When Gary, Indiana was founded by U.S. Steel in 1906, the steelworker was often not American. However the history of immigrants in Gary is often overlooked by the frequent black–white dichotomy in the narrative of the city’s more recent history.
Perhaps not as well known is the history of Gary’s foreign workers and the assimilation attempts they faced coming to town. The Gary-Alerding Settlement House was founded by the Catholic Church in 1923 with the purpose of “Americanizing” Gary’s workforce. The building would alter direction several times over the following decades, adjusting to changing balance sheets and social climate.
The final days were far from glamorous, however, and it was eventually shut down in 1971. Over forty years later, it’s still there.
Perhaps one of the most iconic abandoned structures in Gary, City United Methodist Church was once the pride of the community. Built in 1925, the classic Gothic edifice was the result of an ambitious priest backed by U.S. Steel dollars. But the huge structure would burden the church with enormous maintenance costs for decades, and when Gary’s population declined in the 1960s and 70s the church struggled to make ends meet.
When the parishioners left town, so too did the dollars. Now one of the most photographed churches in Indiana, City United Methodist sits exposed and crumbling since it was abandoned nearly forty years ago.