Whiting History

 

Whiting is located in the extreme Northwestern corner of Indiana. Working backwards, the city of Whiting had 5,137 residents at the time of the 2000 census. The median age is 35, with close to 100 residents 85 or older. Whites outnumber blacks 155 to 1. Of the 2,091 households identified, 864 are married couples and 313 are "Female householder, no husband present." Owners occupy 1,132 housing units, renters 959.

Employment has been dominated by industrial jobs, particularly at the East Chicago steel mills of LTV and Mital Steel (formerly Inland), and the BP refinery. None of these companies started out with their current names, and likely they will change again. Corporate consolidation, change, and collapse have played a significant role in shaping the city.

When Amoco, the prior operator of the BP refinery, maintained its corporate research facility in Whiting, the city had the highest concentration of PhDs per capita of any town in the country. When Amoco moved the research facilities to Napierville, Il in the 1970s, Whiting lost that distinction. The former research center now houses various industrial concerns and Calumet College of Saint Joseph.

Entertainment has long followed industry as a significant economic force. The same cheap land, low taxes, and modest regulatory enforcement that made the area attractive to industrial developers helped Whiting become a leisure destination. Hunting and fishing lodges were common into the twentieth century. Music and dance halls as well as horse and auto racing facilities were common through the 1950s. Prostitution and gambling services never rose to the level available in East Chicago. However, with the opening of the Empress Casino in the 1990s (now the Horseshoe Casino), Whiting has as good a gambling venue as any in the Midwest.

Whiting's boundaries are composed of one geographic feature and a plethora of political tensions. Lake Michigan defines the Northern border, with East Chicago to the East and Mid-South. Hammond marks the remainder of the Southern and Western boundaries, and those boundaries are extremely complex.

Starting at the corner of 129th Street and White Oak Ave., the Whiting-Hammond border runs down the middle of White Oak North to 128th Street, then West one block, then North to 127th Street, then East back to White Oak, where it again turns North. At Indianapolis Boulevard, the border shifts Northwest down the middle of the Boulevard until it reaches New York Avenue, where it jogs North again a few dozen feet until it reaches an abandoned railroad right of way, turns West back to the Boulevard until, well, you get the picture. It's complicated and divisive on the municipal level.

The rest of the world defines Whiting as being bounded by Lake Michigan on the North, East Chicago on the East, Hammond on the South, and Chicago, Illinois on the West. Indeed, for two of the most powerful and feared entities on Earth, the United States Postal Service and the Phone Company, those boundaries are Whiting, and any reference to Hammond will be met with denial at best and ridicule at worst.

Hammond also annexed the little communities of Roby and Robertsdale. The Western edge of Whiting is still known as Robertsdale, but only a few people still remember Roby, located at what is now the intersection of Indianapolis Boulevard and Empress Drive. Unofficially, the bridge over the Boulevard is known as the Roby Overpass.

The families that first settled in Whiting did not care much about municipal boundaries. The Eggers, Forsythes, Schrages, Shedds and others were more concerned with deal-making. When Standard Oil of Indiana established its refinery in the area, it wanted a more friendly political partner, and pushed for the establishment of Whiting as an independent entity. Hammond, wisely, would not totally cede its access to the lake, so the complex border emerged.

Prior to being settled in the 1850s, Whiting was mostly swamp and sand, and had been in that state since the glaciers receded around 10,000 years ago. Whiting's defense against the advance of the glaciers has never been acknowledged by the rest of Indiana.

One hundred million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the land. Many liked the area so much that they stayed and have remained active in politics and cultural affairs.

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