What happened to Hoosier Slide?

hoosier slide dunes

What do a giant sand dune—once Indiana’s most famous landmark—and beautiful blue glass, coveted by beachcombers and collectors, have to do with each other? It turns out one was destroyed to make the other.

Hoosier Slide was a sand dune in Michigan City, Indiana, towering almost 200 feet over the shore of Lake Michigan. In the late 1800s, it was a popular spot for picnics, cows grazed on its slopes, and weddings took place on its summit. But it was most famous as a popular destination for crowds who arrived by boat and train for the thrill of sliding down its slope.

blue ball jars

Just before the turn of the century, glassmakers discovered that the sand in the dunes was perfect for making glass. And, due to the minerals in the sand, the glass was a beautiful blue color. Over the following 30 years, 13.5 million tons of sand were shipped from the site to glassmakers in nearby cities. Ball Brothers created their “Ball Blue” canning jars, Hemingray produced their “Hemingray Blue” glass insulators, and other manufacturers use the sand for plate glass and more.

hemingray blue insulator

By 1920, the dune had been leveled. The former site, now completely flat, is home to a power plant. Nearby sand dunes such as 126-foot-tall Mt. Baldy are now protected as part of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

blue sea glass from ball jars

But, all that remains of the onetime wonder of Hoosier Slide are the blue-colored glass products made from its sands. Beachcombers love finding pieces of beach glass that comes from the jars and insulators because of the beautiful turquoise hue of the glass.

Learn more about Hoosier Slide, the weddings (!) that took place there, and where much of the sand went when it wasn't used to make jars and insulators on the Chicago History Podcast ›

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine May/June 2019 issue

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