Marker serves as reminder of early Gary’s bustling streetcar era
By Carole Carlson email@example.com/302-0949 September 20, 2013 11:33PM
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Trayvon Young, 1, of Gary, look at a historic marker at 5th Avenue and Broadway that commemorates the city's streetcar era. | Carole Carlson/Post-Tribune
Updated: October 22, 2013 6:09AM
GARY — A historic marker has been erected in the heart of the city as a reminder of a bygone era where urban mass transportation answered the needs of an industry giant.
The Indiana Department of Transportation and the city unveiled the streetcar marker Friday in a ceremony at 5th Avenue and Broadway, near a bus stop. Buses replaced streetcars in the 1930s, as they became the more popular transportation choice.
“This marker will serve as an important symbol of Gary’s history,” Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said. “But most important, it will remind us how far we have come.”
A photograph on the marker, taken around 1913, shows streetcars rolling down 5th Avenue near Broadway on a daily route in which they carried hundreds of workers into U.S. Steel.
The first streetcars appeared in 1908 and, by 1913, the Gary and Interurban Railway operated on track that linked Gary with Hammond, Lake Station, Hobart, Crown Point, Valparaiso, Chesterton and LaPorte.
At the height of ridership, fares were 8 cents and the streetcars carried more than 50,000 passengers daily over 100 miles of track.
As buses began to dominate, the city paved over the rails that carried the streetcars.
Last year, the Indiana Department of Transportation began a $14.2 million reconstruction project spanning 4th and 5th avenues, also known as U.S. 12 and U.S. 20. INDOT opted to remove the buried rails along a 5-mile stretch because they hastened the deterioration of the roads.
“Removing the century-old rails was vital to providing a quality highway for the people of Gary. But that doesn’t mean we have to forget the city’s rich history,” INDOT Northwest District Deputy Commissioner Robert Alderman said. “This commemorative marker will give future generations a peek into those early 20th century days when hopping a streetcar was part of the daily routine.”
Alderman described the marker as a symbol of the industrial revolution that came to Gary. “This is a just a small measure of our pride in what we have accomplished here.”