Marktown is listed in the National Register based on its unusual Old World architecture and the snapshot it provides of young industrial America. (Photo: Eric Allix Rogers)|
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In the most industrial section of heavily industrial East Chicago, an English Garden City is about the last thing you’d expect to see sandwiched between the hulking steel mills and refineries.
You might wonder if some category-five version of the tornado that carried Dorothy to Oz hadn’t deposited this quaint anachronism, called Marktown, in such an incompatible place.
The real reason, while slightly less fantastic, is still pretty darn fascinating.
When Chicago industrialist Clayton Mark opened a steel plant in a mostly undeveloped area of northwest Indiana in 1917, he realized that housing for workers was an issue. His solution was to build an entire town for his workforce, including schools and parks. He tapped renowned Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw to design the burg he named for himself.
Shaw crafted a Tudor Revival village of narrow streets and picturesque stucco homes. The original plan provided housing for 8,000, but World War I intervened and only four of 32 sections were completed. That still produced an intimate community of over a hundred buildings with a distinctly European feel.
Marktown is listed in the National Register of Historic Places based on its unusual Old World architecture and the snapshot it provides of young industrial America. The buildings were converted to private ownership in 1941. Every one of the original structures still stands, although a quarter are vacant, and well-preserved cottages alternate with dilapidated ones. Even so, Marktown retains the look of an antique English hamlet, steadfast in the shadow of the steel mills that inspired it.
A Chicago sojourn blog (lots of good photos of Marktown)
Chicagoist entry on Marktown
South Shore Journal