Monday, December 04, 2017

The abandoned homes of Michael Jackson's old neighborhood in Gary, Indiana

Last month I didn't just conduct urban exploration in the Disneyland of urbanex, Detroit. I also made a stop in Gary, Indiana.

Gary, which is thirty miles southeast of downtown Chicago, of course is best known as the birthplace and hometown of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

In that two bedroom home at 2300 Jackson Street, Jackson, his nine brothers and sisters, and his parents lived. It's surrounded by a wrought-iron fence that wasn't there when I last visited, which was shortly after Jacko died in 2009. His last trip to his hometown was six years earlier.

For the life of me I can't ascertain who owns this house.

Gary, which was founded essentially as a US Steel company town in 1906, was laid out quickly. It possesses a characteristic of places that were built rapidly, sequential street names. On the west side streets were named in order of American presidents. And it just so happens that the home Jackson's parents purchased was on the street named for Andrew Jackson.

The patriarch of the Jackson family, Joseph, worked at US Steel.

There I am in 2009 when you could walk up to the house at 2300 Jackson.

Yes, it's true. I grow more handsome every day.

In 1982 Jackson released Thriller. The following year Talking Heads released "Burning Down The House."

Yes, that's a burning bush in all of its autumnal glory in front of a burnt-out home.

Two blocks south of the Jackson home is the former Theodore Roosevelt Public Library--with its collapsing roof.

Ranch homes such as this one are very common in the Chicago area.

Back to Michael Jackson: All over the internet his boyhood home is referred to as the Michael Jackson birthplace. That's not true, it's fake news. In 1958 Jacko was born about a half-mile away at St. Mary's Mercy Hospital, which is, like most of the homes shown here, abandoned.

This house is more typical of Gary proper.

Gary's fortunes began to turn south right around the time the Jackson family moved to California as the Jackson 5 pursued their phenomenally successful career. Its population peaked in 1960 at 178.000, now only 80,000 people live there. Over 30,000 people worked at the US Steel Gary Works mill in 1970, now only 5,000 do. So it's the steel industry's fault Gary is a failed city? No. Smart towns evolve. But not by creating boondoggles such as the Genesis Convention Center, which opened in 1981. While a convention center on the surface sounds like a great idea, somehow it was built without an adjacent hotel. Who were the morons that funded it? The Genesis Center hosts empty space, mostly.

Four interstate highways pass through Gary as well as two freight train lines. Gary has an airport with long runways too. A foundation for growth exists.

That's a traditional Chicago-style brick bungalow that you'll find a half-mile southeast of the Jackson house.

After Jackson's death there was a flurry of ideas by Gary leaders to turn the city into a hub for tourism, along lines of what Memphis has done in regards to Elvis Presley. Possibilities included a museum, a golf course--when I think golf I of course think of the King of Pop--and a Neverland ranch replica. Really!?! Neverland of course is where Jacko is said to have molested young boys.

Why not build a second Genesis Convention Center instead?

Over on 24th and Tyler is this eyesore that nature is reclaiming.

The museum, by far the best of those ideas, hasn't come to fruition. Citing funding issues and the apparent lack of interest by the Jackson family, Gary's mayor, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, is against pursuing the project.

Gary's best hope for a rebound is prosperity in Chicago and its inner suburbs. But Chicago has its own problems. Like Illinois, Chicago is Ponzi pension scheme masquerading as a government.

In the early 1970s ABC ran a Jackson 5ive cartoon series. Like the Beatles' ABC cartoons, voice actors, not members of the group, read the lines. There were a lot of references to Gary in that show, I recall. On the Jackson 5's third album, called appropriately enough Third Album, one of the tracks was "Goin' Back To Indiana."

Which is something I expect the surviving Jacksons won't be doing.

Related post:

(Photos) The abandoned Union Station in Gary

1 comment:

Col. B. Bunny said...

It looks like the end of a Steven King movie.