Exploring the Desolate Streets of a Deserted American Town of 10,000 Empty Buildings

Source: Adobe Stock

Gary, Indiana, was once a bustling steel town, but today, over 10,000 buildings sit abandoned, a sobering reminder of its decline over the past six decades. Gary might have found fame as the birthplace of Michael Jackson, but it is now better known as one of the most deprived towns in America, ravaged by poverty and urban decay.

However, signs of hope are on the horizon for this dilapidated municipality. Efforts are underway to revitalize Gary and transform it into a cultural destination, with plans to convert abandoned buildings into art galleries, restaurants, and residential spaces.

Gary Indiana

Gary, Indiana, was once a thriving steel town that provided materials for infrastructure across the United States. However, economic changes in the 1970s led to a decline in the American steel industry and a downturn in the city’s fortunes. Gary’s population has decreased by over 50% from its peak.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/WeaponizingArchitecture

Many of the city’s buildings now sit abandoned, with an estimated 10,000 vacant structures. The deserted downtown area is eerie, with empty storefronts, crumbling facades, and rubble-strewn lots where businesses once operated.

Was It Always This Empty?

Gary, Indiana, was once a bustling steel mill town, but today, much of the city sits abandoned and in disrepair. At its peak in the 1960s, Gary had a population of around 180,000. However, the city has experienced an exodus of its citizens over the past several decades as steel mills and related industries declined, leaving behind over 10,000 empty buildings and houses.

Source: Flickr/Timothy Neesam (GumshoePhotos)

The abandoned structures and infrastructure serve as a sobering reminder of Gary’s faded glory days. Rows of dilapidated houses line the streets where families once lived and children played. Empty school buildings are remnants of a time when the city’s youth population was booming.

Crime Rates Pushed People Away

The once-thriving city of Gary, Indiana, has seen a drastic population decline over the past several decades due to increasing crime rates and economic hardship. At its peak in 1960, Gary had over 178,000 residents. Today, fewer than 77,000 people call the city home. The exodus of residents and businesses has left behind a crumbling infrastructure and an abundance of abandoned buildings.

Source: Shutterstock/Kevin Key

Gary’s crime rates have long exceeded national averages. According to reports, there is a median of 49 crimes committed per square mile each year in Gary, which is considerably higher than the 27 crimes per square mile nationwide median in the U.S. Disturbingly, the crime rate in Gary is 149% higher than in the rest of Indiana.

The Port of Lake Michigan is a Big Highlight

The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor on Lake Michigan is one of Gary’s major economic drivers. As the largest port in Indiana, it handles over 15 million tons of cargo each year, including steel, grain, and limestone. The port’s strategic location gives it access to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, allowing cargo ships to reach the Atlantic Ocean.

Source: Unsplash/Elise Coates

Burns Harbor is a deep-water port with a navigation channel depth of 29 feet that can accommodate large vessels, including lake freighters, ocean-going ships, and barges. It has six berths for docking cargo ships and over 3,000 feet of shoreline. The port’s on-dock rail connections provide efficient transport of goods to and from the port.

Cheap and Affordable Real Estate

Gary, Indiana, offers extremely affordable real estate for those looking to purchase property. According to real estate estimates, the average home in Gary currently sells for around $69,725, significantly less than the average house price in nearby Chicago ($279,118) or Fort Wayne ($215,237).

Source: Library of Congress

For individuals or families looking to buy a home on a budget, Gary provides an appealing opportunity. The low cost of living and inexpensive housing means home ownership is within reach. One can find single-family houses for less than $50,000, as well as multi-family homes and vacant lots for under $20,000.

It Is Not All Lost

While many of the buildings in Gary, Indiana, have been abandoned and left to decay, the town still maintains some infrastructure and opportunity. The local government has received government grants to improve Gary/Chicago International Airport and boost its cargo transport capabilities.

Source: Unsplash/Gary Meulemans

Chicago International Airport was awarded $6 million to upgrade its facilities for parcel transportation and logistics. The funds will be used to improve the airport’s cargo capacity, allowing it to become a major hub for UPS. The upgrades are expected to create over 200 permanent jobs and facilitate further commercial and industrial development in the area.

Gary Indiana Can Be Revived

The city of Gary still has infrastructure in place to support new businesses and residents. It has a regional airport, rail lines, proximity to Chicago, and access to major highways. Additionally, Gary has affordable real estate, available tax incentives, an Enterprise Zone, and opportunity zones that could attract investors.

Source: SB Friedman

According to the mayor, Eddie Melton, “We have the recipe for success. We have to change the narrative and make it clear to the world that Gary is open to business.” Melton aims to revitalize Gary through the demolition of dilapidated buildings, job creation, and the promotion of tourism.

Reviving Local Transport

The South Shore rail line, which connects Chicago and northwest Indiana, will add track between Gary and Michigan City. The expansion aims to reduce travel time, increase passenger capacity, and spur economic growth along the route. The project is a public-private partnership between the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District and the rail line operator.

Source: Unsplash/Dominique Hicks

While parts of Gary have become dilapidated, investments in infrastructure and transportation are helping to revive and reconnect the town. Improving facilities at Gary/Chicago International Airport and adding capacity to the South Shore rail line will make the area more accessible and attractive for business and development.

Reviving Old Industries and Business or Building New Ones

To revive Gary, Indiana, the city will need to find ways to rebuild old industries that have declined or attract new businesses. One possibility is reviving parts of the steel industry. However, with the recent acquisition of U.S. Steel by Nippon Steel, the city’s largest steel plant may face additional job losses, further threatening the industry.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Paul Sequeira

If the city can attract investment to modernize equipment and make the plant more competitive, the steel industry may be partially restored. However, the industry likely will not reach its former size and employment levels.

Missed Opportunities

The city of Gary, Indiana, has unfortunately missed out on several opportunities over the decades that could have significantly revitalized its economy and infrastructure. In the late 1970s, plans were in development to construct an entertainment complex inspired by Gary’s most well-known former residents, the Jackson Five musical group.

Source: Unsplash/Dominique Hicks

The proposed theme park was intended to draw substantial tourism revenue to the city, similar to the success of Dollywood and Graceland. However, the deal ultimately fell through, representing a missed chance for potential job growth and economic stimulation.

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Charlotte Clad

Written by Charlotte Clad

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