Gary is the ninth-largest city in Indiana, located just 25 miles from downtown Chicago. Though best known for its large steel mills, the crown jewel of Gary is the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which borders Lake Michigan.
Gary was originally founded in 1906 by the United States Steel Corporation as the site of its new plant, “Gary Works.” The economic health of Gary has historically been tied to the ups and downs of the steel industry. After its initial founding, Gary was extremely prosperous, with high-end hotels and department stores lining Broadway Avenue. However, as the world began to change in the mid-20th century, so did Gary. Jobs went overseas, crime increased, and racial strife was prevalent. In recent years, however, Gary’s prosperity has seen a noticeable upswing. The steel plants are producing at their highest levels in decades, and the construction of two new casinos has brought thousands of jobs to the community. Although Gary still faces budget issues, new mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, a Harvard Law graduate, has made significant progress in reducing the city’s budget deficit.
The majority of Gary residents are served by the Gary Community School Corporation, although those living in the Black Oak neighborhood and unincorporated Calumet Township attend the Lake Ridge Schools Corporation. In addition to traditional public schools, there are a number of charter schools located in Gary, including: KIPP Lead College Prep Charter School, Thea Bowman Leadership Academy, Charter School of the Dunes, Gary Lighthouse Charter School, 21st Century Charter, and West Gary Lighthouse Charter School. Gary is also home to two colleges, Indiana University Northwest and Ivy Tech Community College Northwest. Interstates 65, 80, 90 and 94 run through Gary, as well as the South Shore Rail Line, which connects Chicago to South Bend. Gary Public Transportation Corporation (GPTC) is a commuter bus system offering service throughout Gary, extending to Chicago. Gary/Chicago International Airport has undergone a massive expansion and recently experienced an uptick in passengers. The National Guard is moving its Chicago operations to the airport, and Boeing has moved its corporate fleet there as well, both evidence of the revival currently occurring in Gary.
Gary is home to two professional sports franchises: the Gary SouthShore RailCats, an American Association baseball team, and the Gary Splash, an International Basketball League team. It has also been home to a number of famous residents, most notably the Jackson 5, who were born and raised in Gary. The picturesque Marquette Park, completely surrounded by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, is part of the extensive parks system and features 1.4 miles of pristine white sand beaches, ponds, sand dunes, wetlands, a lagoon and an oak savannah. The recently renovated Marquette Park Pavilion is a popular destination for numerous events, including weekly weddings in the summer.