It takes just 50 minutes to get from Downtown Chicago to the historic Aberdeen Inn in Valparaiso, but if you choose to take the winding back roads, your journey will take you through woods and dunes carved by prehistoric glaciers. But this scenic drive is just the beginning of a remarkable get-a-way.
For more and more people from Chicago and around the Midwest, their scenic drive ends in a destination steeped in history. While most people come to the Aberdeen Inn for the four-season attractions and remarkable restaurants, hidden below this resort lies the Underground Railroad.
Like Underground Railroad sites throughout the United States, many Underground Railroads (safe houses for people escaping slavery) and landmarks have disappeared or deteriorated. Unfortunately, records were not kept or were destroyed, making the opportunity to retrace the steps of these folks escaping slavery significantly important.
While most people that stay at the Aberdeen Inn are attracted to the four-season attractions and innovative restaurants, many find the most memorable part of this wonderful experience is hidden just below the Abbey Steak House and Tavern. Within the Abbey Steak House, you’ll discover a hidden trap door that steps back in history. Having a glass of wine will never be more spirited!
This historic carriage house is believed to be where abolitionists hid runaway slaves, but finding written or photographic evidence of its use as part of this legendary route is tricky.
Once called the Timber Lake Farm, beneath this iconic Inn lies flagstone and timber tunnels that gave refuge to people escaping to freedom.
According to the National Parks Service, the Underground Railroad is described as “the resistance to enslavement through escape and flight, through the end of the Civil War—refers to the efforts of enslaved African Americans to gain their freedom by escaping bondage. Wherever slavery existed, there were efforts to escape. At first to maroon communities in remote or rugged terrain on the edge of settled areas and eventually across state and international borders. These acts of self-emancipation labeled slaves as “fugitives,” “escapees,” or “runaways,” but in retrospect “freedom seeker” is a more accurate description. Many freedom seekers began their journey unaided and many completed their self-emancipation without assistance, but each subsequent decade in which slavery was legal in the United States, there was an increase in active efforts to assist escape.
The decision to assist a freedom seeker may have been spontaneous. However, in some places, especially after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the Underground Railroad was deliberate and organized. Despite the illegality of their actions, people of all races, classes, and genders participated in this widespread form of civil disobedience. Freedom seekers went in many directions.
The Underground Railroad started at the place of enslavement. The routes followed natural and man-made modes of transportation – rivers, canals, bays, the Atlantic Coast, ferries and river crossings, road and trails. Locations close to ports, free territories and international boundaries prompted many escapes. As research continues, new routes are discovered and will be represented on the map”.