MICHIGAN CITY — Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train stopped in Michigan City on its way to Springfield, Illinois, where the nation’s 16th president was laid to rest.
Now, the potential for condominiums to go up at a historic waterfront site in the city has community leaders banding together to see what can be done to save the old Amtrak train depot.
The depot, built in 1915, replaced the one that stood along the tracks when the train carrying Lincoln's casket passed through the area in 1865.
A group of community members and businessmen want to explore the possibility of preserving the structure for use as a train station and eventually restaurants.
"The small committee that has gathered to begin the discussion about what can be done with the building feels it is a significant enough part of Michigan City history to at least pursue all options,” said Katie Eaton, president of the Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce.
Anyone willing to invest time and money into moving and preserving the empty structure can reach out to the chamber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
La Porte County historian Fern Eddy Schultz said the current depot went up after the original one burned in 1914.
The depot was home to Swingbelly’s restaurant from 1984 to 2014.
Currently, it houses a restaurant called Arcadia.
She believes the historic value of the site is without question, but the historic value of the building could be argued because it came a half century after Lincoln’s corpse passed through.
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"I’m not real sure that anybody really would care about it enough to go to the cost of relocating it and taking care of it,’’ she said.
If the building is relocated, she said the historical marker telling about the Lincoln funeral train erected in 2010 should follow it.
Presently, the marker is outside City Hall just south of where the funeral train stopped.
According to history, the train after Lincoln’s funeral in Washington, D.C., stopped at various places along the way for people to pay their respects.
Mourners illuminated from bonfires and torches were along the rails as the train passed from Indianapolis to Michigan City.
The proposed development, Washington Landing Condominiums, consists of a five-story building with about 50 condominiums.
City Planner Craig Phillips said the city has been working with the development group for about a year.
He said no deal has been struck but help with financing of the project could be sought from the city’s redevelopment commission and city council as soon as sometime in July.
"Right now, we’re going back and forth about different ways to get that project done and we’re not there yet,’’ Phillips said.