It's Whiting's 125th anniversary and soon there will also be an official celebration of Lakefront Park and its beautiful renovations. So what do you get the city as a gift to celebrate these two special occasions?
One person in Whiting came up with a real "house" warming gift. Since it weighs 500 pounds, there's not much chance that it will be returned.
What is it? It's a replica of one of the original little stone houses that once were found all over Lakefront Park back in the 1930's until the early 1960's.
I imagine that every family album in Whiting has at least one photo of their children (who are now in their 70's and 80's), dressed in their Sunday best, posed beside a stone house. Some were as tall as three feet and existed in rows by the lagoon bridge and in the park’s largest, tiered flowerbed.
Besides houses, the collection included a barn, a silo and a lighthouse. They were cement, all covered with teeny stones and colorful pieces of beach glass.
At one time, the little houses were wired for lights. Thirty years ago, when the Whiting Parks and Recreation Department removed the bases to prepare for planting, conduit wire was found.
Although many people will tell you someone in their family created the originals, there are no photos of anyone making the houses or papers that prove who fashioned them. The only thing I've ever seen was a scrap of paper at the Whiting-Robertsdale Historical Society dated in the 1980's from the park superintendent that reads, "Houses are said to have been built by Mr. Whitaker - the bowling alley custodian."
In a sense, that's the beauty of this new little stone house. Nobody knows who made it, either, but what puzzles park foreman Paul DePoy the most is, how in the world did it get there overnight? It wasn't there when Paul left work the day before.
He discovered it around 7 a.m. June 4 when making his morning rounds. He looked up at the hill and saw something sitting atop the steps of the main garden in Lakefront Park. One can only imagine his surprise to find it was a little stone house just like the ones that disappeared more than 50 years ago.
The only identifying clue was a handwritten tag attached that simply said "Lift using chain only" referring to a chain that had been embedded into the concrete. The other side said to "Install: on flat surface on bed of mortar around perimeter."
How somebody got the 500-lb. house into the middle of the park during the night to be discovered so early in the morning is anyone's guess. The house is 25 inches long, 19 inches wide and 24 inches tall. The Park Department had to use a backhoe to place it in the garden.
I'm sure it's no coincidence that whoever created the house did it just in time for all the coming celebrations, just as I'm sure a new generation of little children will enjoy the magical miniature house.
And in keeping with Whiting tradition, hopefully no one will ever learn the name of this gift giver.