Early Development

The community began formal development in 1923 when Samuel Reek, as principal owner of a real estate corporation formed to develop and sell lots on land acquired from the Francis Ogden estate, platted the initial subdivisions with Joseph Boo and Colin Mackenzie. The land was unsettled except for a few summer cottages along the lakeshore, with an unimproved road or wagon trail to and along a short stretch of beach. Inland, a set of tire tracks led west toward Long Lake and east toward the newly-opened Bums Ditch, both lying outside the future town's limits. At the same time the principal access road, the Dunes Highway, U.S. Route 12, was being built. The area was also accessed by rail, the Chicago, South Shore and South Bend Railroad, with a stop  known as Wyckliffe, and later by limited commuter service on the New York Central Railroad (discontinued in 1954). The town site was bisected by the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad double-track freight line from the Dune Park yard east of Bums Ditch westward. The Sand Tracks had been used as well to haul out sand from earlier mining operations, and later to bring in snow needed for ski jump competition in the present Kratz Field Park. Freight service was discontinued and the remaining track removed in the early 1960's.

Ogden Dunes was incorporated as a town in August of 1925. Access from the highway to the new town site across the railroad tracks was achieved in early 1926, and extended to the lots being sold by construction of barely passable roads. Development occurred gradually, at first near the lake and on higher dunes with a lake view, while permanent residents were being added to the summer population.

Following Mr. Reck's retirement, his son, Nelson, directed the development and sale of property for the next 40 years through his companies, Ogden Dunes, Incorporated, and Ogden Dunes Realty Company, respectively. Rapid development after World War II resulted in a 1950 census of 429, which then nearly doubled in the next decade. The town had 335 homes recorded in the 1957 Master Plan. By 1970, the population had increased to 1,370, when the original and five more subdivisions had been platted, the latest being the third and fifth. Upon Nelson Reck's retirement in 1969, the remaining unsubdivided parcels were conveyed to the University of Chicago. Two parcels were sold by the University to be developed as the sixth and seventh subdivisions; another south of the Highway was sold for future development and two parcels north of the railroad tracks and east of Hillcrest Road were acquired by the town for park and public service purposes.

In 1977 part of the sixth subdivision was included in the National Lakeshore Park, requiring abandonment of its partially developed northern portion. In 1996 the National Lakeshore acquired the parcel south of the Highway as well, virtually surrounding the town by the lake and park land, except for the commercially zoned strip south of the Highway, bounded on the south and east by the City of Portage.