Like many steel towns that have struggled to stay alive, Gary, Indiana has become a ghostly shell of its former glory.
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The abandoned Palace Theater in downtown Gary. Its painted exterior is part of the city's efforts to beautify it and make its plague less visible.Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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A Gary resident walks past the entrance to an abandoned shoe store on Broadway Street in old downtown Gary. March 2001.Scott Olson/AFP via Getty Images
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Inside the abandoned Gary Public Schools Memorial Auditorium. circa 2011.Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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As of 2018, an estimated 75,000 people still live in Gary, Indiana. But the city is struggling to stay alive.Jerry Holt/Star Tribune vía Getty Images
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Despite efforts to beautify old downtown Gary, Indiana, it still feels like a ghost town due to its abandoned shops and few residents.Scott Olson/AFP via Getty Images
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High levels of crime and poverty have been the main problems for the city's residents.Ralf-Finn Hestoft/CORBIS/Corbis vía Getty Images
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The abandoned Union Station in Gary, Indiana.Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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Abandoned houses in Gary were infamously used as dumping grounds for murder victims in the past.John Gress/Getty Images
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Resident Lory Welch locks up an abandoned house in October 2014. Police found the body of a serial killer victim inside the vacant house.John Gress/Getty Images
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Abandoned house at 413 E. 43rd Ave. in Gary, where the bodies of three women were discovered in 2014.Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
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An unusual method that Gary has used to attract more people to the city is to highlight its abandoned buildings and proximity to Chicago to attract the film industry.Mira Oberman/AFP via Getty Images
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Segregation has been a problem in Gary. The 1945 Froebel school boycott (pictured) involved several hundred white students protesting the integration of black students into the school. This photo was taken in 2004, before the abandoned building was finally demolished.
The 1945 Froebel school boycott (pictured) involved several hundred white students protesting the integration of black students into the school. This photo was taken in 2004, before the abandoned building was finally demolished.fake images
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"We used to be the murder capital of America, but there's hardly anyone left to kill anymore. We used to be the drug capital of America, but you need money for that, and there are no jobs here and no things to steal." ". a resident told a reporter.Ralf-Finn Hestoft/CORBIS/Corbis vía Getty Images
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Inside the abandoned Social Security building in Gary, Indiana.Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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Aerial view of the Gary Steelworks. The city once employed 32,000 steel workers.Charles Fenno Jacobs/The LIFE Image Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images
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An overhead view of core makers making liner molds at the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Company foundry in Gary. Around 1943.Margaret Bourke-White/The LIFE Picture Collection a través de Getty Images
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A metallurgist looks through an optical pyrometer to determine the temperature of steel in an open furnace.Margaret Bourke-White/The LIFE Picture Collection a través de Getty Images
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Large crowd of workers outside the US Steel Corporation in Gary. The great steel strike of 1919 halted all industrial production across the country.
The great steel strike of 1919 halted all industrial production across the country.Chicago Sun-Times Collection/Chicago Daily News/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images
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Ford car packed with strikers in Gary in 1919.fake images
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Strikers walk in the picket line.Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty Images
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Gary's population suffered a severe decline in the 1980s. Many of its racist white residents moved to avoid the growing number of black residents, a phenomenon known as "white flight."
Many of its racist white residents moved to avoid the growing number of black residents, a phenomenon known as "white flight."Ralf-Finn Hestoft/CORBIS/Corbis vía Getty Images
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Abandoned since the 1980s, the carcass of old Carroll's Burgers still stands in Gary, Indiana.Library of Congress
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Gary's abandoned liquor distribution plant.Library of Congress
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The city is also full of abandoned houses, like this one.Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
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The City Methodist Church, once a pride of the city. It is now part of the city's decay, nicknamed the "God-forsaken House."Library of Congress
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A defunct chapel in Gary adds an air of mystery to the emptiness of the town. In its heyday, Gary was filled with active churches and chapels.Library of Congress
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The city is full of graffitied facades, like the marquee of this old school.Library of Congress
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A shabby wig shop in town. Few businesses remain in Gary.Library of Congress
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The old Gary City Hall building.Library of Congress
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A girl outside Michael Jackson's childhood home in Gary, Indiana. 2009.Paul Warner/WireImage a través de Getty Images
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The restored Gary Bathing Beach Aquarium at Marquette Park Beach, part of a renovated beach and lakefront in the city.Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
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Anna Martinez serves customers at the 18th Street Brewery. The brewery is one of the small businesses that have recently opened in the city.Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
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Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Park, which was finally designated a national park in 2019. Close to downtown Gary, the park is one of the few city attractions that city officials hope will help attract more visitors and perhaps even residents in the future.
Close to downtown Gary, the park is one of the few city attractions that city officials hope will help attract more visitors and perhaps even residents in the future.Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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33 Creepy Photos of Gary, Indiana - 'America's Most Miserable Town'
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Gary, Indiana, was once the mecca of the American steel industry in the 1960s. But half a century later, it has become a desolate ghost town.
Its declining population and abandoned buildings have earned it the title ofThe worst city in America. And sadly, people living in the city don't seem to disagree.
"Gary just went down," said longtime resident Alphonso Washington. "It used to be a pretty place, once in a while, but then it wasn't."
Let's take a look at the rise and fall of Gary, Indiana.
The industrialization of America
Margaret Bourke-White/The LIFE Picture Collection a través de Getty ImagesSmoke stacks from the US steel plant in Gary, Indiana. Around 1951.
During the 1860s, the United States was experiencing an industrial awakening. The high demand for steel, fueled by the increase in automobile manufacturing and road construction, has created many new jobs.
To meet the growing demand, factories were built across the country, many near the Great Lakes, so steel mills could access raw materials from iron ore deposits. Idyllic areas have been transformed into manufacturing hubs. Gary, Indiana was one of them.
The city of Gary was founded in 1906 by the American giant Steel. Company president Elbert H. Gary, for whom the city is named, founded Gary on the south shore of Lake Michigan, about 30 miles from Chicago. Just two years after the city's opening, the new Gary Works factory began operations.
Jerry Cooke/Corbis through Getty ImagesA worker at the Gary plant watches over containers of molten steel during a casting process.
The steel mill attracted many workers from out of town, including foreign-born immigrants and African-Americans looking for work. Soon the city began to flourish economically.
However, the growing number of steel companies in the country has led to demands for fair wages and better working environments. After all, these employees had little legal protection from the government and were often forced to work 12-hour shifts for meager hourly wages.
Growing discontent among factory workers led to the Great Steel Strike of 1919, in which steel workers at steel mills across the country, including the Gary Works, joined pickets outside factories to demand better conditions. With more than 365,000 workers protesting, the massive strike paralyzed the country's steel industry and forced people to pay attention.
Unfortunately, a combination of racial tension, growing fears of Russian socialism, and a completely weak workers' union allowed companies to break strikes and resume production. And with the inflow of large steel orders, the steel town of Gary continued to thrive.
The rise of the "magic city"
The city reached its heyday in the 1960s and was nicknamed the 'Magic City' for its futuristic advances.
In the 1920s, the Gary Works operated 12 blast furnaces and employed more than 16,000 workers, making it the largest steel company in the country. Steel production increased further during World War II, and with many men drafted into battle, women took over the factory work.
LIFEPhotographer Margaret Bourke-White spent time documenting the unprecedented influx of women into Gary's factories for the magazine,who narrated"women...handling an incredible variety of jobs" in steel mills - "some completely unskilled, some semi-skilled and some requiring great technical knowledge, precision and ease."
The flurry of economic activity in Gary drew visitors from the surrounding county who wanted to enjoy the luxuries the "Magic City" had to offer, including cutting-edge architecture, cutting-edge entertainment, and a thriving economy.
Industrial companies invested heavily in the cityinfrastructure development, with new schools, civic buildings, stately churches, and commercial businesses springing up in Gary.
By the 1960s, the city had advanced so far that its progressive school curriculum quickly gained a reputation for integrating skill-based subjects such as carpentry and sewing into its curriculum. Much of the city's growing population at the time was full of transplants.
Long-time resident George Young moved to Gary from Louisiana in 1951 "looking for work. Just like that. This town was full of them."Job opportunities were plentiful.and two days after moving to the city, he got a job at the Blade and Tool Company.
Chicago Sun-Times Collection/Chicago Daily News/Chicago History Museum/Getty ImagesCrowds of steel strikers gathered outside the plant in Gary, Indiana.
The steel mill was, and still is, the largest employer in Gary, Indiana. The city's economy has always been heavily dependent on conditions from the steel industry, which is why Gary, with its vast steel production, has prospered for so long off of it.
After the end of World War II, American steel dominated world production, with more than 40% of world steel exports coming from the United States. Mills in Indiana and Illinois were crucial, accounting for about 20% of total US steel production.
But Gary's trust in the steel industry would soon prove worthless.
the fall of steel
Library of CongressOutside the once great City Methodist Church, which has since been reduced to rubble.
In 1970, Gary had 32,000 steel workers and 175,415 residents and was nicknamed the "City of the Century." Little did the residents know that the new decade would usher in the collapse of American steel, as well as their city.
Several factors contributed to the demise of the steel industry, such as increasing competition from foreign steel manufacturers in other countries. Technological advances in the steel industry, especially automation, also played an important role.
The first wave of layoffs in Gary occurred in 1971, when tens of thousands of factory workers were laid off.
"We were expecting some layoffs, but now it looks like it's going to be a lot harder than we expected," said Andrew White, District 31 union director.told theNew York Times. "Frankly, we don't anticipate anything like this."
in 1972,TempoThe magazine wrote that Gary "lies like a heap of ashes in the northwest corner of Indiana, a barren and dirty steel mill town" as manufacturers continued to lay off workers and cut production due to declining demand.
As steel production began to decline, so did the steel town of Gary.
By the late 1980s, factories in northern Indiana, including Gary, weremaking about a quarterof all US steel production
Even so, the number of steelworkers in Gary dropped from 32,000 in 1970 to 7,000 in 2005. As such, the city's population also dropped from 175,415 in 1970 to less than 100,000 in the same period, as many of the town's residents have left. the city looking for work.
Job opportunities disappeared as businesses closed and crime increased. By the early 1990s, Gary was no longer called "Magical Town" but insteadAmerica's "Murder Capital".
The declining economy and quality of life in the city are not better expressed than through the abandonment of its buildings. It is estimated that 20% of Gary's buildings are completely abandoned.
One of the city's most notable ruins is the City Methodist Church, once a magnificent limestone house of worship. The derelict church is now scrawled with graffiti and overgrown, and is known as "God's Forsaken House".
Racial segregation and the decline of Gary
Scott Olson/AFP via Getty ImagesA Gary resident walks past an abandoned store in the old downtown area.
Gary's dissection of economic decline cannot be separated fromlong history of racial segregation. At first, many of the new arrivals in the city were white European immigrants.
Some African Americans also migrated from the Deep South to escape Jim Crow laws, though things were not much better for them in Gary. Black workers were often marginalized and isolated due to discrimination.
By World War II, Gary "became a completely segregated city with strong racist elements", including among its immigrant populations.
"We used to be the murder capital of America, but there's hardly anyone left to kill anymore. We used to be the drug capital of America, but for that you need money, and there are no jobs here or things to Steal".
Today about 81% of Gary's population is black. Unlike their white neighbors, the city's African-American workers faced uphill battles trying to build a better life during Gary's decline.
"When the jobs ran out, whites could move, and they did. But blacks had no choice," said Walter Bell, 78.The Guardianem 2017.
He explained: "They wouldn't let us into their new neighborhoods with good jobs, or if they did, we sure couldn't afford it. Then, to make matters worse, when we looked at the beautiful homes they left behind, we couldn't buy them because the banks wouldn't let us. They lent money."
Maria Garcia, whose brother and husband worked at Gary's steel mill, noted the changing face of the neighborhood. When she moved there in the 1960s, his neighbors were mostly white, some from European countries like Poland and Germany.
But Garcia said many of them left in the 1980s because "they started to see black people coming in," a phenomenon commonly known as"white flight".
Scott Olson/fake imagesThe USS Gary Works facility, which is still in town but continues to scale back production.
"Racism killed Gary," Garcia said. "The whites left Gary and the blacks didn't. Simple as that."
As of 2018, an estimated 75,000 people still live in Gary, Indiana. But the city is struggling to stay alive.
Jobs at the Gary Works continue to be cut, nearly 50 years after the first layoffs in the 1970s, and an estimated 36% of Gary residents live in poverty.
Library of CongressMuddy Waters Mural in downtown, part of the city's beautification efforts.
Despite these setbacks, some residents believe that the city is improving. The recovery of a dying city is not unheard of.
Strong believers in Gary's return often compare the city's tumultuous history to Pittsburgh and Dayton, both of which thrived during the manufacturing era and then declined when industry was no longer a blessing.
"People think about what Gary is," said Meg Roman, executive director of Gary's Miller Beach Arts & Creative District, in an interview withCurved. "But they are always pleasantly surprised. When you listen to Gary, you think of the steel mills and the industry. But you have to come here and open your eyes to see that there is more."
The local government has launched numerous revitalization initiatives over the past two decades with varying degrees of success. City leaders welcomed a $45 million minor league ballpark and even brought the Miss USA pageant to the city for a few years.
Some of the city's empty tall buildings are being demolished to minimize the ruination of Gary and make way for much-needed new development.
Gary's Miller Beach Arts and Creative District opened in 2011 and has since become a big part of the community's growth momentum, especially with the biennial festival of public street art, which has garnered considerable attention.
Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty ImagesChildren attend a SouthShore RailCats game in Gary. Despite their setbacks, the townspeople still have hope.
Gary is taking advantage of many of its ruins by launching historic preservation tours, which highlight the early 20th century architecture that was once glamorous in the city.
Additionally, the city continues to invest in new developments in hopes of breathing new life into the city. In 2017, Gary was even touted as a potential location for Amazon's new headquarters.
"My rule is to make investments for the people who are here," said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, "to honor the people who stayed and weathered the storm."
Although the city is slowly recovering from its collapse, it seems that it will need much longer before shedding its reputation as a ghost town.
Now that you've learned about the rise and fall of Gary, Indiana, check out26 Incredible Photos Of New York City Before It Was New York City. so find out34 Pictures Of China's Huge Uninhabited Ghost Towns.