From the Vault: Gary, Indiana

Update: I went back in the summer of 2023.

This is Gary, Indiana. A city only founded in 1906, which peaked at a population of 178,320 in 1960, an increase of 33% from the 1950 federal census. In the most recent census of 2020, it has dropped to 69,093, a drop of 61%. These photos from December 27, 2009, capture stern beauty in the federal courthouse and city hall, just as the snow began to fall again. They could be in any city in America.

But Gary is not just any city in America. Founded in 1906 by U.S. Steel and named after Elbert Henry Gary, the chairman of the company, it grew rapidly as the new steel mill along Lake Michigan sprang up along its shores. The humble Gary Land Company Office below, photographed in 1908, was already totally out of place as buildings that would be comfortable in a major city rise up behind it.

Photocopy of photograph (original in the collection of the U.S. Steel Corporation), taken by the Gross Photo Company, 1908 VIEW NORTHWEST SHOWING DOWNTOWN GARY AND THE GARY LAND COMPANY BUILDING (enlargement of 4′ x 5′ negative) – Gary Land Company Building, Gateway Park, Fourth Avenue & Penn Street (moved from Broadway), Gary, Lake County, IN. Library of Congress.

And rise they did. The Knights of Columbus Building was built in 1925 at the southwest corner of West 5th Avenue and 5th Street. It was designed by Harry L. Porter and Ralph McNally of Cleveland, Ohio. Remember, Gary was founded in 1906 and they were building this less than twenty years later! It is now apartments.

I figured out that the building below has now been demolished; it sat along the 700 block of Broadway.

I’m worried this building below is gone, as well. Note how obvious it is that thieves had been stealing decorative elements from the upper stories.

There are also some beautiful churches.

It’s obvious, as well, that many of the churches originally served Eastern European immigrants, thought obviously they have been purchased by African American congregations.

This church below looks like one that could easily be seen in the Metro East of St. Louis. The onion dome with the Orthodox cross is also a dead giveaway below.

Many houses are wood frame but there are some residential buildings that are made of that typical Chicago area muddy brick.

And storefronts are converted into churches, as well.

Of particular interest is the presence of a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Gary at 669 Fillmore.

It was the Ingwald Moe House, and as is apparent, it caught fire in a suspected arson in 2006, and was demolished by 2012.

But I’m confused by these two other houses on the same block. They look like they’re built by Wright, but there’s no record of that.

They’re both still in the same condition as of a recent Google Street View check, the above one abandoned and the below one occupied.

Below is the boyhood home of Michael Jackson, at 2300 Jackson Street. Remember, this photo was taken way back on December 27, 2009, so the famous singer was still alive. But interestingly, the Jackson family still owns the house. Looking at Google Street View, the house has sprouted a fence and other memorials out front. It’s hard to believe that eleven people lived in this two bedroom house. Read about the family’s time in this home until they relocated to Los Angeles.

The Dunes Bowl was not in fact under construction but was rather demolished in 2020. It’s rather bizarre but at the far eastern end of Gary is a beach resort community.

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