Monday, March 26, 2018

The abandoned Ralph Waldo Emerson High School of Gary, Indiana

With depopulation there is of course a need for fewer schools. Chicago is experiencing this contraction and will continue to do so indefinitely.

Detroit and Gary have well, been there and done that.

One scarred beauty of a school is Ralph Waldo Emerson High School in Gary, Indiana. which closed of mold issues in 2008, one year short of its centennial.

Gary, as we learned in the play and the movie The Music Man, was founded in 1906. It was a city planned by United States Steel, which at the time was the world's largest corporation. Flush with cash, Gary could hire the best people. One of them was William Albert Wirt.

From Wikipedia's entry on Emerson High School:
Gary School Superintendent William Wirt used the Ralph Waldo Emerson School to be the first to use his new Work-Study-Play system of education, a "Whole Child" philosophy. This philosophy drew international attention to Emerson.

The building opened in 1909 and included an auditorium, gymnasium, pool, and even a zoo. St. Louis architect William Ittner designed the school. There were over seven laboratories, separate band and orchestra rooms, art studios, and rooms for industrial and household arts. Athletic facilities, advanced for their time, included an indoor swimming pool, and an upstairs running track.

The rock reads, "Emerson School. First Work-Study-Play school. Founded by William A. Wirt. 1908."

The Sometimes Interesting blog says of Emerson that its "Work-Study-Play called for students to be separated into two platoons, the first utilizing academic facilities while the second used the non-academic facilities (gym, workshop, auditorium, and track)."

Among the alumni of Emerson are Academy Award actor Karl Malden and NFL great and actor Alex Karras.

While Emerson's doors are boarded up, much of the rest of the school, including classrooms at ground level, are open to the elements--as well as to vandals and scrappers.

Emerson had a checkered history in regards to race relations. Twice after blacks enrolled in the school there were walkouts of white students. In 1948 it was finally integrated.

In 1981 Emerson closed but a year later it re-opened as a magnet school for the performing arts, eventually accepting high school students.

After its second, and almost certainly, final closing, students were shifted to the Miller neighborhood to attend the new Wirt-Emerson School for the Visual and Performing Arts. But Gary's emergency manager has recommended closure for that school at the end of this academic year.

Such is life in a city with a plummeting population.

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