MUNSTER | The Calumet Avenue grade separation and development of land south of the Canadian National tracks has a history stretching back to the Roaring '20s and involves the iconic American entrepreneur Henry Ford.
Calumet long had been known as the "worst piece of pavement in the county," according to the book "Munster, Indiana: A Centennial History" by authors Lancy Trusty and Kenneth J. Schoon.
It wasn't until 1935 that the street became a modern road when the state doubled its width and paved it with concrete from the Little Calumet River to Ridge Road.
As early as 1922, leaders envisioned the day when Calumet would reach Lincoln Highway, now U.S. 30, and endorsed construction of an overpass or a "subway" to carry the road over or under the tracks of what was then called the Panhandle Railroad. The railroad objected.
In 1936 and 1937, railroad viaducts or overpasses on Calumet Avenue again were promoted. The project rose to the top of the list for Lake County by 1941, but America entered World War II, and plans for the overpass again were abandoned.
Ford saw great possibilities for Munster and adjacent Lansing.
Two years after opening his assembly line plant in Chicago's Hegewisch neighborhood in 1924, Ford bought 1,000 acres of land in Munster and 400 more in Lansing.
The land was to be Ford's new "Aeroplane City of the World" with a landing field at its center and various airplane-related businesses, including a major parts center, a freight-forwarding complex and an airplane manufacturing plant where 10,000 workers would build dozens of Flying Flivvers every day.
The adjacent highways and a railroad spur would deliver raw materials and transport finished goods.
In 1927, Ford leased much of his airport land to local farmers as construction crews went to work on a new road and a spur line connecting the airfield with highways and the Grand Truck Railroad.
But the Great Depression intervened, and the project stalled. Ford moved on to other ideas. Ford Field remained a grass strip for many years and became the Lansing Municipal Airport in 1976.
Ford's Munster property became a Cold War Nike missile site, later an industrial park and finally subdivisions.
EDITORS NOTE: "Munster, Indiana: A Centennial History" by Lance Trusty and Kenneth J. Schoon -- the source for the information in this article -- was published by The Donning Company Publishers in 2006.