This book was created for community programming as part of The Climate Season at
Indiana University Theater Northwest, produced by Kathy Arfken. It is also part of a
series of printed works by the Calumet Artist Residency aiming to encourage residents
to envision Gary, Indiana as a regenerative city, addressing food and climate insecurity.
This is inspired by the Ecopolis Projects of playwright and oral historian Jeff Biggers.
This is a first edition and has been humbly produced with hopes that it will allow us to
connect with collaborators and residents to help move forward with preservation and
documentation of the history of Midtown Gary, as we also work towards local food security
and climate action. We are looking for photos and essays for future editions. Thanks to: Kathy
Arfken, Mark Baer, Scott Sandberg (Calumet Regional Archives), David Hess (Gary Public
Library), Walter Jones, Lori Latham, Isaac Mootye, David Arfa, Dr. Librè Booker, Connie
Wachala, Tiffany Tolbert , Korry Shepard, Dinahlynn Biggs, Kaija Thomas, Kidstuff Playsystems,
Cheryl and Richard Hagelberg, Mary Duncan
Cover images: Vivian Carter (Yesterday in Gary, Millender), Isaac Mootye and Kaija Thomas at Brothers' Keeper
Garden (photo by Corey Hagelberg), Tennis players at Stewart House, 1925 (Calumet Regional Archives),
Sunflower (photo by Jennifer Duncan)
Mae's Louisiana Kitchen, 1814 Broadway, date unknown. Calumet Regional Archives
Dedicated to the hard work, passion, and creativity of:
Dharathula "Dolly" Millender
Dr. Earl R. Jones
Dr. James B. Lane
NaTanya' Davina' Stewart, William "Bill" Hill, and Jihad T. Muhammad
Historic Midtown Gary, The Central District
During the Jim Crow era, Gary, Indiana was a segregated city. African American residents of
Gary were forced to live within the confines of a neighborhood called Midtown, or the Central
District, extending approximately from the Wabash Railroad tracks (11th Avenue) on the north
to the Little Calumet River on the south, and from Virginia Street on the east to Grant Street on
the west. As historian Dolly Millender stated, "There were two Garys from the beginning.” (1)
Despite the abhorrent reality of segregation and its impacts, such as exclusion from being
able to take out bank loans or buy property, Midtown became a model for self-sufficiency,
resilience, and creativity, because it had to. Everything the community needed was within a few
blocks: restaurants, entertainment venues, hardware stores, tailors, clothing and beauty shops,
a hospital, mechanics, architects, lawyers, and a food cooperative. The schools were not given
the same resources as those in adjacent white neighborhoods, but were known for providing a
Food gardens were abundant in this area along the Little Calumet River, with a Victory
Garden extending from Broadway to Harrison Street during World War II (2). A trolley service
along Broadway, with interurban trains connecting the entire region together with South Bend
and Chicago, provided public transportation. It was a densely populated area with many
live/work spaces throughout.
Midtown holds locations of cultural significance, including the campaign headquarters of
Richard G. Hatcher, the original location of Vee-Jay Records, Roosevelt High School (known as
“The Music Factory,") and the first publicly funded African American golf course.
As Jim Crow slowly receded, residents of Midtown dispersed into other parts of the city,
changing the population density and making it harder for local businesses to survive. Though
much of the physical evidence of this period is gone, the spirit by which it was built remains
and can serve as a source of inspiration and a model of resilience and fortitude in the face of
the current climate crisis.
Today, as a response to food insecurity and health concerns, food gardens have begun to
pop up around Midtown, with Stewart House at the forefront of the current wave, starting
around 2010. Many of the practices in gardening are deeply rooted in African American cultural
heritages and create connections with past generations.
The gardens on this tour are all burgeoning efforts facilitated by volunteers. We hope that
this tour will draw attention to these efforts and inform participants of historic and present
methods of resilience as a way to encourage community members to take action, volunteer, or
start a cooperative or green enterprise.
The Resilient Midtown Tour builds upon the work of The Historic Midtown Project, founded
in 2001 and developed under the direction of Dr. Earl Jones (Founder and Principal Investigator
of The Historic Midtown Project).
1. Stewart Settlement House and Community Garden - 15th Ave. and
During the Great Migration (1917-1970), Gary’s African American population grew by about
90,000 people. Settlement Houses played an important role in helping new residents adapt
and survive. The John Stewart Settlement House, the only settlement house built specifically for
aiding African Americans, was built by Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church under the leadership
of Reverend Frank Delaney. The two structures (both designed by Midtown architect, William
Wilson Cooke) were built in 1925 across the street from each other. (4)
A variety of social services were offered including a free medical clinic and dispensary,
clothing giveaway and repair, meals, lodging, nursery and day care, classes in self-reliance and
gardening, legal advice, an information and employment bureau, recreation facilities, and a
meeting place for clubs and committees. They also conducted community meetings to work on
common problems of the Central District. (5)
In 2011 volunteers reinvigorated the site of The John Stewart House into the Stewart House
Urban Farm and Garden with plans for “establishing a job creating, revenue generating,
sustainable urban farm and learning center.” (6)
Stewart House 15th Anniversary Program, 1935. Calumet Regional Archives
2. Vee-Jay Records - 1640 Broadway
"Music played a fundamental role in creating resilience in Historic Midtown. “The blues tells a
story of despair and injustice, and yet it shows the hope and dream for a better life. Through song,
troubles were eased in the cotton fields of the south. From the Cotton Belt of the Mississippi Delta, to
Memphis and then to Chicago, and 28 miles away to Gary, the blues traveled north …” - Excerpt by
Norma Coleman Bates from “Midtown Tour Guide"
“It [The 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s] was a magical time of playing, dancing, and listening to the "Gary
sound.", according to Willam "Bill" Hill". Blues clubs were scattered throughout Midtown. This
unique sound that developed in Gary gave birth to iconic musical figures recognized
This is the former location of Vivian’s Records, which gave birth to the legendary Vee-Jay
Records. (According to the 1952 City Directory, the shop had previously been located at 1973
Connecticut.) Predating Motown, Vee-Jay was an influential independent label founded by the
husband-and-wife team of Vivian Carter and Jimmy C. Bracken. In 1953, local doo-wop group,
The Spaniels, sang in the record shop after having won a talent competition at Roosevelt High
School. "The song "Good Night, Sweetheart, Good Night" was written by one of the Spaniels
while walking home at night after a date," says Dr. Earl Jones. "The Spaniels changed music
with that great bassline, their singing, harmony and songs." They, along with legendary electric
bluesman Jimmy Reed, were the first two artists signed to Vee-Jay and soon found themselves
on top of the charts.
A staggering array of talent, from R&B, gospel and pop, was released on the label including:
John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim, The Staple Singers, Jerry Butler and the Impressions, Frankie
Valli & the Four Season, and The Dells. Vee-Jay was also the first U.S. record company to
distribute The Beatles. Their catalog of chart-topping hits include: “Duke of Earl,” by Gene
Chandler; “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss”), by Betty Everett; “He Will Break Your
Heart,” by Jerry Butler; and “Sherry,” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
After Vee-Jay Records closed in 1966, Vivian Carter (a Roosevelt graduate) remained a well-
known radio personality, working as a dee jay on WWCA. (7)
Vivian Carter, Image from: https://www.wfyi.org/programs/cultural-manifesto/radio/Vivian-Carter
The Stewart House, Designed by William Wilson Cooke. Calumet Regional Archives
3. William Wilson Cooke's Architecture Practice - 1828 Broadway
Born in 1871 in South Carolina, the son of a former enslaved person, William Wilson
Cooke came to Gary in 1921 with his family after having earned a degree from Claflin
College and beginning his career working for the U.S. Treasury. Cooke designed many of the
most important structures in Midtown: First African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, St.
John’s Hospital, The Stewart House (designed pro bono), Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church
(of which he was a member), and the facade of the relocated Campbell Friendship House.
Of these structures, only the Friendship House and First AME Church still stand. Cooke was
also a civic leader in Midtown, serving on the board of the Stewart House and as a
prominent member of the Noon Day Business Club (an organization created to advance the
Central Business District as its members were otherwise excluded from the Gary Chamber
of Commerce). In 1929, Cooke became the first African American in the state of Indiana to
be awarded an architecture license.
During the Great Depression he had to close his practice and again sought employment
with the U.S. Treasury Department where he worked as a construction engineer, designing
post offices across the Midwest.
Upon his retirement in 1942, he returned to Gary and the home he had maintained at
2319 Adams Street, where he stayed until his death in 1949 at the age of 78. (1)(8)
4. Hatcher Campaign Headquarters - 2019 Broadway
This is the site of the 1967 political headquarters of Richard G. Hatcher, first African
American mayor of Gary and the first African American (along with Carl Stokes of Cleveland)
to be elected mayor of a major U.S. city. During the campaign, Hatcher had many obstacles to
overcome, not the least of which was the Lake County Democratic Party itself who threw their
support behind his Republican challenger after he refused to promise the Democrats the
ability to select key positions in his administration. Pulling their support was not enough,
however, as the Democrats began a wave of intimidation to suppress the Black vote which
included purging election rolls and breaking voting machines in key precincts. Despite these
extreme attacks from his own political party, on November 7, 1967, 34-year-old Richard
Hatcher won the election by a mere 2,200 votes. On his inauguration day in 1968, he arrived
to find the doors to city hall chained shut. In the 1971 primary, the Lake County Democrats
challenged Hatcher again with their own moderate candidate, but lost by a large margin.
Richard Hatcher went on to serve as mayor until 1988, fighting for Gary against the flight of
businesses to Merrillville, the burden of environmental pollution created by U.S. Steel, and
working to expand civil rights on both a local and national level. (4)
As Charles M. Christian stated, “There is no doubt that Richard G. Hatcher's entrance into
Gary's mayoralty would serve as a key episode in the history of the Calumet Region and
Hatcher campaigning for mayor, 1967. Calumet Regional Archives
Richard G. Hatcher walks past his campaign headquarters four days after his election as Gary's first Black
mayor. The Philadelphia Tribune
5. African American Newspapers - 2085 Broadway
Midtown has been home to five African American newspapers and by the 1960s, there were
three printing at the same time. These newspapers played a key role in organizing for Civil
Rights and keeping the community informed on social events, social services, as well as local
and national stories of importance.
The first African American newspaper in the city was The National Defender and Sun which
was being published in Gary by 1919, with the motto, “Dedicated to the masses in their fight for
justice.” Its name was later changed to The Gary Sun. James D. Cooke, the publisher, brought the
paper to Gary after having originated it in Milwaukee and made his mark as a leader in Midtown
in a short amount of time. After his passing in 1920, his sister-in-law, Zenobia Bagby, took over
the operations until the end of its run in 1931. The 1927 city directory lists the offices at 2089
Broadway; the original office was at 2274 Washington.
The Gary American, at 2085 Broadway, first began publishing in 1927 as The Gary Colored
American and was founded by A.B. Whitlock, who became the first African American member of
the Gary City Council in 1921. Its name was changed to The Gary American in 1928 and was run
by the Whitlock family for 3 decades. The influence A.B. Whitlock had in Midtown can’t be
overstated. (He also served as a vital source of early Midtown history when Dolly Millender
interviewed him for her self-published book, Yesterday in Gary: History of the Negro in Gary 1906-
The Gary Crusader was founded in 1961 at 320 W. 19th Ave. as part of the Crusader
Newspaper Group by Balm L. Leavell and Joseph H. Jefferson. After the death of Mr. Leavell in
1968, his wife, Dorothy R. Leavell, assumed the role of publisher, which she holds to this day.
Mrs. Leavell has had a truly distinguished career, with a list of honors too long to mention here.
Gary Info, published by James T. Harris Jr. and Imogene Harris, was located on the 1600
block of Broadway from 1963 to 2006. The paper grew out of the family business, Harris
Printing. The Harrises were devoted and beloved leaders in the community throughout their
long lives, with a legacy that reaches well beyond the scope of the newspaper. (9)(10)(12)
Gary Crusader Office, Gary Crusader, 1976. Calumet Regional Archives
6. Campbell Friendship House - 2100 Washington St.
“When it was built in 1928, Campbell Friendship House was the first settlement house in
Gary to have a gymnasium... Campbell Friendship House was started by several church
missionaries in 1912... Like most settlement houses, the facility provided food, clothing,
shelter and healthcare services to the needy. Between 1920 and 1930, while Gary was
becoming a city of 100,000, the African American population increased 238 percent and
composed one-fifth of the total population... From 1946-1947, the House served over 900
registered families, and served over 1,233 individual children and adults.” (11) An effort was
recently begun to restore the building to its former use. Please visit:
7. Brothers' Keeper Garden/Dr. Frederick McMitchell Residence and
Clinic - 2194 Broadway
According to the 1922 city directory, 2194 Broadway was the site of the home and clinic of
Dr. Frederick McMitchell. By 1925, "McMitchell's Sanitarium" had opened at 2188
Massachusetts, eventually expanding into historic St. John's Hospital in 1929. It was the only
hospital serving African Americans in its time. The William Wilson Cooke designed building
was demolished in 2019, after having spent many years on the Indiana Landmarks' Ten Most
Endangered list. (8)(12)
In 2019 Calumet Artist Residency and Brothers' Keeper Shelter partnered to start a garden
and food forest with hopes that it will become a hub of regenerative activity and education
around the history of Midtown and contribute to local food security. In addition to growing
annual plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, this garden has started a food forest
a regenerative system with a focus on perennial plants such as fruit and nut trees, which are
lower maintenance and more resilient to the effects of climate change.
Broadway at 22nd Ave, 1955. Calumet Regional Archives
St. John’s Hospital - 28 E 22nd Ave
Both above photos from Yesterday in Gary by Dolly Millender (1967). Dr. Robert Hedrick took
over St. John's in 1929 after the untimely death of Dr. McMitchell's wife, Laura, who suffered
a tragic accident at the facility.
8. Consumers Cooperative Trading Company - 2161 Broadway
“In the fall of 1932 Gary, Indiana, was ravaged by the depression, the steel mills were closed
and only one bank remained (and later also closed). Jacob Reddix held a meeting in Roosevelt
High School, which led to the formation of Gary’s Consumers Cooperative Trading Company
(Hope, 1940 and Reddix, 1974). Starting with a buying club, the Trading Company came to
operate a main grocery store, a branch store, a filling station and a credit union. By 1934 there
were over 400 members and seven full time employees in the grocery store. The Credit Union
was organized in November 1934. By February 1936, it had over 100 members and several
hundred dollars on deposit (Hope: 41). The first dividend of two percent on shares of stock
owned was paid to members in December 1935 (Hope: 41). In 1936, sales for the organization
were at $160,000 and the company was considered to be “the largest grocery business
operated by Negroes in the United States” (Reddix: 119). The Cooperative Trading Company
supported a young people’s branch that operated its own ice-cream parlor and candy store.
Reddix is quoted as saying that the “most important single factor” in their progress “has been
our education program” (Hope: 40). They held weekly educational meetings for 18 months
before opening any of the businesses. In 1933 they instituted a cooperative economic course
in Roosevelt High School’s evening school. By 1936 it was the largest academic class in the
school (Hope: 41). The Education Committee published a five-year plan for “Uplifting the Social
and Economic Status of the Negro in Gary” in 1934. Again, many of the same themes, missions
and goals are mirrored in this example. Every organization found education to be one of the
most important elements in the endeavor. The Gary cooperative actually integrated
cooperative education into the high school curriculum. This cooperative society was
responding to a need in the community, particularly an economic need. The Gary cooperative
also went further than most by establishing a Credit Union as one of its cooperatives -to both
provide financial services and help members save- and institutionalizing its education program
in the High School. Similar to the others, this cooperative also saw the equal inclusion of youth
as important.” (13) - Exerpt from: “Cooperative Ownership in the Struggle for African American
Economic Empowerment" by Jessica Gordon Nembhard Ph.D.
Further exploration on the cooperative movement:
Danner, Kerry, "Hope, Courage, and Resistance during Climate Change: Insights from
African American Economic Cooperative Practices," Journal of the Society of Christian
Ethics, Fall/Winter 2016, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2016), pp. 173-192
Nembhard, Jessica Gordon, Collective Courage, A History of African American Cooperative
Economic Thought and Practice, (Penn State Press, 2014)
"The Everything Co-op with Vernon Oakes" Podcast - http://everything.coop
Jacob Lorenzo Reddix was born in
Vancleave, Mississippi to two former enslaved
people in 1897. He earned a bachelor’s degree
at Chicago's Lewis Institute in 1927 and then
received a Rosenwald Fellowship to attend
graduate school at the University of Chicago.
He taught math and cooperative economics
at Roosevelt High School from 1927 to 1939.
When he began at the school, students and
staff had to work in an unfinished building. By
the time he left, Mr. Reddix had helped
establish Roosevelt as a true community school
and a main hub in Midtown.
His experience working in Gary led him to
become an expert in cooperative organizations.
Leaving in 1939, he was hired by the Farms
Security Administration to bring these practices
to Southern farmers.
He served as president of Jackson State
College from its founding in 1940 until 1967.
Gary Crusader, October 2, 1976. Calumet Regional Archives
He is great who inspires others to think
-Jacob L. Reddix
10. Jackson 5 House - 2300 Jackson St.
This 675 sq. ft. house produced some of the most famous entertainers in the world. With
eleven people living in this space, it was, by any standard, a tiny house and a model for what
can be achieved in a small space.
Situated adjacent to Roosevelt (nicknamed the "Music Factory"), this would have provided
the right environment to produce one of the most influential musical families of the 20th
Century. On the other side of Roosevelt sits Delaney Housing Development, which birthed the
legendary doo-wop group, The Spaniels; best know for their hit, “Goodnight, Sweetheart,
Goodnight.” Joe Jackson, father of the Jackson 5, was even in the blues band, The Falcons, with
Thornton "Pookie" Hudson prior to Hudson leaving to join The Spaniels. (5)
Down the street, at 2457 Jackson, is the childhood home of actor Avery Brooks, best known
for his role in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (17)
9. Israel CME Church and Garden - 2301 Washington St.
Founded in 1916 by Reverend R.A. Harrison and six initial members, Israel CME is one of the
oldest African American congregations in Gary. Reverend Claude Allen led the building of an
auditorium style church between 1934 and 1946. Bishop Dotcy L. Isom led the construction of
the current church building, which opened April 7 1996. (16) Kaija Thomas founded the church
garden in 2021.
The Jackson Family home, with Roosevelt High School's stadium in the distance.
Postcard, 1946. Hagelberg/Duncan Collection
11. Roosevelt High School - 730 W. 25th Ave.
One of the results of “the two Garys” was segregation in the school system. For decades,
African American students in Midtown were forced to learn in substandard, temporary
facilities around the city, excluded from the first-rate amenities provided to their white
counterparts. The 1927 school strike at Emerson High School, where over 900 white students
walked out to protest integration, was a pivotal event in the decision to build Roosevelt. The
strike ended when the Gary City Council agreed to allocate funds to build a school for African
Americans in Midtown.
Roosevelt High School was opened in 1931 and though it was created within the confines
of Jim Crow segregation, it became a source of pride in Midtown because of the many ways
the students, faculty, and community contributed to its success.
Frederick C. McFarlane was the first principal and is credited for developing excellent
academic programs. One of the most popular in the early years was cooperative economics,
taught under the leadership of Jacob Reddix. Roosevelt acted both as a school and a
community social center, operating seven days a week with 40 classrooms, a pool,
gymnasium, auditorium, library, general shop, woodshop, sewing rooms, and kitchens. There
were robust social and after-school activities, as well as night school for community members.
Roosevelt High School was the only school built exclusively for African Americans in Gary
and was among the first built in the state. The building was added to the National Register of
Historic Places on December 19, 2012. It had operated as a charted school for nearly a
decade by the time of its closure on June 30, 2020. The estimated cost of repairs to the
building is over $10 million. It is on Indiana Landmarks' Ten Most Endangered list. According
to the organization: "Gary Roosevelt High School is one of the state’s greatest landmarks of
African American history. Losing it would be an immeasurable loss." (5) (14) (18)
13. North Gleason Park and Pavilion
Built in the 1920s and originally called Riverside Park, Gleason Park is over 344 acres,
making it the largest municipal park in Northwest Indiana. It was renamed in 1933 after the
staunch segregationist William P. Gleason, US Steel Superintendent and Park Board President.
In the 1880s, residents reported that in the winter they could ice skate from their house on
Ridge Rd to Tolleston around 15th Ave to get the mail. (This is about 4 miles.) In 1926, Burns
Ditch was dug in Porter County to drain thousands of acres of wetlands. In addition, the natural
landscape with swales was flattened. (21)
From almost the beginning, Gleason Park was segregated into North and South Gleason
Park, with the Little Calumet River being the line of division. North Gleason Park was the only
park in the city available for use by African Americans. As such, North Gleason Park and the
Historic North Gleason Park Pavilion, built in 1941, hold many important memories for those in
the community. The park featured athletic fields, clay tennis courts, an outdoor swimming pool,
playground, picnic pavilions, and a walking path. North Gleason Park Pavilion was a hub of
social activity with a large dance hall and assembly room, lunchroom, lounge, outdoor terrace,
and locker rooms for golfers and swimmers. The park has recently been nominated to the
National Register of Historic Places, a designation which could help fund the preservation of the
12. Victory Gardens at 25th Ave between Broadway and Harrison St.
This area around the floodplain of the Little Calumet River was used to grow food, which
would fit with historical patterns of growing in flood planes around the world. In April 1918,
during World War I, the Gary Daily Tribune reported that one community garden, the 24th
Avenue Allotment, was about 200 acres and extended from Jefferson to Pierce and from 23rd
to 25th Avenues. A report from the Post Tribune, from May 24, 1942 reports 21,000 home
vegetable gardens in Lake County were created to offset the effects of the Great Depression.
During World War II, the government encouraged residents to plant Victory gardens. Many
residents grew food at home and a large Victory garden existed south of 25th Ave from
Broadway to Harrison. Remnant farms remain visible on both sides of the river to this day
going east and west of Broadway. More research is necessary to learn how the Borman
Expressway, built in 1949, impacted this food source. (19)(20)
North Gleason Park Pavilion. Indiana Historic Landmarks
A 9-hole golf course between the Pavilion and the Little Calumet was the first publicly
funded course in the country for African Americans. The Par-Makers, an African American
social group founded in 1949, played a key role in the integration of city parks. The group
invited Joe Louis, the world-famous boxer, to a tournament and were able to use his celebrity
to pressure the Park Board to allow play at the nicer 18-hole course in South Gleason. This
event enabled a brief breakdown of segregationist policy. (22)
In the 1960s, local female golfer Ann Gregory (who is today considered one of the greatest
female golfers in US history) broke this policy wide open when she walked on the course at
South Gleason and started playing despite objections from employees. Mrs. Gregory told those
who tried to stop her: "My tax dollars are taking care of the big course and there's no way you
can bar me from it. Just send the police out to get me." Soon other African American players
started to play the South Gleason course, action which helped to further the integration of
parks around the city. (22) (23)
Today, Gleason Park is one of the most connected parks in Northwest Indiana. The Little
Calumet Levee Trail runs through it, which links up to the Erie Lackawanna Trail going west.
From there it connects with other bike trails and can be taken in many directions.
Ann Gregory, Lexandria Black History Resource Center. USGA Museum
14. Nichols Place - 22nd Ave and Delaware St.
Nichols Place is a 2.64 acre park with lots of potential. If planted with calorie dense food, it
would be possible to produce enough to feed 300 people on an annual basis, assuming a 2500
calorie diet per person. Dr. Libré Booker, founder of Living Green Gardens, helped residents
start a community garden here in 2021. A Juneteenth plant giveaway helped reintroduce
neighbors to the space and it is the ownership they have taken in the garden which has made
it a success.
Gary Railways Car with 22nd Ave marking, date unknown. Hagelberg/Duncan Collection
The Gary and Interurban Railway Co.
Streetcars and interurban trains crisscrossed Gary and Northwest Indiana during much of
the first half of the 20th Century. Under a variety of corporations, interurban railways ran from
Gary to Chicago, Crown Point, Hobart, East Chicago, Hammond, Chesterton, Valparaiso, Goshen,
Laporte and South Bend. Most of the interurbans were boarded at 11th Ave and Broadway.
The Gary and Interurban Railway Co. began streetcar operations on May 20,1908, and initially
extended from 4th Ave to 22nd Ave along Broadway. It was extended to the Little Calumet River
later that year.
The last streetcar line (Gary Railways Co.) ceased operation February 28, 1947. Today, The
South Shore Line, from Chicago to South Bend is the only electric interurban left in the country.
During the time of streetcars in Gary, African Americans did not have equal access to the
robust public transportation system, a topic deserving of further research. However, when
these systems are removed, they disproportionately effect the most vulnerable. Public
transportation systems that are affordable and accessible to all are important tools for racial
and economic justice, but also for climate action.
Remembering Midtown and the Way We Were
by YJean Chambers
Those families, black and white, who came to Gary after World War I had one
common purpose: to flee the oppression and poverty of the American South and
Europe for a better life for themselves and their children. In the 1920s and 30s, we
lived as neighbors. Greek, Polish, German, Serbian, Croatian and others from Europe
talked with black neighbors mostly with gestures until they learned a few words of
English to support their hand movements. However, in the late '30s, I began to miss
Evangelize, Mike, Joey and Mimi. It seems their parents had learned they should be
living with others like themselves. The black folk soon had the center of the city all to
themselves and it was called Midtown.
The boundary was 11th Avenue to the north to 27th Avenue to the south, west for a
few streets past Grant and east for several streets past Virginia. This is where most of
Now as I think about it I have to smile. What a vital, energetic, creative, exuberant
place, Midtown. I think the black population of that era had unconsciously adopted the
philosophy of the great educator, Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute
(now Tuskegee University). Mr. Washington advised black Americans to "let your
buckets down where you are."
We could enjoy real Louisiana gumbo at Mae's Louisiana Kitchen. The genial hosts
were Mae and Horace Bolton. There was Chambers' Grill. I've been married to the
former owner for 45 years. There was El Frio's, owned by Henry Coleman, who also
manufactured and bottled soft drinks with that biting, exhilarating quality.
Off Broadway to the west at 17th [Avenue] there was Mary's Cafe and the Three
Sisters Restaurant. Off Broadway to the east at 18th [Avenue] there was Buddy's
Chicken Shack. On the corner of 19th [Avenue] and Broadway, it was so pleasant to
have a soda in Luther Moore's Drug Store...Eventually there was Oswald Bosky's "Early
Inn." The elegant Broadway.
Dining Room owned by the Buddy Byrd family was a great help to organizations for
special events. The latest in fashions could be purchased at Mae's Smart Shoppe.
Lampkin's Hat Shop was the store for custom-made or designer hats. Reatha Henry's
Shop did tailor made and designed original costumes for Milady. I have only touched
the surface. There is more to tell about the energy and self sufficiency of Midtown,
Gary. I will do so in the future. But in the meantime, when I hear all the hue and cry
about the need for black self-help, I have to smile. That's not a new idea. All I had to do
is reflect on the way that a generation shaped by oppression, segregation, depression
and war put down their buckets in Gary. (3)
List of Other Businesses:
Millender--Gary's Central Business Community: Atty. Maurice J. Patton, 1606 Broadway | New Deal
Cleaners, Inc. 1600 Madison | Haywood Insurance Agency, 1747 Broadway | Mid-State Auto Parts Inc.
1917 Broadway | House of Charles Realty, 1969 Broadway | Broadway Auto Parts. 1989 Broadway |
First Baptist Church(first African-American Church in Gary), 1617 Washington Street | Mr. Eddies Beauty
Salon, 1728 Washington | Roscoe Guy (ambulance service), 1932 Washington Allen’s Florist, 2209
Washington/1520 Virginia | Smith’s Funeral Home and Ambulance, 2293 Washington St | Lewis
Grocery, 401 E. 20th Ave | Goeka’s Grocery, 2501 Adams | E. Morris Funeral Home, 1993
Massachusetts | Ray’s Radiator Repair Shop, 1724 Adams(rear) | Dr. Alfred T. Cardwell| Atty. Hilbert
Bradley | Bledsoe’s Flower Shop |Taft Street Pharmacy, C.C. Cox, R. Ph.| Royal Barber Shop, 28 W. 15th
Ave.| Lander’s Unique Beauty and Slenderizing Salon | Campbell Settlement House(original location),
2244 Washington Street | North Gleason Park Pavilion, 3400 Jefferson St. | Esquire Men’s Store, 1536
Broadway | Mr. Dave Clothing, 1520 Broadway |The Gatlin Business(Office needs) 1724 Broadway
Midtown Tour Guide: Barbara’s Playhouse, 25th and Broadway | Rocks Eatery, across from Roosevelt
High School | SouthTown Supermarket, 25th and Adams | Brown’s Barber Shop, E. 25th Ave | Bob
Denham's Clothiers Cleaning Business, E .25th Ave | Certain Grow Hair Products, Broadway and 18th |
Southern Coal and Oil Company, 1940 Jackson Street | Guy Richard Baptiste Gas 25th Avenue between
Adams and Jefferson | Guy Richard Baptiste ladies' clothing store, 17th Avenue and Broadway. |
Hedrick Hospital on 22nd Avenue and Massachusetts Street | Patient's Hospital on 18th and Jefferson
Street | Lieberman Drug Store on 22nd and Broadway | Addie P. Allen, first black-owned floral business
in Gary, 1520 Virginia Street | Kroger Food Store and a very popular shrimp house. "Good Corner." at
21st Pl. and Virginia Dozier T. Allen, Jr"s father, had a service station. northwest corner of 21st Avenue
and Virginia Street| Dobbie's Bar, 19th Avenue and Virginia (NE corner) |Pulaski Bar. 19th Avenue and
Virginia (SE Corner) | Johnson's Grocery Store, 724 E. 24th Avenue| Salvation Army, 15th and Madison |
Balkan Bakery, 1337 Adams | Green Bay Tavern located,16th and Adams |Lula Miller Barber Shop, 16th
Ave between Washington and Adams Street | Parakeet Lounge, 15th and Washington St.| F and Js on
15th Avenue and Adams Street(SE Corner), | Fred's joint 15th and Adams(NE Corner) | Roosevelt
Theater, Broadway and 15th(NW Corner) | Mary Boltons Restaurant, 15th Ave behind the Roosevelt
Theater | Norman's Furniture Store, 1500 Block of Broadway(East side) | Mona’s Lounge, 1500 Block of
Broadway(East side) | Old Congo Club, 16th and Broadway (SE Corner) | Lovell's Barbershop, 17th and
Broadway (SE Corner) | Gibraltar Building, 1649 Broadway | Continental Room/Mae’s Louisiana Kitchen,
1814 Broadway | Luther Moore's Climax Pharmacy, 1901 Broadway | Broadway Dining Room, 1953
Broadway, | Ann Childress's Beauty Shop, 1900 Block Broadway | The Harlem Booster Club, 1900 Block
Broadway | Buddy Byrd's HurricaneLounge 1900 Block Broadway | El Frio Beveridge Company, 2225
Broadway | Cresswell Funeral Home 21st and Broadway (SE Corner) | Universal Negro Improvement
Association (UNIA) | “Chicks Stadium” 21st and Madison | Gary Neighborhood Services/ Barbara Leek
Wesson Center 21st and Madison(NE Corner) | Freeman Homestead, 21st and Madison (SE Corner) |
Booker T. Washington Terrace Apartments, 24th and Washington St. | Andrew Means Home, 2515
Jefferson St. | SteelTown Records, 1025 Taney Street | Located in the Border: (13th-17th Washington
to Madison): The Belmont | Goudeau's | Upshaw's Famous Doors | Too | Tall | Froebel Grill | Adam's
Lounge | Al's Tavern | Alex's Tavern | Hardaway's, | The Villa, Corner Lounge | Bowsky's | Elks |
Elbow Room | Tony's, Real Action | Ms. Knight's | Walter Kelly's | Mae's Smart Shop | Hotel Kelly
Blues Clubs: The Early Inn | the Wonder Room | the Elks | Joe Green's | Club Woodlawn | the Villa |
Silver Slipper | Belmont Grill | The Playboy Club | Marimar Ballroom |The White Eagle Hall | Calyman's
| Lounge and the F&J | Mae's Louisiana Kitchen | Mona's Lounge | The Maramar Ballroom
(1) Dolly Millender, Images of America: Gary’s Central Business (Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2005).
(2) Clarence Peterson personal interview by Lori Latham, 2021.
(3) Earl R. Jones, John W. Gunn Jr, William “Bill” Hill, Jihad T. Muhammad, Midtown, The Central District: Life, History
and Culture, The Historic African American Community Gary, IN Tour Guide, 2nd ed. (2011).
(4) Robert A. Catlin, Racial Politics and Urban Planning, Gary, Indiana 1980-1989 (The University Press of
(5) James B. Lane, Gary's First Hundred Years: A Centennial History of Gary, Indiana 1906-2006 (Indiana University
(7) James B. Lane, “Vivian Carter and Vee-Jay Records,” Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History,” Vol. 23, No. 1
(Indiana Historical Society, Winter 2011).
(8) Tiffany Tolbert, “Building A Community: The Architecture of William Wilson Cooke,” Traces of Indiana and
Midwestern History,” Vol. 23, No. 3 (Indiana Historical Society, Summer 2011).
(11) Erick Johnson, “Now Just a Sketch,” Gary Crusader, 2018, https://chicagocrusader.com/local-news/now-just-
(12) Dolly Millender, Yesterday in Gary: History of the Negro in Gary 1906-1967 (Gary, Indiana: Dolly Millender,
(13) Jessica Gordon Nembhard Ph.D, “Cooperative Ownership in the Struggle for African American Economic
Empowerment,” (University of Maryland, 2004).
(14) Jacob L. Reddix, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness: The Memoirs of Jacob L. Reddix (Jackson, MS: University Press
of Mississippi, 1974).
(15) Ted Ownby, “Jacob L. Reddix,” Mississippi Encyclopedia, July 11, 2017,
(16) “The History of Israel CMD Church,” n.d., https://sites.google.com/site/israelcmechurch/church-history.
(18) “Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy,” n.d.,
(19) WPA, The Calumet Region Historical Guide, 1939, Compiled by Workers of the Writers' Program of the Works
Progress Administration in the State of Indiana.
(20) James B. Lane, Steel Shavings, Home Front: The World War II Years in the Calumet Region 1941-1945, Vol. 22
(Indiana University Northwest, 1993).
(21) Ken Schoon, Calumet Beginnings (Indiana University Press, 2003).
(22) “Rescue Needed for Gary’s North Gleason Park Pavilion,” Indiana Landmarks.org, Nov. 20, 2018,
(23) Peter F. Stevens, "The Natural: Ann Gregory," usga.org, Jan. 15, 2016,
(24) James Buckley, “Gary Railways,” Bulletin 84, (Central Electric Railfans Association, 1975).
1. Stewart House Garden -
1501 Massachusetts St.
2. Vee-Jay Records - 1640 Broadway
3. William Wilson Cooke Office -
4. Richard G. Hatcher 1967 Campaign
Headquarters - 2019 Broadway
5. Gary American Newspaper -
6. Campbell Friendship House
2100 Washington St.
7. Brothers' Keeper Garden and
Food Forest - 2194 Broadway
8. Consumers' Cooperative Trading
Company - 2161 Broadway
9. Israel CME Church and Garden
2301 Washington St.
10. Jackson 5 House - 2300 Jackson St.
11. Roosevelt High School
730 W 25th Ave.
12. Victory Gardens - between
Broadway and Harrison S. of 25th
13. North Gleason Park Pavilion
3400 Jefferson St.
14. Nichols Place - 21st and Delaware St.
Copyright: Calumet Artist Residency, 2021
This route is 5.7 miles. Please choose the route that best fits your time and abilities.
IUN Department of Minority Studies Historic Midtown Project Israel CME Stewart House
Urban Farm and Gardens