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In the Shadow of Chicago: Gary, Indiana Public Schools Memorial Auditorium

By Kevin Robinson in Miscellaneous on Aug 31, 2009 4:00PM

We took a short tour through the Southeast side of Chicago and Northwest, Indiana on a recent weekend, a not-often seen look at a part of the city that is as much the essence of modern Chicago as it is isolated from it.

Today we start with the Gary Public Schools Memorial Auditorium, on Seventh and Massachusetts in downtown. Built in 1927 and made of brick, terra cotta and limestone, the Memorial Auditorium was done in the Mission/Spanish Revival style, and could seat 5,000 people. Constructed to honor war dead, the Gary public schools held graduation for all high school students here, and the site played host to many, many athletic, artistic and other cultural events. In late October 1948, President Harry Truman made a campaign stop in Gary, addressing Democratic supporters in the Memorial Auditorium.

While the building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it has sat vacant for several decades. Various plans have been kicked around to resurrect and restore the structure, but with nearly two-thirds of the building destroyed in the Great Gary Arson of 1997, the prospects don't look good. For now, the City of Gary has erected a fence around what is left to prevent further vandalism. Unfortunately, the city lacks the funds to repair and restore what is left.