Gary's Preservation Tour and Love Fest take over downtown Gary September 14-15

Two day celebration of downtown Gary's architecture

Contributed By:The 411 News

Dedication of City Methodist Church historical marker kicks off Preservation Tour and Love Fest

Although only the shells remain of City Church and Union Station in Gary, they are not unloved.

Both are in the spotlight in this weekend’s celebration of downtown Gary’s architecture – the city’s 3rd annual Preservation Tour saluting the city’s efforts to maintain and reuse historic structures. Twenty buildings, historic and modern, are on this year’s walking tour sponsored by the Gary Dept. of Planning and Redevelopment.

Added this year is the “Gary Love Fest,” an arts and music festival designed to bring awareness to the importance of landmark preservation. The festival is sponsored by the Decay Devils. Based out of Northwest Indiana, the Decay Devils describe themselves as “having gone from playing in to actively restoring abandoned buildings.”

Kicking off the weekend is the Saturday morning dedication ceremony of the Indiana State Historical Marker commemorating City Church. The cathedral at the corner of 6th Avenue and Washington Street was once home to the Midwest’s largest Methodist congregation, from 1926-1975.

Attendees are asked to gather at 504 Broadway by 9:45 a.m., and then walk to the marker near the site of the abandoned church at 577 Washington for the unveiling at 10 a.m.

FAITH CDC, Gary Downtown Emerson Neighborhood Spotlight (GAR-DENS), and Legacy Foundation will host the public dedication ceremony.

The text on the marker reads “City Church: In the early 1900s, immigrants, white migrants, and black southerners came to Gary for work in the steel industry. Rev. William G. Seaman founded City Church downtown in 1926 to serve as a Christianizing influence on the diverse population. The ornate Methodist cathedral, funded in part by U.S. Steel, housed a gym, theater, music studio, cafeteria, and commercial unit.

“Open seven days a week, the church served as a meeting space for many events in the city. Although the congregation remained segregated, the church offered programs for African Americans and immigrants. Membership peaked in the 1950s, but fell in the 1960s when white residents fled Gary for the suburbs. The church struggled to adapt to the community and closed in 1975.”

Following the dedication on September 14th, from 11am to 4pm, the City of Gary will host the free open house tour of notable historic and modern buildings in Gary’s downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. Participants will gain insight into Gary’s past and present, and learn the importance of historic preservation firsthand. The walking tour will be repeated Sunday, Sept. 15.

Sites will include maintained historic buildings such as City Hall (401 Broadway) and the Lake County Superior Courthouse (15 W. 4th Avenue), as well as adaptive reuse sites like Union Station (251 Broadway) and Genesis Towers (578 Broadway).

This year’s tour may also be the last opportunity to see Memorial Auditorium (700 Massachusetts) and the Indiana American Water Tower (650 Madison) in their current states before they are deconstructed and demolished. The 2019 tour will also highlight downtown Gary’s recently renovated buildings that are contributing to the city’s revitalization, including ArtHouse (411 E. 5th Avenue) and the Gary Public Library and Cultural Center (220 W. 5th Avenue).

The Love Fest will feature performances on two stages – at Union Station and Gateway Park (400 Broadway). The lineup includes the Gary Civic Symphony Orchestra, deejays, poetry readings, and karaoke. Gateway Park will hold the food vendors and a beer tent. Along Broadway to 8th Avenue, art and mural exhibits, a mobile art cart and interactive painting.

Like the Preservation Tour, the Love Fest is for all ages, and free to the public.

Also on Saturday, the Gary Historic Preservation Commission will host a reception for tour participants at 4 p.m. in the Gary Room on the second floor of City Hall.

The Preservation Tour begins at 504 Broadway, where visitors will receive vouchers for discounted rides on Gary Public Transit, and a tour pamphlet containing information about each building’s unique history, photos, and maps. The open house is open to all; no reservations are required. Visitors can enjoy the sites at their leisure, with the help of volunteers who will manage each site.

Revitalization of some of the City Church property is a project of the Planning and Redevelopment Dept. The department wants to save and strengthen the church sanctuary façade and its bell tower to become part of the landscape for a “ruins garden” attracting events and tourists. The remaining church meeting rooms will be demolished and replaced with a neighborhood park.

Reuse of Union Station is a Decay Devils project. The commuter station closed in the 1950s. With grant money, the building’s perimeter has been cleaned of debris and a garden was planted. Local artists painted murals and installed them on the station’s lower level windows. A majority of the original brick pavement was restored and new benches added. U.S. Steel poured new concrete from the station’s entrance to the street curb. Today, the building looks like a welcoming site for a tour instead of an invitation to a wrecking crew.

For more information, visit, find the tour on Facebook and Instagram @PreserveGary, or contact the Planning Department at (219) 881-1332 or email

Abandoned, but not unloved, Union Station (above) and City Church (below) are among the stops on this weekend’s Preservation Tour and Love Fest in downtown Gary

Story Posted:09/11/2019

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