WILLIAM NANGLE: Cedar Lake evolves from Cedartucky to lakeside resort

2012-08-29T00:00:00Z WILLIAM NANGLE: Cedar Lake evolves from Cedartucky to lakeside resortBy William Nangle nwitimes.com
August 29, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The rays of red and yellow danced on Cedar Lake as the sun set Saturday evening.

It was a night with a cool breeze but warm temperature.

Sitting on the patio of The Lighthouse Restaurant and looking over the lake, I couldn't help but think of a time some three decades ago when Cedar Lake was the brunt of jokes and referred to as Cedartucky.

In the 1970s the lake was polluted. I remember seeing soap suds in the lake that came from a Laundromat along the shore. There was talk of the polluted sediment on the lake's bottom that contributed to a ban on swimming. The old-timers even joked of a car on the bottom of the lake.

It was a tough time for a struggling new town, but with leaders like Chuck Kouder and Gerry Kortokrax, the town moved swiftly to clean up the lake and set standards for structures around the lake. Installation of a community sewer system capped off the pollution era.

Today, Cedar Lake is a bustling community with a bright future.

Take a drive on 133rd Street west of downtown. New stores, including a family restaurant and pharmacy, line the street. Strack & Van Til grocers will soon build there. You'll also find a rather new library and the refurbished Hanover Central High School.

The sounds of construction can be heard as a commercial area is being built along what is known as the Cedar Lake-Crown Point road.

A key element in Cedar Lake's coming of age can be traced to Dean White. The Merrillville entrepreneur grew up in south Lake County and spent plenty of time at Cedar Lake.

With investments across the United States and reaching as far away as China, he remembered the days of old at Cedar Lake, deciding he would invest there to help the community.

His first investment came with construction of bright colored condominiums along the lake. It provided a positive image and set the tone for future development.

He then decided -- against his financial advisers' advice -- to build a restaurant on the lakeshore where Tobe's Restaurant once stood. The successful Lighthouse Restaurant is drawing people from near and far. Remodeling and additions to the restaurant have helped keep pace with its customer growth.

As I sat on the patio with my wife, Rita, I couldn't help but marvel at the result of White's investment. What a challenge, but what a payoff.

He, of course, jokingly told me some time ago he built the fine dining restaurant in Cedar Lake so he wouldn't have to go to downtown Chicago for a good steak.

Whatever his motivation, it has been a win win -- for his business interests and for building a positive image of Cedar Lake.

Credit must also go to a wise Town Board under the leadership of Robert Carnahan that has worked with White to advance his and other positive investments.

The town's pioneers who met in a small structure along U.S. 41 during the early years in the 1970s can take pride in knowing their community is on the cusp of great things.

New homes along the south shore of the lake, the potential of passenger rail service from Chicago, a planned Illiana Expressway nearby and talk of a lakeside resort are all signs that progress will continue to reshape Cedar Lake from its namesake of Cedartucky to "the Lake Geneva south of Chicago."

William Nangle is executive editor of The Times. He can be reached at The Times, 601 45th St., Munster, IN 46321 or at bill.nangle@nwi.com.

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