Monday, April 26, 2010

Marktown Historic District

Marktown

This is the strange, surreal world of the Marktown community, a neighborhood in East Chicago, Indiana that is completely surrounded by heavy industry.

Marktown

In this region of northwest Indiana, there are plenty of neighborhoods that abut manufacturing plants. Marktown's interest goes well beyond that, as it is a rare and unusual example of a planned worker's community, with a scale and charm that defies its inhumanly sized surroundings.

Marktown

Marktown

Marktown

Marktown

Marktown

This strange attempt at a charming hamlet amid furnaces and smokestacks began as the brainchild of Clayton Mark, a steel manufacturing magnate who controlled a steel firm and was involved in the building of the harbor and the landfill that today holds Inland Ispat Steel's vast plants. Seeking to provide his workers with quality affordable housing, Mark planned a sizable community next to his plants.

Mark recruited renown architect Howard Van Doren Shaw to design the new workers' community in 1916. Shaw drew on the model of an English village, with streets so narrow that today, residents park their cars on the sidewalks. The charming plaster-sided houses were made to be fire-resistant. They ranged from a boarding house for single men (abandoned and deteriorating today) to modestly large houses for mid-level managers.

Marktown

Marktown

Due to financial troubles with Mark's steel firm, however, only a relatively small fragment - 4 sections out of a planned 30 - were ever built. Plans for shops, a market, a theater, and other amenities were largely scuttled, as was a vision of a more extensive park system enveloping the community. Marktown today contains about a hundred residential buildings, the boarding house (abandoned), one commercial building (also abandoned), and three generous park spaces.

Presumably owing to its less than ideal setting, Marktown struggles to maintain a population. Immaculately kept houses alternate with abandoned and deteriorating ones, sometimes within the same structure. Perhaps 1/4th of the core buildings are vacant. One has lingered in a state of half collapse since at least 2007.

Marktown

Marktown

I wonder if a completed Marktown might have had the critical mass to sustain itself more thoroughly than it does today. You can't point a camera in Marktown without hitting a massive industrial structure, but a larger development might have meant a core that was better-insulated from the unpleasantries of heavy industry.

Marktown

Marktown

The Marktown Preservation Society hosts a very informative site about the neighborhood, which is a designated historic district and on the state of Indiana's 10 Most Endangered Places list.

Marktown

8 comments:

FGFM said...

Friend of mine from Burnside who later lived in the Black Oak area of Gary always talked about this place. Very interesting to see photos of it finally!

bls said...

if it weren't for the cars, i'd thin it was england. the housing forms are very industrial-revolution english. i had no idea this place existed. thank you for posting. (btw: it's "renowned" architect not "renown"architect. hope you'll forgive this copyeditor's unsolicited correction--it comes with the best intention.)

738 said...

En route to Gary, a group of us (student photographers) stopped by here a few years ago. The place looks quaint, and just a little sad. There were lots of abandoned structures which we thought would look great on film - but the light was gone for the day, so we opted for another time. The group has separated since then, but if a new group gets formed I think a daytrip into Marktown would be just the thing.

Anonymous said...

Did you know Marktown was seen in the Soviet Union as a model community and was replicated by the Russians?

Anonymous said...

Is there anyone out there who could help save this dying community? Is there help for the people to save the structures, rebuild the structures? One would think that the industries that surround this community would pitch in and help to save it.

Anonymous said...

I wouold love to know where the Russian reference comes from as I have heard it twice and have absolutely no other references. Photos, text anything please.

David Davids said...

The refinery's that surround the town doesn't want to help save the community because they want the land!

Amber Mills said...

As a young girl growing up my mom and I spent alot of time in Marktown. My mother adored the cute town and I loved the safety of such a small town, where everyone looked out for us. I can honestly say my happiest child hood memories are there with the wonderful people! I pray that Marktown is saved and peoples hearts are not broken. You can take a house away from a family for a few dollars but no money can ever heal the pain of losing your legacy! God bless the residents my prayers are with you all!