Historic architectural gems, nestled in the downtowns and neighborhoods of Northwest Indiana, showcase a different era and take us back, if just for a moment, into time.
"The region has a good collection of historic architectural styles that are common throughout Indiana and the Midwest," says Tiffany Tolbert, director of the Calumet Region Office for the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. "In the cities and towns founded during the mid-thru-late 19th century, there is a prevalence of Italianate, Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne and other Victorian era buildings. In the cities developed during the early 20th century, such as Gary and Hammond, there is a large collection of early 20th century period-revival styles such as Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, as well as Neoclassical, Craftsman and Prairie Style Architecture."
According to Tolbert, the majority of the region's historic architecture is typical of Indiana and the Midwest.
"Any uniqueness can be credited to the examples of architectural styles found in other parts of the state, but are not common in Northwest Indiana due to the time of settlement and development," she says. "For example, the Halstead House in Lowell, which is Federal style, while more common in southern Indiana, is unique up here because while this area was settled in the 1830 to 1840s, Federal style was only prominent from about 1810 to 1845. So by the time settlement increased in the region to the point that more solid masonry buildings were able to be built, the style had tapered off in popularity."
But there is an octagon-shaped home in Valparaiso (because it's a private residence, Tolbert doesn't give out the address), which is an exceptionally rare style.
"There are less than 10 known examples in Indiana and a little over 100 nationally," she says, noting those figures are a few years old and there may be even less examples of the style in existence now.
Lake County boasts three round barns as well -- another unique and disappearing style. Two of those, along with a round house, are located on the Echterling Farm in Hanover Township.
For more information about Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, call (219) 947-2657 or visit www.historiclandmarks.org
Take a self-guided tour of historic region standouts
* For Victorian-era buildings, the Courthouse Square Historic District in Crown Point (the Mayor's Office of Special Events and the Historic Preservation Commission offers tours throughout the year, so they can be contacted for 2010 dates), downtown Valparaiso and Hobart also display some nice Italianate buildings as well.
* Crown Point has the only example of Second Empire style in the region with the Old Sheriff's House and Jail.
* Nice examples of Italianate style in residential architecture include the Walnut Grove/Morgan Boys House in Merrillville on 73rd Avenue and the Josephus Wolf House in Porter County.
* Examples of Colonial Revival and other period-style homes can be found in the Holley Residential Historic District, South Court Street, in Crown Point.
* The Horace Mann neighborhood, off 5th Avenue, west of downtown and Morningside, south of downtown around 45th Avenue, in Gary, has examples of Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival and Spanish Eclectic.
* The Neoclassical style can be seen in the bank buildings on the corner of 3rd and Main in Hobart. City Hall and the Lake Superior Courthouse in Gary are two of the region's most prominent example of this style.
* Lowell has nice examples of Queen Anne style -- some can be found along Commercial Avenue as well as in the neighborhood surrounding downtown. Also there is the Halstead House.
* The Wellington A. Clark Home in Crown Point was built in 1847 and is one of the oldest surviving homes in Indiana.
* The Westchester Township Museum, formerly the Brown Mansion, was built in 1885 in the Queen Anne style of Victorian domestic architecture. Located in Chesterton, the museum is open for free tours.
Identifying the style
You don't have to be an expert to spot a particular style, according to Tiffany Tolbert.
"It's usually done by identifying ornamentation on the exterior façade," she says, noting a helpful tool is the publication "On the Street Where You Live: Be a Building Watcher," an illustrated guide of 15 architectural styles found throughout Indiana.
For house watchers, here are some suggestions for distinguishing styles:
* Italianate buildings, which typically have a vertical orientation and decorative brackets, usually display tall, narrow windows capped by decorative hoods. The windows can also be arched. Residential Italianate buildings might also display a cupola.
* Gothic Revival is mostly seen in religious architecture, however it was prominent among residential buildings during the mid 19th century. Gothic is identified by steeply pitched roof and pointed arches.
* Colonial Revival features a symmetrical façade and details such as Palladian windows, fan lights and columns.
* Bungalow has low pitched roofs, with wide overhanging eaves, exposed rafters, brackets and sometimes dormers.
* Queen Anne makes use of towers, turrets, bay windows, stained glass, tall chimneys and different types of building materials, such as wood, brick and stone.