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On the Boards | City of Gary Church Ruins Garden



After over four decades of decay and deterioration, one of Gary, Indiana's most iconic buildings is being brought back to life with a fresh new purpose. Although the glory of the City Methodist Church is nearly gone, it is not forgotten as part of Gary's rich historic fabric. Bailey Edward and its team of expert consultants are sowing the seeds for the development of one of the largest ruins gardens in the country so that it can blossom and spur economic development in downtown Gary.

Built in 1926, the City Methodist Church came to fruition through the efforts of Pastor Dr. William G. Seaman who spent 11 years planning and fundraising for the Tudor Revival style church and wanted it to become a community anchor in downtown Gary. At its peak in the 1950s, the church boasted over 3,000 members and contained a basketball court, theatre, daycare facilities, conferences rooms, and even commercial spaces. However, decades of demographic and economic shifts negatively impacted the church. Membership dropped substantially to only 300 parishioners by 1973 while costs of maintaining daily operations and repairs to its facilities mounted higher. Unable to find solutions to increase membership or funds for repair efforts, City Methodist closed in 1975.

Abandoned for several decades, the structural integrity of City Methodist is unknown and will require extensive surveys and assessments. Our structural engineering consultant, ARSEE Engineers, will provide a detailed structural survey of what can be stabilized and how to make the building’s clay brick foundation, limestone walls, and its decorative limestone safe.

Once the church is stabilized, work will begin to create an artful, engaging, and lush greenspace that preserves the church's ruins aesthetic. Hitchcock Design Group, who previously collaborated with Gary to develop and restore Marquette Park, will lead community programming and landscaping efforts. Hitchcock's expertise in designing engaging public spaces, will be an invaluable asset in the development of the Church Ruins Garden to become a destination for a variety of activities and uses including weddings, performing arts, photography shoots, and outdoor meeting areas.

Transforming a previously abandoned historic structure into a go-to outdoor destination is a truly unique project that has the power to help bring life back into the Gary community. We are excited to begin the steps to continue to preserve the City Methodist Church, in order to create and develop a thriving outdoor community space for residents to socialize in and enjoy for several more decades to come.