Crown Point is known as the “Hub of Lake County” due to its centralized location and distinction as the county seat of an area that boasts some municipalities with larger populations.
But it could just as well be known as the “Hub of Friendliness” due to the positive attitude of so many who live, work in or make decisions regarding the town’s direction.
Crown Point Deputy Clerk Donna Benson said she has lived in Crown Point all of her life, and that she has no plans to leave, ever.
Other deputy clerks Miranda Manes, Sarah Blaylock and Betty Babjak all tout the “wonderful people” the city has as residents and all claimed they love their job.
Babjak said the best thing about being a deputy clerk in Crown Point is “or boss” - City Clerk Patti Olson.
Mayor David Uran is also proud to tout the city’s quality of life.
“The city makes great strides in the quality of life for our residents and visitors,” he said during the Crown Point-Merrillville State of the Region address in early March. “We have been ranked as the best place to live in Northwest Indiana and the city with the best downtown.”
The city’s downtown is home to a number of local businesses while serving as a centralized point for residents to support their local community.
“This is a great place to live,” said Wayne Raker, a board member of the Crown Point High School Alumni Association and a Crown Point resident since 1953.
“Crown Point is a tight community that always supports local business and local businesses do a great job in supporting the town,” he added.
Terry Lee, president of the Alumni Association, joked that he supports local business because “they give us the business.”
Lee recommends walking through the historic Crown Point Courthouse and driving through the Lake County Fairgrounds as can’t miss destinations.
Camille’s Antiques is one of five or so antique shops downtown, a large number for a town of Crown Point’s size.
“This town is charming and historical, and that’s why so many antique shops have survived here - through the historical aspect of the town,” said shop owner Camille Cruz. “Big festivals are also a great way to draw people,” she added, noting that the Taste of Crown Point, usually held in July, is her favorite.
One does not have to wait until July, though, to get a “taste of Crown Point.” The city offers a wide-variety of highly reviewed restaurants. Fahrenheit 212, Station 21, Prime Steakhouse and Safe House are just some of the favorites locals and visitors like to take in a good meal.
Raker says “they are all good, but Fahrenheit 212 is my favorite.”
“Crown Point is a great town for us,” said Fahrenheit 212 owner Steve Kirincic. “With the historic downtown and the variety of personally owned small businesses, a restaurant like Fahrenheit is a perfect fit. As an owner, I have made it a priority to participate as much as I can in the great events Crown Point has to offer. I've done cooking demos at the Farmer’s Market and we have a booth in the Taste of Crown Point festival (where we have won for best BBQ). We hope to be part of Crown Point for many years to come.”
But you don’t have to get the traditional sit-down restaurant experience. “The Hot Dog Guy” (Mike Adams) is often seen at either the southeast corner of Joliet and East streets or the southeast corner of the square wearing a hot dog hat that was intended as a gag gift to him from his sister when he opened his first cart downtown five years ago.
“I put in on.....and within the hour people were honking their horn, kids were rolling their window down laughing and giving me the thumbs up, people were taking my picture, and I thought maybe my sister is on to something here,” Adams said. “Ever since I have been known as 'The Hot Dog Guy.”
Adams said there are so many things he loves about Crown Point, and indicated that the “really awesome” people, the friendliness of everyone who comes by his cart and the support of Mayor Uran are three of the city’s best features.
“The Mayor is such a small business supporter, that it really shows in his bi-weekly stops to see how everything is going to most of his staffs support as well,” Adams said. “He told me a couple of years ago that I was a great ambassador to the city. This kind of support is really important to a small guy like me.”
A true assessment of the town would not be complete, however, without mentioning the success of the school corporation and how “Bulldog Pride” runs rampant throughout the community year-round.
Dr. Teresa Eineman, superintendent of Crown Point Schools, shared the corporation’s commitment to every student during the 2014 State of the Region address.
“We currently have a 98 percent graduation rate, and we will reach 100 percent,” she said. “We are committed to the success of every student in the corporation.”
The pride of the successful school corporation is not lost on the students, either.
“The teachers here are very good,” said Mason Sparr, a senior at Crown Point High School. “They all help us study easier and find ways to work smarter and not necessarily harder.”
At the state of the region address, Eineman stressed the importance of participation, and how it correlates to success in the classroom.
“The more students participate in clubs, the better chance they have to perform well in school,” she said. “Our goal is to have 100 percent of our students active in some sort of high-performing activity.”
Performing in extra-curricular activities has made Crown Point a household name, namely when it comes to wrestling, a sport in which Crown Point has surfaced as one of the most dominant powerhouses in the state. The varsity team recently won the IHSAA state championship in 2009 and then finished as the state runner-up in 2012.
Other Crown Point athletic teams have also had success as of late, including the boys soccer team, which has won the state championship in two of the last three seasons, the latest one under Head Coach Mike Bazin.
Sparr is one of those already involved with after-school activities, as he has volunteered as a member of the FCCLA club, a group compiling community service hours through volunteering at food banks and other community-minded events and projects.
“A lof of my friends were doing it, so I decided to join too,” he said.
A modern high school with a large, open surrounding area has provided Crown Point with top of the line academic possibilities and a sports complex with a thoroughfare named “Bulldog Drive” has helped instill Bulldog pride in the community.
It seems wherever one looks in Crown Point, there will be some reference to “Bulldog Nation,” “Bulldog Country” or a statue of the school’s mascot. Memory Keepers, a local business downtown that specializes in personalized gifts, plaques and awards, is the source of many of the Crown Point High School gear residents wear as often as possible.
“Lets just say I like to support the High School,” said store owner Marge Brauer as she pointed at a room full of CPHS memorabilia at the back of her store she calls “The Cage.”
“We do have a large selection of Bulldog gear that is quite popular,” she said. “I think what we do here adds to the great hometown atmosphere and positive attitude of everyone in town.”
“The Cage” has T-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, licence plate holders and stickers donning the Bulldogs’ logo and/or mascot. Another section of “The Cage” is called ‘Crown Point Memorabilia,’ where customers can purchase gifts related to the city outside of the high school with many courthouse related gifts available.
When asked what she likes the most about the town she has done business in for more than a decade, Brauer said “the quaintness of the square.” But while quaint and offering the small town friendliness Crown Point residents are proud of, the downtown square features an active local, small business in almost every door on Clark, Court, Joliet and Main streets.
“And more businesses are waiting in line to get here,” Lake County Sheriff’s Department Officer David Eichelberger pointed out while purchasing a customized license plate from Memory Keepers. “Marge (Brauer) is a great lady to come visit and get what you need. She does custom photo work for my squad car and it always looks good. Her willingness to accommodate is fantastic.”
Right around the corner from Memory Keepers is Sip Coffee House, 9 North Court St., a laid-back, perfect place to relax, read or give back to the community by participating in the “Suspended Coffee” program.
Kim Raines works at the coffee shop and is the sister of owner Rhonda Bloch. Raines says once in a while customers will order two coffees, “one for me and one suspended.”
The suspended coffees that have already been paid for accumulate and once in a while shop owners will hand them out to someone on the square who looks like they could use a cup of coffee.
“I know we are one of the first coffee shops in Indiana to be part of the Suspended Coffees, pay it forward initiative,” Raines said. “It is a nice gesture our loyal customers take part in. Good deeds like these happen more often than one would think.”
After taking a look at the local shops on the square, it isn’t too far of a trek to see some of the other more famous sites in Crown Point.
In addition to the historic courthouse in the middle of the square, the downtown area boasts a number of restaurants including the popular “Crown Brewing” company and plenty of history to offer. Located just southeast of the square is the former Lake County Sheriff’s House and Jail, the site where John Dillinger escaped in 1934. It has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Sunnyside Historic Residential District is also within walking distance of the square and features old homes that are gems architecturally.
Matt Metros, a member of the Crown Point Street Department, was born and raised in Crown Point and has a unique perspective on the town. His father, Jim Metros, served as Mayor of the town while he was growing up.
“I’ve grown up with the city and love it,” said Matt, who has also worked for the city’s Public Works and Park departments.
He remembers the filming of “Public Enemies,” the movie dedicated to the Dillinger escape, taking place in Crown Point.
“A little known fact is that the Sheriff who was here at the time of the escape actually lived to be 109. I was alive when she died,” he said.
The city’s “architectural integrity” and “easy-going attitude” are also reasons to love Crown Point, Metros said.
“Everyone we work for and with are great people,” he said. “Just look at a beautiful day like today, looking up at the Courthouse alone. It is awesome not only to live here, but even better to work here. This provides a great family environment and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.”
Deep River Water Park, 9001 W. Lincoln Hwy.
The Grand Old Lady, County Courthouse - Center of Downtown Square
Lake County Fairgrounds
The Letz House, 457 South Court Street
The Sheriff’s House, 232 S. Main St.
Old Town Square Antique Mall, 103 West Joliet Street
Fahrenheit 212, 10805 Broadway Ave. Ranked No. 1 on tripadvisor.com. Reviewer from Chicago says: “This place is just too WONDERFUL and UNIQUE for words!!! The menu if so varied and TASTEFUL BEYOND words. The staff is as good as the dining choices. My wife and I love to travel the U.S.A. by car, finding many interesting places to enjoy a good meal. I felt the BEST GUMBO came from New Orleans, that is until I tried Fahrenheit 212’s.”
Prime Steakhouse, 109 W. Joliet St.
Station 21, 201 N. Main St.
Crown Brewing, 211 S. East St.
Stephano’s Pizzeria, 10703 Randolph St.
Main Street Cafe, 111 Main St.
Three Monkeys Pub, 21 West 112th Street
Lincoln’s Carry Outs, 1203 N. Main St.
Crown Point High School, 1500 S. Main St.
St. Mary’s School, 405 E. Joliet St.
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran School, 250 S. Indiana Ave.
Robert Taft Middle School, 1000 S. Main St.
Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary School, 1450 S. Main St.
Eagle Park Community School, 2150 W. 97th Pl.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Carnegie Center is the site of the former Crown Point Public Library, which opened in 1908 thanks to a $12,000 construction donation from Andrew Carnegie as long as the community would continue with yearly contribution for the building’s maintenance. The building still stands today and continues to serve the Crown Point community.
The Crown Point City Council has seven members, with five being elected from wards and two being elected at-large.
See Crown Point Celebrate St. Patrick's Day!