Twilight tour of Washington Street

Porter County Museum Executive Director Kevin Pazour shows off a historic photo as part of Sunday night's twilight walking tour of Valparaiso's Washington Street.

Bob Kasarda, The Times

VALPARAISO — The block of Washington Street, just north of Lincolnway, has recently undergone some restorations and its businesses are now a popular draw.

But the block had an even greater significance as the epicenter of the area known as Portersville that would become Valparaiso in 1837, according to Kevin Pazour, executive director of the Porter County Museum.

Pazour brought some of that history alive Sunday night during the first twilight walking tour of the block.

Holding a large historic photo of the area, Pazour took visitors back to 1927 when the block was home to long-gone businesses and figures, such as a Civil War veteran, who reportedly had met some of the last surviving veterans of the American Revolutionary War.

Nearby at 7 N. Washington was a real estate office operated by Abraham Bondy, father of actress Beulah Bondi, who appeared in such well-known films as "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," Pazour said.

The block was also home to a Western Union office, which set the stage for a nearby telegraph florist business, he said.

The building at 18 Washington St. that now houses Silcott Shoes was filled in 1926-27 with 45 automobiles that were auctioned off at the time, taking advantage of its proximity to the then-new Lincoln Highway, Pazour said.

As a car backed out during Sunday's tour, Pazour joked that had he been struck and killed there in 1927, he could have been taken to the Bartholomew Funeral Home that was operating at the time out of 22 Washington.

The buildings on either side of the far north end of the block were home to two competing newspapers, which later merged, Pazour said.

"The war essentially to end all wars," he joked.

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Bob is a 22-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.