Historic Structures

Building Description Gary Public Schools Memorial Auditorium, Gary Indiana

Memorial Auditorium is located at 700-734 Massachusetts Avenue in a commercial district of Gary, Lake County, Indiana. The auditorium stands flush with the sidewalks at the intersection of Massachusetts and Seventh Avenue. The Venetian style building, constructed for use as as gymnasium, art center, and public auditorium still retains most of its original architectural integrity. The building possesses architectural unity and also blends architecturally with the adjacent City Hall and Fire and Police Departments. The building is made of brownish red brick and terra cotta. The building comprises three sections, a 55 foot height central block facing Seventh Avenue, a 55 foot height central block housing the auditorium with its huge balcony, and a 65 foot rear block containing the stage.

The main roof is flat with a decorative pent roof supported by five sets of paired brackets on all four sides of the building. A belt course wraps around the entire building excluding the front entrance portion and the entire back facade.

The front section of the Auditorium facing Massachusetts Avenue has double-terraced stone steps leading up to five arched entrances with large grilled transoms, above which are insets of patterned bricks reaching almost to the cornice of the middle roof. Spaced between the sets of bracket supports are the words "Gary Public Schools Memorial Auditorium". On both sides of the entrance block are elaborately designed wings, with the engraved words: "Athletics", "Drama", "Art", and "Music". Each wing has a small terrace. Below the right terrace is another entrance where people would enter into the main auditorium. Iron rails are in front of the door facing perpendicular to the door. These rails would have provided lines for those waiting to purchase tickets. Under the left terrace are three tall narrow windows.

The facade facing Seventh Avenue (left) is a contiguous surface flanked on both sides by wings, which are taller than the rest of the building. Several sporadically spaced windows break the surface of the wall. Two doors, placed evenly in the center of the solid wall also break the surface. The rear facade is solid with the exception of a rear exit and the few windows in the rear wings attached to the left facade. The right wall is solid except for one door located in the center of the wall.

The entrance lobby block contains the main lobby which housed a ticket office and also served as exhibit space. It has tile floors, decorative face brick walls, and ornately plastered beamed ceiling.

Through the entrance are two ceremonial staircases, one on either side, with marble treads and elaborately carved balustrades which ascend to an upper lobby complex serving the auditorium balcony. The upper lobby is comprised of a large central space with elevated extensions at each end. These raised areas were used as stages for presentations. Five skylights lit the entire upper lobby complex.

The building design allowed the main floor to function as a gymnasium and an auditorium, seating 5,000 people. The parquet floor seats were removable, making the floor available for basketball tourneys and other athletic events. The stage, located at the south end of the building was one of the largest in the vicinity when built; the stage measured 50 feet deep by 125 feet wide by 65 feet high. The asbestos curtain, measuring 90 feet by 30 feet, at the time of installation, was the largest ever manufactured. The interior of the auditorium is finished in faced brick with celotex panels and ceilings.

Classrooms and six dressing rooms with showers were located in the basement underneath the stage. Restrooms were located on the first floor.

All important original features of the auditorium are intact. While the exterior of the building maintains much of its original integrity, there has been some damage to the exterior brickwork because of freezing and then thawing of water in some built-in downspouts which have become blocked. The only change in the building has been the internal reconfiguration of the upper block of the stage area.