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 Post subject: Merrillville Historic District
PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2005 12:12 pm 
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M'ville native: Historic district should reflect town's settlers

MERRILLVILLE | Alice Smedstad doesn't live in Merrillville anymore, but her family roots are firmly entrenched in the community's rich, pioneer beginnings.

Smedstad, whose maiden name was Flora, is one of several people who offered input Wednesday about the creation of a historic district, or Old Town, along 73rd Avenue between Mississippi and Van Buren streets.

"The district needs to reflect the heritage of the community, the hard-working, capable people who came here and settled," she said.

Smedstad, whose family goes back nine generations in Merrillville, said it was the Flora family that donated land adjacent to the Merrillville Cemetery on which the future Veterans Memorial will be located.

The cemetery, where Civil War soldiers are buried, and the yet-to-be-completed memorial are all included in the future historic district.

Beulah Brown, president of the Merrillville Historical Society, suggested making a portion of the historic district into a destination area by opening up antique stores and small cafés.

That would attract those from outside the community to the district, she said.

"There's so much history," she said. "It's a shame not to celebrate it."

Taghi Ashami, of the Arsh Group, led the discussion with a presentation about the corridor's history, which goes back to 1678 when French explorer Robert LaSalle came through the area on his way to Michigan.

The town awarded the Arsh Group a $24,940 contract last year to help with the creation of the historic district.

Ashami said the portion of 73rd Avenue in the district was known as the Grand Salk Trail when it was used by American Indians.

Merrillville, which was founded by the Merrill brothers, became a community 154 years ago, he said.

Starting in the 1920s, 73rd Avenue became Old Lincoln Highway, the first coast-to-coast "rock" highway, he said.

"It became the main street of America," Ashami said.

He presented a number of suggestions for the historical district, including adding raised planters to help beautify the area, placing historical monuments at either end and adding ornamental street lighting and sidewalks.

Those attending the meeting were asked to complete a survey about their ideas for the district.

Those ideas will be part of a final plan that must be approved by the Town Council.

Town Councilman Shawn Pettit, D-6th, who serves as chairman of the Historic District Committee, said there are some bright spots in the district, including the recent remodeling of the Old Mill Pizzeria by Scott Reder.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are some buildings in need of repair.

"Scott made the investment, but some people there aren't taking care of their houses. A couple of them are eyesores," he said.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2005 8:21 pm 
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I grew up in Merrillville and don't remember any historic buildings on 73rd, what are they talking about?


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