City Methodist Church In Gary Indiana was completed in 1927 at the cost of one million dollars. Elbert Gary, the namesake of Gary Indiana and the chairman of US Steel Corporation, donated $325,000 to help pay for the construction. But costs quickly exceeded their projections and due to these overruns, certain changes were made to save money. Most notably, the stained glass windows were not completed in stained glass towards the bottom of the windows. The enormous size of the building was also a problem early on. The columns in the sanctuary started out very large on one end but were reduced in size towards the balcony because a measurement error meant the plot of land was smaller than expected and the chapel as originally planned simply wouldn't fit. When completed, the church included a gymnasium on the top floor with a full size basketball court and the main sanctuary which seats 950 people as well as a wing containing "Seaman Hall", an auditorium capable of seating 997 people, along with numerous church school rooms and even store fronts on the ground floor which, it was hoped, would help offset the construction costs.
In its prime, the church counted 3,000 people in its congregation. But City Methodist, like so many other institutions in so many other cities, suffered a crippling exodus of its contributing members in the 1960s as city inhabitants moved out to the suburbs. In October of 1974, a meeting was held to determine the fate of the church. On January 3rd, 1975, City Methodist Church closed its doors. It has been vacant ever since.
City Methodist wasn't actually scheduled on this trip until we realized we didn't have anything better to do. It would only cost us about 5 hours round trip and it probably wasn't going to be around much longer. By the time we got there the sky was cloudy, it was raining and the sun was quickly setting. A storm gathered momentum overhead as we stood in the partially collapsed sanctuary with the wind howling and the rain coming down through broken windows all around. This was a unique experience not easily captured on film and a poorly written blog post really doesn't do it justice. On the drive back we were pounded by the storm. It seemed like something out there wanted to kill us through the expanse of an endless black sky. I was stuck driving late on an unfamiliar highway with no reflective paint or identifiable shoulders. Occasionally other car lights helped follow the road but other times I was the only one for miles and the only one in the car awake. I struggled to keep my eyes open and to keep pavement under the wheels.
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