Dune Acres was incorporated as a town in 1923 with a population of sixteen people living in five homes. At about the same time, the Dunes Highway (now US12) was being completed between Gary and Michigan City. The property on which the Town of Dune Acres was developed was originally privately held by Dune Acres, Incorporated, a real estate corporation, formed in April 1923. The incorporators were William A. Wirt, Superintendent of the Gary Public Schools; Colonel Arthur P. Melton, planner of the City of Gary from its inception in 1906; Harry Hall, a realtor; C.R.Kuss, a banker; and C.V. Ridgely, an attorney-- all of Gary, Indiana. Their purpose was to develop an upscale community in the Indiana Dunes on the shores of Lake Michigan akin to those on Chicago's North Shore.
Initial prospective residents in Dune Acres purchased a lease for their land from Dune Acres, Incorporated. Subsequent residents purchasing homes in Dune Acres purchased only the improvements from the private owner. They then made application for the assignment of the land lease for the underlying land with Dune Acres, Incorporated. Each homeowner had the right to purchase a fee simple title to the land itself, when all leases expired in 2022, for a nominal sum. This leasehold practice was discontinued in 1998 when Dune Acres, Incorporated was dissolved, and all leaseholders received a deed to their property.
The initial step of the developers was to lay out Dune Acres' first subdivision, which included about 175 acres of the then 587 acres in the Town. Since then, ten additional subdivisions have been recorded. The roads, the Clubhouse park, and most of the beach were deeded by the real estate corporation to the Town as parkland.
Prior to World War II, Dune Acres' growth was brisk. It was during this time that many of the Town's classic log cabins were built. At the center of early town life was: a Guesthouse, a small hotel that had twelve guestrooms (it was subsequently torn down, leaving only its foundation); the Clubhouse, whose dining room served the community; a nine-hole Golf Course, which was returned back to parkland during the depression years; and a marina-like harbor at East Beach, which was destroyed by storms in 1927.
As a result of the Depression and then World War II, the Town's direction changed. Its growth slowed, and it did not become the grand suburb that was envisioned by Mr. Wirt. Rather, it remained more like a summer colony with few year-round residents. Many people became acquainted with Dune Acres through vacations spent in the guesthouse. Some afterwards became full or part-time residents of the Town.
After World War II, however, Dune Acres began its move from a summer designation to a year-round community. During the 1950s and 1960s, homes by such noted architects as Keck & Keck, Perkins and Will, Crombie Taylor and Richard Neutra were built. By the 1980s, it was a well-established municipality. Today, Dune Acres is a quiet residential community of about 165 homes, that has managed to retain its "summer resort" feel. The Town zoning code permits only single family residences, Town parkland, and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore land, with the exception of a portion at the far southwest corner of the Town that is zoned for industrial and commercial use.
Once past the security office at the only entrance into Town, our mixture of full-time and weekend residents continue to enjoy the clubhouse, tennis courts, beaches and many other amenities. From the beginning, the Town has made generous provisions for Town parkland. The original land set aside for parks was later increased.
In 1951-52 there were 150 acres fronting on Mineral Springs Road, which were owned by a Chicago realtor who planned to build a congested residential development. A citizens committee of the Town raised $40,000 from contributions by property owners to purchase the land. Soon afterward 48 additional acres along the same road were purchased with the proceeds from the sale of about 19 acres of the original purchase. All of the newly acquired land was given to the Town as park and thus the entrance to the town was preserved in its natural state. In 1954 the children's playground, two tennis courts and a ball playing area were provided, again through voluntary contributions. These facilities have been expanded and improved through the years.
As a result of considerable effort by Illinois Senator (and part-time Dune Acres resident) Paul H. Douglas, in 1966 the United States Government established the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as a unit of the National Park system. The Legislation authorized the areas surrounding the presently-developed part of Dune Acres as land to be acquired in the future and be made part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. While limiting further expansion of Dune Acres town limits, the Legislation has enabled Dune Acres residents to enjoy the benefits of Lake Michigan and open space surrounding the Town. Much of the privately owned property in the vicinity of the Town, including several hundred acres within the corporate limits of the Town, has been acquired by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. As long as the congressional policy not to purchase lands owned by other political units, such as municipalities, remains in effect, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore cannot purchase Town parkland, nor most of the beach.
The Dune Acres Historical Committee maintains the Dune Acres archives, which include pertinent news clippings, photos, audio and video tapes of residents interviewed on noteworthy Dune Acres events, correspondence on issues the Town has faced since 1922, and books by past and present Dune Acres authors. Click here to view some of the historical documents.
Arrangements to view additional historical documents may be made through a member of the Historical Committee.