Farewell, Dear Friend

Mother. Teacher. Wife. Bookstore owner. Grandmother. Genealogist. Great Grandmother. Historian. Friend.

Maxine Hess was all these things and more during her long life, but today we write about Maxine as Historian and Friend.

Maxine was a contributing member of the Griffith Historical Society for more than 30 years and served many terms on our Board of Directors. She worked with us in maintaining the Grand Trunk Depot Museum, creating and growing our Griffith Historical Park, and establishing our Griffith History Rooms at Franklin Center.

There wasn’t an event or activity that Maxine didn’t volunteer for, among them working the Historical Society booth at our annual Railroad Fair for 19 years; scheduling elves for our Santa in the Caboose every Christmas and working the event; helping set up our historical rooms at Franklin Center; and starting a veterans registry that we will continue in her name.

Maxine’s legacy will live on with The Hess Express, the barrel train for children she was instrumental in our acquiring and which was named for her. The train not only is a source of income for our Society, but also provides fun times for so many children each year.

Over the years so many Griffith Historical Society members have become Life Members, like Maxine and her late husband, Jay, were. But more than that, our working together to preserve our town’s history resulted in life-long friendships, as well.

So, today, we say goodbye to our friend, Maxine. She will not be forgotten.

About Our Summer Activities…

These are unusual times — indeed there’s been no time like it since the 1918 worldwide Spanish Flu pandemic killed millions of people. (You know we’d have to get a little history in this article somewhere!) But times are dire now, and they call for unusual measures. No one knows when life will get back to normal, so for now, we cannot make any plans for the summer. Check this website in the coming weeks for news about any activities that might be coming up. And please do everything you can to stay safe and well.

Griffith Historical Society hosted its first Calumet Outdoors Tour


On November 16th, we hosted a Calumet Outdoor Series Tour, which came from a contact at the Field Museum.

Mario Longoni, Urban Anthropology Manager at The Field Museum, is the Calumet Outdoor Coordinator and is working to unite the Northwest Indiana historical societies to help preserve, promote and expand their combined resources and assets for the mutual benefit of the residents and enthusiasts of regional history.

The plan is for these different area historical societies to meet every three months to learn more about each other,  sharing each other’s history and local stories and how they operate within their communities. In addition, the Outdoor Series will be creating a traveling relic tour to offer additional opportunities to provide further education on the history and what makes each of the areas unique.

Considering this was our first time ever hosting something like this, it was a great turn-out. The twenty-four people who attended could not say enough great things about how beautiful Griffith is, and how supported we were with help from the community for our event. The Griffith Fire Department came out and grilled hot dogs, with proceeds going to the Historical Society, and the Griffith Girl Scout troop 15476 provided complimentary hot chocolate for visitors.

Even our signature Santa in a Caboose made an early stop to be available for the kids and a member of our Town Council played a major role in this event.

These visitors from the Calumet and Chicagoland  areas toured our Griffith Historical Park with its Depot Museum, Railroad Cars and Watch Tower. Inside the depot and railroad cars they were treated to a verbal and visual historical display of our town’s origins and railroading heritage presented by Karen Kulinski, our museum curator. 

The group was also able to visit our Franklin Center Museum with its artifacts and displays of our town’s history, and stop for lunch or refreshments in town before going back home.

Developed from an interview with Toni Rickert, Vice President, and Karen Kulinski, Secretary and Museum Curator, of the Griffith Historical Society.

Downtown Griffith Lantern Tour


Lantern light lends an old-time aura to the town’s first postmaster’s house as walkers stop to listen to some old-time Griffith history told by Peter Ghrist, who led the tour, but is off camera. 

The Griffith Lantern Tours were Officer Ghrist’s idea as a fun way to let people know about the early days of their town and, hopefully, to raise the profile of the Griffith Historical Society, as well. 

The tour features old-time photos blown up so walkers standing in front of a current structure can see what once stood there. We are grateful to Walgreens, 407 W. Glen Park, Griffith, for sponsoring the event. 

The tours ran every week from early September through early October. Plans are to continue the tours in the spring.

New Historical Society Events!

Open House at our Franklin Center Museum, followed by our first Historical Walking Tour.

September 11th – 6 pm

Join us as we tour Broad Street’s 100 N and 100 S blocks to learn about some old-time businesses, the railroads and early Griffith citizens. This is a first for us, but a couple more tours are planned in coming weeks.

The Hess Express is running at the Fall Harvest Craft Festival in Central Park.

September 28-29 – 10 to 5 pm, weather permitting.

The Hess Express is running at Griffith’s Octoberfest in Central Park.

October 4, 5 & 6 – weather permitting. Friday – 4 pm to dusk; Saturday and Sunday – 1 pm to dusk.

A new Fun Fall event coming in late October. More details coming soon.

December – Santa dates To Be Announced in November.

The Hess Express Returns!


If it’s late spring, it must be time for The Hess Express barrel train to start running at Central Market!

Central Market begins on May 10th, and our train will be there then, and every week until September, weather permitting. Rides cost only $2.

So bring the kids and grandkids to ride the train, and maybe buy a few Super 7 Raffle tickets, too!

The raffle is so named because it runs seven months, from now to mid-November and whatever we collect, we will split with the winner.

Tickets are $2, or 3 for $5, and will be available for purchase at our Central Market booth every Friday the train is running.

We will also be selling Super 7 tickets when the train runs at: 

  • Broad Street Blues & BBQ Festival, June 28,29,30th 
  • Public Safety and Community Day on August 24th
  • Rock & Rails Street Festival over Labor Day weekend
  • Griffith Octoberfest, October 4th to 6th

What’s Up for 2019?

IMG_2486We’ve got a lot going on this year!

— We have a new operating status, Board Member Emeritus, which is designated for long-time board members who, because of health or age issues, can no longer serve as an officer or director, but still want to be involved in our activities. These members have been devoted to the Society and have years of experience we can draw upon.  Current Emeriti are listed at the foot of the page, along with current officers and board members.

— At Franklin Center, we are in the process of creating a new display board — this one will be permanent – entitled, GRIFFITH BECOMES AN OFFICIAL TOWN.  Items displayed will be from 1904 and 1905, and include the petition for incorporation, election notice, election judges’ affidavits, 1904 special census, balloting results and incorporation order. These documents were saved by our late Board Member Merle Colby when they were going to be thrown out.  And new school displays will be created this summer, as well.

— We continue to enter information into our cataloging program created for us four years ago by student member Logan Kulinski.  To date we have entered nearly 10,000 items into this program, which are available for viewing and printing out when needed.

— At the Historical Park, basement cleaning is being done now and when the weather is better, a Boy Scout will be painting the inside of the Depot for his Eagle Scout Project.

— We are also considering two new events for the  summer and fall. Watch this space as more information will be added as we’re further along in each project. As always, we are looking for volunteers so email depotkaren@aol.com if you are interested in helping.

Sad News!

Evelyn Bunce, a long-standing member of The Griffith Historical Society, and unofficial town historian, has passed away in early August.  Evelyn, a newspaper reporter for several local newspapers,  and her late husband, George, a Griffith High School teacher, were early supporters of the Historical Society and participated in all our activities.  They also served on the Board of Directors, and Evelyn was President for a number of years.

A memorial service is being planned for later this month, or in September.  When we have the details, we will post them on this site.

What’s up?

It’s been a busy summer for us, especially with The Hess Express, now pulled by our new tractor we’ve named SC’s Engine in honor of Sarah Cundiff who donated the funds for it!  The train has been at Central Market most Friday nights, the Blues & BBQ event at Central Park the end of June, and the 4th of July parade up till now.  Upcoming events str Labor Day’s Rock & Railfest, Public Safety & Community Day and for the first time, we’ll be running the train at the Fall Harvest Craft Festival the last weekend in September.

The dedication of our bronze plaques up at our Depot Museum on June 10th turned out wonderfully thanks to the hard work of so many people.  Ken Karlstedt coordinated acquiring the plaques, which were funded by Griffith Operation Spotlight and The Legacy Foundation, and arranging for their placement on a brick pedestal.   The plaques signify that both buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places and the Indiana Register of Historic Sites and Structures.

We are still working to digitize information on our artifacts, including photos, down at our Franklin Center museum, and we now have more than 8,000 searchable entries into our computer cataloging program.  Our Franklin Museum is open on the first and third Saturdays from 10 till 2, (enter Door G) and if you have photos, articles or other documents you would like to share with us, bring them down.  We can scan them, get the information about them, and you can take them back  home with you.

To contact the Griffith Historical Society, email depotkaren@aol.com.