Construction on the now Abandoned Horace Mann School in 1921 & would take a total of 7 years to complete. A creation of innovative educator William Wirt, the campus set a new standard for the area’s public schools by featuring landscaped rolling hills, multiple gyms and pools, and even a man-made pond. Located just minutes from downtown Gary, where U.S. Steel executives & their families once lived on the tree-lined streets of the town’s upper west side.
At first Horace Mann consisted of two portable trailers near the street on the large property. The first class consisted of 45 students who had previously attended Jefferson School. Demand for the west side school was greater than initially thought, and in 1919 three more portable units were added behind the first two.
A year later it was realized that permanent structures would need to be built. In 1921 construction on the present-day Horace Mann School would begin. By 1922 the east building had been erected, and the west building followed two years later in 1924.
On November 8th, 1926, the cornerstone for the central building was finally laid.
When the population of Gary dropped in the 1960s and 70s, so did the school district’s enrollment. The city’s tax base was dwindling and the school board was watching its budget shrink every year; balancing the annual cuts was challenging. A budgetary reprieve in 1985 would see the school district build a modern gym for Horace Mann High School students.
The original gym had long been unsuitable for intramural sports, and until the modern gym was opened the Horsemen had only been playing away games. That year the school also received an updated cafeteria as well as a new shop area. By now Horace Mann’s enrollment had fallen to 1,226 students with 55 teachers employed at the school.
In 2002 the schools of Gary were showing their age. The once proud buildings around town were mostly falling apart, and the city had not built a new facility in 30 years. The school board decided to restructure and update the city’s school system. Schools with low enrollment were the first to be nominated for closure, among them Horace Mann, running at one-fifth of capacity servicing only 546 students by 2003. In 2004 the school board voted to shutter the building which has sat ever since.
15 years after closing, the school is now in ruins much like City Methodist Church & Post Office we also explored on this tour. in 2019 there were discussions about possibly revitalizing the old school with suggestions of using it for housing. Obviously if we were able to explore it in early 2020 then nothing has changed.
The auditorium was definitely my favourite part of the entire school! It was just so surreal being in there imagining what it would have been like when at full capacity! Definitely a memorable explore!!