Demolition of historic Indiana auditorium underway

The abandoned Memorial Auditorium is seen in May 2019 in Gary, Ind. Demolition of the historic auditorium in Indiana where The Jackson 5 performed is underway to make way for a new housing development. (Kale Wilk/The Times via AP)

GARY, Ind. — Demolition of a historic auditorium in Indiana where The Jackson 5 performed has begun to make way for a new housing development.

Most of the Gary Public Schools Memorial Auditorium, where many concerts and graduations took place, was destroyed in a 1997 arson fire in the Gary’s downtown. But the grand entrance of the Italian Renaissance and Spanish Colonial Revival building had remained, The Times reported.

Mike Gonzalez, a city spokesman, said Tuesday that demolition work of the remaining section of the auditorium began recently and is expected to be completed by a contractor by Sept. 1. He said that the city’s building department issued an emergency demolition order on July 7, sealing the fate of the remaining section of the historic structure.

President Harry Truman and singer Frank Sinatra were among those that graced the auditorium’s stage.

“No building better spoke to the history and culture of Gary, Indiana than Memorial Auditorium,” community activist Samuel Love said. He also stated that any plans “to craft the city’s cultural past into the present has now been ruined.”

The 5,000-seat auditorium, which closed in 1972, was constructed in 1927 to honor Gary residents killed during World War I. There had been discussions about transforming the building into a performing arts center, museum or sports hall, but it never happened.

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the historic district downtown, but it was removed in 2013 because of the building’s poor condition.

Brad Miller, director at the Indiana Landmarks Northwest field office, said that crews salvaged architectural details to incorporate in the new building or display at a prominent location.

“It’s certainly a loss for those of us who advocate for the preservation of significant buildings in Gary and for those who hold a close memory inside the doors of the Memorial Auditorium,” Miller said.