Story by Glenda Winders
The tiny town of Lagro in Wabash County may have a population of only about 500 people, but thanks to a local revitalization effort, it is making its mark on the tourism map in a big way. A historic lodging option, Riparian House, tops the list of fresh possibilities here.
Two residents interested in reinventing their hometown partnered to restore the only one of six remaining canal houses in town that retains its original structure. Built in about 1835, these small dwellings housed Irish immigrants who came to the United States to work on the Wabash and Erie Canal.
The new owners used reclaimed wood, stained glass, and steel from the original roof to fashion a rustic-chic getaway. They then outfitted it with all the amenities of a modern hotel, and now it’s offered as an AirBnB property. A new deck affords their guests the opportunity to relax outside and enjoy a view of the river. “It would be perfect for a couples’ getaway, a solo traveler, or maybe a couple with a child,” said Whitney Millspaugh, marketing and brand manager at Visit Wabash County. “It is definitely a unique experience.”
One of the Riparian House partners has also renovated the vintage home next door into the 950 Speakeasy Bistro. The bar is located in the walkout basement, so patrons have the option to enjoy the fire pit as well as outdoor seating with a view of the river. The upper level will eventually be a family-style restaurant with seating available outside on a balcony.
While you’re staying here why not get out on the water yourself? White Rock Recreation in Wabash will rent you the kayak or canoe of your choice and shuttle you to the Lagro drop-off point from which you can float or paddle back to your car. Or walk, run or bike the recently completed seven-mile Wabash River Trail between Lagro and Wabash. The Salamonie River State Forest, the Hanging Rock National Natural Landmark, and Kokiwanee Nature Preserve will afford you the luxury of totally immersing yourself in nature. Millspaugh suggests that any of these followed by a stop at the speakeasy would make for a perfect afternoon.
Lagro’s proximity to Fort Wayne and Wabash make it a great place to stay to explore those historic places, but it can boast a great deal of history that is all its own. The community was named for Miami Chief Le Gris, and its post office has been operating since 1893. St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1999.
With an eye to preserving even more of the town’s past, the Lagro Canal Foundation is working to restore the 19th-century town hall and bank and at the same time introduce businesses that will encourage people to gather downtown, such as restaurants and stores.
“If you want to get away and experience natural beauty and small-town charm, then this is the place to go,” Millspaugh said. “We have all the amenities of a bigger city but with the rural beauty that encompasses Wabash County.”
For more information: visitwabashcounty.com