By Jacqueline Widmar Stewart
This is a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it to both the newcomer and the established resident of the Dunes. The book considers the 43 miles of coast between Miller Beach, IN, and Warren Dunes, MI, which she calls the “Lake Michigan Riviera.” Jacqueline Widmar Stewart writes beautifully and has taken many evocative pictures of beaches, the water and woodlands during the four seasons, the moods of Lake Michigan, and, of course, the sunsets. She delves into the glacial legacy ranging from the vast sculpturing of the landscape to minute rocks and fossils. She tells us of the native American heritage that dates from 9500 BC. She takes us on a walk through Cowles Bog and encourages seeing it with Henry Cowles’ eyes, the University of Chicago Professor who developed the theory of plant succession. We visit the communities along the crescent and see them through Stewart’s discerning eyes. The South Shore Railroad, of course, is a prominent character in the book.
She mentions, somewhat too briefly, the struggle against industrialization of the Dunes, and we learn a bit about the Prairie Club, the history of the Indiana Dunes State Park which was founded in 1923, Samuel Insull who purchased the South Shore Railroad in 1926, and more recent developments of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. I was interested to learn that the State Park had over 62,000 visitors in its first three months.
Beverly Shores receives affectionate coverage, although I felt that the author regretted some of what has been lost such as the country club, the riding stables, the colonial-style Virginia Dare, the formal gardens and the mosaic lined pathways of the hotel, the replica of Mount Vernon, the steeple on the Old North Church, and the other buildings from the World’s Fair that have disappeared. Perhaps I am superimposing my regrets since I too remember all this now lost Beverly Shores. She briefly refers to her father’s gas station. I remember Jack and the gas station well, since it was a destination for those of us on bicycles. She mentions the restoration of the Train Depot and other restoration that is going on of the House of Tomorrow, the Florida Tropical House, the Cypress Log Cabin, the Wieboldt-Rostone House, and a few other Bartlett era structures. She describes Broadway as tree-lined, but that was before the “restoration” of the marsh. The land on which the hotel stood was recently bulldozed as part of “restoration”, is now a mudflat and hopefully will become new wetland. Carl Reed mentioned to me that he is trying to save a bridge from the bulldozer. It would be interesting to learn whether any attempt was made by the National Park Service to save anything from the earlier times. It could have been an interesting archeological dig.
Her reviews of dining, lodging, markets, vineyards and organizations provide leads for the visitor. Much has changed, and this portion of the book needs to be updated. She provides very useful maps, and a glossary of terms such as accretion, bog, dunes (foredunes, live dunes, permanent dunes, bare dunes), erratics, esker, fen, ghost forest, glacial drift, kame, kettle lake, marram grass, moraines, savanna, sediment, till and other terms important to understanding the region.
I was taken in by her writing. “What gives the Crescent Coast its charm? The key lies beneath the surface, under the water, below the line of vision. It is the past enabling the present, casting ancient spells. It is the wind that blows warm here when it’s cold next door, alpine flowers that thrive here when there isn’t a mountain for miles, and the cactus that flourishes far from home. It is the tale inspired by the muse of history, written in the rocks, scattered on the beach and rolling surf. It is your legacy from the glacial past.”
She also brings in the words of others to help describe our region of the world including William Blake, Rachel Carson, Friedrich Hundertwasser, Orpheus Moyer Teale, Edwin Way, and Walt Whitman.
Remy Sarrow is a graphic artist of unusual talent and has produced a beautiful small book. The book measures 7.9 x 4.7 x 0.5 inches and can be easily slipped into one’s pocket. The cover and pages are water-resistant and can stand abuse.
The book is 155 pages long and sells for $19.95. The brevity of the book is a strength in that only key information is provided, but I often wished that she would amplify on many of her thoughts and impressions. She provides us with a page entitled “further reading”, which is valuable, but, I would prefer her telling us more.
I look forward to the next edition, but don’t wait since this is a volume that should be read slowly, carefully and often.