The Horace Mann School of Gary, Indiana is on the short list of American high schools that have graduated more than 75 classes of students. A creation of innovative educator William Wirt, the unique school took seven years to build and was finished in 1928. The campus set a new standard for the area’s public schools by featuring landscaped rolling hills, multiple gyms and pools, and even a man-made pond.
Horace Mann’s fortunes would ebb and flow with those of Gary; when the city’s population declined so did enrollment at the school. In 2004 the school board voted to shutter the building, and nine years later the ailing building still stands vacant and crumbling. Is the school’s rich history enough to secure its future?
There is no shortage of abandoned schools in Gary, Indiana; the declining population over the decades has left the school district scrambling to close and reorganize schools. Annually decreasing budgets complicate attempts to maintain or repair the crumbling structures.
The Emerson School was Gary’s first high school, built in 1909. It was the proud work of a confident new superintendent and would be at the forefront of racial integration decades later. When depopulation starved the school of students in the early 1980s, the district re-organized Emerson into a Visual & Performing Arts magnet school to keep it open.
The school would last another quarter-century before mother nature would close it in 2008, one year shy of its 100th birthday.