Saturday, November 6, 2010

Y. M. C. A. Building for Gary Indiana

In 1909, Elbert Gary donated funds so that the City of Gary could build a Young Men's Christian Association Building.  The building was to serve as a sports and recreation center, library, temporary dormitory, and dining facility for men in the city.  Joseph Silsbee had already set up a satellite office in the Gary Land Company Building and had much work at hand in the new city.  Construction was under way for a similar building designed by Silsbee for the Oberlin College Campus.  He seemed the perfect candidate for the new project in Gary.    
The Gary Y.M.C.A. Building was a massive cut stone structure that once stood on an entire city block, facing north on Fifth Avenue.  With it's lack of ornament, strict symmetry and wide hipped roof, the structure is austere and monumental.  It is also vaguely classical in it's appearance with modest carved stone work in the brackets at the balcony over the doorway and at the entry.  Besides this detail and some brackets at the eave, the structure is defined primarily by flat planar surfaces, piers and bands, all in the buff smooth stone material.  Photos better articulating this detail can be found at the U. S. Steel Gary Works Photo Archive.
At the time of construction, the building was considered "state of the art".  It was constructed of concrete, had accommodations for all modern functions with electricity and mechanical heating.  While the community seemed proud of the new structure, it was particularly proud of the handsome interiors.  The ground floor was dominated by a single open room with wide spans of carved beams supported by marble columns.  This main hall was arranged as a club-like setting and was lit with a series of elaborate chandeliers.  At the east and west ends of the main entry hall were large fireplaces with murals above.  Throughout, there were small grouping of furniture to create intimate gathering areas.  Directly opposite the entry was a wide grand staircase to the upper floors.  A bronze plaque, memorializing the building's patron was located at the top of the first stair landing, facing the hall.  The walls were articulated with paneling and wainscoting throughout.  It took approximately three years for the structure to be completed and once completed, were considered some of the finest interiors in the city.  I am unsure when the structure was demolished but a modern building, approximately forty years old, currently occupies the site.

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