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Project Summary

Constructed in 1926, the City Methodist Church was built in the heart of Gary, Indiana. Boasting more than 3,000 members by the 1950s, the Church was home to the largest Methodist congregation in the Midwest. However, due to demographic changes, mounting repair costs and suburbanization, membership dwindled to a few hundred members by the 1970s. It was eventually abandoned in 1975.

After being abandoned for over four decades, the Church is set to be transformed and revitalized into one of the largest ruins gardens in the country creating an artful, engaging, and lush greenspace for a variety of uses. Preserving the integrity of the Church’s Tudor Revival aesthetic is top priority but requires extensive structural stabilization as discovered through extensive surveys and assessments.

Our team provided a detailed structural survey with additional site development considerations necessary for the redevelopment of the Church. Structural surveys were carried out to see how the Church can be stabilized to make the building’s clay brick foundation, foundation walls, and its decorative limestone safe for visitors once the park opens. Many of the limestone decorative pieces will need to be removed and restored to allow reinstallation once the Church is reconditioned.

Using previous reports and input from the Gary Redevelopment Commission, our team developed detailed mapping for each section of the Church. This included identifying a phased strategy for a courtyard park, stabilization, and partial demolition of the sanctuary. The final written report includes items such as: repair concepts, cost opinions, identification of Church elements too costly to preserve, a 3D model laser scan of the complex (see Design Vignette), ADA and health-life safety studies, and storm water management solutions.

After the completion of the on-site investigations, three design options were presented to the City of Gary. The chosen design option retains the sanctuary structure, the semblance of a courtyard and provides a park. The site will be enclosed by a new wall to the north and east, clad on the park side with salvaged existing stone. Planting beds, trees, and paving will create outdoor rooms and interest for park visitors with a wrought iron wall along the west and south edges of the site for after-hours security. The Church sanctuary will be structurally retained by stabilizing the top of the north and south walls, installing new steel decking and braces, infilling holes in the floor, constructing new steel trusses and purlins, and removing wood trusses and framing.

Transforming a previously abandoned historic structure to become a destination will attract tourists and help spur academic development downtown. Acting as community anchor, the ruins garden can support a variety of activities and uses that include: weddings, performing arts, photography shoots, and outdoor gathering spaces.


Gary, Indiana


Design Vignette

Laser scanning was performed over the course of three days. The information was harvested into a point cloud and stitched together to create a point cloud model of the building. This information is considered to be a precise model of the existing conditions. In addition to the laser scan high definition photos of each scan area were captured. The point cloud was then imported into Autodesk Revit and used to develop a building information model. The point cloud and Revit model were then utilized to develop the floor plans, elevations and sections for the structure and garden.

This model is to be further utilized to catalogue existing ornamental stone pieces for later reuse in the ruins garden, for measurements of the existing structure, for sizing repair members, and to utilize for duplicating stone elements. When the building information model is fully developed it can be used to quantify materials such as brick and stone as well as for a historical record. The extent to which elements are out of place can be quantified and inform the discussion of whether to remove and reinstall, restrain, or demolish these structural elements.

The laser scanning model also provides an opportunity for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) educational content for local schools. Both the point cloud model and Revit model can be used to view an interactive model.