Every city has little gems that make it interesting, unique, and creates attractions for visitors and residents alike. Some of these gems are easier to see than others are but, once they are discovered, they have the potential to become huge catalysts for renewed interest in the city or town. The Decay Devils group is an example of this in Gary, Indiana, and they are working with other groups and individuals to bring positive attention and revitalization to Gary’s downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.
This past month they hosted an exhibit at the Marshall J. Gardner Center for the Arts in the Miller neighborhood called “The Art Within: Rebuilding through Preservation”. Its main purpose was to investigate ways to salvage Gary’s abandoned buildings by looking at examples of abandoned buildings around the country and world and how they have handled similar situations. Using them as “public spaces or pieces of art” is an option to make them a contributing use to the neighborhood. The exhibit also included “memorabilia such as band uniforms, trophies and yearbooks from closed Gary high schools, such as Emerson and Horace Mann”.
Decay Devils “was formed by a love of Gary’s architecture. The collective started four years ago with photographers who kept bumping into each other at City Methodist and decided to go on a road trip to see what other places have done to preserve their landmarks. It’s since incorporated as a nonprofit and embarked on a number of projects” Source.
Their mission is to preserve historic landmarks in northwest Indiana and through that “bring a sense of pride and beauty back to these areas by preventing further decay”. Some of their projects they have already accomplished include:
- St. Monica, St. Luke Oral History Time Capsule Project
- Marquette Beach Clean-up with the Alliance for the Great Lakes
- Transforming Lake County Grant through the Knight Foundation and a
- Gary, IN Blight Day Participant
The work is not done yet though! Decay Devils along with other individuals are planning other revitalization efforts in Gary. One of these is supporting the summer historic preservation tours , made possible with crowdgranting funds through Patronicity along with a matching grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA). This will catalyze interest in Gary’s historic architecture downtown including Union Station, a New Deal-era Post Office, City Methodist, and other historically and architecturally significant buildings by allowing people to tour them and teaching them about them along the way through signage and tour guides.
Decay Devils also have interest in restoring the Gary Union Station, which was built in 1910 and closed in the 50s. They plan to “make the location’s exterior aesthetically pleasing while securing the interior of the location to ensure safe viewing for the public” Source. They were awarded a $22,000 grant from the Knight Foundation for this purpose and have planned a cleanup around the station on Saturday, April 8th from 9 am – 1 pm. Cleanup details include to “clean up the landscaping, securely board up the lower level of open windows, and attach murals to the front exterior. The group also plans to install LED or solar lighting to the top” Source. Additionally, “the Decay Devils are looking for ways to illuminate the buildings at night to make it more visible and remind people it’s tucked between the train tracks downtown” Source. If you are interested in being a part of the cleanup, visit their site to learn more! In conjunction with this event they are also having an Artist Call Out the next week, on Saturday, April 15th from 4:30-8:30 pm to design one of the windows for the revival of Union Station with the theme of Growth.
The city is going after a larger grant from the Knight Foundation to restore the City Methodist Church “into a European-style ruins garden that photographers would pay a fee to shoot” Source. This would go a long way in restoring Gary’s architecture.
“I think we’re at a very critical point where if we don’t act in the next couple years, a lot of this architecture will be beyond repair,” said Sam Salvesen, an associate city planner and AmeriCorps Vista. “The Ambassador Apartments were just torn down. If we don’t pay attention, if money’s not invested, we’ll lose them forever. Gary doesn’t need another parking lot. We have a built environment that’s worth preserving.” Source.
To see other work that Decay Devils will be embarking on, visit their website!
Main Photo Source: Decay Devils look to give new life to Union Station