Historic Structures

Louis J. Bailey Branch Library - Gary International Institute, Gary Indiana

Date added: May 6, 2022 Categories: Indiana Library

Intent on establishing production facilities in the prospering Midwest, the United States Steel Corporation was attracted to northern Indiana for its existing rail, cheap and available land, access to deep Lake Michigan waters, and room for expansion. The company ultimately purchased 9,000 acres and seven miles of shoreline, and founded Gary, Indiana in 1906. The subsidiary Gary Land Company was organized with the purpose of building the new town to meet the impending housing requirement for the influx of workers. The city's plan, called the "First Subdivision," and located just south of the Grand Calumet River, was based on an 800-acre grid consisting of 4,000 lots. Broadway Street was established as the main north-south thoroughfare, and contained commercial and governmental development. Its north terminus was the mill. Fifth Avenue was the primary east-west axis.

From the Teens through the Depression, the success of the mills supported a boom in the construction of several fascinating pieces of public architecture in the core downtown area. The mill structures themselves date primarily to c.1912. Union Station was constructed in 1917 and City Hall in 1927.

Gary's founding, and the resulting employment opportunities, also coincided with a shift in the country's immigration patterns from the traditional source countries of Western Europe to those of Southern and Eastern Europe. The shift also coincided with the country's late nineteenth century industrial boom that shifted settlement from agricultural to primarily urban areas. Thomas Archdeacon described this period as New Immigration and noted that these immigrants, versus those previous, were mostly single males versus families, and typically came to America planning to return to their home country. Additionally, Samuel Shapiro described that "the tens of thousands of Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Serbs, Croats, Greeks, Poles, Romanians, etc. who made up the labor force in steel, the railroads, meat packing and other industries, could no longer be augmented by additional immigration," and led to the Great Migration of Southern Blacks, and the import of Mexican labor. Gary's foreign-born population in 1910 accounted for 49% of almost 17,000 residents, 22% were children of one or more foreign-born parents. By 1920, following the War and Great Migration, 30% of 55,000 residents were still foreign-born. Gary school's foreign stock, or the children of one or more foreign-born parents, totaled an overwhelming 63% in 1910, and was still 50% in 1930.

The Gary Land Company's original subdivisions were a great place to live for those who could, but Gary's immigrant labor was forced, economically and socially, to live on the "South Side," or an area loosely defined as between Ninth Avenue and the Little Calumet River. This area was beyond the interest, and unfortunately cares, of the Gary Land Company and was littered with shacks, tents, barracks, boarding houses and swamp. Froebel School, constructed in 1917 and also known as the "immigrant school" was the south side's center of education. When it opened, 90% of the students were foreign-born, or children of foreign-born, and as further example of Gary's instant diversity, a 1917 publication touted the school's "29 racial groups."

Gary's first library was in a rented storeroom on West 7th Avenue organized and opened by Gary's first librarian, Louis J. Bailey, in September of 1908. It was followed by a dominating Carnegie-funded Beaux-Arts structure constructed in 1912 on West 5th Avenue (razed in 1962). Orpha Mand Peters wrote in 1945 that in 36 years the system went from a rented storeroom on 7th to Central [Library] plus 17 branches, 105 deposit stations, and 2 traveling branches." By 1944 it served 153,000 local and rural citizens within 255 square miles with 38 full-time staff.

Louis J. Bailey was educated at the New York State Library School and came to Gary after employment at Washington D.C.'s Congressional Library. During World War I he assisted the government in setting up libraries in Army camps. He left Gary in 1922 for a position in Flint, Michigan, and in 1926 became Director of the Indiana Library and Historical Department, or what is now known as the State Library. He retired to Queensborough, New York in 1938.

In 1901, at age 66, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie sold his corporation and retired to a life of distributing his massive wealth. One example of his philanthropy was the $55 million dollar funding of 2,509 libraries, 1,679 in the United States. He spent $2.6 million dollars in Indiana. Carnegie believed that libraries "allowed those who were able and willing to educate themselves and be successful, much like himself." Alan McPherson's Temples of Knowledge is the definitive publication on Indiana's 164 Carnegie libraries. He theorized that Indiana has more Carnegie libraries than any other state because Indiana's "library fervor," between 1900 and 1929, coincided with the "heyday" of the Carnegie Era. Indiana was "culturally and geographically positioned for more libraries" than the east, which already had library systems in place, and the west, which was still establishing cultural and educational institutions. Additionally, the era coincided with the accomplishments of Tarkington, Ade, Dreiser, Porter, Riley and many other Hoosier authors that further bolstered public interest in reading. Locally, libraries were an expression of community pride. All together Carnegie funded libraries were constructed between 1901 to 1922 in 155 communities without a single default on their pledge of providing for the building once it was constructed. Local library boards were responsible for securing land and confirming that adequate tax funds were available to operate the facility. Designs were then submitted to Carnegie for approval.

In 1927 Thomas Canon wrote that the first branch library was established in neighboring Tolleston in 1910, just before it became part of Gary. The Froebel School Branch Library was opened in April of 1913 "until a library erected from Carnegie funds was opened in January, 1918." Originally known as the Froebel Branch, it was later "named the Bailey Branch for Gary's first librarian." It was first used mostly by children "since adults could not read English," but quickly became an integral part of the adult immigrant community following the location of the International Institute to the building's basement in 1919.

Lake County had nine Carnegie libraries, the most of any county. Gary had three, Central and the Bailey and Hobart Branches. In 1917 the Bailey Branch received $25,000 in grant funds, and the building was constructed on four lots at the intersection of 15th Avenue and Madison Street the library board purchased for $5,200. It opened January 13, 1918. Although a concert and a grand ceremony of speeches, to be delivered in a variety of languages, was scheduled, a blizzard canceled the festivities. Fortunately, unlike other Carnegie funded libraries, the construction and funding was not delayed by the United State's entry into the World War.

Gary's immigrants encountered a variety of charitable assistance that, according to Raymond Mohl and Neil Betten, represented two opposing views of assimilation. The first was the Americanization, or "melting-pot," of church sponsored settlement houses. The second was the cultural and ethnic diversity, and identity preservation, of the International Institute.

Jane Addams1 Hull House in Chicago created the model for meeting immigrant needs: it was located in an immigrant neighborhood, provided social and humanitarian services, taught English, and created opportunities for cultural expression and civic growth. Mohl and Betten assertively stated that the typical settlement house was "a religious mission staffed by church personnel" whose "value orientation" encouraged "sobriety, thrift, work, piety, respect for authority, patriotism, and other middle-class virtues." This conform and submiss method of assimilation has been criticized as being protectionist and in the best interests of American society rather than that of the immigrants. Settlement houses in Gary were represented by the Presbyterian Neighborhood House located on Adams Street, and the Methodist Campbell Friendship House located on 21st Street.

Contrary to the settlement house philosophy, the International Institute attempted to assimilate immigrants and "support and preserve immigrant cultures and traditions." The institute was a YWCA-sponsored program started in New York City by Edith Terry Bremer in 1911. By 1925, there were 55 International Institutes in the United States. Bremer saw each nationality group as having its own psychological unity. Her goal was not to create an amalgamation of groups, but to recognize the unique identity of each individual group. With national and ethnic identity as the starting point, "newcomers could build their path toward U.S. Citizenship on a firmer foundation than any effort to strip them of their history and language might produce." In 1933 the Institute separated from the YWCA because it served both genders and multiple faiths.

Gary's Institute began in 1919 in the basement of the Bailey Branch. It originally had four "nationality workers" representing Poles, Czechs, Bulgarians, and Italians; and in the 20's added Mexicans, Serbs, Russians, and Greeks. Casework included family counsel, group activities, cultural programs, education, and recreation. The library became a neighborhood social center and provided space for weddings, christenings, church services, and art, language and history classes. The institute's space in the library's basement was described, in a somewhat society page manner, as: "Three rooms in the English basement of the Gary Library have been lifted up for the International Institute; the office with a desk, typewriter, table, chairs, and gold fan; the classroom with two long mission study tables in the center, and smaller desks in the corner; and the recreation room, much larger than the others, and cozily furnished in grey wicker furniture, green rugs, fresh cretonne curtains and attractive pictures. Also a Victrola, let us not forget."

The institute continued operation at Bailey through the 1950's, financed by fund drives and assisted by the mills. Interestingly, during this time the government required local families to post a bond guaranteeing that a foreign visitor's needs and care will be met while in the United States. About 1960 the Institute moved to East 5th Avenue, then in 1963 received a ten-year lease at the former Eastside branch library. It remains active, and is located at 4433 Broadway.

The library was designed by architect A. Frank Wickes (1881-1958) who practiced in Gary for about ten years beginning around 1918. In addition to the Bailey Branch he designed two other Carnegie libraries: the Hobart Branch of the Gary Public Library in 1915, and the Mishawaka Public Library in 1916. However, the Gary Post Tribune proclaimed the Central Christian Church located at 7th and Jefferson as his "masterpiece" and explained how Wickes became the national architect for the Disciples of Christ who from 1924-1948 "erected more than 900 churches across the nation, most of them along the lines of the Gary Church."

The majority of Indiana Carnegie libraries are designed in the Neo Classical and Craftsman styles, but the Tudor Revival style is also well represented. Interestingly, Wickes' two earlier Carnegie designs are in Revival styles, Hobart in Tudor and Mishawaka in Collegiate Gothic. However, the Bailey Branch is the state's lone Colonial Revival example. The style is the early twentieth century's most common domestic revival style, modeled after, or romantically alluding to, northeastern Georgian and Adam examples. It was also commonly found in churches and post offices, and there are several examples of Colonial Revival libraries in the state that are not Carnegie funded.

Characteristic details of the style are symmetrical facades, gabled roofs, small cornices decorated with dentil molding, classically influenced door surrounds or full-blown porticos, multi-light rectangular windows, Palladian-inspired windows, shutters, and keystone lintels. Wickes would have been exposed to Colonial examples through his training, publications, or possibly even visitation, and was likely familiar with the work of Boston architect Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844). The Bailey Branch displays details very similar to Bulfinch's designs, especially the State House (1795-98) in Boston, or the Meeting House in Lancaster (1815-17). For instance the State House's arched portico entry, Palladian-inspired windows, cornice, balustrade, and arched windows below a recessed arched "band" are details evident in the library's design. The library's portico-like entry is reminiscent of the Meeting House's multiple arched entry that is framed with pilasters supporting a cornice. Essentially, it appears that, perhaps following a review of Bulfinch and his contemporaries' work, Wickes applied Colonial Revival details to a library form acceptable to Carnegie.

The library's closure was being discussed as early as 1966 when order was continuously threatened by "congregating youth." It remained open until 1977, but has been vacant ever since.

The structure has experienced only slight modifications over its life, primarily the installation of vinyl flooring and florescent lighting, the removal of the wood screens that divided the library's main floor, and the removal of the bookshelves. It is empty of most all library equipment, and is not heated. A failure in the roof allowed water infiltration in and around the stairwell causing its collapse. The arched ceiling has lost large sections of plaster, again, from the roof failure. The exterior is missing most of the decorative dentil trim and the entry pilasters.

However, the structure's brick walls and concrete foundation are sound. Surprisingly, the windows are mostly intact and protected with plywood. Significant portions of the original interior woodwork remain, including doors, baseboards, and window frames.

The library was given to the Broadway Area CDC in the early 2000's who planed to rehabilitate the structure as a community center. It was to contain the CDC offices, rentable office space, and class and meeting rooms. It remains abandoned.