Griffith, Indiana

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Town of Griffith, Indiana
Nickname(s): The Town That Came to the Tracks
Griffith's location in Lake County (left)and the state of Indiana (right).
Griffith's location in Lake County (left)
and the state of Indiana (right).
Coordinates: 41°31′51″N 87°25′33″W / 41.53083°N 87.42583°W / 41.53083; -87.42583Coordinates: 41°31′51″N 87°25′33″W / 41.53083°N 87.42583°W / 41.53083; -87.42583
Country United States United States
State Indiana Indiana
County Lake
Townships Calumet and St. John
Incorporated 1904
Named for Benjamin Griffith
 • Type Town
 • Body Town Council
 • President Rick A. Ryfa (R, 3rd)
 • Members: Glen "Bud" Gaby (R, 1st) Larry Ballah (R, 2nd) Patricia Schaadt (R, 4th) Stanley Dobosz (D, 5th)
 • Clerk-Treasurer George Jerome (R)
 • Total 7.73 sq mi (20.02 km2)
 • Land 7.73 sq mi (20.02 km2)
 • Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)
Elevation 630 ft (192 m)
Population (2010)[3]
 • Total 16,893
 • Estimate (2013) 16,619
 • Density 2,185.4/sq mi (843.8/km2)
Standard of living (2008-12)[3]
 • Per capita income $26,548
 • Median home value $141,600
Time zone Central (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) Central (UTC-5)
ZIP code 46319
Area code 219
FIPS code 18-30042[4]
GNIS feature ID 0435501[5]
Demographics (2010)[6]
White Black Asian
75.8% 16.9% 0.8%
Islander Native Other Hispanic
(any race)
0.0% 0.3% 6.2% 13.3%
Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 523
1920 630 20.5%
1930 1,176 86.7%
1940 2,116 79.9%
1950 4,470 111.2%
1960 9,483 112.1%
1970 18,168 91.6%
1980 17,026 −6.3%
1990 17,916 5.2%
2000 17,334 −3.2%
2010 16,893 −2.5%
Source: US Census Bureau

Griffith is a town in Calumet and St. John townships in Lake County, Indiana, United States. It is a part of the Chicago metropolitan area. The population was 16,893 at the 2010 census.


Griffith is located at 41°31′51″N 87°25′33″W / 41.53083°N 87.42583°W / 41.53083; -87.42583 (41.530835, -87.425812).[7] The average elevation is 630 feet (190 m) above sea level. The town's boundaries encompass part of the ancient Calumet shore lines of Lake Michigan.

Griffith borders the town of Highland to the west, the city of Hammond to the northwest, the city of Gary to the northeast, the town of Schererville to the south, and unincorporated Calumet Township to the east.

History of Griffith[edit]

In its heyday, it saw more than 180 trains pass through its town boundaries. It is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most baseball diamonds for its population, and for the most train tracks to intersect at one point. It was nearly called Dwiggin’s Junction but it is known today best as Griffith.

In 1853, the United States Congress and the Indiana State Legislature had just passed the Swamp Reclamation Act under terms from the Northwest Ordinance. The stage was set for the wave of immigrants that would change the face of our country.

Among the first settlers in what would become Griffith were Mathias and Anna Miller. They had left their native Germany for the uncertain future of life in the wilds of new and hostile land. Alone and with only a few goods which could be transported across a 700-mile (1,100 km) journey with horse and carriage, they camped in a clearing on higher ground, an area of the ancient Glenwood and Calumet shorelines, the future town of Griffith. Their first home was a sod-roofed dugout. Mathias and his brother would drain, plow, and plant 40 acres (160,000 m2) of buckwheat, corn, and potatoes purchased through the swamp act. Anna gave birth to eight children who would go on to build a town.

Other first settlers to the area were Peter Young, Peter Govert, the Walters family, the Grimmer family, and the Beiriger family. There is currently an elementary school in Griffith named after Peter J. Beiriger.

Soon visionary pioneers and developers came to the area. Two developers in particular, brothers Jay and Elmer Dwiggins, are often referred to as “the town founders.” The Dwigginses were land developers and speculators. They had grand visions for what is today the town of Griffith. At one point the brothers toyed with the idea of naming the area Dwiggins Junction. Because of the large number of train tracks in the area, their plan was to create a factory town, which attracted companies like "Pleasant Remedies," an ice plant, and "The Pennsylvania Art Glass Company." Their idea was to rival their big neighbor to the north, Chicago. The Dwiggins brothers unfortunately did not have the financial backing they needed, because of the Panic of 1893. Due to the Panic, the area’s visionary brothers left a struggling “soon to be town.” Other town developers include Aaron Hart a pioneer developer through the area who drained marshy land by a ditch called Hart Ditch.

The future for the area seemed quite dim. However, because of its railroads, the area had a chance of survival.

The area’s excellent rail connections promised much for a new town. The rail connections served as Lake County’s grandest rail road crossing. The junction brought in trains on the Michigan Central, Erie, Grand Trunk Western, Elgin Joliet & Eastern (EJ&E) and the Chesapeake & Ohio, many going to and from Chicago. Farmers in the area welcomed the train traffic for a way to ship out milk and other agricultural products.

The town’s close association with railroads is even reflected in its name. While controversy surrounds the origin of the name of Griffith for the town, the one generally accepted theory today centers on a railroad surveyor for the Grand Trunk, a Mr. Benjamin Griffith, who set the grade for that railroad. He worked preparing railroad maps, which he signed. It became only natural for railroaders using these maps to refer to this area as “Griffith Section.”

Currently only the EJ&E and Canadian National (successor to the Grand Trunk Western) railroads travel through the town. Griffith railroads on the EJ&E were brought out by CN in 2009. They are now a quiet zone meaning they can no longer use train horns as of July 2011.

In 1904, Griffith was incorporated as a town.

Griffith’s first town board met for the first time on November 19, 1904, in Harkenrider Hall. William Peter Govert was the first trustee elected from the first district of Griffith. Mathias Grimmer was from the second district, and Moses Toohill as the third district representative. Matt Beiriger had been elected to the position of Clerk – Treasurer. These men were given the title “The founding fathers of Griffith” because they established the first local government in Griffith.

More and more streets were being paved as the town expanded away from “the junction.” Between 1905 and 1910, all able bodied men were required to work two days each month on development of town roads. Those who missed a day had to pay $1.50.

A town hall and police station complex was constructed in 1912 at a cost of $4,853. This complex housed Griffith’s government and the police station. It gave Griffith a tradition of a crime-free community for many years because of men like John Harkenrider, Griffith’s first marshal, Deputy John Taylor, and Dan Walters, town Marshall between 1914 and 1917. Currently, the Griffith Police Department is headed by a chief rather than a marshal.

In spring 1912, the Griffith public school system was created when Franklin School was built on Broad Street in downtown Griffith. In downtown Griffith Public transportation was available at this time with Hammond buses. Elementary and high school education was offered at the first school house. Griffith’s population continued to grow through the years. Many places of worship were being constructed in the town, most Christian affiliated.

While Catholics were the largest denomination in town, they were relatively slow to organize their own parish. However, in 1921, the diocese gave permission for the citizens of Griffith to split from St. Michael’s Church in Schererville, and Saint Mary Parish was formed. Now, Griffith Catholics did not have to travel to St. Michael’s every Sunday. The new Catholic parish offered a place for public gatherings, religious worship, and an elementary and junior high school education in Griffith.

In August 1920, the Griffith Volunteer Fire Department was established. H. B. Ritchie headed the Griffith Fire Department at its start. Currently, there is still a Volunteer Fire Department in the town of Griffith. The Fire Department was well equipped with the technologically advanced equipment for that time period. The “Red Speed Wagon” was the department’s pride and joy. Most of these older fire engines can be seen at various fire stations throughout Griffith or in Fourth of July parades to this day.

The Great Depression[edit]

Griffith was riding high along with the rest of the country on the morning of October 24, 1929. By the evening of that day, dreams of permanent prosperity were torn apart by the crash. The new Griffith State Bank had just opened its historical doors on the corner of Main and Broad. It tried its best to stay open during the depression until it was robbed and was forced to close. It is uncertain who robbed the bank, but it has been speculated that it was the work of the infamous John Dillinger. The bank turned into a library, and then an art center. Currently, this building is vacant, but is protected as a historical site and is one of the oldest buildings in Griffith.

Although Griffith was in the middle of the Great Depression and World War II had broken out in Europe, optimistic views were still present throughout the town. In 1930, Meinhard Nissen and Ernie Strack opened the Royal Blue grocery store in downtown Griffith, their partnership lasted until 1943. Strack went on to become a success in Northwest Indiana, and the chain is currently known as Strack & Van Til.

Start of the modern age[edit]

In the late 40s and early 50s after the second world war, the man where "The Buck Stopped" Harry S. Truman was president of the United States, and the baby boomer generation was evolving. Along with the baby boomers came the nuclear age (the era after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ending WWII.) Griffith experienced success and a larger population. New subdivisions were added to the town. Elementary schools, such as Ready, Beiriger, and Wadsworth, were built to satisfy the population. The original Griffith High School was one of the first public high schools in the area. Students from Munster, Highland, and Schererville attended Griffith High School until those communities established their own high schools. Later, a new high school was built, and the original Griffith High School became a fourth elementary, now known as Franklin Elementary School. Griffith became a community known for its warmth and friendliness. Athletics are a large part of the community, good and bad. Many people at this time called Griffith “Baseball Town USA” for its popularity in the town. Over the years football seemed to overtake baseball's popularity, and now Griffith is one of the biggest football towns in the state of Indiana. In 1997 soccer played a big part of the school's newfound love of super sport fans "The Pitt". "The Pitt was a rambuxious group of punk rock/ sport fans that made several appearances on TV and in the papers. Wrestling also took over the town when Alex Tsirtsis (following in his family tradition of wrestling powerhouses Marino and Michael)won 4 consecutive state titles from 2000-2004.(all while staying unbeaten). Griffith also boasted at this time a new apartment complex off Ridge Road called “The Mansards”. At the time, their advertising slogan was “Living in the Mansards is like taking a vacation at home.” Now, the Mansards might not seem as extravagant.

Currently (as of 2010), the population of Griffith is at 16,893 citizens and it still holds true to its reputation of a friendly community, even though it is not a farm town anymore, rather a built up metropolitan suburb. However, Griffith still has room to grow. Griffith recently annexed unclaimed land to its south and is looking at more areas to its south such as New Elliot.

In the Movies[edit]

In the popular movie "A Christmas Story" starring Peter Billingsley, a brief reference was made to Griffith, Indiana. The movie was based on a book written by Jean Shepherd. Shepherd, who was born and raised in northwest Indiana, used his hometown, Hammond, and towns surrounding it, as locations in his books and screenplays. In the movie, little Ralphie's father is sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. He then turns to his wife and says "You hear about this guy that swallowed a yo-yo?" His wife replies "A yo-yo?" The husband follows with, "yeah, some clod-hopper down in Griffith, Indiana."


Town Council[edit]

  • Glen (Bud) Gaby (R) 1st Ward
  • Larry Ballah (R) 2nd Ward[8]
  • Richard A. Ryfa (R) 3rd Ward - President
  • Patricia Schaadt (R) 4th Ward
  • Stan Dobosz (D) 5th Ward
  • George Jerome (R) Clerk-Treasurer[9][10]

Police Department - Fallen Officers[edit]

In the history of the Griffith Police Department, one officer has been killed in the line of duty.

Officer Date of death Age Tenure Cause of death
Lieutenant Texas O. Minter December 20, 1963 45 7 years Struck by train


Griffith Public Schools operates five local public schools (one high school, one middle school, and three elementary schools).

High School

Middle School

  • Griffith Middle School (7-8)

Elementary Schools

  • Peter J. Beiriger Elementary School (K-6)
  • Eldon Ready Elementary School (K-6)
  • Elsie Wadsworth Elementary School (K-6)

St. Mary Catholic Elementary & Junior High School is in Griffith. As of 2011, Franklin Elementary has closed, and will be converted into a "YMCA"


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 7.73 square miles (20.02 km2), all of it land.[2]


2010 census[edit]

As of the census[3] of 2010, there were 16,893 people, 6,668 households, and 4,559 families residing in the town. The population density was 2,185.4 inhabitants per square mile (843.8/km2). There were 7,070 housing units at an average density of 914.6 per square mile (353.1/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 75.8% White, 16.9% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 3.9% from other races, and 2.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13.3% of the population.

There were 6,668 households of which 34.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.6% were married couples living together, 17.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 31.6% were non-families. 26.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.06.

The median age in the town was 36.1 years. 24.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 9.9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.2% were from 25 to 44; 27.3% were from 45 to 64; and 11.2% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the town was 47.6% male and 52.4% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 17,334 people, 6,728 households, and 4,749 families residing in the town. The population density was 2,417.7 people per square mile (933.4/km²). There were 6,990 housing units at an average density of 974.9 per square mile (376.4/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 84.01% White, 10.11% African American, 0.35% Native American, 0.81% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 2.86% from other races, and 1.83% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.43% of the population.

There were 6,728 households out of which 33.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.3% were married couples living together, 12.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.4% were non-families. 25.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.10.

In the town the population was spread out with 25.5% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 31.7% from 25 to 44, 22.7% from 45 to 64, and 10.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 94.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.9 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $50,030, and the median income for a family was $57,090. Males had a median income of $44,817 versus $27,036 for females. The per capita income for the town was $21,866. About 2.7% of families and 3.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.9% of those under age 18 and 3.1% of those age 65 or over.


Gary/Chicago International Airport in Gary is Griffith's nearest commercial airport.

Griffith-Merrillville Airport, (generally known locally simply as “Griffith Airport”) is a smaller airport within the boundaries of the Town of Griffith.

Cline Avenue runs through Griffith north to East Chicago. Interstate 65, The Borman Expressway, The Indiana Toll Road US 30 and US 41 are all short drives from Griffth.

The closest Amtrak station is in Whiting, while the closest South Shore Line station is in East Chicago.

Broad Street, the major north/south road through Griffith, used to be designated Indiana State Route 73. It was what has come to be called a "feeder road", connecting US 6 at the north end to US 30 at the southern end, and at the southern end of the downtown area crossed over the six intersecting rail lines' 13 tracks, creating what was known for a time as the busiest railroad crossing in the country. SR 73 was the shortest state route in Indiana, and was known as the only Indiana state route to exist in only one town. Technically part of it straddled the border between St. John township and Schererville, but since the entire right of way did not reside in either, that part that did lie entirely within the borders of any designated area were only in Griffith, and so the appellation stuck. As the railroad traffic decreased and truck traffic increased US 30 was moved south to its present divided 4 lane route, and the old road became known as "Old US 30", Joliet Road, and SR 330. Also, US 6 was removed from its route along Ridge Road at the northern terminus of SR 73 to the Borman Expressway. Its importance diminished and its major connections removed, the Indiana legislature felt that a road that lay entirely within a single town (or at least did not have a portion that sat entirely in another town), should not be provided state funding as its primary source of upkeep. As such, SR 73 was decommissioned as an Indiana state route on September 26, 1969.


Griffith has AAU baseball, Pop Warner football, Blackcats basketball and youth soccer. There is a wrestling club in Griffith. The high school football team was the class 4A 1997 State champions, 2001 baseball 3A State runners-up, 2007 IHSBA State Bowling Champions and 2003 Indiana State Wrestling Runner-up(39-1).

Image gallery[edit]


  1. ^ "2014 Public Officials Directory". Lake County Board of Elections and Voter's Registration. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  2. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-12-11. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b c "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2014-06-09. 
  4. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  6. ^ U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics 2010, Table DP-1, 2010 Demographic Profile Data. American FactFinder. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
  7. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  8. ^ Republican caucus chooses new Griffith councilman (from the NW Indiana Times on April, 9, 2012)
  9. ^ Griffith gets new clerk-treasurer (from the NW Indiana Times on March 5, 2012)
  10. ^ Griffith GOP prepares to replace clerk-treasurer (from the NW Indiana Times on February 26, 2012)

External links[edit]