Our thanks to Dan Orr, Wanatah Indiana, for contributing
these photos, and our apologies for the time it took to get these up.
"I love Gary architecture," writes Dan. "I am
using a Sony F505 with a Carl Ziess lens. I like it because it has a 5X
zoom, and I can get a lot closer to some of the architectural elements
that I like to shoot."
Mr. Orr's photos show some of the beautiful
details that can still be seen in that building--the painted
ornamentation on the sides of each row of seats, the still intact wall
frescoes, the high ceiling, the (formerly) grand staircase.
This is the last surviving movie "palace" in Gary.
There is only operating movie palace in all of Northwest Indiana; the Illiana Hotel
and Hoosier Theater in Whiting.
Back in 1987, three Gary doctors tried to breathe
life into the Palace, which was closed at the beginning of 1972, and
had several aborted rebirths since then. The doctors purchased it at a
tax sale for $30,000. The doctors were William E. Washington, Keshadvd
Aggarwal and Shreyes Desai. The three planned to invest between
$500,000 and one million dollars to renovate the theater, the adjoining
restaurants and storefronts and 27 apartments through their
corporation, the Gandhi-King Corp. For a short time there was a
restaurant in one of the storefronts of the theater building but that
eventually closed up. Now the theater continues to decay.You can read
about the effort by the physicians to buy the theater in the February
9, 1987 Gary edition of the Post Tribune.
Some people would doubtless argue that the people
of Gary, Indiana don't deserve a building like this, properly restored.
That they would not appreciate it, would not take care care of it, and
would not patronize it. We don't buy this argument. Besides, wasn't the
convention center, the Miss America Pageant, the casinos and now the
Gary baseball stadium an effort to get people from outside the city to
come to Gary? What a lovely attraction this would be. As it is, there
is nothing for people to do in downtown Gary if they do come. So the
building continues to decay, as the city pours casino profits into new
(and redundant) housing complexes elsewhere in the downtown area.
Site visitor Cynthia had some interesting
questions and ideas She writes: Could the Palace Theatre in Gary be
successfully converted into a stage theatre that would host a company
like the African American Continuum Theatre in Washington, DC, and if
so, would it attract large enough social and civic interest and
audiences to be financially sustainable, if not profitable?
Could the renovation of the building also provide opportunities for
historic, "green" building and energy efficiency grants, funding and
And would it be possible to expect representatives the city, its arts
and cultural organizations and the schools and businesses of Gary
provide interest, participation, and in the case of businesses and the
city (and state), sponsorship for theater's productions, exhibits,
classes and other activities?
Period postcard shows The Palace shortly
after it was built in the 1920s. It and the Elks Club Building shown in
the foreground in this picture (now a city government building) are
The Palace and the building shown in the
postcard above seen from another angle in this modern-day picture by
Dan Orr. At far right is the old Sears department store building, also
in use by Gary city government.
For the Miss America pageant, which was
hosted in Gary and which included notables such as Donald Trump and
Martha Stewart, a ticket office agent was painted on the wood boarding
up the ticket office window to "dress it up."
Naturally, after the pageant was over, all
this was forgotten about, and the false windows have started to fall
Notice the holes punched in the Italianate tower
of the Theater. One preservationist has theorized that scavengers stole
the terra cotta ornamentation off the building. That pole propping up
one side of the tower to keep the whole thing from collapsing seems to
lend credence to that theory.
Detail of the old painted plaster
Arched entryway from the lobby to the theater.
Writes photographer Dan Orr, "I spent a lot of
time there in my younger years, in the 60's. I became physically sick,
when after more than thirty years, I saw the inside. It was an
incredible place in its day."
An example of what years of neglect will do
to a structure. Some ornamental facing has fallen from the walls. Quite
possibly, the terra cotta ornamentation that was apparently stolen from
the Italianate tower of the building allowed water to get into the
building, causing this damage. The Palace must have been quite grand as
The interior of the theater mixes Moorish (as
seen in these arches) and Italian architectural motifs.
Note the painted ornamentation on the sides
of each row of seats.
Ceiling shot shows the richness of detail.
Still-intact wall frescoe depicting an
Italian scene gives a hint of the glories of the structure as
Outdoor walkway between two parts of the