OFFBEAT: Astronaut Jerry Ross helping Crown Point Courthouse celebrate 135 years

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-09-01T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Astronaut Jerry Ross helping Crown Point Courthouse celebrate 135 yearsBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Welcome to the arrival of September!

I have a special love for the "Grand Old Lady of Lake County" that is our Crown Point Courthouse.

This month, this special landmark of Northwest Indiana is celebrating a 135th birthday and our Region's space claim-to-fame, astronaut Jerry Ross is returning to his home town of Crown Point to host the celebration at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22, along with artist James Paul Brown.

Despite the continued federal and state budget cuts that loom, we are very fortunate in Northwest Indiana to have the kind support and generosity of our Dean and Barbara White helping pave the way for preservation of our courthouse.

What do Joe DiMaggio, Muhammad Ali and Rudolph Valentino have in common? They all received marriage licenses at the Marriage Mill, a.k.a. the old Lake County Courthouse in Crown Point. Between 1915 and 1940, the courthouse was open 24/7, granting quick marriage licenses and marrying more than 170,000 couples, amazing for this small town that had a population of just 4,000 in 1930.

The Lake County Court House Foundation has been on a quest to raise $4 million to completely restore the interior, bolstered by a challenge by Crown Point resident Mr. White, the hotel and real estate developer and international billboard magnate. The Dean & Barbara White Family Foundation made a generous offer to match up to $2 million raised by the nonprofit effort.

Marty Wheeler, president of the Lake County Court House Foundation, has been helping spread the word about this month's free party celebration, in addition to her usual fundraising efforts.

I'm told the afternoon will include music, art displays, wonderful scrapbooks of press and media mentions of the courthouse during the past century and refreshments. Ross, 65, will also be signing copies of his new 300-page hardcover autobiography "Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA's Record-Setting Frequent Flyer" (2013 Purdue University Press $30) just released in January of this year.

A graduate of Purdue University, a retired United States Air Force officer, and a former astronaut who retired from NASA in 2012, Ross is a veteran of seven US Space Shuttle missions and holds an individual world record for the most spaceflights flown. He was assisted with writing his new book by John Norberg, a writer based in West Lafayette, who is an experienced journalist and the author of five books, including "Wings of Their Dreams" in 2003 about the role of aviation's pioneers and trailblazers in the history of flight and space.

For more information about making a donation to the courthouse renovation fund or this month's birthday event, visit, call (219) 663-0660 or send contributions to:

Lake Court House Foundation, Inc.

P.O. Box 556

Crown Point, Indiana 46307-0556


The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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