It's full steam ahead for Cedar Lake historians to take visitors on a floating tour through time! At the Museum at Lassen’s Resort, the Cedar Lake Historical Association in partnership with the Hesston Steam Museum launched its Steam through History program which allows visitors to get a glimpse of the town's past on a 1915 steamboat, named Steamer Dewey, captained by Jerry Beno of Chicago. This summer the South Shore CVA staff had the pleasure of taking the historic trip.
In the 1920s, the town of Cedar Lake boasted more than 50 resorts. The town once served as a booming vacation destination for Chicagoans with the Monon Railroad connecting the small town to the Windy City. The idea behind the Dewey Line was to get passengers from the Monon Depot to Lassen's Resort as fast as possible in a fun way. Back then, visitors could grab a drink at the Lassen's tavern, located right on the dock, take a spin at the dance hall that floated on piers, or take a ride down the water slide, while their luggage was taken to the resort via a horse-drawn carriage. To get the full history and complete experience you are going to have to take this tour for yourself.
When you first arrive at Lassen’s Resort you are overcome with acute nostalgia. Not only do they have the quaint wrap-around porch, but you are met by an abundance of rocking chairs which makes you feel like you are right in the museum’s heyday. When you enter the museum thru the old-fashioned screen door you are welcomed by their exquisite staff of volunteers where you receive your ticket to ride.
Shortly after, you are escorted down their long, newly modernized pier where you are welcomed by the boat’s owner, Ted Rita, and the crew of the Dewey Line.
The small vessel, complete with a green and white striped canopy, was used as a lifeboat on the passenger-cargo steamship Great Lakes Steamer Alabama. Once you drift away from the dock, the tour begins.
The current Steamer Dewey travels around 4 knots or about 4 1/2 mph, and instead of being powered by propane, like it would have been in its prime, or even wood or coal, the ship is fueled with kerosene.
In 2021, steamboat rides were offered for one week, resulting in more than one thousand attendees. This year, the rides are offered from June through September with different route choices. There are four historic routes that highlight the northern resorts, southern resorts, the former Monon railroad route and a combination of all three routes. Each route cost varies from $15 to $35 per person, with complimentary museum admission.
Tickets for Steamer Dewey can be purchased at lassensresort.org/deweyline. Each ticket comes with a complimentary Museum at Lassen’s Resort tour.
At the museum, tour imaginative new exhibits that tell the story of Cedar Lake, from its glacial formation through the early 20th century, and learn more about the history and impact of the steamboats in Cedar Lake.
The pier at Lassen’s Resort also offers four public boat slips (parking spots) for those wanting to tour the museum or play at the small beach there on the lake! After you can grab a great meal at Lighthouse Restaurant right next door.