Miller Beach History
Table of Contents
Primary Pages

Hover over or touch small image for a brief description.



Gay Mill Gardens & Frances Kennedy
Aetna, 1881 - 1919, Dynamite and Explosions
The Octave Chanute Pages:
These pages contain a comprehensive description of Octave Chanute's experiments along the south end of Lake Michigan between 1896 and 1898. The essay "Wings Off the Dunes" provides the story. There are writings and images of the flights in Chanute's own words in his Diary and in an address he gave in October of 1897. There is a general overview of the gliders used in the experiments and special pages on the individual gliders which attracted the attention of the press. There is an extensive reproduction of those newspaper articles. Also on these pages is an extended bibliography on Chanute, maps, a page on replicas that have been build and are on display as well as a page for those who might want to build their own replica glider. Pages created about 1998. Updated Replicas page July, 2019.|      |Go to the main page.


These are the primary pages. Not a site map as there are many more related to these pages.


A Short History of Miller Beach:

Miller, annexed by Gary, Indiana by common council ordinance on February 17, 1919, signed into law by the mayor on the 20th. Miller is older than Gary, which was founded in 1906. Situated at the south end of Lake Michigan, the land is former lake bottom with sandy soil and an abundance of wetlands. Teeming with fish, wildlife and berries, it was a popular hunting and food gathering area for the Indians.

Miller's history began in 1851 when a train stop, eventually called "Miller's Station", was constructed by a predecessor of Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad. It has been long held that Miller got its name from someone named Miller, since the oldest stone in the cemetery is that of John S. Miller, age 3 and is dated 1851. More about that on the How Miller Got its Name page. The railroad timetables identify the stop as "Millers" but the U.S. Postal Service named the post office "Miller's Station" in 1865 when the station was established.

For many years Miller remained an unpopulated, out of the way railroad junction surrounded by swampy terrain hardly suited for farming. The first inhabitants were often fishermen, squatters along the beach who made their living fishing and selling berries that grew wild in the dunes. The Carr family was prominent among these people for many years, not only claiming ownership of a lot of the beach until 1930, but developing early tourism in the area. Swedish immigrants, many fleeing Chicago after The Great Fire, moved to the area in the early 1870's. They founded a church, eventually building a frame church in 1894 that still stands today on Lake Street.

The most important experiments in aeronautics prior to the Wright brothers' invention of the airplane were conducted on the beaches of Miller and just to the east of Miller. Octave Chanute, the elder statesman of aeronautics at the time, performed glider experiments on the beach which developed the basic bi-plane design which was adopted by the Wright brothers.

In the early 1900's the desolate dunes and broad beaches along Lake Michigan were a primary attraction to many. Our most famous 'hermit' - "Diana of the Dunes" - was actually a well-educated, if somewhat romantic, University of Chicago graduate who rebelled against the competitive, materialistic world of bustling Chicago and in 1915 fled to the dunes with nothing but a knife, spoon, blanket, jelly glass and two guns, becoming a local legend.

Miller's unique terrain and proximity to Chicago continued to be a draw for people wanting to get away from the city and enjoy lake breezes. In the 1920's the Marquette Park Pavilion and the Bathhouse were built. Small cabins began to appear in the dunes east of the Park. After World War II many year-round homes were built and today the attraction continues as many choose Miller as their primary residence or as a location for a summer home.


Much more history of Gary can be found in James Lane's City of the Century" A History of Gary, Indiana as well as on these pages.

His book is available new or used at Amazon.com
Of special note is the marvelous Miller Beach book done by Linda Simon and Jane Ammeson.
See the Books page for more information.

It too can be purchased at Amazon.com

Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana now has a Miller office at 541 S. Lake Street. 219-947-2657

The Calumet Archives and the IU Digital Library have put over 2000 pictures from the US Steel Photo collection online. Spanning the years 1906 to 1971 it includes pictures of very early Marquette Park and many other pictures of interest. Check it out at the US Steel Image Collection

For a number of years IUN History professor Jim Lane has been collecting oral histories of 'da region' which he publishes, along with his reflections and wanderings, in "Steel Shavings." This is an amazing collection of historical and current information which, by March of 2015, has reached 41 volumes. Contact the Calumet Archives (219-980-6628) to examine older issues or order recent ones. Jim also is an avid blogger about life in Northwest Indiana and the people who live here: northwestindianahistorianjamesblane.blogspot.com/

Make sure you check out the Miller Historical Society's website.


Or the Historical Society's Facebook Page.


Page re-created April, 2020; created ages ago.

© Text copyright: Steve Spicer

Feel free to email me: steve@spicerweb.org