When I think about Gary, Indiana, a couple of things come to mind...
It's the boyhood home of Michael Jackson, and also home to many lakeshore steel factories. Then there's that song from "The Music Man" that keeps repeating, "Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana." And now the song's stuck in my head! More recently what comes to my mind is the amount of abandoned buildings that are left there in ruins. Everything from homes to train stations, post offices, churches, schools, hospitals, stadiums, auditoriums, you name it. So I knew I needed to take some time and explore this seemingly forgotten city and document it's decline.
Union Station was built in 1910 to handle the many commuters traveling to and from Chicago. In 2008, The History Channel's' "Life After People" used it as an example of what would happen to a Chicago building if no people were left on earth.
Founded in 1906 by the US Steel Corporation, Gary was once a thriving city in the post-war 1950's, boasting a population of 200,000 residents. With the collapse of the steel industry, Gary began to lose its inhabitants, falling by over 50 percent. Economic competition from abroad forced US Steel Corporation to cut 90 percent of its jobs, or roughly 30,000 employees. After this there was a "white flight," when a large majority of Gary's white residents fled the city and established their own town, Merrilleville, 10 minutes to the south.
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Gary, Indiana, is a very eerie and confusing place to wander. Being from Michigan and having shot abandoned buildings in Detroit, I had a certain expectation about it. While Detroit is rather sprawling and has pockets of blight, it seems the entire city of Gary has been abandoned. There are a few people walking the streets but no crowds. I realize these things all sound negative, but I thought it was rather beautiful. There's something so peaceful about a once grand, dynamic building left alone to rejoin the earth.
Gilroy Stadium used to hold 10,000 people and once hosted the Jackson 5. It has been lying in ruins since 1976.
United Methodist Church was built in the 1920's and once held 950 people. It closed for good in 1976.
It's not ALL bad news for Gary. More than two years ago Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson partnered with former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to do something about the city's blight. More than 200 volunteers have cataloged the condition of every property in Gary--info available at garymaps.com. In this Chicago Tribune article written in March of 2015, Gary's mayor stated that the next long-vacant building she wants to come down is Ambassador Apartments. I was there to witness partial demolition of the city landmark.