LOWELL | In familiar silhouette, the historic grain elevator rises from the Cedar Creek Township farmland that has been its home for more than a century.
Drivers along the Ind. 2 stretch just north of Shelby take note of the inscription across its front: "John Brown & Sons."
Ron Brown, whose great-great-grandfather was that John Brown, lives across the highway in the family homestead and has commissioned the historic grain elevator's restoration.
"The elevator was put up to handle ear corn growth on the (Brown) farm and corn brought from other farms to feed to cattle. The ear corn would be stored in corn cribs outside the elevator and brought into the elevator to be ground for feed," Ron Brown said.
Built in the early 1900s, the landmark structure is more than 50 feet high with concrete roofs and a working pulley-type, man lift.
"Later, the elevator was converted to handle shelled corn. We quit using it around the year 2000. The work done now is to protect it from the elements," Ron Brown said.
Why the restoration now?
"It's trying to preserve a piece of history," Ron Brown said. "My dad has wanted to work on the elevator, but I resisted because it is not used anymore. As I've aged, I have come to appreciate the history of the farm. The work will preserve part of that history and make my dad happy, too."
His father, Robert W. Brown, lives in Florida and is quite excited, he said.
Travis Earl of Earl's Exteriors, DeMotte, is handling the restoration, which requires a lift unit to do the work. Ron Brown said the company was the only one willing to tackle the job.
The Brown family has its imprint on Lake County history.
John Brown had fought in the Civil War, then became Lake County treasurer. He and other leaders of the time formed the First National Bank in Crown Point.
"A standard history of Lake County, Indiana, and the Calumet Region, Volume 1," edited by William Frederick Howat, recalls that time.
It tells of Nov. 19, 1913, when there was "gathered at the elegant headquarters of the Hammond Country Club a notable company of bankers to do honor to the good, strong father of the financial fraternity in that section of Indiana — John Brown, founder of the First National Bank of Crown Point in 1874, its president since 1881, and one of the most successful men and great hearts of the region."
The event, it reads, "was a remarkable tribute to that strength, steadfastness and warmth of character which had earned the veteran financier, farmer and citizen, such a fine and broad grade of popularity."
Preserving a piece of that past has gained significance for Ron Brown and his wife Luan. "It (the grain elevator) looks so much better," she said.
For Ron Brown, the research he's done for the project has piqued his interest. He's now envisioning an upper room in their historic brick home in which the vintage photographs he's collected as well as those chronicling the elevator's restoration will be displayed for future generations.