On Wednesday morning, John Dillinger took up residence at the Crown Point Courthouse...in a matter of speaking. That day marked the official groundbreaking for the John Dillinger Museum that is to be built there.
Dillinger, FBI "Public Enemy #1", escaped from the Lake County Jail on March 3, 1934. He was heavily guarded and deemed his cell was said to be "escape proof". Dillinger managed to escape using a hand-carved wooden gun covered with black shoe polish.
The Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond was the home of the museum before this. It closed on the anniversary of his death in 2014 in anticipation for the move to Crown Point. Dillinger died on July 22, 1934. Plans for the now open space at the Indiana Welcome Center include an eatery that exclusively uses products from all local businesses.
The museum is planned to span 2100 square feet and house artifacts and pieces of Dillinger's past that have not before been revealed. Pictures, newspaper clippings, household items, interactive displays, and more will be available at the museum. The technology will also be upgraded as well.
"We're going to change out some of the things that were on display with new items that haven't been seen by the public yet," Speros Batistatos, President and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority said.
Dillinger's 1933 Essex Terraplane Straight-8 will not fit in the museum unfortunately so it is up for sale to any interested car collectors.
Another famous face that came to Crown Point in the name of Dillinger was Johnny Depp. He played Dillinger in the 2009 film "Public Enemies" (which also featured Dillinger's car mentioned above) and spent time in the same jail that during filming.
A neat discovery that was uncovered during day one of excavation was a one-man elevator in the basement of the courthouse. The elevator connected directly to the judges chambers. It's an appropriate addition to the rich history of Crown Point.
The museum is expected to open on March 3, 2015 on the 81st anniversary of when he escaped the jail.
"It will still be an overwhelming story of 'crime does not pay' - it never has. We will let you form your own opinion of who you think Dillinger was. We do not and have not done in the past 15 years anything more than present the facts around John Dillinger's life. We tell you how justice was brought to bear around those stories, stories of innovations that were driven by the gang in policing, and innovations in police and bank technology that occurred because of John Dillinger," Batistatos said. "It will continue to be a very interactive and very informative story. We'd like to find a place in this iteration to focus more on women in law enforcement as Lillian Holley was one of the first female sheriffs ever, and I think people will be very happy with the product when we're done."
For more information on the John Dillinger Museum, contact the SSCVA at 219-989-7770.
Top photo courtesy of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.