The Horace Mann School


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?


Horace Mann School postcard, 1931

Plans and Establishment

Minutes from downtown Gary, U.S. Steel executives and their families once lived on the tree-lined streets of the town’s upper west side. The Horace Mann-Ambridge neighborhood was defined by classic Georgian brick and stucco architecture.

Homes in the neighborhood would boast similar design cues as the region grew and established an identity. The upper west side was pleasant if not beautiful, but growth was limited as long as the the neighborhood lacked its own school. As the town of Gary grew, so did the need for more schools.

Horace-Mann-EntryWhen the residents appealed to Gary Schools Superintendent William Wirt, he listened. Wirt’s new platoon-style method of education called “Work-Study-Play” was deemed a success during its launch at nearby Emerson School in 1908.

Wanting to expand on his earlier success, the aggressive superintendent drew up plans to add at least four schools over the next two decades. The schools – Froebel, Roosevelt, Horace Mann and Lew Wallace – were all 3-stories tall and to be constructed in a similar red-brick-with-white-trim classical composition style as Emerson.

Wirt’s public school to serve the growing west side was named after education reformer Horace Mann, who pioneered the concept of public funding for schools regardless of sex or race. Mann would be the steel city’s third high school when it was established at West 5th Avenue and Garfield Street in 1918 – but it would be constructed in pieces and not officially completed until 1928.

At first Horace Mann consisted of two portable trailers near the street on the large property. The first class consisted of 45 students who had previously attended Jefferson School. Demand for the west side school was greater than initially thought, and in 1919 three more portable units were added behind the first two.

A year later Wirt realized permanent structures would need to be built, and in 1921 construction on the present-day Horace Mann School would begin. By 1922 the east building had been erected, and the west building followed two years later in 1924.

On November 8th, 1926, the cornerstone for the central building at 524 Garfield Street (map) was finally laid.

But Wirt didn’t stop there. The Horace Mann School was about to receive a landscaping makeover which would set it apart from every other Gary school and turn Mann into the premiere school in town.

Horace Mann postcards: 1938 & 1940

Horace-Mann-School-1938 Horace-Mann-School-1940-postcard


Growth & New Campus

Neighborhood residents were more than a little confused when steam shovels and dredging equipment appeared at Horace Mann in 1927 . Superintendent Wirt’s elaborate plans called for landscape architects to alter the property’s topography to produce a lagoon and rolling natural park behind the school. At the time a small ravine ran through the center of the property, rendering any development difficult and expensive.

This did not deter Wirt; soon the land was dredged and the lagoon filled with water. Classic small pedestrian bridges were inserted across the narrower portions of the pond and a bird sanctuary was added. A rock garden was placed near the flagpole directly in front of the school. Compared to other town schools Horace Mann was set back some distance from the major roads and city activity, its rolling lawns and large pond feeling more like a park than public school. To Wirt, this was by design.

Horace-Mann-School-1935The Horace Mann complex itself was constructed as an ensemble of three buildings in a classic Tudor style. The main building was larger than the others and boasted a grand red and brown brick entrance offset by white columns and pilasters.

The central building featured 48 classrooms as well as offices for principal, assistant principal, and their immediate staff. It also contained two libraries, an auditorium, a cafeteria, a refectory, two gyms, and two swimming pools (at the time the boys and girls used separate facilities).

When it opened, the finished school served Kindergarten through 12th grade.

Horace Mann: 1950 & 1954

Horace-Mann-School-1950 Horace-Mann-School-1954-2While the main building served most of the school’s functions, the east and west structures also supported the school’s mission.

The west building initially served Kindergarten through 3rd grade, but later it included the music department, ROTC headquarters, a general shop, and additional classrooms and offices.

Horace-Mann-LogoThe west building would also host the school’s new modern gymnasium, which was added to the rear of the building later in 1985.

The east building was largely administrative offices and contained the school’s printing department in the basement.

The front of the building featured the pond, the north bank of which had a series of terraced steps and lead to the entry of the central building. The arched windows of the main entry were designed in a Tudor Gothic style while the stone quoins on the corners of the structure further accented Horace Mann’s English lines.

On the grounds behind and north of the buildings were a gravel playground and grassy athletic field, book-ended by wooden bleachers and surrounded by a running track.

Horace Mann track in rear of school, 2013

When the finished school was dedicated in 1928, it was celebrated during an event in Gary called “Circus Night.”

Horace-Mann-First-Commencement-1929More than 2,000 students watched an extravagant display which featured clowns, foot races, exhibition drills, and a homemade menagerie.

There was entertainment for everyone: boxing bouts, athletic demonstrations, dancing, and other various games were available as well.

When new, Horace Mann proved to be wildly popular in Gary. Enrollment in 1929 during the first year of the new establishment had already reached 870.

1929 First Commencement, 1929 Freshman class, 1931 “Horace Manual” Yearbook

 Horace-Mann-Freshman-Class-1929  Horace-Manual-Yearbook-1931(Click thumbnails to enlarge)

Horace Mann aerial photo, 1946
Horace Mann aerial photo, 1946


Decades of Education and Transition

By 1937 the staff at Horace Mann had increased to 80 while enrollment had grown to 2,386. The school’s athletic program had enjoyed some success during this time, producing one of the school’s most famous alums in Tom Harmon.

Harmon would earn 14 letters at Horace Mann en route to leading the team to the school’s only state football championship. He would go on to win the Heisman Trophy at the University of Michigan and earn various medals while serving in World War II – not to mention the brief stint he spent playing in the NFL.

Horace-Mann-side-viewTom Harmon was Horace Mann’s golden son and arguably the school’s most famous alumnus.

Students of Horace Mann in the 1950s had positive recollections of their experiences – the pond in particular. In the spring they spent their lunchtime feeding the swans bread.

In the summer it was a popular spot for fishing, and in the winter the pond would freeze over and was a place to ice skate. Even if the students couldn’t always be proud of their football team, they always had the pond.

The student base continued to grow, and by 1956 Horace Mann boasted an enrollment of 2,597 – greater than the school’s designed capacity. Overcrowding would soon force the school to split. In 1958 the wooded area in front of the school was cleared, the land flattened, and a new school–the John H. Vohr Elementary–was built in its place.

When the elementary school was added in front of Horace Mann, the pond was removed as well. Despite being a favorite feature of the students, it occupied valuable real estate for two schools starved of parking spots with a hospital next door.

The pond was eventually drained, filled, and paved to provide much-needed additional parking for Horace Mann High and Vohr Elementary Schools.

Aerial picture courtesy Google
2013 aerial picture shows track behind school & former pond, now a concrete pad in front of school (courtesy Google)


Reduced Funding and Contraction

Horace-Mann-AuditoriumThe racial landscape of Horace Mann changed in the following decades. Initially an all-white school, Horace Mann was slow to desegregate.

When superintendent Wirt constructed black-only schools to appease Gary citizens, it only lessened the pressure on white schools like Horace Mann to desegregate.

Gary would eventually become a hotbed for racial segregation issues and Horace Mann was not immune, but by the 1960s the barriers had come down and the school was integrated. Meanwhile overcrowding issues would persist and integration only exacerbated the issue.

In 1965 the school board voted to shift the lower grades away from campus and turn Horace Mann exclusively into a high school.


Horace Mann Auditorium: 2004 (below) & 2013 (above)

Horace Mann’s Auditorium in better days, circa 2004

The 1960s would see the greatest change in Gary; the steel industry would contract, reducing available jobs. Unemployment then skyrocketed and crime increased. The declining opportunities in the steel town would see the population cut in half and become primarily black.

When Gary elected its first black mayor in 1967, the exodus was expedited. Tens of thousands of white residents moved away from Gary in what became known as “white flight”. The changes to Horace Mann’s student body were no different; enrollment had shifted from 100% white in the 1950s to 98% black and 2% Latino when the school eventually closed in 2004.

Horace-Mann-hallway-HDR When the population of Gary dropped in the 1960s and 70s, so did the school district’s enrollment. The city’s tax base was dwindling and the school board was watching its budget shrink every year; balancing the annual cuts was challenging. A budgetary reprieve in 1985 would see the school district build a modern gym for Horace Mann High School students.

The original gym had long been unsuitable for intramural sports, and until the modern gym was opened the Horsemen had only been playing away games. That year the school also received an updated cafeteria as well as a new shop area. By now Horace Mann’s enrollment had fallen to 1,226 students with 55 teachers employed at the school.

Horace Mann gyms: new & old (photos circa 1990s)

Horace-Mann-Basketball-1996 Horace-Mann-hallway-gym-90s In 2002 the schools of Gary were showing their age. The once proud buildings around town were mostly falling apart, and the city had not built a new facility in 30 years.

The school board decided to restructure and update the city’s school system.

Schools with low enrollment were the first to be nominated for closure, among them Horace Mann, running at one-fifth of capacity servicing only 546 students by 2003.

Horace-Mann-hallway-90s Horace-Mann-hallway-90s-2 empty hallways in the 1990s



Horace-Mann-ComputerThe school would last for another year before it was shuttered for good, but the closure would go far from smooth.

For students and teachers of Horace Mann High School, news of the closure came via newspaper article in March of 2004.

In the article it was announced the Gary School Board had voted on April 13th to close Horace Mann that June. The board reportedly voted 5-1 to close Mann along with a middle school and three elementary schools in a budgetary move.

A predictable backlash ensued. Parents lobbied to keep their neighborhood school open while board members defended their actions by pointing to the slashed budget and falling enrollment.


Soon it became and back-and-forth, and the board would waffle; it seemed whenever the board considered closing a school, objections from residents loyal to the school persuaded the board to back down.

Horace-Mann-hallway-HDR2However this time objections from the Horace Mann-Ambridge residents would not be enough, and even the threat of a lawsuit would not deter the school board from closing the building.

Horace Mann was one of ten schools planned to be closed between 2004-2006, and in April it was announced Mann’s students would be diverted to Roosevelt and Wirt High Schools for the following school year.

The resistance to closure was great until June of 2004 when supporters finally accepted the school’s fate. On the 9th of the month, a ceremony was held for the closing institution.

Horace-Mann-not-helpfulHundreds gathered as stones were laid down in a monument to Horace Mann High School.

Families, friends, and alumni packed the west side auditorium to bid farewell to the last class to graduate from the 76 year-old school, and on the 10th of June it was closed for good.

Horace Mann’s final class–that of 2004–yielded 72 proud graduates.   Horace-Mann-Marker Horace-Mann-Front-Entry *

Revitalization Attempts

Horace-Mann-Science-2Several attempts were made to re-open the school as an administrative center, but in August of 2008 a consortium of inspectors revealed their results after they spent the summer analyzing the interior, exterior, roofing, mechanical, electrical, and technology systems of Horace Mann.

Horace-Mann-Science-3The building was deemed “inadequate for occupation” and “in need of replacement.” They determined the school had “major structural and/or safety problems” and was beyond repair.

Today, furniture is overturned and scattered about while old computers lay smashed and abandoned.

Horace-Mann-Science-Class  (Click thumbnails to enlarge)

Horace-Mann-Science-LabSchool trophies have been scattered about the building, and the teacher’s lounge–once packed with visual aids and lesson plans–is now disheveled with learning materials torn and strewn about.

The science labs were victimized as well, smashed Pyrex littering the floor between loose containers of chemicals and exposed specimens.

Piles of semi-charred books lay strewn outside the administration offices; another room contains stacks upon stacks of surplus textbooks (below).

Horace-Mann-Abandoned-Textbooks *

The Future

Horace Mann shop entrance

After closing, the school appeared to be on borrowed time. Nearby Froebel School, a vacant building of the same vintage as Horace Mann, was scheduled for demolition as the city paid a $1 million contract to raze the complex.

In 2005 Froebel School–which had been closed since 1977–came tumbling down. Residents winced and wondered, would Horace Mann be next?

Ironically, what closed Horace Mann School would be what saved it from demolition. The city’s lack of money meant razing closed schools was a luxury, and Gary was in no place to afford such spending.

Additionally, the school board was still dealing with the fallout from the outraged community over the decision to spend money razing the Froebel School.


Horace-Mann-SuppliesThe city elected not to take action on the Horace Mann building, and to this day its empty shell still haunts several blocks along the south side of West 5th Avenue in Gary.

The building was not completely left alone, however; metal salvagers have stripped the building of pipes and conduit while vandals have left their mark by adding graffiti and destroying whatever was left.

Horace Mann would faithfully serve Gary for 76 years, and during that time nearly 100,000 students walked its halls.

The school produced Nobel Prize and Heisman Trophy winners. Even a world-famous tenor once called Horace Mann home.

Moisture and a lack of a climate-controlled environment have warped the modern gym’s flooring. (2013)

Today Horace Mann High School might be closed and beyond repair, but the school lives on through its proud alumni and the wonderful images provided here to us by the Idiot Photographer.

Memorial to Horace Mann alum
Floor of Mann, 2013: memorial to former Mann student? (update: picture is of former Mann student Tanisha Roberts who was kind enough to stop by and let us know she is still with us)

Horace-Mann-Blossom Horace-Mann-A-Rama Horace-Mann-certification Horace-Mann-Crayfish-Heap Horace-Mann-Film Horace-Mann-Art-ClassHorace-Mann-Old-Gym-2013 Horace-Mann-voltage  Horace-Mann-track-bleacher-stumps Horace-Mann-bush WATCH: Walking through Horace Mann shortly after school closed:


Horace-Mann-Aerial-2013vintage pictures courtesy Calumet Regional Archives, present-day 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 and tell their history.



  1. I’m left wondering what structural problems the school really has. Of all the buildings I’ve poked around in Gary, this seemed the soundest, and hardly a whiff of mold (unlike Emerson school).
    One thing I’ll say in defense of closing this school, it is not easy to navigate. There are several spots where you feel like you should be able to go one way, but end up having to circle back 3/4 of the way as there is no connecting hall.

      • Gee, I wonder how we got around, having only 5 minutes, between classes? We had no problems, even meeting up with friends, talking etc. before we went into each class.
        Felt there was no problem.

        • Absolutely…never one time was lost or had to turn around…Margaret (Finney)Larson Class of 1959. And spent all 13 years on this beautiful campus…K to 12…how many can say that!

    • Very likely the walls were lined with asbestos. It would cost a fortune to remove it, and its health hazards are so well known that it could not be ignored.

    • There was a stairwell on both ends of the building and then large stairwell right in the middle of the building. From the front, you could go up and down to all 3 levels. That was the same for both on either side of the back stairs. Didn’t make a circle, but very easy to get around. My locker was on the 3rd floor for all the years I was there. Girls lockers on one side of the building and boys on the other.

  2. I agree with IP, the school did feel a bit like a maze. I wonder how much of that is the fact that it’s shuttered, and stretches of the hallway are very dark? I remember last time I had been hunting for the exit a long time before I found it. I’ll add the school still is beautiful, especially from outside.

  3. I’m so proud to have graduated from Horace Mann. I don’t think I ever really appreciated it until the reunion and the pictures ; the realization of what a great opportunity was afforded to us and the beautiful building and the many wonderful memories are priceless.

  4. You could make the best horror movie in a setting like this. And what were those shrimp carcasses doing on the ground in one area? Creepy!

    I really hope they don’t demolish this place, something like this in Australia would be classified as national heritage.

    Great job, thanks for posting. This has just turned into my new fav website…

    • Thanks Alex, I appreciate the comment. The Idiot Photographer thinks they might have been left over from an experiment in science class. Obviously they were well preserved too. I agree, especially creepy!

  5. Horace Mann School is one of 42 schools in the San Jose Unified School District. We are located in downtown San Jose, California, across the street from City Hall. Our enrollment exceeds 670 students in grades K – 5 who represent a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Our new building was completed in September of 2003 and our entire campus is wireless. In 2007 we added an Apple computer lab. Horace Mann provides classroom laptop computers to all classrooms, grades 1-5, and desktop computers to all Kinder classrooms. Additionally teachers can access a mobile computer cart for classroom-based projects. As an IB school, students have the opportunity to study a second language. Other programs, such as Art Express, Choir, and Mariachi provide students the opportunity for creative expression through the arts.

  6. This was beautifully done and so bittersweet Horace Mann will never die. My husband is in the wrecking business in Chicago and if they were to tear it down I would have a huge farewell party. National wrecking company. Please call us I am from class of 58.

  7. What an amazing building Horace Mann was, and a wonderful, long tradition. I wish I had appreciated it when I was a student there. But the photographs of the “ruin” are giving me the coolest Gothic style nightmares! Maybe they will haunt my dreams again tonight…..

  8. I was a student there as well, and this article brought back a lot of memories. I thought that it was bizarre that I seen myself in the pictures. I had to say, “THAT IS ME ON THE PHOTO OF THE PERSON IN THE UNIFORM!!!!” That was so random that my picture is still there. However the caption made it seem as though I was dead. I’m still alive and kicking lol. Thanks for the memory lane.

    • Hello Tanisha! Glad to hear you are still alive and kicking! 🙂

      From the looks of it, the Idiot Photographer and I could only assume it was some sort of memorial. Odd that your photo ended up there that way, but glad you are still with us. Thanks for your service, and I’m happy you stopped by to comment and clear this up. I’ll update the caption, thanks again for speaking up!

  9. What a sad sight Horace Mann is now. I remember so many great times there. The sock hops in the gym almost every Friday, running on that track for the track team,sneakinge sneaking hugs and kisses next to my locker between classes and especially all the great teachders and coaches. Just had my 50th reunion and am so glad my parents sent me there. Thanks for the wonderful story of our old school

  10. I attended Horace Mann from kindergarten to graduation. Highlights for me were Miss Tucker’s art class, Miss Bopp’s Latin class, Mrs. Lewellen’s geometry, Miss Winter’s choral club, student council, and playing the glockenspiel in the marching band.

    • We passed though Gary this spring (2014). I’d seen the City Church ruin before, but it was a shock to see HMHS closed too. A friend found this Website.
      So much formative stuff happened there. Still think of certain teachers almost every day because of something useful they hammered into our thick heads way back then, e.g., Orpha Davison.
      Attended HMHS grades 2 – 9 with Class of 1959. Moved to NJ in 1956. I was always the tallest in our class, except for a couple of years when you and Kristin got ahead of me.

      John Albright

      • My sentiments were similar to yours, John. Those particular teachers served us well! Where did life take you?

  11. I find the remarks concerning dead end hallways and difficulties in moving around the building mystifying. I graduated in 1964. I began in 1958, in sixth grade. I can not remember being lost anywhere – not the main building, not the east building, nor in the west building. As we all know, not all buildings end up being built per blue print. Often a second set of prints as developed known as the “as built prints.” I would love to see a set of those as built prints for every section of the building which was somehow redone or rehabbed after I left in 1964. They man not have even bothered to do “as builts” for every modification made. That explains any “dead ends” that are there now. Too bad. Yes, I went to an “Ivy League” high school right in the middle of “steel town USA.” And I am proud of it!

  12. Michael Shlensky. i can’t believe I have been out of Horace Mann for 52 years! Looking at the video brought back so many memories. I rembemer John Friel gave a book to read, The meditations of Marcus Aurelius. What an impact that book had on my life. Live your passion now.

  13. It always makes me sad to see so many things go to waste, like all the textbooks. I’m sure some of them still could have been used. Furniture and art supplies as well. Why is this never done? I live in the States since 1991, and I’ve never seen buildings like that in Germany. Why is everything just left behind and no effort made to salvage items that are still useful? Is there any valid reason for this? I’m just curious.

    • Thanks for the comment! I’ve often wondered about the furniture and supplies left in schools myself – especially the desks, microscopes, computers, etc. Even in school districts where budget cuts hit hard, you’d think they would re-appropriate the old stuff. As far as textbooks, I can only guess the books are out of date each year as newer editions are released. Either that or some bureaucratic red tape preventing re-issuance of textbooks. But as you point out, there’s enough stuff of value left behind to make one wonder.

    • Why, because it’s a throw away world. And when you are spending other people’s money they don’t care about making use of everything possible. That’s pretty typical of government. If you look at the many schools in Detroit closed they too have junk all over, and have been stripped clean by thieves. Some beautiful buildings there as well.. Pity too, because they don’t make buildings like this anymore. In Europe they preserve old structures, here we let them rot away. Think how much it would cost to recreate a building like this today. It’s really sad.

  14. Thank you for your reply! I guess nobody really knows why that happens. Bureaucracy sounds like a good bet. Or maybe it’s just easier to buy new stuff and have it delivered conveniently, than salvaging old things, cleaning them and then transporting them to places where they are needed. Never mind the waste of taxpayer money. Business as usual.

  15. Seriously folks, inasmuch as we had a great building, we had even greater people. We were parented properly, strictly taught in school, coached in athletics to always excell and had laurels for our achievements in art, music and drama. What a wonderful group of people that I was fortunate to be a part of.
    All my Love, and A hui hou…..Larry J. Hamilton

  16. It,s sad to see that school. I thought the school was still open. god help that city as a whole, what is happening. they at least cleaned it out. they just left it, what a shame.

  17. I have to say that we received a good education there. No mention of the glory days would be complete without a salute to Kenneth and Ann Resur and the award-winning marching band they led.

  18. Wow, fantastic site. I stumbled upon this today while looking up something entirely unrelated. My mother went to Horace Mann so it’s interesting/bittersweet reading the article and comments. We left Gary when I was around 9 or10 years old so my memory of the places you’ve highlighted are rather vague, it’s sad the see the deterioration of so many formerly wonderful buildings.

    Thank you for providing such great info and photos!

    • Thanks Mary, I appreciate the comments on the articles. I feel we get a little better appreciation for structures if we know their history and impact on our lives, hope the visible state of them today didn’t cause too much pain. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  19. We have driven past the school during the two reunions I attended . What a shame –
    these photos and descriptions of the opening of the school made me appreciate if even more.
    To those commenting on how we got from one class to another, vivid memoriies of racing
    up amd down those (gorgeous) center stairs. Once in a while I dream about not making it
    in time. Karen Baker Bloustine – ’61i

  20. I am from the class of 86 and proud alum of the best school Gary has ever built HORACE MANN’. It was very sad when i heard the news they were going to close my our down. I was able to come home and take one last walk through and it brought tears to my eyes.I also went to Vorh and that school also is very special to me. Horace Mann has not died, we as alum has kept the name alive and are very close to each other. This was very nice to read and bring back the memories i had there and i never got lost there. That’s why the school was so special. The East and West bulidings mad Horace different from any other school in the city. I was there when they built the new Gym, caf, auditorium and library. Tears just thinking about my and wrting this. Vince ‘VDog” Ward class of 86….

  21. Wow so amazing to see! I hate that such a wonderful school has now come to this. I loved my school and proud I was able to attend all four of my high school years there! #classof96

  22. Ive been here several times as a photographer and still find this school fascinating. Every time I visit is see different things. Hopefully my images aren’t disturbing and some people from this post can take something away them. The images are from 2014 from several visits.

    • That’s a great set of photos Pat. I haven’t personally explored HM and you’ve captured angles and shots I haven’t yet seen. That gym floor is ridiculous, and I just love that computer lab. Thanks for the share – and thanks for the link! 🙂

  23. I lived at 553 Garfield left Gary in 1972 my I was in the tenth grade came back in 2013. Our house was gone. Part of the parking for the hospital and when I saw the school that I attended memories surfaced.

  24. I started kindergarten at Horace Mann…and graduated from high school in 1952. These pictures bring back wonderful / funny memories. If you would exit the west door and walk directly across Garfield Street you’d be at my house (567 Garfield). Now that is gone, and there’s a parking lot for Methodist Hospital. There’s a picture here of the stairs…the stairs where ‘my’ class stood and sang, “For All We Know We May Never Meet Again”. I even married the ‘boy’ who took me to the Senior Prom…Ted Dahlberg. 61 years of marriage! Lots of us have kept in touch…now we’re all OLD FRIENDS! Seeing these pictures is sad, but oh, the memories. Even have one funny one…I got bit on the nose by one of those beautiful swans. Why was I so close…probably feed it bits of bread??? Always in trouble…then and now!

    • Thanks for stopping by Joan and sharing your personal story. Sounds like great memories! I’m not surprised you have such positive experiences, it sounds like most have a fond place in their heart for HM. Fantastic that so many have kept in touch, it’s unfortunate the school is in disrepair but the silver lining is it is still here! There are other schools which did not last. Bittersweet, maybe, but also a silver lining. Thanks for stopping by!

  25. I am a Chicago based photographer and I have a bunch of photographs from about 4 months ago in Horace Mann it’s so easy to get in and out of that place although it is closed down. There is lots and lots of great footage and new artwork around those eerie hallways.

  26. So when you close a school down you don’t also make plans on cleaning it out? You just lock the door and walk away? Leaving textbooks and supplies just to rot out in the open? Seems rather lazy and disrespectful if the place is indeed special like you say . The pictures are more akin to a low life tenant who, upon eviction, leaves the the place dirty and gross because it’s not their property what do they care? If a building that is worth keeping is going to be abandoned for awhile, maybe preparing, securing and cleaning up before you leave is a good idea.

    • I think what makes these buildings special are its memories and that it helped shape the lives of many thousands of people. Unfortunately that’s not something that has a financial value. As far as leaving stuff to rot, I believe those that lost their jobs during the cutbacks were probably more concerned with finding a new job than what to do with all those old books. Also, teachers specialize in teaching, not logistics. 😉

      A properly-funded education system *would* have a re-utilization department. The military has this, it’s called DRMO -defense reutilization and marketing organization. It’s where they send all the old furniture, TVs, computers, etc. It takes dozens of troops to man, organize, and re-allocate all that stuff on each base. It’s a lot of work (ask me how I know ;-). I don’t condone the schools abandoning the equipment, I just understand the circumstances.

      As far as mowing the grass? That’s something the community could probably get behind. But remember there are dozens of abandoned schools in the district. Say you’re a board member with a mower who’s willing to try. It would probably take you two full days to do one school by yourself, especially since you don’t have a tractor.

      Thanks for reading!

  27. ….. like maybe the school board could mow the grass once a month? that would be a good start for such a “special building.”

  28. My grandmother was class of 1934. Her yearbook is with all of the family pictures, so next time I get my hands on those, I’ll definitely look at it with more appreciation. Thank you for such a good article, and photos of the exterior. (The interior makes me sad.)

    • Thanks Jennifer, I appreciate the kind words. I love going through old yearbooks, they are a fantastic lens into the culture and style of the past. Everything from clothing to hair styles, activities, etc. Thanks for the comment!

  29. Duneland Press has just published an exciting vocabulary-building mystery novel set in 1942 Gary, entitled “The Great Emerson Art Heist.” The book includes 2,143 bolded SAT vocabulary words, with glossary, 374 bolded cultiral literacy references, with glossary, and 212 period illustrations, including old postcards, photographs, maps and period images. This is the perfect tool for any student to grow his or her vocabulary and cultural awareness and have fun doing it. It will not only prepare you for the SATs, but provide the vocabulary necessary for professional success. The book is an entertaining and nostalgic paean to Gary in both words and pictures. While the focus of the novel is on Emerson and Froebel High Schools, my motivfation was to call attention to the status of the art collections of all the Gary schools, much of which have been in storage for years. I am a 1965 graduate of Emerson High School and Gary historian, author of “Gary, Indiana: A Centennial Celebration.”. For more information, go to:

  30. Interesting and nostalgic at the same time – Beautiful school – Does anyone remember Miss Davison? I still have nitemares about her – my last name started with an A so I was always in front where I couldn’t avoid her. You could not win in her class – If you had no questions she would say something to the effect that since we knew it all . .she would give a test. If you were brave enough to ask a question she would ridicule you and accuse you of not paying attention. She had a scary habit of waking the aisles behind you and would suddenly hit your desk with her ruler, certain to make you jump or in some cases cry. I tried unsuccessfully to get a transfer from her class – However I have to admit I learned!! Sad to see the disrepair – it deserves better than that.

  31. As the school photographer 1955-57. I took thousands of photos. My best was when Tom Harmon came back to visit. I went on to become a commercial photographer in Chicago thanks to Horace Mann High School.

  32. This place looks worse than Hitler’s death camp Auschwitz…where people were starved and tortured to death. Here, youngsters’ minds were starved & tortured to death.

  33. All those years ago. Thanks for the memories. I attended Horace Mann from 7th grade to 11th (74). Sad to see it in ruins. Sadly All things must pass, but my experiences will stay with me in photographs and memory. R. I. P. Horace Mann High School.

  34. I just found this site. There were so many happy days at HMHS – and to see that the pond (with swans) and the woods and the rock gardens were intentionally destroyed further consolidates the view of “Man, the Destroyer”! Substitute Gary School Board or State of Indiana (thanks, Governor Pence) for not providing the encouragment and money for schools like HM to continue – if not as a school as another building to serve the people
    And how tragic to simply abandon the buildings – to just walk away and leave them open to vandalism and theft – the pools, and study hall on the third floor, remember it? – being patrolled by students with A averages! – the handball court (why do I remember that?) Anyone else remember Olive Greensberger , student counselor?

    Sigh. Glad I still have my yearbook – Horace Manual, 1944!!
    Jeanne Buss Fuchs, class of 1944

  35. When I was a freshman in 88’ our mantra was: Side gonna slide, Velt gonna melt & Mann gonna stand! Wow.. sadden by this.

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