Nicknamed the City in Motion, City of the Century, or Magic City, Gary, Indiana, was one of the world’s steel powerhouse. Under the motto “We Are Doing Great Things,” the people there really did great things until they didn’t. It moved from one of the most significant locations on earth to one of the most miserable within less than a century. Here are some fascinating Gary, Indiana facts to make your day.

1. Gary, Indiana Is Home to Gary Works

For a considerable amount of time, Gary, Indiana, established itself as a center of industrialization. The city is home to Gary Works, a major steel mill that was once the largest in the world. Today, it remains the largest integrated mill in North America, managed by U.S. Steel.

2. The City Was Named After a Lawyer

Gary, Indiana, was named after Elbert Henry Gary, an American lawyer, county judge, and business executive. He founded the U.S. Steel in 1901, managing to bring together other business moguls such as J.P. Morgan, Charles M. Schwab, and Andrew Carnegie. For that, the city was named after him.

3. Gary, Indiana Had The Highest Percentage of African Americans in the United States

Initially, Gary, Indiana, was a very diverse city. However, when the white flight, also known as the white exodus, happened between the 1950s and 1970s, the area was predominantly dominated by African Americans for decades. In fact, it held the United States’ highest percentage of African Americans for the longest time.

4. Frank Sinatra Once Cancelled a Gig to Visit Striking Students in Gary, Indiana

Considered one of the greatest vocalists of the 20th century, Frank Sinatra was one of the most influential entertainers; he was simply regarded as “The Voice.” In 1945, he was to perform at a $10,000 gig, but cancelled. Instead, he traveled to Gary, Indiana, where students from a white high school were on strike. The learners’ major lamentation was integration to return to school, which the legendary singer considered “the most shameful incident in the history of American Education.”

5. It Is a Rust Belt City

Rust Belt cities refer to regions that were once industrial powerhouses, but their success declined, especially after the 1950s. Gary, Indiana, is a perfect example of this; it was significantly impacted by the disappearance of local manufacturing jobs since the 1970s. This led to a massive decline in the region’s population.

6. Michael Jackson Was Born in Gary, Indiana

Michael Jackson, an iconic pop music artist and entertainer, was born in Gary, Indiana, on August 29, 1958. He adds to a list of other popular entertainers from the region, including Joe Jackson (talent manager), Fred B. Mitchell, and Quentin P. Smith. To honor the legends, there is a huge mural painting of the Jackson 5 on the side of a building in Gary, Indiana.

7. Gasoline and Liquor Sales Were Once Banned in Gary, Indiana

Just like most urban towns in the United States, the assassination of Martin Luther King Junior Jr. on April 4, 1968, resulted in massive riots in Gary, Indiana. As a result, 10 people, including three police officers, died as a result of sniper fire. This prompted the deployment of about 3,000 National Guard members who helped restore order in the region. They did so by enforcing curfews and banning the sale of liquor and gasoline.

8. Gary, Indiana, Is Home to Some Historic Places

Partly due to the industrial activities in the region, Gary, Indiana, developed some historic places, most of which remain relevant to date. The most iconic ones include St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, Ralph Waldo Emerson School, Barney Sablotney House, Theodore Roosevelt High School, and Morningside Historic District.

9. It Is Home to The RailCats Sports Franchise

Gary, Indiana, is home to several sports franchises. A perfect example is the RailCats, a professional baseball team that played in the Northern League from 2002 to 2010. Currently playing in the modern American Association, the organization was league champion in 2005, 2007, and 2013.

Besides baseball, Gary, Indiana, hosts two other professional basketball franchises. They include Gary Splash, who graced the International Basketball League from 2010 to 2013 and Gary Steelheads, who were part of CBA, USBL, and IBL.

10. Gary, Indiana, Was Once Considered The Murder Capital of the U.S.

Most people in Gary, Indiana, were impoverished due to the decline in industrial activities and massive layoffs. In turn, the majority resorted to armed robbery and violence. With the number of killings rising as each year passed in the 90s, the city got the tag “Murder Capital of the U.S.” About 110 people were killed in 1993, which was a lot considering the city’s population was 119,125; it translated to a murder rate of 91 per 100,000 residents.

11. Gary, Indiana Is No Longer One of the Most Dangerous Cities

Even though many people still regard Gary, Indiana, as one of the most miserable cities in North America, the city is not considered as dangerous as it used to be. If anything, the FBI crime report statistics show the region is not even in the top 10 most dangerous cities in Indiana itself, let alone the whole of the United States.

12. Magnitogorsk, Russia, Derived Inspiration from Gary, Indiana

Magnitogorsk is an industrial city in Russia containing the country’s largest iron and steel works; its official motto is “the place where Europe and Asia meet.” Interestingly, Magnitogorsk was designed and modeled based on Gary, Indiana; the city and its steelworks derived inspiration from the world’s steel powerhouse at the time.

13. Houses Were Sold for as Low as $1 in Gary, Indiana

To address a problem the region was facing since the collapse of its industrialization, the Dollar House Program started an initiative to help sell homes to people who could not afford the traditional mortgage sale to own a home for as low as $1. With the declining population and massive abandonment of homes, more people needed to be encouraged into the city.

14. Several Schools Have Been Closed in Gary, Indiana

Over the last ten years, several schools have been closed in Gary, Indiana, for various reasons. Most were closed due to budget deficits, while others were simply abandoned. Since their closing, some of the buildings have been reused for other purposes, while most remain closed and unused.

15. Attempts to Restore the City’s Lost Glory Have Flopped

In 1970, The U.S. Steel Gary Works had more than 30,000 workers. However, there was a sharp decline in the subsequent 20 years, with the industry employing only 6,000 people in 1990. Since then, there have been deliberate attempts to help shore up the city’s economy to no avail. Construction projects, including a Holiday Inn hotel and the Genesis Convention Center, did not help.

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Last Update: November 29, 2023