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La Porte County’s “A Night at the Giese Church” was a Huge Success

People were amazed at this year’s Annual Event, “A Night at the Giese Church” that was held Dec. 16th 2023 at the La Porte County Historical Museum. In spite of the flashy electronic, digital, video games and toys of today, children of all ages still become excited as they peer through the tiny stained-glass windows to watch the little church share its Christmas message. Historian, Bruce Johnson, County Historian, shared the history of the Giese Church and PanoramaNOW wanted to publish the history of the church for everyone to find and learn more about this amazing project that has been around in LaPorte County for years and years. 

History of the Giese Church, by Bruce Johnson, County Historian

Christmas in 1944 was like no other for the American soldiers stationed in Belgium during World War II. Otto Giese, from La Porte, Indiana, had enlisted on May 10, 1943 in Indianapolis and was assigned to the Medical Corps. He and several other young Medical Corps men were invited to a Christmas dinner prepared by residents of the rural town of Huy, Belgium. They had barely finished dessert when they were given orders to advance to Spa, Belgium directly behind enemy lines. Otto and a buddy wanted to know more of what was happening and went to get a radio. However, the one they found needed batteries. As they started to leave in their jeep to secure some batteries, they heard shells and bombs exploding. They knew they had to prepare for the German counter attack. Otto quickly made a vow to God, then and there, that if he came out of this alive, he would do something to remember and preserve the true spirit of Christmas. He had just set foot in what would soon be known as the Battle of the Bulge.

Fortunately, Otto Giese survived. A few months later, he became friends with a man who worked in a woolen mill in Belgium. Otto could not speak French, so they communicated with their hands and the aid of an old dictionary. Just before Otto left to return to his home and family in La Porte County, Indiana, the man gave Otto a small golden cross as a token of their friendship.

Otto Giese was born July 18, 1912 and married Cleda Schwartzentruber in 1937. Together they had 2 daughters, Mary and Dorothy. Otto had graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in mortuary science. In 1939, he bought the Aloysius J. Rumely house at 1007 Harrison Street. A. J. Rumely, son of the famous industrialist Meinrad Rumely, had built the home in 1908 for his bride, Hannah Berghoff from Chicago. They later moved to Indiana Avenue, and Otto converted the Rumely house into the Giese Funeral Home.

A Miniature New England Style Church was Built

 

In 1947, Otto Giese fulfilled his WWII Christmas promise and created a miniature New England style church. It was seven feet four inches long, three feet wide, and seven feet high. It was built on a scale of one inch to one foot and took four months to complete. Inside were an altar, pulpit, chandeliers, a balcony, and pews. Cleda Giese, relatives, and friends made clothing for 120 little dolls that were placed in the pews. When finished, the church sat on the lawn at the corner of Chicago and Harrison Streets during the holiday season. Christmas music played from within the church on Sunday afternoons from 2 to 5 and evenings from 7 to 10. It was estimated that 10,000 people visited the little church during that first Christmas in 1947.

The following year, with the help of numerous lighting and designing engineers, Giese added tiny electric lights to the chandeliers, candelabras, and Christmas tree at the altar. In 1950, a conveyor system was added so that 28 robed choir members could enter in pairs from the “basement” of the church and process down the aisle carrying lighted candles.

The next addition was a system that enabled the pastor to enter the altar, face the lectern, raise and lower his arms, and give a sermon at the pulpit. Otto Giese retired in 1978 and donated the church to the La Porte County Historical Society Museum. Electrical experts and other professionals have volunteered to computerize, maintain, and make improvements over the years. 

Otto E. Giese passed away on October 22, 2002 at age 90. However, he will always be remembered for the joy he had brought and continues to bring to generations of La Porte County residents with his miniature church where the little golden cross from Belgium still sits on the altar.

The LaPorte County Historical Museum can be found on Facebook, or

2405 Indiana Ave, Ste 1, LaPorte, IN, United States, Indiana

(219) 324-6767

info@laportecountyhistory.org

laportecountyhistory.org

 

January 2024 Additional Activities Include:

   Jan. 2-31: New Scavenger Hunt! Find the Nutcrackers that are scattered around the museum and receive an exclusive pin!
   Jan. 2: Gallery Wall of Local Sights Opens! Stop by to see the work of artists who depicted scenes from around the county. You might even see some places you recognize!
   Jan. 2-31: Westville History Pop-Up! Learn about the town of Westville in the first of our ‘Towns of La Porte County Pop-Up’ exhibits this year! Highlights included Westville High School, local business, and locals clubs.
   Jan. 13: Pioneer Land Spinners at the Museum! Join us on Saturday, January 13, from 11am to 3pm, to learn how the pioneers made their textiles!
   Jan. 13: All Westville residents and Westville High School graduates will receive Free Admission to the Museum on Saturday, January 13! Come see the Westville Pop-Up exhibit to learn more about your town!
   Jan. 30: Historical Society Founding Day! January 30 marks the La Porte County Historical Society’s 118th birthday!

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Get those Precious Photos with Santa mounted on your wall quickly and easily with Wallpics.
Orak Shrine Circus, Hammond Civic Center;Christmas the Park – Spencer Park, Demotte; • East Chicago Celebration of Lights, City Hall;• First Friday Art Walk – Downtown Michigan City,  Santa Procession &Tree Lighting at Pruzin Park, Merrillville; City Tree Lighting, Festival Park, Hobart;  Carol Fest at VU, Valparaiso University; Chesterton H.S. Madrigal Dinner, Chesterton H. S.; Community Tree Lighting & First Friday, St. Mary of the Lake, Miller; Illuminated Parade, Whitlng City Hall; Shake It Up Musical Show, Living Hope Church, Merrillville;  “Plaid Tidings” Towle Theatre, Hammond; Snowflake Parade, Michigan City;  Breakfast with Santa – Valparaiso YMCA; •A Christmas Story Comes Home, Indiana Welcome Center, Hammond;  Christmas Open House, Family Express, Kouts; • Breakfast w/Santa (Dyer); • Breakfast with Santa, Wilbur Wright School, Munster; • Breakfast w/Santa, Schererville ; Christmas Craft Show – Portage; • The Nutcracker by Indiana Ballet Theatre at Valparaiso, Gary and Crown Point • Annual Cookie Walk, Westminister Presbyterian Church, Munster; Ethnic Cookie Sale, Whiting;   St. Mary of the Lake Annual Christmas Bazaar Miller; Folk Art Holiday Open House, Fawn Run Farm, Rolling Priaire; Hammond Holiday Parade, Hammond; •Winter Jam Craft & Vendor Fair, Lake County Fair Grounds, Crown Point;  • Christmas on the Farm – Countryside Park, Portage;  • Candy Cane Express, Hesston Steam Museum, Laporte; •Santa in the Courthouse, Crown Point; •  Portage Christmas Festival, Founder’s Square, Portage; • Pioneerland Christmas, LaPorte County Fairgrounds, LaPorte; •  Santa at the Kaske House – Heritage Park, Munster; • 5-11:30pm , Madrigal Dinner, United Methodist Church, Michigan City; • 8- 9:45pm, Babes & Boys Christmas Show, Beatniks On Conkey, Hammond; • Shake It Up Musical Show, Living Hope Church, Merrillville; •  Elvis Tribute Artist Spectacular! Majestic Star Casino, Hammond •  Shake It Up Musical Show, Living Hope Church, Merrillville; •  Babes & Boys Christmas Show, Beatniks On Conkey, Hammond; •   Folk Art Holiday Open House, Fawn Run Farm, Rolling Priaire; •  Christmas on the Farm – Countryside Park, Portage; •  Candy Cane Hunt – Dyer, Plum Creek Center, Dyer; • Santa in the Courthouse, Crown Point Courthouse; Three Little Birds Market, Valparaiso, Brunch with Santa at Lansing Country Club, Breakfast with Santa AT White Rhino, Dyer. Christmas at the mill.
Mommy’s Little Piggy Eating Contest, Oh Fudge Relay Race

 

Sue

Sue Baxter

Susie Young Baxter, CEO, has published PanoramaNOW Magazine for 31 years. Her hobbies are Camping, Boating, Hiking, Nature, Gardening and Outdoor Activities. She is an Artist, Graphic Designer, an Avid Seamstress, Dabbles in Homemade Crafts and Landscaping. Since her Father was a Health Teacher, she also likes homeopathic Health Solutions. Since blogging started over 10 years ago, PanoramaNow has been added to Newsbreak – a national news affiliate.

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About The Author

Sue Baxter

Susie Young Baxter, CEO, has published PanoramaNOW Magazine for 31 years. Her hobbies are Camping, Boating, Hiking, Nature, Gardening and Outdoor Activities. She is an Artist, Graphic Designer, an Avid Seamstress, Dabbles in Homemade Crafts and Landscaping. Since her Father was a Health Teacher, she also likes homeopathic Health Solutions. Since blogging started over 10 years ago, PanoramaNow has been added to Newsbreak - a national news affiliate.