Abandoned: St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital

St. Marys Mercy Hospital

In the final installment of the Gary series, we take a look at the skeleton of a healthcare organization founded over one hundred years ago.

Originally established in 1908, St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital would see multiple additions and renovations over the years while it expanded to accommodate the city’s growing number of residents. But when the fortunes of Gary turned and the citizens fled, the hospital became economically superfluous; the reduced population base could not financially support operations.

The debt-ridden facility endured a slow and painful contraction before finally closing in 1995. Several attempts were made to reuse the building–including the moving of the city’s police department into the newest wing–but half of the complex was never re-appropriated and left vacant.  Today, the remaining structures have deteriorated and are likely beyond repair.


Graphic displays planned Mary Mercy Hospital, circa 1910
Fundraising ad shows planned design for St. Mary’s, circa 1910


When Gary was founded in 1906, the steel company did not initially plan for adequate medical facilities. In 1908, the Sisters of St. Francis founded what would later become known as St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital. The medical center would begin life as four crudely-equipped private residences connected via walkways. Initially, it would have just 20 beds.

As the town grew, the need for larger facilities quickly became apparent. In 1910 the Sisters of St. Francis decided to expand the hospital, and soon construction began on a five-story rectangular brick building on the corner of West 6th Avenue and Tyler Street (above). However by 1912 the Franciscan sisters would run out of funds, leaving the building unfinished and in search of another suitor.

St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital, 1919 (Click thumbnails to enlarge)

L-to-R: kitchen, office (1924), patient ward. Below: operating room


In 1913 regional cleric Bishop Alerding called in the order of Ancilli Domini (Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ) to finish construction of the hospital. They completed the fundraising for the Bishop and by December of 1914 the new St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital was finally opened.

A first-class building when opened, the facility was rated class A by the American Hospital Association.

St. Mary’s would continue to grow with numerous additions made over the years. In 1918 the Gary Land Company donated a parcel of land next door to allow the hospital to expand. The additional wing would add 150 beds and allow the building to also house the Gary Works Hospital, which had previously been located at the plant.

St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital postcards

St. Marys Mercy Hospital

St. Marys Mercy HospitalTop: 1923 pre-expansion. Bottom: 1930s, post-expansion

In 1927 yet another extension to the hospital was completed, further growing the capacity; the hospital would eventually accommodate 300 beds at its peak after the multiple additions and updates.

The hospital had multiple departments (surgery, obstetrics, x-ray, and physiotherapy) but would specialize in obstetrics and pediatric cases. Mary Mercy also ran a school of nursing in the building.

For decades Mary Mercy Hospital would be a premiere healthcare facility in Gary, and it boasted a resume which included celebrity connections. The hospital was the birthplace of Michael, Janet, and the rest of the Jackson siblings.

In 1978, the facility attempted to save California Angels player Lymon Bostock’s life when he was shot and killed in downtown Gary.

Northwest Family Hospital, aka St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital, circa 2013
(central concrete façade part of later renovation on original structure)



icy-hallLike everything else in Gary, Mary Mercy’s fortunes would rise and fall with steel. The decline arguably began in the 1960s; the hospital began contracting when the population growth trends of Gary reversed.

By 1968 the St. Mary Mercy Hospital Nursing School was shut down.

A reorganization in 1974 saw the hospital renamed to St. Mary’s Medical Center after an update. It was during this time the new west wing was added which today houses the Gary Police Department.

However it would be a downward slope for the rest of the aging structure. By 1993 the hospital was in financial dire straits; it needed to find a buyer or the facility would be forced to close, leaving 450 people unemployed.

sinkAncilla Systems and the Lakeshore Health System had unsuccessfully been operating St. Mary’s for years. In May of 1993, the now 162-bed hospital was sold to Summit Medical Holdings, Ltd, an Atlanta-based hospital corporation.

Summit’s operations were nationwide, spanning numerous for-profit hospitals in Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, California, and Illinois. By December the acquisition had been completed and Summit wasted no time attempting to update & streamline the facility. P

art of the plan involved a new name; it was now known as the Northwest Family Hospital, and for the first time it was now completely medicaid and medicare-eligible.


Last Chance

fallenDespite Summit’s attempt to make the hospital profitable, the macro-economic hardships effecting Gary were too powerful to overcome. Restructures would continue into 1994, and each one involved another round of layoffs.

On March 10th of 1995, Summit Medical gave employees the federally-mandated 60-day Worker Retraining Notification Act notice of its intentions to close the hospital.

Days before the hospital was scheduled to close, Summit rescinded the order while hope of a sale to a group of investors gained traction in the eleventh hour.

The Northwest Family and Gary Mercy Foundations, non-profits spearheaded by doctors and community leaders including City Judge (now mayor) Karen Freeman-Wilson, worked with Summit in at attempt to rescue the struggling facility.

Mary Mercy Hospital, 2013

Eager to exit their collapsing investment, Summit agreed to sell the hospital to the groups for one dollar.

Dr. Chiedu Nchekwube, a member of the purchasing group, told the press

“[Summit] said, somebody, just take this off of our hands – whoever that somebody is. This is a guesstimation, but I really don’t think they are looking to get anything out of it. I think they are looking for someone to simply take over their liability.

Actually, when we had our first meeting, they even gave us a dollar to buy it. They handed it to Dr. [William] Washington and said, ‘Take it and pay us when we’re ready.'”

firehoseDespite valiant attempts by the Gary foundations to keep the hospital operating, they entered in the process too late and were ineligible to purchase the building; Federal regulations at the time disallowed private practices from purchasing hospitals.

Dr. Nchekwube and his associates scrambled to form the proper entity to qualify for purchase, but time was running out as the layoffs would continue.

Financing would ultimately be the problem for the foundations; they had the dollar for purchase but not the capital to fund full operations and payroll. It was estimated $2-$3 million was needed just to keep the hospital operating for the next 45 to 90 days.

Undeterred, the groups negotiated with other agencies to determine how the building might be used for alternative health care services.

Our goal is to get the building out of bankruptcy at the cheapest amount possible and divide it out into health-related uses, the Health Start administrative office would be an example,” said Gary Mercy Foundation member Freeman-Wilson.

By August of 1995 it was clear the deal was not going to get done and Summit was forced to re-issue the Federally-mandated 60-day notice to Northwest Family’s employees. In another effort to appease creditors, the management company sold most of the remaining fixtures, furniture, and equipment over the next several months.

In the middle of October 1995, Summit was forced to close the emergency room and lay off over 100 workers.

(Click thumbnails to enlarge)


Closure & Garage Sale

stairwayBy November of 1995 Northwest Family Hospital was drowning in debt. Summit owed nearly $1.2 million in property taxes, real estate taxes, and other penalties.

The beleaguered hospital management company sought forgiveness of the debts from the Lake County Commissioners. Officials from Summit reported the hospital lost more than $3 million in 1994, the year for which they owed the $1,181,106.50 in taxes and penalties.

Finally, on November 24th during Thanksgiving of 1995, the obsolete and spartan hospital was shut down for good after nearly 90 years of continuous operation. It was a disaster for the remaining 150 medical workers who risked staying at the hospital despite the numerous warning signs of closure.

According to Gary Mercy Foundation member Dr. Chiedu Nchekwube, “Nobody really wanted it to close, but the marketplace changed and we had to change with it.”

In November of the following year, Dayton Ohio-based National Content Liquidators, Inc. was hired to conduct a massive garage sale at the shuttered complex. Bargain hunters prowled the abandoned buildings for deals on the remaining medical and office equipment which was being sold at pennies on the dollar.

st mary mostly intact windows

A sign on the wall of the information desk told shoppers everything was fair game except “fire extinguishers, carts, bed parts and samples.” Shoppers bought everything that was left, from chairs to file cabinets and staplers. One shopper even left with a toilet seat.

Remaining medical equipment was liquidated as well. In what was once the emergency room, shelves and carts were filled with devices and equipment, including a dozen or more defibrillators, surgical instruments, and microscopes. An arthroscopic surgery system, which at the time sold new for about $19,000, was priced at the Northwest Family Hospital sale for $3,800.

The sale lasted until everything was sold. “Our intention here is not to leave anything behind,” said a spokesman from National Content Liquidators. Proceeds from the sale were used to offset some of the debts held by the bankruptcy estate.

st mary wall o brick*

New Tenant

Several attempts to re-appropriate Mercy Hospital would happen over the years. The most successful was the proposal from mayor Scott King which would come in October of 1998. His plan called for the closed hospital to be converted into a public service facility; the police department would move into the newer west wing of Mercy Hospital and part of the building would be converted into a jail.

Despite community backlash, the idea made fiscal sense. The police department was in need of a new home; construction of a new facility would cost an estimated $25 million dollars while converting the abandoned hospital was estimated to cost $14 million. The proposal would eventually be approved and the conversion began.

By 2001 plans were underway to enact King’s earlier proposal and the Police Department began moving into the building. By 2003 the move of the police department to Mercy had been completed, and to this day it remains Gary’s police headquarters (map).

Gary police departmentThe police department was using less than 50% of the complex, however, and citizens of Gary wanted to find a use for the remaining unused square footage.

In January of 2004 Lake County Sheriff Roy Dominguez submitted a proposal to convert a portion of the old St. Mary Mercy Hospital into a comprehensive substance abuse rehabilitation center for adults and juveniles.

The idea was well-received, but it would take millions of dollars to rehabilitate the now dilapidated structure and an economic feasibility study was never completed. After the failed Dominguez proposal, the future for Mary Mercy looked bleak.

The real estate collapse in 2008 all but sealed the fate of the old edifice.

Aerial photo shows 1974 addition currently occupied by police department (courtesy bing)
Aerial photo shows newer, 1970s addition currently occupied by police department
(courtesy bing)

Today, the unused portion of the building is likely beyond repair after nearly 20 years of exposure to salvaging thieves, vandals, and of course mother nature. Initially there were community fears of demolition, but those have subsided as the building appears safe for now.

As long as crime and economic woes plague Gary, the threat of redevelopment is low and landmarks such as St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital appear to be safe from demolition.

vintage pictures courtesy Mercy Foundation & Calumet Regional Archives; modern pictures courtesy the Idiot Photographer


Sometimes Interesting has teamed up with the Idiot Photographer to bring the reader a rare and unique insight to the history of Gary, Indiana. Over the course of this month we will feature various structures around town and tell their history.

This post concludes the Gary, Indiana series. We hope you’ve enjoyed the view into Gary’s history we’ve presented this month. Thanks for following along; feel free to comment and let us know which were your favorites.



  1. Fascinating, beautiful, and sad, like all these articles. Thank you for posting them.

    Why does she call herself an “idiot”? She’s clearly anything but!

    • In the course of exploring these buildings I’ve done some pretty idiotic things, it is a bit of a wonder the worse injury I’ve sustained so far is a twisted ankle from putting a foot through the floor of Ambassador Arms Apartments. Though the massive bruise that limited my range of motion on my left arm was pretty bad, I can’t blame myself for that one. A pigeon knocked loose a pipe from the ceiling of a disused power plant and hit me with it. I’m just glad his aim wasn’t better since he missed my head.
      Also, when I started I wasn’t a very good photographer, I had no clue what I was doing so, well, I was an idiot with a camera.

  2. Thankyou to yourself and your photographer friend for this series! Admittedly I enjoy seeing a broader, more global scope in your posts – but it was nice to get posts from you more regularly than usual. And it was quite a fascinating profile of the city with some wonderful photos.

  3. Excellent job again, this was an exciting building to explore since we were right next to the police station and being discovered was a very real risk. Well, that and the occasionally scary floors, there are a few rooms on the upper floors that should not be entered as the floors are starting to give way.
    I wondered why there was pretty much no equipment left behind, now I know! Though it seems that there was no aftermarket for a pair of radiographic film developers, since that was pretty much the only equipment left in the building (marked at $250 each).

    Aldering had a hand in this one too eh? I wonder how many other historic buildings he worked with. And the Jackson clan was born there! So much history in this city, and it is mostly forgotten. Thank you reviving it and sharing it with everyone.

    • And thanks to you for all the legwork with capturing the images! 🙂 Yes, I noticed Bishop Alerding’s name came up often in the early years of Gary. He had an influence on the town, that’s for sure. This was a fun project, and I learned a lot of interesting history. I have to thank you for the ideas on these locations, IP!

  4. I can add that the police station is accessible from the hospital, though the passage is rather byzantine. One of the oddest experiences I’ve had in Gary was in the twilight area of that building that is no longer hospital and not yet the police station, just a huge utility room that got just enough power to dimly light a couple flourescent light bulbs. I don’t get creeped out easily anymore, but I didn’t stay there long. Anyway, thanks for a great series and I’m looking forward to what you’ve got next!

  5. Really enjoyed this series on Gary. Fascinating what depopulation can do to a place as you don’t often see that process (certainly not here in the UK anyway!).
    Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks Nick, I imagine given the UK’s smaller amount of land it’s probably not as common an issue. I know of the abandoned Tyneham, but outside of that I don’t think there’s much. If you do come across one in the UK let me know! Thanks for reading. 🙂

  6. Thank you (both of you) for this series… Insert a standing ovation here 🙂 I will miss this series as it is right up our alley but I do look forward to the future! I find that my heart beats a little faster whenever I enter one of these decaying buildings. Another great post and haunting images!

  7. I remember looking at one very similar to this in the Niagra Falls area, I think it was also a St Mary’s. It was for sale like $240K to buy a whole hospital, wow.

  8. This is the hospital where my two sister and I were born, and three of my children were also born here.

  9. Excellent article. This is one of the most unnerving places to explore in Gary. Part of the old building still has electricity and dying fire alarms randomly go off in certain places. A few years ago before the roof started to give in, some rooms were fully lit and were so clean that it looked like a doctor would walk in any second. Now many of the floors are covered in moss and ferns. The OR is especially creepy with the super bright lights still shining and fake blood covering the walls. The place has become home to feral cats these days.

  10. Thanks for the article. Fascinating. I worked at St. Mary Medical Center from 1983-1987 upon graduating college. I worked on 2 South (orthopedics) – part of the old wing at first. Then in the CCU (cardiac intensive care) – a small addition off the north wing along Tyler Street (pictured above in the “Northwest Family Hospital” photo). I think the bath tub picture may have been taken on 2 South. Met lots of great people while I worked there. Crazy experience for a sheltered white boy from the country.

  11. Also, I think the addition where the police department is now located was built during the 80s. As I recall, the hospital was adding on a new ER and ICU when I left.

    • Deidre,
      When did these docs work at SMMC? Those names do not ring a bell from the early-mid 80s. Could Dr. Fidel be Dr. Patel? The only doc I can thing of from that time period remotely close to Dr. Carbon would have been Dr. Kamen. That is the best I can do for you.

      • Aushbach, Gadson, Patel was ER, Crawford Cicovich and Ken Montgomery was ICU HN, I was dating Tanya Shorter, RT at the time. Fave bar was Dunes Tap lol

    • Dr Sandra Gadson, Goyle Garlapati and Singh. Ausbach, Dr. Nowlin, Legasspy(stood on a stool to operate lol). Ken Montgomery was HN for the ICU at the time. The British Cardio/Nephrologist?? Married Laura Conyers. Lisa Soderstom,RN, I remember you Jim from CCU, The IMCU was right down the hall from the ICU, Susan, Pat was the Nocs supervisor for us. I finished out my year contract and went west. I finished out my career and BIA/ Indian Health Services Chinle, AZ. Live in Vegas retired and on O2 for COPD, think I would have learned:-((. Patel was the ER Dr. iirc Kathy RN ER. Tanya Shorter RT. This breaks my heart a little, 1995 Not the only community hospital I have seen close . Good folks, Sue Kadish RN, the two Donna s one staff and one registry. I will be going off line for a few months as my brother who has cancer and me with COPD will be getting a place closer to stores and my VA clinic. I hope I helped some in jogging the memory. Some days I forgot how much fun Gary and St Mary’s was. Kevin

      • Kevin…..Whoa. I remember you. Did you graduate from IUN, too? For some reason I am thinking that is in my head. Man, Dr. Kamen. Loved that guy. Yep, and his Bivona Trach. When we moved to San Diego, the pulmonary docs were I impressed that I knew him. Then a few more docs to stir you memory….Dr. Dave, Dr. Nchekwube, Dr. BF Grant, Dr. AS Williams, Dr. Oni, Dr. Washington. A few CCU staff – Rory, Francine, Myrna, Faith, Debbie, Comer, Lydia and a couple more I can see faces – but not recall the names! From ICU, you, Ken, Pat O’Neal, and a nurse named Gwen – I think she hated me! LOL Do you remember a nurse named Jim Fleck from the IV Team. He was going to medical school. I saw him a few years back in AZ. He is an anesthesiologist in Scottsdale. Did you know Etta from 2 South. I wish that woman knew how much influence she had on me as a nurse! I left there in 1987. Things were starting to go downhill. I remember we didn’t get JCAHO accreditation.

        Sorry to hear about the health issues. Take care.

      • Oh, and a Korean doctor. Dr. Cho maybe? I was once assisting him to put in a triple lumen once. He had never put one in to my knowledge. He actually got out the instructions and started to read them! We wlaked him into letting someone else do it!

  12. This is the hospital I received my Nursing degree from!! It was a wonderful community of caring people. I really miss the grotto because it was so beautiful! and a good quiet place to go for reflection!! I really miss all the good Gary had to offer back then and I hope they resurrect the city. Dr. Fadel was family practice and Dr. Carbone was my pediatrician. I knew them well and I also worked with Dr. Kamen.

    • Hi I worked in the ICU 1984 to 1986. This was my very first job as a new grad. Yes Dr. Jack Kamen and the infamous Kamen-Wilkes ETT. Back in the day the ICU used to be the neonatal ward. The same unit I was also born into

        • No more shocked than sad, and those warm fuzzies are still there. Too bad the ACA took such a long time and the Medicaid reimbursement would have slowed down the fall. I come from the old days when there was blue collar aristocracy was around and from 5th to 34th Streets was a vibrant area Goldblatt’s Woolworths(best Hoagies anywhere). I have had an urge to come home but health concerns keep on my COPD leash, No thank you for having this site and the state of affairs. More shocked than sad.

  13. Tess – I think I remember you. We’re you a patient care manager on the 3 West, maybe 4 West? I worked on 2 South under Pat Vargas and then CCU under Rory Alfonso during ’83-’87. Small world. I’ll send you a note in Facebook. My comments above are under savuti94.

  14. i graduated with my nursing diploma in 1967. Dr. Kamen once took us on a field trip to watch open-heart surgery in Chicago! He also did some of our respiratory lecture
    I am sad to see that all is gone. It still lives in my memories, though. if anyone from the class of ’67 sees this, please contact me!

  15. I was born there in 1946, boy kind of a shame to see it. I also had my tonsils removed there in 1952.

  16. I was born in this Hospital in 1965. It’s sad to see it like this. Also the house that we used to live in is gone. I hope that they can rescue this City. So many memories.

  17. Not sure if I overlooked it but you have any information about Froeble High School? That school has been closed as long as I can remember, my dad went there and I would like more information about it.

    • Hi Veronica, we did not feature Froebel during this Gary series because we were limited to structures still standing (I believe Froebel was demolished around ten years ago?)

      I would still be interested in researching & writing about the school, but it is more difficult to secure photographs of structures that have been gone for some time. Thanks for the comment.

  18. I’ve absolutely loved your Gary, Indiana series! The stories have a sad undertone of course because the buildings that you write about have been long abandoned, but they are truly still alive because of your words and the fabulous photos! Thank you to both yourself and the Idiot Photographer. I agree with previous comments that the photographer is amazing — not at all an “idiot”. 🙂 I would love to read more stories (perhaps even a new series) involving other cities around the U.S. and even in Canada. Just a thought. 🙂 Thank you for all your efforts! I can’t wait to read more!

  19. was born there in 54, and my 2 bro and 2 sis after me, from 57 till 65. my parents lived in the brunswick area and my father ran a tv shop on 13th and bdwy. I stayed in the area, lived just across the state line for many yrs and now live in the south of hammond. such a shame to see gary disintegrate.

  20. Do you know what happened to the chapel? My sister worked there and on Friday nights they had novenas. I was very young and she would take me to them. I remember it was very ornate and quite beautiful.

    • Unfortunately, I do not know what happened to the chapel. I do, however, remember that it was very beautiful. As a student nurse there during the 60’s, I had occasion to visit it more than once.

  21. Thanks for posting this. I had my first job out of college as a lab tech in the chemistry lab in 1972 and met a lot of wonderful people while working there before taking off for Alaska. I got the experience I needed to walk into a new job once I got there from the experience I received at Mercy. Sorry to see it fall into such hard times but I will always have fond memories of my time there.

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing your personal experience with St. Mary’s, Tom. I enjoy hearing the positive experiences alumni have with fallen places, it also helps lend a more human side to the story. Glad to hear you have positive memories, cheers!

  22. Oh my God!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m so,so sad. I was born at this hospital!!!!!!!!!! Seven years ago I went to see the hospital. But for my surprise I found the hospital closed. My name is Mary Mercy Saurí. Really very sad………..

  23. I was born in Gary, IN on April 25,1948. I’m pretty sure that this was the hospital in which I was brought into this world. Are the birth records still available? Or, might they be found in the County Court House? Any info would be appreciated. Email me at: ranewman@ameritech.net Thanks!

  24. Hello! Whoever is reading this comment,

    I loved the article! It was very interesting. The idiot photographer and the writer truley entertains me with their replies.

    A comment towards the writer: I was reading through the whole artical out loud and found this mistake. “‘Our intention here is not to leave anything behind,’ said a spokesman from National Content Liquidators said.” You have already mentioned that a spokesman from Nation Content Luquidators said that. There is no need for another “said”.

    A comment toward the idiot photographer: I am a fellow photographer as well, sort of. I’m merely a teen trying to persue in photography and in another profession. I would be grateful if you would give me any tips and if you would leave and of your social media names so I can check you out! What type of photography work do you do?

    Overall this is a very well article and a great job to you both.


    • Hi Mary, thanks for leaving the thoughtful comment. I appreciate the correction, I included too many “saids” in that sentence. Thank you for bringing that to my attention! I’m also glad to know you found the article interesting. Thanks for reading and the kind words.

      I don’t know if Idiot Photographer follows the comments, but she did recently move to a new blog. You can reach out to her there if you’d like some help or advice with shooting: http://mahencha.net/ Give her a shout (and tell her you saw her on S-I). She’s good people, I’m sure she’d be happy to hear from you. 😉

  25. Very interesting and sad at the same time. I was born in this hospital, had my tonsils out here as well. I graduated from the school of nursing in the class of 1962. I have many fond memories of the place. There was an underground tunnel that wentfrom the nursing residence to the hospital.
    Gary was a thriving town at the time. Always great summer fun at the beach.
    I would love to know how to contact some alumni? Any ideas as to who would have all those school records.?
    Thanks for the memories jane (moylan) jacobs I would love to hear from former classmates.

    • I graduated from the school of nursing in 1967. I have tried to find information regarding other graduates, but with no luck. I was able to find one classmate via another source, quite by accident. If you get any viable source, please post!

    • Hi Jane thanks for leaving a comment. It’s sad to see the hospital in the condition it is today, but I’m glad to hear you had great memories of your time there. I’m sorry but I do not know who currently maintains the records – or for that matter, if anyone does. It is a good idea to post your contact information here though, if other alumni read the article they will know how to contact you. Good luck!

  26. I am looking for Ken, he was a nuclear medicine technician at St Mary’s Medical Center in Gary, I worked in Physical therapy in 1981 and last saw him there in 1993. I can not remember his last name therefore I am unable to locate him. If anyone can help me I would greatly appreciate it . Thank you .

  27. I was a lab transport driver 80-81 and warehouse driver 81-82. Spent a lot of time downtown and knew a lot of the folks mentioned above. During my time there, the new lab was built and we helped move everything into the new peds wing. Very fond memories and I knew every square inch of that campus except for the mental ward, since it was locked up. Hung out with boiler room attendants, maintenance, and security most of the time. Had a key to the morgue, which was my hiding place between runs. Good times with good people. My co-workers were Wayne Chestnut, Primo Delvalle, Bill Vincent, Art and Alan.

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