a one-story building has replaced one of La Porte’s entertainment giants.

Palace Garage

The Palace Garage, located at 1202-1204 Lincoln Way West, was built by Carl Peterling in 1916. It sold gasoline at the curb, and new automobiles. An automobile storage service was provided. The two-story building measured 80′ x 120′. 

Initially, the two stories were devoted entirely to automotive purposes, carrying a full line of supplies and accessories. They were sales agents for several well-known automotive companies. The building was fireproof throughout with even the roof being asbestos to guard against any chance of fire from the combustible materials stored inside. 

But, by 1918, the E.A. Couturier Band Instrument Company, manufacturers of brass and woodwind instruments from New York, moved in to the upper floor. In a 1917 issue of the periodical Automobile Topics, it was reported that The Palace Garage would be moving shortly to the state of Michigan. 

By 1919, the E.A. Couturier Band Instrument Company occupied both floors of the building. The business remained at this location until some time in the 1920s when the business was sold to Lyon & Healy.  

In more recent memory, The Palace Garage reverted back to a garage and was the location of at least two Chevrolet dealerships, Mitchell Chevrolet and, subsequently, Smith Chevrolet. 

This magnificent building was torn down to build a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant.

la Porte Theater

The La Porte Theatre, located at the 400 block of Lincoln Way, opened on July 23, 1923 as a movie theater and playhouse. The French Renaissance style auditorium originally seated 1,576 on one floor and had no balcony. The building, which included shops and businesses at street level, and an upper-story Lincoln Hotel, took up a whole city block and was dominated by a large tower that held multiple once-lit glass panes. 

The theater was equipped with a Wurlitzer-Hope-Jones Unit organ opened by organist Ambrose J. Larson of the Wurlitzer Company. 

Over the years, the stage was also used for vaudeville acts, and by the Civic Concert Club. Otis Skinner played Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” and Ethel Barrymore did a one night stand appearance in “The Constant Wife.” 

Many La Porte high-schoolers spent a portion of their prom nights at the theater in their finest attire. 

By 1976, the pride-of-La Porte French Renaissance theater was up for sale and was demolished in 1977 or early 1978 to make way for a bank, the bank lawn, and the bank parking lot. 

The architect of the building was Henry L. Newhouse (1874-1929) of the Chicago firm Newhouse & Bernham.