Lansing Historical Walk tells the town's story

2014-06-23T17:27:00Z 2014-06-23T23:25:29Z Lansing Historical Walk tells the town's storyJennifer Pallay Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
June 23, 2014 5:27 pm  • 

LANSING | On Monday night, Paul Schultz continued what has become a 30-year tradition of leading the Lansing Historical Walk down Ridge Road. With cars going by and tidbits flying, a large group of attendees surrounded Schultz as he told stories of Lansing families throughout the years. The crowd of about 40 included all ages from senior citizens to babies in strollers.

"I'm amazed at the people who come out. After 30 years, I thought I knew the whole town, but I guess not," Schultz joked.

Every family has a story, Schultz said during his introduction to the "hike" as he liked to call it. Much of Lansing's history is from second and third generations as the early settlers didn't do much by way of documentation. "We don't even have a picture of our forefathers," Schultz said.

Schultz, who was born and raised in Lansing, spent years as a mail carrier delivering mail to the businesses along Ridge Road.

"I used to run into people and they'd say, 'hey remember where this is?' I said, 'gosh we really should document all of this.' That's how this all got started.

It's unbelievable that I've done it this many times."

Throughout the walk, Schultz told personal stories of his life. The first stop was at a home built in 1926 by the Erferts, one of Lansing's pioneer families. Mr. Erfert was "one of Lansing's leading citizens," Schultz said. He was a Lansing trustee, charter member of the fire department and the postmaster who hired Schultz at the post office, he recalled. He lived at the home until his death and Lansing's Erfert Park is named after him.

The next stop took attendees to a spot across from the First Reformed Church of Lansing at Ridge Road and Burnham Avenue where they learned some facts about Lansing's oldest congregation. The original church was built in 1861 but burnt down. Schultz recounted how he and his father were there that night and saw the steeple falling off the building into the road.

He is often asked about two headstones in the church cemetery, he said. The headstone that reads "Munster" is the plot of Jacob Munster, who Lansing's neighboring town was named after, he confirmed.

"Indiana has the town of Munster but Jake is a permanent resident of Lansing," Schultz said.

The headstone of a woman named "Minnie" also garners attention, with passers by wondering how she died at the age of 21. Schultz explained she died in childbirth but that her family and son she gave birth to continued to be an important part of Lansing history for many years after her death.

Near the church, Schultz pointed out a Sears & Roebuck catalog home, one of many in Lansing. This house was purchased from the 1934 catalog for $1,400. The popularity of these homes in the area is not much of a surprise given a nearby connection, he explained.

"Sears had a warehouse in Hammond so you could go pick everything up."

A few stops down, attendees came to one of Schultz's favorite tour spots, the home of Dr. Van Drunen, which was built using the same blueprints as nearby Schroeder-Lauer Funeral Home. Here in a brown brick two-story building, the doctor's office was downstairs and he lived upstairs.

"That's the doctor who brought me into the world on Christmas Day ... Every time I ran into him, he said, 'I'll never forget you, you ruined my Christmas.'"

Marge Arndt, of Lansing, was on the walk for the first time and enjoyed the history lesson. She's lived in Lansing since 1965 and said she had not heard many of these stories until Monday night. As a retired nurse, she especially enjoyed learning about Van Drunen's home and was surprised to learn during the walk that someone she knows from church was also delivered by the same doctor.

Other walk highlights included the former site of Hoekstra's Grocery Store.

"It wasn't only a grocery store, it was also a place to meet and share gossip. That's when everybody in town knew everybody else," Schultz said.

Also of interest was the Winterhoff Building, which has not changed much over the decades, Schultz said. The building originally housed a Ford dealership, selling Model As, before being converted into a funeral home by Mr. DeYoung.

Eventually, DeYoung decided a furniture business would be more lucrative.

Barb Dust, curator of Lansing Historical Museum, was on the walk and said she enjoys it from year to year.

"I love feeling the presence of the people who came before us and knowing what went on at certain locations. It can be different every time ... That really makes history come to life when people share their stories."

As for Schultz, he said he always enjoys the "hike" and remembering how things used to be.

"We've kind of grown a little bit more than 2,000 people when I was growing up here."

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