By Tim Bean
Almost a century ago, the Hoosier Slide, Indiana’s most famous landmark, disappeared by the shovelful to be melted down for glass. Today, we only have postcards, photos, written accounts, and Mason jars with a distinctive blue tint.
The Hoosier Slide stood 200 feet tall, easily dwarfing the other sand dunes between Lake Michigan and the budding Michigan City. Originally covered in clumped grass and scrub trees, locals used the massive dune as a grazing area for livestock.
As Michigan City grew and residents removed the trees on the Hoosier Slide, they revealed the gently-sculpted giant sand dune beneath, visible from miles around.
Soon Hoosiers from across northern Indiana to started climbing the dune for the breathtaking view at its crest: the edges of Michigan City, the churning waters of Lake Michigan and the booming industry all along its shore.
But the best part was going DOWN the Hoosier Slide (hence the name). Shallow enough to prevent injury, but steep enough to scoot down, the Hoosier Slide gave amateur daredevils a (safe) thrill.
By 1900, the Hoosier Slide had become a bustling recreational destination, and Indiana’s most popular landmark. Almost every postcard from the Dunes from 1895-1909 featured the hulking mound. During storms or windy days, which were frequent along Lake Michigan, nearby buildings would be covered in sand from the Hoosier Slide.
Soon, resourceful locals began melting the sand into glass and discovered that not only was the Hoosier Slide’s sand of high quality, but it provided a distinctive blue color to glass jars.
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These blue jars would become one of the most popular and practical glassware manufactured by Muncie’s Ball Corporation. The tinted glass wasn’t just aesthetically pleasing; the addition of color blocked some sunlight from entering the jar, extending the life of its contents. The glassware became so popular that the color became known as “Ball Blue”.
Enterprising city folk soon took advantage and competed with each other to take out wheelbarrows full of sand. For twenty cents a ton, Ball and other glass companies purchased the fine sand of the Hoosier Slide, removing hundreds of tons each day. Wheelbarrows gave way to steam shovels and railcars, and the Hoosier Slide’s days as a recreational destination ended. Each day, the dune became smaller and smaller.
By 1920, the Hoosier Slide was nothing more than an expanse of flat sandy soil and a memory.
The highest point at the Indiana Dunes is now Mount Baldy, which stands a still-impressive 126 feet above the waterline, but can’t be climbed without permission. In the 1920s, NiSource/Nipsco purchased the former site of the Hoosier Slide…and turned it into a coal-powered generating station.
And that’s all that remains.
*If you’d like to learn more about the Hoosier Slide, here’s a slideshow of images depicting the majestic sand dune, including a view from its crest.