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Portage, Indiana
—  City  —
Official seal of Portage, Indiana
Location in the state of Indiana
Coordinates: 41°34′55″N 87°11′12″W / 41.58194, -87.18667Coordinates: 41°34′55″N 87°11′12″W / 41.58194, -87.18667
Country United States
State Indiana
County Porter
Township Portage
 • Type Mayor-Council
 • Mayor Jim Snyder (R)
 • Total 27.61 sq mi (71.51 km2)
 • Land 25.63 sq mi (66.38 km2)
 • Water 1.98 sq mi (5.13 km2)
Elevation 636 ft (194 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 36,828
 • Estimate (2012[3]) 36,860
 • Density 1,436.9/sq mi (554.8/km2)
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 46368
Area code(s) 219
FIPS code 18-61092[4]
GNIS feature ID 0449815[5]
Historical populations
Census Pop.
1950 2,116
1960 11,822 458.7%
1970 19,127 61.8%
1980 27,409 43.3%
1990 29,060 6.0%
2000 33,496 15.3%
2010 36,828 9.9%
Source: US Census Bureau

Portage /ˈpɔrtɪ/ is a city in Portage Township, Porter County, Indiana, United States. The population was 36,828 as of the 2010 census. It is the largest city in Porter County, and third largest in Northwest Indiana.


Pre-European settlement[]

Previous to European settlers arriving, Native American Indians lived in the area now known as Portage, Indiana. The first known group was the Mound Builders. The only known mound existed in the village of McCool. This mound was removed by the owner, Mr. J.S. Robbins in the early 1900s. Following the Mound Builders, the Wea Tribe inhabited the area. The Wea were forced south of the area by the Potawatomi Tribe.[6]

Early explorers and settlers[]

It is speculated that Marquette, Joliet, Hennepin or De la Croix was the first explorer, however it is unknown exactly who it was.[6] Despite the Potawatomi being a warring tribe, Chief Pokagon encouraged diplomacy rather than war when European Settlers wanted to settle in the area. The Potawatomi tribe sold land to the settlers in 1812 known as Garyton which was one of the first communities in Portage Township.[7]

By 1833, there were many European settlers in the area. Samuel Putnam Robbins was among the first. He came from Hocking County, Ohio, and settled near modern-day Robbins Road between McCool Road and Indiana Highway 149. In 1834, Joseph Wolf who was marred to a Blake settled in the area. He squatted on land currently near the modern-day community of South Haven [6] and operated several dairy and beef farms there.[8] Other known early settlers include Berret Door, Reuben Hurlburt, Wilford Parrott, The Spurloch brothers, William McCool, Benjamin James, his son Allen James, William Holmes and Jacob Blake. Jacob Blake came to Portage in 1833.The following family names are also among the first settlers: Blake, Palmer, Summer, Ritter, Curtis, Peck, Hurl, Lenburg, Fifield, Crisman, Krieger, Nicholson, Samuelson, Swanson, Lute, Hamstrom, McCool,and Wolfe.[6][7]

Early communities[]

Before Portage became a town, it consisted primarily of three separate communities in addition to much farmland. They were named McCool, Crisman and Garyton. In 1950, those communities only had 2,116 residents. La Porte County maintained jurisdiction over Porter County in 1835, and founded Portage Township that year.[8]


Portage Township was primarily a farming community until railroad development began in the 1850s and 1860s. The first railroad to build in the area was the Michigan Central, completed in 1852. The Michigan Central connected Detroit to Chicago. This enabled local farmers to easily ship livestock, dairy and crops to Chicago and any other stop along the way. It was a boon to the farmers of the area at the time and enabled them to buy more land for farming.[8] The Michigan Central was later bought by the New York Central Railroad.[7]

The next railroad to build through the Portage area was the Baltimore and Ohio in 1874. This railroad crossed the Michigan Central near the village of Crisman. Despite the apparent success of the early railroads, the area remained primarily agrarian and relied on the railroads to sustain its economy. Sand was also an industry in Portage due to demand in the growing city of Chicago. The railroads enabled sand to be delivered to Chicago more efficiently.[8]

Depression era and War[]

Between the 1870s and the depression era, Portage did not grow very much. It has been estimated that between 1880 and 1950, the growth rate averaged only about 64 people per year. This is despite the growth of towns to the west such as Gary, Hammond and East Chicago due to the industrialization of steel mills. Portage was not unaffected by the Great Depression. Due to the steel mills being in economic trouble, the farmers of Portage did not have demand to produce their products. As a result of this, the farmers had food, but no money. Many even lost their farms.

Like many communities in the country, World War I and World War II affected the economy of Portage in a big way. Steel mills geared into high production and labor was in high demand, thus drawing many people to the area.[8]

Post-World War II[]

After the war, the economy remained strong because of the high demand for automobiles and appliances, both of which the steel was produced at the steel mills. The population of post-war Portage grew very quickly. In the early 1950s, people came from Kentucky, southern Indiana and Illinois. Most were seeking the steady salary available in the steel mills and related industries.

National Steel opened a plant along the shore of Lake Michigan in Portage in 1959. This brought in about 1,600 new jobs. The Port of Indiana was also built in 1961 to accommodate trade with the world via Lake Michigan. In 1963, Bethlehem Steel began construction of a plant which was located partly in Portage. This project brought about 6,000 jobs to the area.

In 1959, Portage was incorporated as a town. Ogden Dunes and South Haven were excluded because the residents of these areas did not wish to be included in the town. Due to the surge of population after the war, many farmers were selling land to be subdivided into lots for families to build homes. In 1967, Portage officially became a city. During the 1950s and 1960s, the city of Gary was going through a time of racial strife. White people of Gary were seeking a way out of the turmoil, which drew many people to Portage during this time.[8]


Portage is located at 41°34′55″N 87°11′12″W / 41.581850, -87.186553 (41.581850, -87.186553).[9]

According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 27.61 square miles (71.5 km2), of which 25.63 square miles (66.4 km2) (or 92.83%) is land and 1.98 square miles (5.1 km2) (or 7.17%) is water.[1]


2010 census[]

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 36,828 people, 13,992 households, and 9,751 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,436.9 inhabitants per square mile (554.8 /km2). There were 14,807 housing units at an average density of 577.7 per square mile (223.1 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 83.6% White, 7.3% African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 5.2% from other races, and 2.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 16.4% of the population.

There were 13,992 households of which 36.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.0% were married couples living together, 14.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 30.3% were non-families. 24.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.61 and the average family size was 3.10.

The median age in the city was 36.4 years. 25.7% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.5% were from 25 to 44; 26.2% were from 45 to 64; and 12.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.4% male and 51.6% female.

2000 census[]

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 33,496 people, 12,746 households, and 9,011 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,315.8 people per square mile (508.0/km2). There were 13,375 housing units at an average density of 525.4 per square mile (202.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 92.52% White, 1.45% African American, 0.27% Native American, 0.64% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 3.20% from other races, and 1.86% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.94% of the population.

There were 12,746 households out of which 34.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.7% were married couples living together, 12.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.3% were non-families. 23.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.60 and the average family size was 3.09.

In the city the population was spread out with 26.0% under the age of 18, 9.4% from 18 to 24, 29.9% from 25 to 44, 22.8% from 45 to 64, and 11.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 94.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $47,500, and the median income for a family was $54,316. Males had a median income of $46,224 versus $25,428 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,146. About 5.8% of families and 7.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.6% of those under age 18 and 5.6% of those age 65 or over.


The commercial airport nearest Portage is the Gary/Chicago International Airport in Gary. Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport are also in close proximity and provide the bulk of flights servicing Portage.

Coach USA's Tri State/United Limo service stops at Central & Irving intersection, connecting Portage to Chicago's airports and several other North Indiana cities and town. Riders can take westbound buses to Highland, Crestwood and O'Hare and Midway Airport and eastbound buses to Michigan City, South Bend and Notre Dame. Buses run between Westbound buses run every hour. Eastbound buses to Michigan City run every hour while eastbound buses to South Bend and Notre Dame run every two hours.[10]

Portage is also connected to Chicago, Illinois and South Bend, Indiana by the South Shore Line. Passengers can board the train at the Portage/Ogden Dunes Station, which is located immediately east of Ogden Dunes in Portage.

The Chicago skyline as viewed from the Portage Lake Michigan skyline.

Portage is intersected by several major highways, including Interstate 94 and Interstates 80/90 (Indiana Toll Road) as well as U.S. Route 6, U.S. Route 12, U.S. Route 20, and Indiana 149 and Indiana 249.

Also located on the shores of Lake Michigan is the Port of Indiana.


List of parks[11][]

Park Size Features
Imagination Glen Park 256 acres (103.6 ha) Softball complex, Soccer complex, BMX track, Outback Trail mountain bike trail, Walking paths, Playground, Fishing, Picnic areas, Access to Prairie Duneland Trail
Woodland Park 64 acres (25.9 ha) Skatepark, Playground areas, Banquet halls, Dog Park, Horseshoe pits, Community garden
Lakefront & Riverwalk 57 acres (23.1 ha) Boardwalk, Pier, Beach area, Pavilion with cafe, restrooms, and an educational classroom
Countryside Park 33 acres (13.4 ha) Playground, Historical Museum, Sledding hill, Fishing, Hiking trails
Deer Trail Park 16 acres (6.5 ha) Hiking trails, Fishing
Olson Memorial Park 14 acres (5.7 ha) Playground, Sledding hill, Shelter with restrooms, Access to Prairie Duneland Trail
Wolfe Park 10 acres (4.0 ha) Softball field, Picnic areas, Shelters
Frank Gilbert Jr. Memorial Park 5 acres (2.0 ha) Gazebo and plaza, Walking paths, Memorial to firefighters and police officers
Perry Park 4 acres (1.6 ha) Picnic areas, Playground
Community Acres Park 1 acre (0.40 ha) Basketball court, Playground, Picnic Shelter
Harbor Oaks Park 1 acre (0.40 ha) N/A
Founder's Square Park 1 acre (0.40 ha) N/A

Portage Parks offer a wide variety of service, from sports leagues, to crafts, to hiking and water sports.[12]

The Portage Public Marina offers boat launch and slips for public use. The marina opens to the Burns Waterway and has access to nearby Lake Michigan. The marina's operating season is April 1 to October 31 each year.[13]

The city of Portage public marina.

Portage is also home of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (Indiana Dunes), a beautiful showcase of land and lake on the south shore of Lake Michigan. West Beach, the largest beach in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore system, is located within Portage.

Robbins Pond[]

Robbins Pond is located on Superior St. as well as Superior Avenue and Samuelson Road in Portage. The lake contains largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, other panfish, and bullhead catfish, making it a popular fishing site. The lake is home to many turtles including snapping turtles . It also has a small drainage pond, which has most of the above mentioned wildlife. The drainage pond links to Kevins Creek, which then runs to Salt Creek and out to Lake Michigan.


Portage has a Mayor-Council government. The current Mayor is Jim Snyder (R), who took office on January 1, 2012. Snyder succeeded Olga Velazquez (D) who served one term in office. Doug Olson served as Mayor of Portage from 2000 to 2008 and is the son of Portage's first Mayor, Art Olson.


Public schools[14][]

The Portage Township School system comprises 11 public schools: 8 elementary schools (grades K-5), 2 middle schools (grades 6-8), and one senior high school (grades 9-12). Portage Township Schools is an Indiana Exemplary District and has two Four Star schools in the district.

Elementary Schools Middle Schools Senior High School
Aylesworth Fegely Portage High School
Central Willowcreek
South Haven

Private schools[15][]

There are 3 private schools in Portage:

  • Portage Christian School - A Christian school servicing children in grades Pre-K - 12
  • Nativity of Our Savior School - A Roman Catholic school servicing children in grades Pre-K-8
  • Maranatha Christian Academy - A Church of God school servicing children in grades K-11

Local media[]


  • The Times of Northwest Indiana (or NWI Times), was founded in 1906 and is the second largest of Indiana’s 76 daily newspapers. [1]
  • The Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana was founded in 1907, serving the Northwest Indiana region. The Post-Tribune is owned by the Sun Times Media Group. [2]


  • Shore Magazine is a magazine produced by the NWI Times, which also produces ShoreLines, a weekly newsletter.


Present day[]

Portage is still a heavily industrial city. While primarily dependent on the Steel Industry, the 1980s brought a decline in the steel industry. As a result, C.O.I.L (the Community Organization on Industrial Location) was formed. This organization promotes diversified industry in the area. They have had part in developing the Coca-Cola bottling plant and further development of the Port of Indiana.

Very few farms are still active in the Portage area. However, many original descendants of founding families are still in the area.[8]


External links[]

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Portage, Indiana. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.