Abandoned Horace Mann High School Gary Indiana

horace mann abandoned high school auditorium gary indiana

Abandoned Horace Mann High School Gary Indiana

The now abandoned Horace Mann School in Gary, Indiana, once teeming with thousands of students, now sits abandoned and rotting, another monument to the lost prosperity of the city of Gary, Indiana.

The Horace Mann School of Gary, Indiana is actually on a very short list of American high schools that have graduated more than 75 classes of students. A creation of innovative educator William Wirt, the unique school took seven years to build and was finished in 1928. 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.

Horace Mann’s fortunes would ebb and flow with those of Gary; when the city’s population declined so did enrolment at the school. In 2004 the school board voted to shutter the building, and nine years later the ailing building still stands vacant and crumbling. Is the school’s rich history enough to secure its future?

The school was enormous, with a capacity of around two and a half thousand students. It originally consisted of three main structures that were eventually joined together. The cornerstone of the central building was laid on November 8, 1926 and construction was completed in 1928.

On the large plot of land in front of the school’s main entrance, an existing ravine was transformed into a pond with several pedestrian bridges and a rock garden, giving it the appearance of a beautiful park. It was a popular location for picnics, fishing, and ice skating in the winter.

The school was named after Horace Mann, one of the most important reformers of the public school system. He believed that a free society cannot exist without equal access to education and that schools should not be aligned with any particular religious denomination. Though controversial at the time, his ideas eventually became widely accepted throughout the United States. Many schools have been named in his honor.

In 1929 Horace Mann School had a student body of 870. By 1937, it increased to nearly 2400 students and 80 staff members.

When enrolment grew to nearly 2600 in 1956, exceeding Horace Mann’s intended capacity, the district decided to build an additional school on the southern portion of the property. John H. Vohr Elementary School opened in 1958. Sadly, the pond was filled in to make room for a parking lot.

When the steel industry declined in the ’60s, the population of Gary began to shrink, as did the city’s tax revenue

By 2003, Horace Mann High School had only 546 students, roughly a fifth of its capacity.

The school closed in 2004 due to budgetary constraints and a greatly diminished student population. The final graduating class consisted of only 72 students. The neighbouring John H Vohr Elementary School closed too in 2010.

Fast forward now to March of 2020 and I’m on my annual birthday exploring road trip, joined by good friends RiddimRyder and Chris Luckhardt and it’s time for us to have a look inside.
Similar to Detroit and in some cases, Buffalo, Gary, Indiana is a must see destination for anyone who is serious about urban exploring photography.

After a very long drive we arrived in Gary at 3:00pm, checked into our hotel and we still had a good 3 or 4 hours before the sun would set and take away our natural light.

We arrived at the school, a hulking and beautiful building, surrounded by trash and overgrowth and a young man walking the running track located behind the school. Access was easy, as was every other building in Gary, Indiana, safely inside we headed right for the auditorium to get things started.

The school was huge and the auditorium beautiful, much like Cooley High School in Detroit. The auditorium, once with red seats has since been torched leaving nothing but twisted metal and springs and heavy decay.

Two older gymnasiums located near the auditorium are in advanced decay, full of graffiti and are very well lit thanks to the large windows. A newer gymnasium on the other, newer side of the school was flooded and very dark so no photos were taken there.

Sadly, I missed the two swimming pools that were somewhere inside the school!

The hallways were all very similar, three floors all in a square that seemed to have been built around the theatre with classrooms on the outer perimeter.

This was a nice easy location to explore in the first location of the road trip, we stayed as the sun was setting and enjoyed some exterior views as the sun went down.

The Burnt Out Auditorium at Horace Mann High School

In early May of 2017 someone set a fire inside the auditorium, just like what happened at Cooley High in Detroit.  Before this fire, the auditorium was a sight to see – a large empty room with bright red cushioned seats, red curtains covering the many large windows and a grand piano to the front left side of the stage.  Now, after the fire the curtains are gone, the piano has been flattened and the seats are nothing but lines of twisted and rusted metal.


I have to thank two guys who helped me out with some locations. I quickly learned that I really didn’t need help as it was very easy to find locations not only online but just by driving around!

I had reached out to two friends, not a massive list of handouts, but more to know what are some real must see locations.

1 – My friend Dan from Western New York, he had given me some great advice for the trip and for that we need to thank him!

He has two Instagram accounts:


However, must more interesting is the website he and a friend just launched:

Klopek’s Offerings & Incidentals are Purveyors of Oddities, Curiosities & the Macabre.
Funeral, Fortune Telling, Medical, Taxidermy, Occult, Secret Society, and More

Follow their Facebook page and definitely check out their website if you’re looking for something truly unique!


Thanks Again Dan

Next person to thank is American Urbex, my friend Ken is a very prolific explorer from the US and I knew his insights on Gary Indiana based on his experiences would be a huge help to me, and I was right!

Follow Ken here and be sure to spend some time on his website



Thanks Ken!


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The Amazing Natural Sunset Light in the Abandoned Horace Mann High School

I was crazy about the light in this abandoned school, especially because we were there as the sun was setting so the golden light spilling into the hallways and corridors made for perfect shooting conditions!


The Rest of the Photos from Horace Mann High School Gary Indiana
Here is the final batch of photos from Horace Mann High School in Gary, Indiana.
As mentioned previously, we got there around 4:00pm and the light conditions were near perfect, as the sun began to set the rooms and the atmosphere took on a whole new look as the golden light started to trickle in through the open windows.
At one point while I was flying my drone, something went terribly wrong and my drone started going the wrong way when I hit “return to home”, then as i tried to regain control, my battery started to die.
My drone self landed itself about 500 feet away from my location in the school, thankfully the drone has a “find my drone” feature.
In a panic, RiddimRyder Photography Chris Luckhardt Photography and I haul ass outside towards the location that my drone is pinging from. As we get closer I see a number of Gary, Indiana locals all hovering around the area that my drone has landed.
This is not a good thing
We find the drone, sitting all alone in the middle of a lane way beside a housing complex and just 15 feet away is a gaggle of Gary locals sitting around a truck drinking.
In come three Canadian white guys with at least $10,000 in photography gear between us.
Over comes one of the locals…
“Y’all got Youtube shows?”
We answer and the gentleman was very interested our channels and our content and promised us that he would subscribe and watch our shows.
This interaction was just one of many that we had with the people of Gary, Indiana and these interactions secured my overall takeaway that the people of Gary, Indiana are genuinely good people with kind hearts. Most people we talked to seemed very welcome to outsiders and visitors and they all applauded us for our willingness to go into these “scary ass buildings”
I will most definitely be visiting Gary, Indiana a few more times over the years!


1 thought on “Abandoned Horace Mann High School Gary Indiana”

  1. ron paradis

    its a shame what people willfully destroy HM was a beautiful school I didnt attend there I went to Tolleston school in Gary also destroyed by vandals the mayor and all of Garys leaders should be ashamed of what Gary has become

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