Gary, Indiana Preservation Tour

Union Station

I’ve always been interested in the history of my hometown. Even as a lifelong resident, I enjoy hearing the juicy factoids about the city’s past, and still feel the stories would make an historical tour not only possible, but interesting. In an earlier post, Is Historical Tourism Possible in Northwest Indiana, I posed the question of whether a tour could be a reality.

View of Corinthian columns in former Gary State Bank (Currently Centier Bank)

Well, thanks to the Gary Redevelopment Committee and several other sponsors, three walking tours took place this summer. The main purpose of the two-hour tours were to explore the architecture of historic buildings such as the Gary State Bank (currently Centier Bank), Union Station, and City Hall. Honestly, the architecture didn’t interest me. As a writer, I enjoy the stories about the buildings more, and was glad they were also part of the tour.

While current and former residents like me are already familiar with these buildings, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the three tours were full and consisted of people not even from the area (I was the only person from Gary in my group). I was also relieved to hear– at least from my group– fascination with the stories tour guides gave about each site, and not pity about the current state of the city.

Ballroom of former Gary Hotel (currently Genesis Towers)

Due to distance and time constraints, only a few sites were part of the tour. To anyone who knows or lived through Gary’s history, the information and sites would not be new. They did not include places such as the Palace Theatre, the Memorial Auditorium, or Emerson School. Thankfully, the group doesn’t plan on this being the last tour. They also hope to include more sites on any future tours. Maybe one of those beer trolleys– the ones where everyone sits around a bar and collectively pedals it around– would make the tour more interesting and allow access to more sites such as Waldheim Cemetery, St. John’s Lutheran Church, US Steel Gary Works, and others.


First permanent structure built in Gary: The Gary Land Company Building

In the end, it was nice to see the interest people had for the city. I’m also glad that the city sees the benefit in remembering and promoting its rich history.

I wonder… maybe the city’s history can become part of the school system’s curriculum. Cultural field trips throughout the city are also a thought; a way of pointing out the beauty native Garyites might take for granted because we pass them every day. How many of us can even point to a building in the city and appreciate its place in history? By purposely teaching Gary’s history, I think young residents will gain a life-long respect for the city they call home.

About Michelle McGill-Vargas

I hail from Gary, Indiana where I enjoy writing historical fiction, flash fiction, and short stories. My writings have appeared in "Lutheran Witness", "Splickety Magazine", "The Copperfield Review", "Typehouse Literary Magazine," and was a contributing writer to Concordia Publishing House's "Portals of Prayer" (October 2016). I've served as vice-president of the Indiana Writers' Consortium and am currently a board member of Midwest Writers. I am currently represented by Melissa Danaczko of Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency, Inc. I pay the bills as a teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing. Visit my blog at
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2 Responses to Gary, Indiana Preservation Tour

  1. Riccardo Vargas says:

    I think a tour of Lew Wallace High School would generate considerable income. I would like to see Lew Wallace turned into a community college or maybe a culinary/ art school.

  2. Karen Koester Lanning says:

    Sounds like a great idea. It’s way over due to bring some life back into Gary, Indiana I went to St. John’s Lutheran school for 8 yrs. then went to Tolleston High school

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