City Methodist Church (Gary)
Located in Gary, IN
Photo © 2005 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
City Methodist Church (Gary) History
The city of Gary, Indiana was founded as a booming steel city as the twentieth century passed, and areas downtown saw the construction of several impressive buildings during these prosperous early years. In 1925, a cornerstone ceremony took place at 577 Washington St. to commemorate the construction of a Gothic Revival church called City Methodist. It was completed 21 months later, at the cost of one million dollars - $385,000 of which was contributed by the United States Steel Corp. (which also founded the city). Elbert Gary, the chairman of U.S. Steel and origin of the city's name, donated a Skinner organ as well. The Bedford limestone structure consisted of a 50-foot tall sanctuary nave and elaborate stonework, and was able to seat 950 worshipers; City Methodist had a congregation of nearly 3,000 members in its heyday. The building was also home to Seaman Hall - a 1,000 seat auditorium, and a gymnasium with a full size basketball court. Storefronts were built into the building, with hopes that the income would offset the enormous maintenance costs.
During the 1920s, Pastor William Seaman rallied against the power of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, and welcomed black worshipers into City Methodist during a time when African Americans were not permitted in "white churches."
Gary entered a downward spiral during the 1960s, like many other industrial cities during the period. As U.S. Steel employment dwindled, the residents of Gary moved to nearby suburbs; then as jobs left downtown, city many residents moved out altogether while crime and poverty rose. By 1973 the church's congregation had only 300 members and by 1975 the Methodists moved out of the structure. A second congregation occupied the building until they left in the early 1980s; some storefronts and office space was utilized for a while but soon the entire campus was completely abandoned.
City Methodist was burned in the Great Gary Arson of 1997, resulting in a large portion of the roof collapsed or missing. It is now owned by the city of Gary, and its future remains unclear.
In 2009, parts of a remake of the movie A Nightmare On Elm Street were filmed at the church.
The images below are from the DePaw University Archive, and graciously gathered by KTown. More historic photographs can be found in a scanned 1967 church directory.