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The Run-Down Part of Gary, IN*

Posted on 2007.07.21 at 12:24
Current Mood: hyperhyper
Current Music: Rock Island Line - Harry Belafonte
* Is that phrase redundant?
Oh! Cheap shot! Fact is, I’ve lived in a couple of run-down cities, so I really shouldn’t be one to talk!


I spent a few hours in Gary, Indiana last week. I’ve related this fact to various Chicago friends of mine over the past few days, and I’ve yet to find any who will admit to having ever set foot in the place. If you look at a map, you’ll see that A) Chicago and Gary are practically right next to one another; and B) Gary is not a small town. So it seems strange that Chicagoans would not be more familiar with the place. Or rather, it seems strange until one actually visits Gary.

I’m a native of Detroit, and I’ve been known to have a thin skin when it comes to Detroit-bashing. But I’m not blind to Detroit’s problems; I understand why people might not come away with the best impression of the Motor City. So let it be with Gary.

There appeared to be three primary types of areas in Gary: The utterly run-down, the run-down but hanging on, and the new construction that seems weirdly oblivious to the decay a block over. I’ll grant you that I did not make a comprehensive survey of the city, so there may well be some lovely areas of which I’m unaware, so I will not be posting this analysis on any travel web sites, but such was my first impression.

I was there as a tag-along with meryddian. If you’ve spent any time at all perusing her LJ, you know that she is an accomplished photographer, always on the lookout for new horizons upon which to focus her abilities and her lenses. The word from her peeps was that there were some interesting and photogenic derelict buildings in Gary, so off we went, armed with a general set of directions. Mery took a lot of photos, as you might expect. I brought along my camera almost as an afterthought. I took a few pictures and if I ever go back, I’ll take a bunch more.

This is, or was, Gary’s Union Station. Closed now for half a century, it has fallen into a sad state from which it can seemingly never come back, barring the appearance of a huge pile of money and several related miracles. Though the interior is completely gutted, a gentle scrape upon the floor with the edge of my shoe revealed that a beautiful pink marble or granite floor still remains.

I took this photo because a train happened to come by. The tracks still run right next to the building and I was struck by the juxtaposition of… how can I put it? The old against the new, the dead against the living.
Click here to see a good web site about Gary’s Union Station with more cool photos.

This is exactly what it looks like – a derelict old theater. What’s unusual is that this theater is quite ancillary to a building I spent much more time in but did not photograph – Gary’s United Methodist Church. The two structures are connected, and it’s a little tricky as one is walking through the rooms connecting the two to know exactly where the theater ends and the church begins. As a performer, though, I had to photograph this. The fact that there was enough available light to take this shot is attributable to the fact that there are so many holes in the walls and ceilings – and floors, for that matter! Not a place to take the family on your sightseeing trip through Gary.

When we proceeded from the theater into the huge church, we became aware that we were not alone. There was a fellow there, sitting placidly near the altar, seemingly awaiting our arrival. He seemed harmless enough, though just odd enough that I felt the need to monitor him closely, which is why I didn’t take any photos in the church. Though he did not describe himself this way, he seemed to be the self-appointed tour guide of United Methodist. He possessed a great deal of knowledge about the history of the place and, most strikingly, he carried on him a small metal urn containing some of the ashes of a late photographer who was well known for his photos of derelict buildings.

Mery took a great many photos of the church. I’ve seen just a few of them and they are stunning.
Click here to see a web site about the history of United Methodist with some dramatic photos.


jenniferblaufra at 2007-07-21 17:39 (UTC) (Link)
I am really fascinated with abandoned buildings, forgotten cities, ghost towns. I would love to see some.
charlesofcamden at 2007-07-22 06:58 (UTC) (Link)
We will keep you in the loop on any impending plans along those lines (see exchange with Mery below). Sounds like fun!
meryddian at 2007-07-21 23:03 (UTC) (Link)
Nice find on that website. I still am looking for good information on that hospital. And I smell road trip after looking at that 'lost Indiana' website...

charlesofcamden at 2007-07-22 06:55 (UTC) (Link)
Yes indeed -- a road trip sounds like a fine idea! We shall discuss this notion further!
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