Gary – The Indiana City that has Become a Ghost Town

Gary Indiana

The city of Gary in Indiana, USA was once a prosperous steel town but overseas competition and restructuring of the industry led to population loss of 55% since its peak in the 1960s. Much of the city lies abandoned and it faces huge social problems such as poverty and ghettoization. It is estimated that a third of all properties in the city are unoccupied.

Union Station in Gary Indiana

Union Station was a stop on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

Union Station

A postcard of Union Station in its heyday.

In 1906, the United States Steel Corporation founded the city of Gary just 25 miles (40 km) from downtown Chicago, Illinois. The Gary Works on the shore of Lake Michigan was the world’s largest steel mill and the city was built to serve it. The city was named after lawyer Elbert Henry Gary, the founding chairman of the United States Steel Corporation.

The city grew steadily, driven by the steel works. The steel strike of 1919 was centred on the city and on 4 October of that year, a riot broke out in downtown Gary between striking steel workers and those brought in to work in their place. Martial law was declared by Indiana governor James P. Goodrich and the army was called in to restore order.

Gary’s formative years saw an influx of immigrants, primarily from eastern European countries. In 1920, nearly 30% of the population was foreign-born and a further 30% had at least one foreign-born parent. There was a large influx of African-American migrants from the South during the Great Migration, as was the case in Detroit, Michigan which has also seen significant population decline in recent years.

In 1970, the Gary Works employed over 30,000 but by 1990, this was just 6,000. US Steel struggled to compete with overseas competition in the steel industry and with Gary so dependent on one industry, the decline was felt throughout the city. Attempts to shore up the economy by diversifying into other industries failed.

Gary Works US Steel

The Gary Works US Steel plant is still in operation today.

Gary was one of the first cities in America to have an African-American mayor when Richard G. Hatcher was elected in 1967. This was a turbulent period for the civil rights movement and with a population around 50% African-American, Gary was often home to racial tension and violence. Hatcher spoke alongside Martin Luther KingRobert F. KennedyJesse Jackson, and other historic proponents of the civil rights movement. He was instrumental in bringing the groundbreaking National Black Political Convention to Gary in 1972.

Prior to desegregation, 97% of Gary’s African-American population lived in the Midtown section just south of Downtown. It was a largely self-contained community as blacks were largely excluded from Downtown Gary. After Richard Hatcher became mayor, he set about a programme of urban renewal for Midtown and encouraged minorities to inhabit other areas of the city.

Midtown was home to one of America’s most infamous musical families, The Jacksons. Joseph and Katherine Jackson moved from East Chicago to Midtown in 1950 and lived in a two-bedroom house at 2300 Jackson Street. The Jackson 5 were the first group to debut with four consecutive number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Michael Jackson would later leave the group to become one of the biggest selling musical artists of all time. Janet Jackson also became an international star, selling over 100 million records.

The Jacksons

The Jackson 5 once lived at 2300 Jackson Street in Midtown.

Janet and Michael Jackson

Janet and Michael Jackson both became major international stars selling nearly 500 million records between them!

By the year 2000, Gary had the highest percentage of African-Americans in any city of over 100,000 residents in the USA. 84% of the population was African-American. The population has continued to declined since then and is estimated at approximately 70,000 now. Like other Rust Belt cities, Gary has issues with unemployment, crime, social problems and decaying infrastructure.

Abandoned house in Gary, Indiana

An abandoned house in Gary. About 30% of the residential properties in the city are unoccupied.

An abandoned house in Gary

Some of the abandoned properties in Gary are occupied by squatters.

Gary has effectively become a ghost town. Schools have been closed, stores have closed and houses have become derelict. It ranks second only to Detroit in percentage of population lost in the Rust Belt since the turn of the century.

An abandoned church in Gary

An abandoned church in Gary.

The remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street was shot in Gary, as were Michael Bay movies Pearl Harbor and Transformers: Dark of The Moon.

Location: Gary, Indiana 🇺🇸
Abandoned: 1990s



21 thoughts on “Gary – The Indiana City that has Become a Ghost Town”

  1. Me and my brothers were born in Gary moved to portage then Michigan City from there then raised as a teenager in Los Angeles I remember nothing but good times back in the seventies early 80s in Gary I frequently Google to see if some of the old places are still around from my childhood me and my mom still reminisce and look at pictures of how it used to be and what it looks like now it’s sad that I can’t go back and show my grandchildren the place that I grew up in the last time I went back to visit Horace man will still open I went my ninth grade year there I still have a sister there somewhere I believe but I don’t know I haven’t seen her since she was a kid I’m 50 now

  2. Its a shame no one will ever admit that the ruination of Gary, Ind was caused by the people that relocated from Detroit, Chicago etc. After succeeding to ruin those areas, they took over the government of Gary and destroyed that City as well. It’s like a sacred cow that you don’t dare talk about.

  3. This city needs the right think tanks to collaborate to give very lucrative tax incentives to bring commercial businesses back. Such as logistic centers, warehouses, distribution centers, shipping and cargo. Records storage facilities from all over the USA. Also, home ownership grants to families with children. Washington D.C. gives out billions of dollars to the states within the U.S. If your not hooked up to the source, you will not know how to get any funds. Hire grant writers who will receive payments once the grants are awarded. Get training facilities from other states for flight schools,truck driving schools,specialty schools where students would have to fly out there to attend the schools.Stop overtaxing your properties! Give more opportunities!

    1. President Biden could get high speed internet running there and the people could start all kinds of online businesses and do telecommuting work (i.e., work from home jobs.) Once enough people could sustain themselves working online, other businesses would follow — restaurants, grocery stores, Office supply, hardware stores, mechanic shops, doctors, etc

  4. I don’t understand why individuals want to always say the worst about Gary and show the abandoned buildings and say it is so crime ridden. Gary is on a upswing! Bring your cameras and videos and take pictures of the changes that have been happening in this city of Gary!

  5. I’m considering moving back to the area as a founder of a non-profit organization developing a citywide plan to address homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health. Everyone has something to say about the city, however, it’s not enough individuals doing anything to see change. Therefore, I will be the change that I would like to see. I am a Master Social Worker who currently works in a public sector in Las Vegas, NV. If you would like to assist, please let me know.

    1. Delwyn Xavier Campbell

      Instead of a non-profit, how about a business? We have a lack of business activity and a surplus of non-profits that take from what little tax base the city has. How many cities do you see that are successful while being almost totally dependent upon government funding for their existence? We have so many non-profits that grant writing is a growing field.

      1. Non-profit isn’t government.. You need state and federal funding/grants to help revitalize Gary with a strong public sector. Reliable jobs that won’t just get up and leave when things get tough or a new tax haven in another city willing to offer the world. Which is a tough in a state like Indiana that is in a race to the bottom to ensure the label “low tax state”. Indiana is considered a “low tax state” but that isn’t the case for low income(bottom 20%) who make up 12.8% of their income to state and federal taxes. The top 1% of earners in state(avg million or more) only pay 6% of their income. Upside down tax code. Private companies and non-profits are not the solution when they can just get up and leave at any time.

        1. This is my home in which I was born and raised in till I graduated and went into the military. I still to this day visit Gary at least twice a year to visit family. I love my hometown and always will. I do believe that it shall rise again and build stronger than before

        2. Joyce Sinquefield

          I live in Gary, IN. I would love to assist in effecting a change, however I can. I bought my house in Glen Park in 2005. I moved into it in 2014, but it has never been vacant since I purchased it. Due to the housing crisis during that period, I saw it as an opportunity to purchase a larger house. I eventually moved into it from my townhome in Country Club Hills, IL, which is an approximate thirty minute commute using interstate 80. I am a retired senior and I am enjoying my stay in Gary.

      2. Gary was fun during the 50s,Miller beach was clean and wonderful.It turned to hell! Too bad! Like a bomb hit it.
        Went to Holy Angles, my sister and brother went to Horse Mann. As kids we could play outside until dark without our parents worrying about us, it was safe. We lived on Buchanan St. next to the Steel Mill. Like living on the toll Rd. Also lived next to the Calumet river where they emptied the sewers. Also down the street was the South Shore train, my mother rode it every day to go to work in Caicago. Rode it when she took me to work with her, it was fun! Old pot belly fire stoves and privet compartments to sit in. Long time ago. And Miller beach was paradise. With a hot dog stand and a jute box to dance to, pop corn smell in the air, and Chubby Checker singing about the Twist. It was a good time.
        Too bad it all went to hell, like a bomb hit it! Makes me sick to see it.
        Cat in Texas

      3. Back in the mid-seventies I was working on a lake freighter and as we approached the US Steel dock with a load of iron ore, the view from the ship at dusk was what I imagined the gates of hell would look like.
        It seems that the state of the city has declined much further since then so it would appear that in 45 years there’s been virtually no effort by any level of government to rehabilitate Gary.

        1. Haha thats funny.. Usx is the dottiest mill in nwi.. Old Bethlehem and Midwest steel were the cleanest and L TV wasn’t too bad I know Inland steel old plant too used to be nasty also you want to see the gates of hell go back in the mid-90s and drive down Cline Avenue coming over the bridge thing that yellow sky and all of the flower still are they cleaned everything up pretty good nowadays Clean Air Act but I know what you’re saying out there by the slip and areas we’re docking is nasty as hell there’s slag and sulfur all over the place when you get out and look in the air you could see sparkles it’s just metal flakes floating in the air

        2. Delwyn Xavier Campbell

          That is all that we have going on around here, Mr. Dagnall. What we lack is sustained economic development – BUSINESS activity. With no business, there are no jobs. With no jobs, there is no tax revenue. With no tax revenue, basic services decline.

        1. Garty city had a population of 180,000 by the 1960s, but it has now decreased to 80,000, is a new urban development project being promoted recently?,And how many abandoned houses are in the Garth city? Are the last abandoned houses remodelable?,Which agency is sending such houses?

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