"During the nineteenth century a few squatters began building shacks along the south shore of Lake Michigan. In the mid-1870's, when Robert and Drusilla Carr moved into a two room pine cabin near the beach-front area, which later became known as Carr's Beach, their only neighbors were a boat builder named Allen Dutcher, a hunter-trapper named Jacques Beaubien, and a former slave named Davy Crockett. The area remained virtually unchanged until the early twentieth century." (James Lane and Ronald Cohen, "Gary, Indiana: A Pictorial History")
This image of Old Carr's Beach (click on the image) probably shows the area where Lake Street meets the lake today. The large dune on the right, since cut down appreciably, stretched east to where the Aquatorium is today and was the area where Chanute and his assistants made their glider experiments in the summer of 1896.
In 1872 Drusilla Benn moved from Valparaiso to the beach-front to join her brother as a housekeeper and cook. Two years later she married Robert Carr. "The dunes country was so wild at this time that, according to Mrs. Carr, 'the wolves stood back in the hills and cried like a woman.' She told James W. Lester that 'there were lots of white and blue cranes, and hundreds of bald eagles along the beach. When we went along the lake, we could see and eagle on every hill'." (James Lane, 'City of the Century', p23) Mrs. Carr befriended Octave Chanute during the summer of 1896, becoming one of his staunch defenders against fellow townsmen who called Chanute the "Crazy Old Man of the Sand Dunes" and spread fables that his glider wings were thatched with chicken feathers.
Times changed, however, as the mills were built at Gary in 1906 and the beach became a popular recreation area for the 'mill-rats' and their families. This picture, taken July 4, 1917, is of Carr's bathhouse at the foot of Lake Street. (Click on the image.) Robert and Drusilla Carr had lived in relative isolation in the dunes, but with the coming of the mills they built this bathhouse and for years carried on a legal dispute with U.S.Steel over the ownership of the land, claiming it on squatters rights. During its heyday Carr's Beach was a play land, featuring a miniature railroad, a shooting gallery, a pleasure boat and several night spots. Fred Carr, the son of Robert and Drusilla, managed a dance hall and roller rink and by 1917 there were approximately a hundred beach cottages on their property, which they rented out for $100 a year.
The photos above are in the Calumet Archives at Indiana University Northwest and
the Gary Public Library and were reproduced in the Pictorial History.
Lane, James B, and Ronald D. Cohen. Gary, Indiana: A Pictorial History. Norfolk/Virginia Beach: Donning Co, 1983. Print. WorldCat Listing