The Abandoned City Methodist Church located in Gary Indiana was at one time the largest of it's kind in the midwest! I recently took a trip out here with Freaktography for an annual birthday trip. We were joined by Chris Luckhardt ion this adventure which was great as neither of us had met him & often times it is nice to network among others in this strange hobby of ours!
In 1916 a man by the name of Dr. William Grant Seaman became a pastor & wanted to have a bigger church to serve a larger amount of the community which at the time was rife with brothels & drinking establishments. With backing from US Steel, the communities largest & primary employer, they not only donated the land in which the church was to be built but also offered up half the cost of to build it!
Construction began in 1925 on the now Abandoned City Methodist Church & took nearly two years to complete at a staggering cost of $800,000. The first service was held on October 3rd 1925. The church's organ was donated by Elbert Gary, the man the city was named after. The sanctuary at the forefront of the structure is part of a much larger nine-story complex which included an adjoining theatre called Seaman Hall, which could seat 1000 people, and contained corporate offices, a gymnasium, a Sunday School and a dining hall. There were plans for a bowling alley, but this was never built. A rooftop garden on the roof of the hall was never finished. By 1927, the church had a congregation of 1,700 & a staff of six.
Within a few short years the congregation had enough of the pastor & him transferred to another church out of state. His replacement was even more unpopular. During the great depression parts of the church were leased out & this continued for decades to follow. The church & its congregation peaked in the 1950's with membership in or around 3000 parishioners.
During the 1960's & 70's Gary was in heavy decline & like other similar cities, this predominately white church experienced major decline as "white flight" took place. Crime rates soared in the depressed city causing even further decline. With funds disappearing, the cost to keep the church up was staggering, especially in its lake front location where relentless storms would batter it. In 1973 the church had approximately 320 members who were mostly elderly & roughly one third of the membership actually attended the services. After numerous failed attempts at selling the church to another congregation, the church closed its doors for good in 1975.
Although the church was closed, the auditorium & other sections were used up until the late 1990s. This was around the time the church itself suffered major damage due to a fire accelerating the decay. Th Abandoned City Methodist Church was eventually completely abandoned & left to scrappers, vandals & the elements. Despite the rough reputation the city has I have nothing but positive things to say about the people! Everyone was curious, friendly & even offered location tips! As with any city you should be aware of your surroundings & follow your instincts.