Clearing the Decks
In the 1920s, Gary’s park board established North Gleason Park to serve the city’s African American residents. For more than 70 years, the park’s pavilion served as a recreation hub and as a clubhouse for the nearby celebrated 9-hole golf course. In more recent years, the pavilion has languished, deterioration and deferred maintenance rendering it nearly unusable. However, local efforts and a little sweat equity are giving the North Gleason Park Pavilion a much-needed boost as plans for its future continue to unfold.
In August, community members gathered at Indiana University Northwest to learn about the history of North Gleason Park and share thoughts and strategies on how the pavilion building could be saved. Facilitated by the university’s Center for Urban and Regional Excellence and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, the session concluded square one should be cleaning up the building and surrounding site. Knowing even that first step would require man-hours and money, the consortium turned to its network.
Chris Harris, a fifth generation Gary native and advocate for preserving the city’s history, began spread the word about efforts at North Gleason. The message reached leadership at Graycor, Inc., where Chris works. An Illinois construction company that traces its origins back to 1921 in Chicago, Graycor has long served northwest Indiana, and many of its employees call the state home. The company granted $3,500 to help with clean-up of the pavilion and to hire a preservation consultant to begin documentation necessary to nominate the park to the National Register of Historic Places.
In October, staff from Indiana Landmarks’ Northwest Field Office and the Calumet Artist Residency, a local non-profit, led an industrious workday. Volunteers removed trees and brush around the building and cleaned out half of the interior before the overflowing dumpster forced them to call it a day. Members of the Gamma Rho Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha—which held its first meeting at the pavilion in 1947—also came out to lend a hand.
Local advocates are currently exploring funding options to put a new roof on the pavilionand looking for historic photos to guide future restoration work at the building.
To learn more about ongoing efforts to preserve the North Gleason Park Pavilion, contact Brad Miller in Indiana Landmarks’ Northwest Field Office, 219-947-2657, email@example.com.
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