Octave Chanute Documentary to Premiere at Indiana Dunes Visitor Center on February 16th

February 4, 2020

Near the place where historic early aviation experiments took flight, a new documentary about Octave Chanute, a widely influential 19th and 20th century engineer and innovator, will premiere at the Indiana Dunes National Park Visitor Center on February 16th.

The hour long film will tell the story of Chanute’s life and his efforts to achieve manned flight from locations he found ideal for his experiments – the Dunes on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. The documentary intends to bring about awareness of Chanute’s impact on many areas of American life as well as the development of the airplane. and place Miller Beach in Gary, Indiana, and the area once known as Dune Park, in present day Chesterton, in their proper place in history.

“These sites right on the lake in Northwest Indiana should be revered in the same way that Kitty Hawk, North Carolina is for flight enthusiasts,” said Paul Nelson, the film’s director. “It’s just another aspect that makes the Indiana Dunes so special.” 

Chanute designed some of the most impressive construction projects of his time, including the Hannibal Bridge in Missouri, the Chicago and Kansas City Stockyards and the New York City Transit System. He was widely known for developing preservation methods for timber and instituting standardization of parts for the railroad industry. He is know today mostly for his glider experiments in the and his early aircraft designs, he moved the field of aeronautics far more than any person around the turn of the century. 

A man of wealth and influence, his mentorship and promotion of other aviation experimenters helped legitimize the pursuit of flight and eventually facilitate controlled, manned flight. His generosity is a trademark of his life that had seemed to be lost to history. 

The video is a presentation of the Lake County Historical Society, which has worked with Nelson and Chanute biographer Simine Short on the project for more than two years. 

“This documentary is a great way for people to learn about a great man who dedicated his life to useful constructive work in the spirit of openness,” said Simine Short, author of “Locomotive to Aeromotive: Octave Chanute and the Transportation Revolution.” 

Funding for this project was provided in part by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Indiana Department of Natural Resources Lake Michigan Coastal Program, Indiana Arts Commission, South Shore Arts, The  National Endowment for the Arts, Indiana Humanities in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities, The John W. Anderson Foundation and Indiana Dunes Tourism.

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