The History of Valparaiso, Indiana

The History of Valparaiso, Indiana

donwtown Valparaiso, Indiana

Image via Flickr by davidwilson1949 | CC BY 2.0


At Golden Tech, we’re proud to serve Valparaiso, Chicago, and the surrounding areas. Known for its higher education institutions and community events, Valparaiso is a dynamic city with a history of local business, construction, and culture. Read on to learn more about the history of our city, from its early days as a settlement to its famous residents to its place in the American highway and railway systems.

Early History of Valparaiso

The earliest known settler in Valparaiso was French-Canadian fur salesman Joseph Bailey. The United States government bought the land from the Potawatomi tribe in 1832. In 1836, Valparaiso became an official entity, originally named Portersville because of its location in Porter County. The city earned the name Valparaiso the next year, named to honor David Porter’s work in the historic Battle of Valparaiso during the War of 1812 in Valparaiso, Chile.

In the early days of Valparaiso, the area of full of lush natural life. Trees with dense, high-quality wood like oak, maple, pine, birch, oak, and ash filled the local forests, and through hunting and gathering, you could easily find natural fruits, nuts, seeds, and meat to feed a family in the woods of Valparaiso. The 23rd American president Benjamin Harrison, who spent some of his early adulthood in Indiana, enjoyed hunting and fishing in Valparaiso.

In 1864, Valparaiso was the site of an attempt to drill for petroleum. People suspected there might be petroleum in Valparaiso because of its physical signs of iron ore. The hilly landscape of Valparaiso is likely due to glaciers in its history, and you can find the markings of glaciation throughout the city. The Valparaiso Moraine, a natural basin surrounding Lake Michigan, brings with it clay soil that fills most of the city’s grounds.

Schools and Churches

People informally referred to Valparaiso as the City of Churches during the late 1800s, because there were so many churches within city limits during this time. In the latter half of the 1800s, Valparaiso was home to one of the country’s oldest coed higher educations institutions, Valparaiso Male and Female College. The school is now known as Valparaiso University. Valparaiso University, formerly associated with the Methodist Church, is now a Lutheran institution. The school’s intricately designed cathedral is a Valparaiso landmark.

In the 1850s and 1860s, the city constructed its Courthouse Square, a collection of historic city buildings and shopping destinations. The city continually renovates the Courthouse Square area to protect the historic architecture. Between the Porter County Courthouse, the Memorial Opera House, and the First National Bank, this focal point of public life in Valparaiso captures a variety of architectural styles. While the city performs ongoing upgrades to these historic buildings, the commercial district is still home to retailers, restaurants, and offices.

Valparaiso Businesses and Famous Residents

Valparaiso has experienced rapid residential and industrial growth since its establishment. Well-known Valparaiso businesses include baseball equipment company the Hoosier Bat Company, where famous baseball player Sammy Sosa once got baseball bats. From 1910 to 2015, Valparaiso was home to Urschel Laboratories, a food technology company that manufactures food-processing devices. The company moved its headquarters to nearby Chesterton, Indiana, but it’s still a major employer of Porter County residents. In 1976, the team at Urschel Laboratories filled a time capsule with significant items, and the company plans to dig the capsule up in 2076, 100 years after they buried it.

Today, businesses in a variety of industries operate out of Valparaiso and support a productive local economy. The city hosts major employers in healthcare, construction, manufacturing, and technology. Higher education institutions like Valparaiso University, Ivy Tech Community College, and Purdue University North Central are also key employers in the area. If you’re a Valparaiso-area business in need of IT services, we’re eager to help you.

Valparaiso is the home or former home of many famous athletes, performers, and professionals. Famous athletes from Valparaiso include professional basketball player Robbie Hummel, former professional basketball player and coach Bryce Drew, and professional baseball players Sean Manaea and Jeff Samardzija. Musician Chris Funk and character actress Beulah Bondi also hail from Valparaiso, as do architects R. Harold Zook and Charles F. Lembke. Josephine Cochrane, who invented the automatic dishwasher, grew up in Valparaiso.

Arguably the most famous Valparaiso resident is Orville Redenbacher, known for his work with popcorn. Redenbacher performed many of his experiments and tests in Valparaiso, where he moved after a successful career in the fertilizer industry. To celebrate Redenbacher’s contributions to the food industry, Valparaiso hosts a Popcorn Festival each summer after Labor Day. A statue of Redenbacher sits in downtown Valparaiso.


Like much of Indiana, many iconic railroads and highways cross through Valparaiso. Its proximity to Chicago made it a functional stop for the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad of the 19th century. As transportation developed and Americans moved to cars from trains, Valparaiso remained a travel stop, with major highways like the I-80, I-90, I-94, and I-65 connecting Indiana to Illinois and other adjacent states. US 30, America’s first transcontinental interstate, runs through Valparaiso. This highway follows the route of Sauk Trail, a nearby Native American trail.

In downtown Valparaiso, you might see a Canadian National Railway train roar through the city, transporting freight cross-country. Present-day Valparaiso remains popular for its proximity to Chicago. About an hour south of downtown Chicago, Valparaiso is a suitable suburban home for people who commute to Chicago for work. Inversely, it’s a short drive to visit Valparaiso from Chicago for a quiet retreat from the city.

IT Services in Valparaiso, Indiana

A city with rich history, beautiful landscapes, and arts and culture, Valparaiso, affectionately called “Valpo” by some, is home to a diverse group of local businesses, shops, and community groups. If you’re in Valparaiso, Indiana, Michigan City, Indiana, South Bend, Indiana, Merrillville, Indiana, or Chicago, Illinois, contact us today to learn how we can optimize your IT infrastructure. We offer services like remote monitoring and maintenance, cybersecurity, custom programming, cloud computing, and managed IT services. At Golden Tech, we’re proud to keep Valparaiso connected.



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