Museum at Lassen’s Resort gets spruced up for summer kickoff

The setting sun basked Lassen’s Resort in Cedar Lake in a warm glow Friday as the Cedar Lake Historical Association marked the 103rd anniversary of the grand opening of the resort and kicked off its summer museum season.

It was an opportunity for Julie Zasada, executive director, to update supporters on the status of ongoing maintenance and restoration of the resort, grant awards and the latest new developments, including the addition of a new kitchen and Chef Erik Allyn Hinds.

“As I alluded earlier, our success here at Lassen’s is all about finding the right people and placing them in the right role…,” Zasada said.

Since the annual celebration began three years ago, the museum has been rebranded, The Story of Cedar Lake exhibit gallery opened and the Dewey Line cruise experiences were created.

Part of the building was constructed on the opposite shore of the lake in the 1890s, and it was originally used as lodging for the Armour Brothers meatpacking operation while their crews harvested ice from Cedar Lake.

The structure was purchased by the Lassen brothers who turned it into a summer resort, with amenities like a dance hall and water slide, and eventually moved it across the lake in 1919, where it presently stands. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

In bringing Hinds on board, the museum will be able to explore the region’s cultural history through food.

Hinds prepared Lassen’s signature sparkling lemonade and white chocolate, lavender, sea salt popcorn for guests. The resort can accommodate groups of up to 75 in its meeting area for catered events.

Zasada said the CLHA was awarded two grants this year from Indiana Humanities including an Action Grant, that will support two culinary anthropology programs and the development of a new exhibit which will center on Potawatomi food traditions.

The INcommon grant will fund several programs to further celebrate Potowatami heritage such as land acknowledgment, book groups and a guest speaker.

The grants follow two awards in 2023, including a $6,000 grant from the Crown Point Community Foundation and a $45,000 Heritage Support Grant from the Indiana Historical Society funded by the Lilly Endowment and contributions from Bethel Church that helped fund the kitchen addition.

“Our girl has been getting dolled up for her birthday this year,” Zasada said.

Smooth Finish Painting was contracted to repaint the entire museum in 2023, shingle and gutter repairs were made, 16 window frames have been rebuilt and both screen doors are under repair and being returned to their original stain.

“I’ve lost count of how many window sashes have been repaired and reglazed,” Zasada said.

More than 5,000 volunteer hours were recorded in 2023, which represents an investment of $160,000 into the organization.

Julie Woodbury of Cedar Lake and Jeff Angeloti of Crete, Illinois, said they had never been to the Museum at Lassen’s Resort before Friday and were surprised to learn of the town’s unique history. They were visiting the exhibits and headed upstairs to see the boutique hotel concept room CLHA hopes to one day bring to fruition.

“I’ve lived in town since 1990. I’ve never been in here. It’s my first time ever. It’s gorgeous,” Woodbury said.

“It’s nice to see people preserving something from the past,” Angeloti said, adding a lot of people would just tear something like the resort down, the fate that befell the approximately 50 resorts that once dotted the Cedar Lake’s shoreline.

Cedar Lake residents Beatrix Kostikov, 13, and her mom Jessica Renwald were with their family exploring the exhibits and kitchen renovations. They were upstairs checking out the boutique honeymoon suite, a suite-style corner room with a view of the lake. Renwald said the family has been to the museum before and worked as volunteers.

“I really like looking at all the antiques. I’m learning a lot about Cedar Lake history I didn’t know before,’ Kostikov said.

The event was also an opportunity to honor long time Cedar Lake resident and board member and long-time museum and historical association volunteer LouAnn Miller with the with the 2024 Beatrice Horner Cultural Award.

“LouAnn thinks that she is here tonight to announce the 2024 Beatrice Horner Cultural Award,” Zasada said before Jennifer Russell, board president stepped in to present her with the honor.

“Let me tell you — we had to pull a fast one in order to surprise LouAnn tonight because she knows every detail about what we do behind the scenes here at Lassen’s,” Russell said.

Miller said when she was young, visiting her aunt’s cottage, she always thought it would be so neat to live in Cedar Lake.

“I love this. I love Cedar Lake. I’m living my dream,” she said.