City hopes to create a 'ruins garden' from crumbling structure of
once-grand Methodist Church
ROB EARNSHAW | Times Correspondent |
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Walking through the ruins of City Methodist Church in Gary evokes
the feeling of strolling through a bombed-out Europe following World
It's been 30 years since the church held its last service, but the
historic structure still draws curious photographers like Jennifer
"I feel like we don't have places like this left," Feeney said.
"In Europe, they're proud of their history and they maintain their
old structures; they live in the confines of them -- unlike us. We
tear them down."
Feeney, an Indiana University graduate with a degree in art
history, discovered the church in May while searching for urban
photography subjects in downtown Gary.
"People need to see this," she said.
"It's beauty in decay. It tells a story."
The wooded area on the southwest side of the church resembles a
scene from a Grimm fairy tale.
The barren auditorium still holds several seats facing a stage,
waiting for a show that will never start. Trees grow on the
ceiling-less third floor. An old organ is toppled over near the altar
under the bell tower.
Feeney said her husband's aunt told him she had a friend who took
organ lessons at the church when she was a little girl.
"His aunt said it was the most beautiful church she'd ever seen,"
Before he died last year, Hobart photographer Seth Thomas said City
Church was one of his favorite places to visit and explore. Thomas
would give tours of the church to visiting photographers, some who
traveled from other countries to see the ruins.
"It was the usual 'meet-up' spot where he would take fellow
explorers," said Nicole Rork, a close friend of Thomas's.
The day after Thomas died, Rork left some flowers at the church in
his memory. A week later friends and family gathered at the church to
celebrate and discuss his life.
"Regarding Seth's memorial at the church, his friends still do
frequently visit and add to it," Rork said.
The city plans to demolish the majority of the church, leaving the
bell tower and sanctuary standing. The structure then will be turned
into a "ruins garden"-style public park.
Feeney said a ruins garden may symbolize a hope of "rebirth."
"Hopefully it won't turn out to be just another story of something
historic going down the tubes," she said.