Exploring the Abandoned City Methodist Church Gary Indiana
The now abandoned and crumbling City Methodist Church is located in the heart of Gary, Indiana. This was once the largest Methodist church in the Midwest, however it ceased as a place of worship in 1975 after a very brief life of just over 50 years.
Everyone who visits Gary, Indiana on an exploring trip includes this must-see abandoned church on their list of locations.
The land that the church sits on was once owned by US Steel, they also donated half of the costs to construct this large church
The construction, which started in 1925 took approximately 21 months to build and cost $800,000. The first service was held on October 3rd, 1926. The organ was donated by Elbert Gary, the man that Gary, Indiana is named after .
The sanctuary at the front of the structure is part of a 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 also plans to build a bowling alley, but this was never started. A rooftop garden on the roof of the hall was never finished. By 1927, the church had a congregation of 1,700 and a staff of six. City Methodist church reached the pinnacle of its popularity in the 1950s, with membership surpassing 3000.
After the city of Gary, Indiana started its decline in the 1960s and 70s, the church’s fortunes began dwindle. A largely a white middle-class institution, the church lost large numbers of parishioners to white flight as Gary’s social makeup altered and better-off inhabitants moved away.
Crime rates in the area soared, causing more departures, and maintenance costs were ruinous, owing to the church’s huge dimensions and the harsh lakefront climate. By 1973, there were only 320 members in the then-aging congregation, about a third of whom regularly attended. After attempts to sell the building to another congregation proved fruitless, the decision was eventually taken to close the church in 1975.
The closed City Methodist Church passed into the hands of Indiana University, which continued to use part of Seaman Hall as a satellite campus, but nothing was done with the church itself. By the 1990s, the church was already starting to decay, but was then severely damaged by a fire in 1997, which accelerated the deterioration even further.
Today, City Methodist Church is barely standing, and much is beyond any realistic restoration, and has been placed on Indiana Landmarks’ 10 Most Endangered Places in Indiana list. Most of the interior fixtures have been removed by thieves. In 2011, part of the roof of the sanctuary collapsed. In 2014, the city authorities revived an aborted plan from the early 2000s to turn the site into a large park in which the sanctuary would be the centrepiece, and to demolish the rest of the complex. This would see the walls and pillars stay in place as a “ruins garden”, while the gymnasium and rest of the structure would be demolished.
In 2020, on my annual birthday road trip and just days before the worldwide lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I was joined by friends RiddimRyder and Chris Luckhardt on a two day visit to explore Gary, Indiana. On day 1 we would visit City Methodist Church shortly after sunset and we would return bright and early the next day after sunrise. Going in, I had no idea of the size of this church and had only planned to stay a short while however, once inside the advanced decay and the size of this facility turned this into an over two hour explore.