LAPORTE COUNTY | The Rumely Co. and Allis Chalmers are long gone, but their legacies in agriculture could be given new life.
LaPorte area officials are moving forward on plans to build a museum dedicated to the former agricultural giants.
A 12,000-square-foot building is planned next to the LaPorte County fairgrounds, a location many feel is a good match for such a museum, given the increase in major events like tractor and monster truck shows being booked there.
"We really feel we need this museum," said Ken Baker, a member of the Rumely/Allis Chalmers LaPorte Heritage Corp., a nonprofit group formed three years after the idea for a museum was conceived.
Baker asked the LaPorte Commissioners Tuesday to donate land for the museum.
The commissioners did not give any land away, but voted to move forward on the proposal with the stipulation that if land is donated, the museum would be up and running within five years.
If not, the land would be given back to the county.
Rumely Co., based in LaPorte, was recognized as a worldwide leader in manufacturing heavy machinery, including tractors and other farm equipment, starting in the late 1800s.
The company later became Allis Chalmers, whose plant in LaPorte produced a wide variety farm implements until shutting down in the early 1980s.
Baker said many of the museum pieces would come from descendants of the Rumely family eager to donate a lot of equipment such as an early 1900s Rumely tractor standing about 11 feet tall.
"We're not actually starting from scratch," Baker said.
Once the museum is erected, Baker said plans include an expansion to create office space and possibly a shop to refurbish Rumely and Allis Chalmers tractors and other machinery.
The hope is to have thrashing demonstrations and other activities so "we are not just baby-sitting antiques," Baker said.
The two sites being looked at for the museum are just east of the main entranceway and on the southwest border of the fairgrounds.
Baker said money from admission fees would be set aside to fund the operations.
LaPorte County Commissioner Ken Layton said no money has been sought from the county to help pay for the construction.
He said the museum would be beneficial in terms of being a major draw.
"I think it's a win-win situation," Layton said.
Baker said the time to build it is now.
Former Rumely Co. workers are gone, but many former Allis Chalmers employees are still around, and their memories of the company can be tapped to properly set up the museum.
"We're probably the last generation that's going to be able to do something like this," Baker said.