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Iconic Gary structures could face wrecking ball

Joseph Van Dyk right walks away from  Ambassador building Monroe St. Gary Tuesday Nov. 20 2012. Van Dyk City

Joseph Van Dyk, right, walks away from the Ambassador building on Monroe St. in Gary Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012. Van Dyk, City of Gary zoning director, joined other city employees and state preservation representatives for a tour of buildings in the city. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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Historic but crumbling

Here’s a list of structures a group of city and state officiails and preservationists toured Tuesday. Some are targeted by the city for demolition.

Memorial Auditorium

7th Avenue and Massachusetts Street. Built in 1925 by the school district, it was designed by architect Joseph Wildermuth in a mission/Spanish revival style. It closed in the late 1970s and was gutted by fire in 1997.

The Palace Theater

765 Broadway. Built in 1924, the Palace was designed by architect John Eberson. It closed in 1972.

Mahencia Apartments

1900 W. 5th Ave. Built in 1927, a 27-unit, four-story building was once home to former Mayor Martin Katz. It was designed to celebrate the Spanish Renaissance Revival with red brick and stone trim.

Ambassador Apartments

574 Monroe St. Built in 1928 by architect William Stern, the Renaissance Revival structure closed in the mid-1980s.

City Methodist Church

575 Washington St. Built in 1925 by architects Lowe and Bollenbacher, the Gothic-style church closed in 1975 and was gutted by fire in 1997.

Gary Heat, Light and Water Co.

900 Madison St. Designed by famed architect George W. Maher in 1925, it’s the last set of drawings he completed before he took his life in 1926.

St. John’s Hospital

28 E. 22nd Ave. Built in 1929 to treat blacks in Gary’s Midtown neighborhood who were barred from white hospitals.

Former Grantham Dodge

7th Avenue and Washington Street. No details available.

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Updated: December 22, 2012 6:25AM



GARY — The city’s downtown is dotted with its share of historic but dilapidated structures.

On Tuesday, state officials and preservationists toured the once-majestic memory lane, including stops at Memorial Auditorium, the Palace Theater and City Methodist Church.

The city is targeting many of the blighted, iconic structures for demolition, despite their historic value.

Officials from the Department of Natural Resources Division of Historic Preservation and Archeology joined Indiana Landmarks representatives for the urban trek.

“This is a very useful tour. We’re interested in looking for solutions before any actions are taken,” said Marsh Davis, president of Indianapolis-based Indiana Landmarks.

“Obviously, there are challenges,” said the Gary-born Davis as he gazed at a former Plymouth-Dodge dealership rotting away on Washington Street between 6th and 7th avenues.

The city is largely dependent on federal funding to supplement its demolition projects, said Cedric Kuykendall, demolition coordinator for the Redevelopment Department. Structures cannot be demolished unless the Indiana Department of Natural Resources approves the demolition, he said.

It marked the first time DNR officials have toured the city’s blighted buildings.

“They’re extending this to us,” said Kuykendall of the officials who agreed to visit Gary. “We’ve never done this before and now they can come and see the conditions we’re faced with.”

James A. Glass, deputy state historic preservation officer for the DNR, took notes as he viewed the structures.

“The city has had a lot of disinvestment. If federal funds are used, then we’re part of it,” said Glass.

City Building Commissioner Steven D. Marcus termed demolition “a last resort,” saying he hoped some remedies could be identified to save the structures.

In many cases, though, saving the buildings would be costly and face economic risks.

Bricks are falling off the south side of the Ambassador Apartments across from Jefferson Elementary School. The city closed the street during the summer out of safety concerns. An orange snow fence surrounds the once-vibrant seven-story, three-building structure.

Chicago architect Bill Latoza, of Gary, said it opened in 1927 and it was designed by architect William Stern.

“There’s no money and no need for them now,” said Latoza. “There’s too much vacant stock.”



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