Not Louisiana, Paris, France, New York, or Rome – but…
Over the weekend I made a pit stop in downtown Gary, Indiana. I’ve sped over Gary on interstate 90 many times in the past, but never thought to actually look and explore underneath the milky layer of haze and smog that constantly envelopes the city.
Only 30 miles south of the stellar skyline of Chicago, Gary is a town that the gods of new urbanism and gentrification have failed to smile upon. Sadly, it has the appearance of a bombed out city that’s been abandoned and sealed off. And what I find odd is that this isn’t a remote and hard to access town that the interstates have passed by leaving Main Street with no base. It’s hard to travel through the upper midwest WITHOUT driving through Gary. Interstate 90 cuts right between downtown and the old steel yards. You can SEE the city from the highrises of Chicago!
I actually did find a small local populace in the Save-More Food Center at Broadway and 11th. Two armed guards and the chaos of a refugee camp didn’t deter me from purchasing some batteries for the camera. While waiting in the check out line it hit me: The next series of the controversial CBS series “Kid Nation” should be shot in Gary. The current location is an old ghost town ranch in New Mexico. This would create a perfect change of location for the second season. The kids will open up shops, bulldoze the crumbling facades, encourage tourism, develop an economic base, and play “Kid Sim City Gary” to no end. Who knows – at end perhaps Gary will take an upward turn if managed by a bunch of 5th graders. I haven’t seen the show, so I have no idea what the actual day to day operations are, but I don’t think they could make Gary, Indiana any worse.
In seriousness it’s a sad place to see, especially knowing that just 30 years ago this proud steel town was a driving and bustling force in the midwest economy. I found some incredible photos of Gary’s decay at Forbidden-Places.net They’re both eerie and profound, especially the photos of the theater interior. A commenter noted that with high Chicago housing prices it could be a boon to revitalize Gary’s core and construct housing and condos for those wanting to live and work near Chicago.
But I doubt it will happen. Seeing the destruction of New Orleans a year after Katrina I was impressed at how many people, even in the “bad” areas, were out and about engaging in construction and repair of their homes and businesses. There’s a pride and sense of worth you find in certain communities around the country. Unfortunately I don’t think Gary has seen that for decades. In reading stories and articles on Gary what you find is recollections of the city for what is WAS in it’s heyday, and NOT for what it could be in the future.