In the decades between 1890 and 1940, Cedar Lake, Indiana, was a popular resort town frequented by Chicagoans looking for a weekend getaway. The town had everything folks from the Windy City wanted – a nice beach, clear waters, leisure activities, and nighttime entertainment. Plus, it was just a short train ride away. There were even rumors during the Prohibition years that the town was a good place to get a stiff drink.
The town of Cedar Lake was founded in the mid-1800s. It wasn’t until the Monon Railroad was extended to Cedar Lake in 1882 that tourists began to visit the area. Many locals, including Christian Lassen, saw an opportunity to capitalize on this demand. At one time, 47 hotels operated in Cedar Lake.
Lassen was born in Chicago to immigrant parents in 1875. The family later moved to Cedar Lake, where he found work in the steamboat livery business. Around 1903, Lassen opened a dance pavilion that attracted quite a crowd. In 1919, he made the bold decision to expand his offerings.
Lassen purchased a boarding house from Philip Armour, a meat packer from Chicago who had formerly operated an ice harvesting business on Cedar Lake. That winter, Lassen attached runners to the bottom of the boarding house and slid it across the large lake to its new home on the lake’s east side.
Lassen spent the next year renovating the structure. Supposedly, project costs were close to $100,000. On Saturday, May 7, 1921, Lassen’s Pavilion opened to great fanfare. The building included a 74-room hotel, each with its own private bath, a fish and chicken waterfront restaurant, and a dance pavilion. The resort also offered live music, boating, and fishing expeditions. The grand opening celebration featured a performance by the Ted Lewis Orchestra, one of Chicago’s most famous jazz bands.
The Lassen Pavilion operated seasonally until shortly after World War II. By then, Cedar Lake had fallen out of favor as a weekend getaway spot. Lassen sold the building to the Lake Region Christian Assembly for use as a church camp. He moved to Florida in 1950 and died there in 1955.
The town of Cedar Lake later purchased the 20-acre property, including Lassen Pavilion. The building was scheduled for demolition when a group of concerned citizens formed the Cedar Lake Historical Association to save it. The group restored the old resort, turning it into a historical museum. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
Today, the Lake of the Red Cedars Historical Museum tells the story of the once-famous resort town. Visitors can learn about Cedar Lake’s unique history while enjoying a tour of the restored hotel and restaurant. The museum is open on weekends from May to September.