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In the Shadow of Chicago: City Methodist Church Gary, Indiana

By Kevin Robinson in Miscellaneous on Sep 2, 2009 5:00PM

If the congregation of a church is the heartbeat of a city, City Methodist is Gary's broken heart. Located at 577 Washington St in downtown Gary, Indiana, City Methodist was built in the 1920's to hold a congregation that had grown alongside the newly built City of the Century, with U.S. Steel covering $385,000 of the construction costs. The sanctuary could hold 950 including a choir, although the plot of land it was set on turned out to be smaller than originally thought. As a result, the columns inside the sanctuary are set in close along the pew lines. The building also held a church school, a gymnasium and an auditorium - Seaman Hall - named for the pastor who helped raise the $1 million to pay for the construction. The auditorium was used for musical and dramatic presentations, community meetings, and various social and educational events.

In its heyday, City Methodist boasted a membership of 3,000, and the church was home to one of the largest Skinner organs in the state of Indiana. By 1970, Sunday attendance had dwindled down to about 100 as suburbanization and white flight emptied Gary of its working class population. In 1975, the church closed its doors for good and City Methodist Church began its long decent into disrepair. Over the decades, various proposals have been floated to resurrect the building, including a center for the performing arts. Those plans were crushed (if they ever really had a chance) in the Great Gary Arson of 1997. More recently, it has been suggested that what's left of the building could be turned into a European-style ruins garden. In the meantime, the City of Gary owns the property, but lack of funds, if not will, have left the structure to crumble in the brutal Midwestern weather.

Faithfabric has a copy of the 1967 City Methodist Church Directory.