EAST CHICAGO, Indiana — Chicago Scene headed across the Chicago Skyway to Indiana. Many Chicagoans may spend a day at the Indiana Dunes for a summer afternoon but may not realize in their trek, they are passing by a historical industrial landscape beneath in East Chicago.
Marktown sits in the shadows of America’s past. Nestled between looming steel mills and the world’s largest oil refinery. This East Chicago neighborhood has historical significance for our region and country and stands proud and hopeful.
What was the historic area? What is it today? What it should be in the future?
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To find out, Chicago Scene talked to Paul Myers, a lifelong resident of the area and a fierce fighter for its preservation and repair.
“This could be restored, it could authentically represent that period of time in this country,” he said. “Unfortunately the city administration has never stepped forward to restore a home.”
In 1975, Marktown was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Marktown neighborhood prides itself on the ethnic diversity and the “English Village” landscape. Designed by Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw in 1917, it has been referred to as “the Brigadoon of Industrial Housing, rising out of the mists of industry every few years.” The design was at the request of industrialist Clayton Mark.
Adjacent to the steel mills, this first-of-its-kind industrial community was built as a model factory town to lure a loyal workforce. Marktown was meant to invoke an English village, complete with Tudor-style homes placed along narrow lanes.
“It’s an industrial complex that was designed to meet the workers’ needs,” said Myers.
People are given the use of streets as walkways as cars parked on the sidewalks. Mark wanted to create a utopian society for his labor force, offering discounts on purchasing a Marktown home after five years of employment. Originally planned as a community of house over eight thousand employees on twenty acres of land, this dream was cut short due to America’s involvement in World War 1. In the end, only 10 percent of the community was built.
Now on the list of Endangered Historic Sites, Marktown has seen its fair share of the wrecking ball. Year after year, more homes continue to be demolished and the fading memories of a neighborhood slowly become extinct.
Myers and the Marktown Historic District is doing all it can to preserve this plot of land. You can visit and walk the streets yourself. They have guided (by appointment only) bike, walking, and driving tours available
For information, click here.
405 Prospect Street
East Chicago, Indiana 46312
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