The property at this location has an unusual, if not unique, history in the early development of Ogden Dunes. Having been associated with it personally or through family members and relatives for its first 39 years, I am reasonably confident, through written records and my own recollections, that the following account is accurate. Hopefully, it is worth this rather detailed recording.
During the early 1920s, my aunt and her husband, Ethel Sloan and Donald Levi Moody, enjoyed camping and hiking in the sand dunes of this area. At that time these dunes were largely unspoiled and undeveloped, the products of winds and waves, and natural growth. My family had also built a summer cottage at Waverly Beach (now the Indiana Dunes State Park), which was much more populated with summer residents, weekend campers and bathers. We spent summers there from 1920 through 1930.
The Moodys learned of the platting of a new townsite known as Ogden Dunes and, in the fall of 1923, selected a building site at the top of a sand dune or ridge located south and west of the present Hillcrest Road. They contacted Mr. Samuel Reck (Nelson Reck’s father) who was then president of Ogden Dunes, Incorporated, the developer. According to my aunt’s account, Mr. Reck asked the surveyor of the property, Mr. Colin MacKenzie, to set the stakes for a lot at this location on the general plat. Identified as Lot No. #278, the parcel was 50 feet from an undeveloped road (shown at the time as Cedar Trail, now Hillcrest Road) southward over the hill to another undeveloped road called Dogwood Lane.
In the spring of 1924, the Moodys and Mr. Reck completed the transaction; the full price of $500 was paid and Mr. Reck’s signed receipt, dated June 24, 1924, promised, “good and sufficient warranty deed conveying title to said lot #278…within thirty days from this date.”
The Moodys were planning to build a house on this lot, to conform with the restrictions of the new development, to be located at its highest point, approximately 38 feet wide and 30 feet deep. They started immediately by constructing a concrete block partial basement, one-half the planned width of the structure, temporarily roofed for storage of tools and belongings. As there were no roads then, all materials were carried or brought in by horse-drawn wagon. The concrete blocks were formed on location. With help from relatives, my aunt and uncle did most of the work themselves, intending to proceed to completion as time and their resources would permit.
This may well have been the first house started in the newly developed town, although by some accounts the Reck’s house at what is now 4 Cedar Trail was completed by that time. There were, of course, older existing cottages or shacks eastward along the lake shore, and probably a few buildings near the highway at that time. Other houses, started soon afterward, were finished sooner, it should be noted.1 It was not until April of 1925, however, that the Moodys received the deed for a parcel identified as Lot 7, Block E, not Lot 278 for which they had formerly contracted. In spite of the obvious change, they assumed this deed described the same parcel staked out the previous year, upon which they had already started construction. They did not pursue their project at that time, however, and spent the summer of 1925 elsewhere.
The following spring of 1926, according to my aunt’s notes, it was discovered some of their lot stakes had been moved, or new stakes set, to describe a different parcel, in about the same location, about 85 feet in front and 35 feet at the back, which included the partial basement but would not permit construction of the house they had planned. At first Mr. Reck informed them that the new stakes were in error, according to my aunt, but later he refused to recognize the first transaction. Finally, in 1929, Mr. Reck advised the Moodys by letter that they would have to relocate their structure northward, down the slope of their lot, if they wished to gain approval for their house. The Moodys inquired of Mr. MacKenzie’s company, and received a letter acknowledging the “original layout of Ogden Dunes showing lot 278 to be fifty (50) feet wide back and front” at about the same location of Lot 7, Block E. Further attempts to resolve the matter were unsuccessful, however, and the partial basement stood as it was until the fall of 1930.2
Meanwhile the State of Indiana had acquired all of the property at Waverly Beach on which our cottage and others were located. The owners were allowed to remain there for several years but, in 1930, we were told to move or abandon the family’s cottage to make way for further Park development. The Moodys and my family then decided to make one liveable summer home at the Ogden Dunes location, utilizing both the cottage and the basement.
The frame cottage was cut into sections and hauled to Ogden Dunes (Hillcrest had become a road in 1929), where it was placed on the partial basement. It was more than a foot too wide and five feet short, but nevertheless fashioned into a reasonable fit. Windows replaced shutters and wood shingles replaced tarpaper siding.3
Later in the thirties, the basement was developed into rooms, porches and a stone fireplace were added and summer living became much more civilized. Pete Nicholson did the major carpentry and stonework; Charlie Samuelson did the plumbing and electrical work. The upper deck, which ran halfway around the house, had a wide expanse of lake view, as well as the large “blowout” to the east (now Beach Lane), until trees and more houses intervened. The dense ravine to the rear remained unspoiled, as “Dogwood Lane” never became a road.
In 1935, following my uncle Donald Moody’s death, my aunt transferred ownership of the property to my brother, Vernon, and me. Our family continued to spend most of our summers there until 1946, when my wife, Mildred, and I moved in permanently, and jointly acquired ownership. At first we had only a space heater and the fireplace for heat and very few amenities for year-round living. But we soon added a heating system and winterized the house. In 1947 we built a garage at the road, but still had some 30 steps to climb to the house. With a bit of help, we did most of the work ourselves.
In 1952, we added substantial additional space to the first floor to accommodate our larger family, and later a driveway and parking area were constructed. These major additions were built by Clark Woods, while Len Whelpley did the driveway and parking lot. To accomplish all this, we first purchased parcels of land on both sides of Lot 7, with Nelson Reck’s assistance. The larger building site not only met our growing needs, but quietly resolved the old property dispute for ourselves and our successors.
With fond memories and mixed feelings, we sold the property at 16 Hillcrest Road in the spring of 1962, to Hubert and Irene Sedall, about nine months after we had moved to our new home on Cedar Trail. Further changes in physical appearance, and also changes of ownership, have occurred, so that the house scarcely resembles how it looked “way back then.” But we still believe the site selected by my aunt and uncle almost seventy years ago remains one of the choice locations in Ogden Dunes.
1Rereading early histories, notably Joe Thomas’ History of Ogden Dunes, our accounts generally correspond. Although Joe’s contains numerous factual errors, his early history is largely accurate and corresponds with this account.
2We had a copy of the original plat of the 1st Subdivision, but are unable to locate it at present.
3I believe the contractor’s name was Pierson, from Chesterton, who did the cutting, hauling and fitting.
Melvin T. Tracht
[It sure would be nice to have a copy of this earlier layout of Ogden Dunes, featuring lot 278. None of us has ever seen it. All of the material in the County Recorder’s and Surveyor’s offices, even in the Ogden Dunes – Preliminary file, has that land platted as Block E, Lot 7. If any of you has, or ever sees, a map of Ogden Dunes showing the middle portion (not the 3rd Subdivision) with lot numbers in the hundreds, please let us know.]