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Gary, Indiana

Gary is a city located in Lake County in northwest Indiana in the suburbs of Chicago. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 102,746. It borders Lake Michigan and is known for its large steel mills, emissions from which are often visible from Chicago across the lake. In the Chicagoland area, Gary is often reputed to have a distinctive odor due to its pollution, and is the target of many jokes and comments. The large sign upon entering Gary from the west on Interstate 90—"THE GARY SEWAGE TREATMENT DISTRICT WELCOMES YOU"—does little to discourage these jokes. In 2004, Gary was awarded the title of "America's Third Most Dangerous City" by the Morgan Quitno Corporation. [1]

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The city was founded in 1906 by the United States Steel Corporation as the home for its new plant. The city was named after the chairman of U.S. Steel, Elbert H. Gary.

A home in Gary's west side (18-May-2004, John Delano)

Among cities of 100,000 or more, Gary has the highest percentage of Black residents of any U.S. city (as of the census 2000). Gary had one of the nation's first Black mayors, Richard G. Hatcher.

Gary's fortunes have risen and fallen with those of the steel industry. In the 1960s, Gary entered a downward spiral of decline brought on by layoffs at the steel plants. Contrary to popular belief, the losses of jobs in steel are more due to improved technology than to imports. Steel production peaked at US Steel's Gary works in the early 1990s, it just took fewer people to produce that steel. As unemployment increased, so did crime, taxes, and property abandonment.

Gary's downtown is virtually empty. Vacant stores have murals painted on their windows depicting what they once sold. "Painted on the shuttered Palace Theater is a scene from some elegant memory: a ticket seller in a bow tie and a crowd of customers, some in slinky gowns, milling in a lobby." (New York Times, November 30, 2003)

An unoccupied apartment bulding near downtown Gary (19-FEB-2004, John Delano)

Before his legal troubles, Michael Jackson promised to build a performing arts center for Gary. It is now doubtful that this will ever come to pass.

Gary has been in the news in connection with politicking over the construction of a new airport for Chicago. Because the Gary airport is closer to downtown Chicago than the other proposed site for a third Chicago airport at Peotone, Illinois, some have argued that building a new airport at Peotone is not necessary, and that money would be better spent on improving the Gary/Chicago International Airport. This plan is backed by the Mayors of Gary and Chicago, while the Illinois state government is in favor of construction at Peotone. Tax revenues from a new airport at Peotone would go to the Illinois state government, while those from an expanded Gary airport would go to a regional airport authority, and thus to the cities of Chicago and Gary. Most agree that an airport in Gary would be the best solution, not only because of its proximity to Downtown Chicago, but also for the fact that millions of acres of farmland are being seized for the Peotone airport that may or may not even be built.

Gary, Indiana is also the subject of a song in the musical The Music Man.


Gary is located at 41°34'51" North, 87°20'44" West (41.580786, -87.345449)1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 148.3 km² (57.2 mi²). 130.1 km² (50.2 mi²) of it is land and 18.2 km² (7.0 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 12.25% water.


An Abandoned apartment Building on 5th Avenue in Downtown Gary (19-FEB-2004, John Delano)

As of the census2 of 2000, there are 102,746 people, 38,244 households, and 25,623 families residing in the city. The population density is 789.8/km² (2,045.5/mi²). There are 43,630 housing units at an average density of 335.4/km² (868.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 84.03% Black, 11.92% White, 0.21% Native American, 0.14% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.97% from other races, and 1.71% from two or more races. 4.93% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 38,244 households out of which 31.2% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 30.2% are married couples living together, 30.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 33.0% are non-families. 28.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.4% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.66 and the average family size is 3.28.

In the city the population is spread out with 29.9% under the age of 18, 10.1% from 18 to 24, 25.1% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 12.8% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 84.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 78.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $27,195, and the median income for a family is $32,205. Males have a median income of $34,992 versus $24,432 for females. The per capita income for the city is $14,383. 25.8% of the population and 22.2% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 37.9% of those under the age of 18 and 14.1% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


The following sports teams are based in Gary:

Home arena: Genesis Convention Center

Home field: US SteelYard.

Famous people from Gary

Aerial photographs

These aerial photographs show the massive industrial plants and decaying neighborhoods in Gary. The photographs are from Microsoft's Terraserver website at

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