Lake Maxinkuckee Its Intrigue History & Genealogy Culver, Marshall, Indiana

ONE-TANK TRIP: Lake Mxinkuckee  

ONE-TANK TRIP: Lake Mxinkuckee is a beautiful, hidden destination
Northwest Indiana Times Correspondent Sep 27, 2003

Generations of visitors have been captivated by the spell of Lake Maxinkuckee, Indiana's second largest natural lake -- a lake so deep that pioneers wondered if it was bottomless. The lake provided a setting a newspaper a century ago called "The Newport of Indiana." Maxinkuckee's magic inspired poets and songwriters, who turned out tunes like "Maxinkuckee Moon." The magic is still evident in the town of Culver, the adjacent Culver Academies, the community that lines the shore and the lake itself, where most of the fish species found early in the 20th century are still being caught.

Today's visitors are attracted by the beach at the Culver Town Park, boating and fishing as well as activities, which include riding sports and rowing, at the Culver Academies.

Some of the finest restaurants in northern Indiana bring people to Culver even in the winter, especially the Edgewater, opposite the town park, and the Corndance Cafe in the historic downtown, which is listed on the National Register. The owners of the Corndance Cafe recently opened a seafood restaurant called the Fish Barn.

Also popular with visitors are shops that specialize in quality gifts, handicrafts, Culver prints, Culver and Maxinkuckee clothing, baskets, antiques and even collectible bears.

It was in the 1800s that the aquatic gem midway between South Bend and Kokomo grew into a fashionable resort. cottages , camps, lodges and assembly grounds dotted the shoreline. One of the latter in 1894 became the Culver Military Academy, and the little town of Marmont took the name of Culver City, for Henry Harrison Culver, the school's founder.

When the Vandalia Railroad came through in the 1880s, visitors increased, and most arrived by train. Trains discharged passengers at the railroad's own park on the North Shore. Hotels sprang up nearby.

Steamboats, carrying crowds of sightseers to such locations as the Maxinkuckee Landing, plied the lake. Passengers would visit the town of Maxinkuckee, where the Allegheny House accepted guests. The visitors included a succession of literary greats. Gen. Lew Wallace is said to have written two chapters of "Ben Hur" at the Allegheny House. Booth Tarkington is believed to have put the finishing touches to "The Gentleman From Indiana" there. The old hostelry is still standing and marked by a plaque, although it now is a private residence.

Meredith Nicholson's "The House of a Thousand Candles" was set on the East Shore with the inclusion of a private school bearing a likeness to the Culver Military Academy.

Cole Porter, originally from Peru, spent summers on the lake, where he entertained cruise guests by playing the piano. One writer suggested Porter's uniquely accented phrasing and powerful punch were influenced by the rhythms of the engine. James Whitcomb Riley, perhaps the most distinguished poet to do so, celebrated the lake in verse.

The railroad is gone, but the old railroad park was saved as the nucleus for the 3.2-acre Culver Town Park on the North Shore. The Culver Lions Club transformed the station into a community center. The East Shore still attracts the wealthy, although the social whirl of a century ago no longer exists, but some traditions remain.

Culver LakeFest recalls the grand days on the lake every July. A young woman from the Culver area is crowned Miss Maxinkuckee each year. A week after LakeFest is the annual Corn Roast. When the moon is full in the month of July, the Culver Naval Academy Band provides a Moonlight Serenade from aboard the Ledbetter, a three-masted sailing vessel.

Most people who bring boats to the lake enter the water at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources' public access site on the West Shore.

Those without boats often prefer the Culver Town Park, where approximately 30,000 swimmers enjoy the beach every summer. The park also rents boat slips. Ice fishing and skating extend the enjoyment into winter.

Sunday parades, during spring and fall, are an impressive sight at the Culver Academies, where students of the Culver Girls Academy now attend classes with the cadets of the Culver Military Academy. Culver Military Academy units include smartly dressed cadets in infantry, artillery, band and the always-popular Black Horse Troop. Similar reviews are held in conjunction with the Academy's Summer School. Other events open to the public include concerts and cultural attractions as well as sports one does not often encounter in Indiana.

These are times when the Newports of this world are relegated to an age that lives only in fading memories and history books. Yet, Indiana's "Newport" on the shore of Lake Maxinkuckee remains an idyllic place for those who visit, whether they choose the elegant accommodations now available or tow their own boats to the water's edge for a day of fishing.

WHAT TO BRING: Come prepared for the activities that appeal to you. A bathing suit, a boat or canoe, and casual, comfortable clothes are appropriate. If you plan to swim, you should wear some kind of footwear to protect your feet f rom cuts, as zebra mussels have found their way into the lake.

IF YOU GO: The Culver Town Park, with its beach, is open to the public. There is a charge for parking of $2 per car on weekends and holidays, and an additional charge of $1 for children aged 4 to 12 and $1.75 for persons aged 13 and older for use of the beach and access to the Beach Lodge.

Picnic tables can be found throughout the park as well as two shelters that were part of a former railroad station. The Railroad Station is available to rent for events like reunions and wedding receptions. (Contact Clara Hansen at Hansen's Restaurant and Sport Shop across the street.) LakeFest is the third weekend in July and the Corn Roast on the Saturday of the following week.

There are three golf courses east and south of the lake, including the Pete Dye-designed Mystic Hills, which is open to the public with fees starting at $20 on Mondays, including cart. The fee on other days costs more.


More information about Culver and Lake Maxinkuckee can be obtained by calling the Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau going to the Web site at blueberry country. org. For information about events at the Culver Academies, or go to the Web site culver. org. To make reservations for accommodations at the lakeside Culver Cove downtown. HOW TO GET THERE:

If you are not familiar with the area, the best route might be going east on U.S. 30 to Ind. 23 and then south to Ind. 10. Then drive east until you reach the stone sign at the north entrance of town and turn right onto Lakeshore Drive, which leads to the town park and downtown.

WHAT'S THERE: Lake Maxinkuckee is a beautiful natural lake, and the Culver Academies is an outstanding private educational institution, including Culver Military Academy, one of the nation's best-known military schools, and the newer Culver Girls Academy.

YOU'LL LIKE: One of the highlights of Culver's historic downtown is the restored library, the last Carnegie library in Marshall County. It includes a dramatic but somewhat controversial contemporary addition.

You also will enjoy the shops along Main Street.

THE KIDS WILL LIKE: The lake delights most youngsters. The town park also has ample playground equipment and basketball courts.

AND DON'T MISS: The campus of the Culver Academies includes buildings, both old and new, that are outstanding examples of educational architecture. Culver Memorial Chapel, the Huffington Library and the recently completed Math and Science Building are among the highlights.