Home | Whats New | Site Index | Search

Lincoln Street Historic District

Gary City, Lake County, IN

The Lincoln Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]

The Lincoln Street Historic District is an early Automobile Suburb of Gary. Many of the houses have garages to store the automobiles. Unfortunately the stand alone garages that exist within the district today have either been altered beyond their original appearance or have been replaced with a modern structure. The only garages that remain in their original condition are those attached to the house.

The Lincoln Street Historic District is a large district sitting west of the commercial center of the city. It includes parts of the first four Gary Land Company (GLC) additions to the City of Gary. The general topography of the district is primarily level; the area was once filled with a succession of sand dunes and swamps, the dunes were leveled and swamps filled before construction started. The City of Gary was laid out and platted by U.S. Steel Company engineers not city planners. The First Addition was laid out using a right angle grid. However, over the first ten years of development, 1906-1917, there were changes to the grid that attempted to soften its formal rigidity. Before construction began the GLC installed sewers and utilities, paved the streets, installed sidewalks and brought in topsoil from farmlands in Illinois.

Development within the district was controlled by the GLC and moved from the east towards the west. The first GLC addition to Gary, platted October 4, 1906, employed a strict right angle grid in its layout. There is a noticeable change, however, in the First Addition beginning on Fillmore Street, the western most street in the first addition, where the residential density opens up; this change had a ripple effect throughout the rest of the historic district. The use of larger lots was not the result of a re-platting in the First and Second additions, but was achieved by combining lots together, whole or in part, to form a larger setting; this change can be seen on Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. The practice of combining lots to create a larger residential setting continued on into the GLC 's Second Addition to Gary, platted May 17, 1912. When the GLC's Third Addition was platted on July 13, 1914 the company introduced a break in the rigid linear grid they had been employing when it added several curves to the east-west running Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Avenues as they passed westward through the addition they also added small public parks or plazas. These modifications reflect the influence of two contemporary planning concepts; the City Beautiful, represented with the addition of the parks and public structures, and the American Garden City movement, reflected in the wider lots and curving streets. These changes continue on into and through the GLC's Fourth Addition.

The houses within the district, though of various sizes, are representative and show the influence of the Small House Movement of the early twentieth century. Some are designed by professional architects. The craftsmanship of construction throughout the district is of the highest quality and the materials used for the exteriors of the houses demonstrate a wide variety of texture that helps provide an aesthetically appealing and varied neighborhood. The district consists of single family dwellings with a few of the larger ones converted in later years into multiple family dwellings. The housing stock within the Lincoln Street Historic District is dominated by two popular contemporary styles; the Craftsman/Bungalow and the Colonial Revival. The third most popular style is the American Foursquare of which there are thirty-four examples. Combined these three styles/forms represent over 93% of the houses within the district. The predominant style changes as the district moves west; beginning with the Craftsman/Bungalow being predominant in the eastern half giving ground in the western end of the district to the Colonial Revival. The balance of the housing stock is reflected in a few examples of the Prairie style, Renaissance Revival, Spanish Eclectic and vernacular structures. The narrative of this district moves from east towards the west following the district's pattern of development.

The district has many fine examples of early twentieth century architectural styles. The district demonstrates the concepts promoted through the Small House and the Better Homes movements sweeping across America in the 1920s. Among the architecture in the district are examples of the bungalow, Craftsman, Prairie, Colonial Revival, Renaissance Revival and Spanish Eclectic. Several of the houses demonstrate the work of locally significant architects including H.L. Warriner, Uno Larson, Karl D. Norris, D.S. Pentecost and Robert Cenek. The district's period of significance is from 1906 to 1949. Broadly, the district significantly reflects the rapid rise of the Calumet Region. Specifically, it reflects the maturation of the neighborhoods developed by United States Steel's subsidiary, the Gary Land Company (GLC).

Community planning within the first platted additions of Gary developed by United States Steel Company, under the auspices of the Gary Land Company, was not guided by the community planning concepts being developed across the nation and around the world during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. These new ideas promoted that the planning and design of the community was a benefit that would improve the built environment. This was not the purpose of the Gary Land Company's plan, or primary goal; it was to develop and control who lived in the residential areas that had been set aside by U.S. Steel. This control was taken as a precaution against the disruption of their industrial operations and its productivity by labor disputes. Gary was a company town.

The creators of Gary, the investors in United States (U.S.) Steel, were all very aware of the labor troubles that other company towns, such as Homestead, Pennsylvania and Pullman, Illinois had experienced just a few short years before and looked at several options before deciding on the approach they would take in establishing their new city. They came to believe the problems associated with industrialization and urbanization were inherent in the modernization of society and that the cause of labor anxiety was not due to the presence of industry and the laboring class but was due to the uncontrolled interaction and lack of definition within the urban spaces defined by the industry. They therefore sought to clearly define and restrain the urban spaces within their new city of Gary. To do this they would clearly separate industry from the public sector. They used the Grand Calumet River, which runs east-west through their newly acquired lands, as a dividing line. They moved the river about a quarter mile south of its original course and built the industrial areas along the river's north bank, between it and Lake Michigan. To control this development, the officers of U.S. Steel formed the GLC as a holding company for the industrial and residential properties owned by U.S. Steel.

One of the primary purposes of the GLC was to control residential development within the U.S. Steel owned land south of the Grand Calumet River and north of the Wabash Railroad tracks; it is within this area that the Lincoln Street Historic District is located. The GLC's plans called for an orderly and efficient growth for the city. Development would not be haphazard and new additions to the GLC-controlled areas were not opened up for sale or development until the previous addition was almost completely filled. The GLC's prime responsibility was not so much to control what was built in the area, though they did, as much as it was to govern who would reside within it.

The organizing officials of the Gary works of United States Steel intended to contain the development of their new city to be only within the areas located between the Grand Calumet River and the Wabash Railroad tracks about nine blocks south. On October 4, 1906 the GLC platted its first addition to the city; the eastern end of the district is in part of this addition. Arthur P. Melton, an engineer employed by the steel company, surveyed and laid out of the new city in a rectilinear grid. The town center was located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway Street. Then the GLC removed the existing dunes in this area, graded the area, laid out and paved the streets, installed sewer and water mains, put in concrete sidewalks, brought in topsoil and planted grass and trees. The grid of the First Addition was only broken in two places for small public parks. The narrow thirty-five foot wide lots created a density of housing that was typical of nineteenth century walking and streetcar communities, which early Gary was. Gary's original development plan was based on economic functionalism not societal improvement concerns.

Though most of the homes within the district show an individuality in their design there are two areas within the district where the designs of the homes are very similar in construction. The first is along Pierce and Buchanan Streets where examples of Gary Land Company models, built by the GLC for sale or rental to employees of the American Sheet and Tin Plate Company. The second group is along both sides of the 700 block of Grant Street, built for employees of the National Tube Company.

The Lincoln Street Historic District is an eclectic collection of homes employing massed floor plans with a variety of concurrently popular ornamental styles of the 1910s through the 1940s in the United States. The architectural form and style of the first decades of the twentieth century were a result of the public's reaction towards the economy, due to the financial Depression of 1893, its rejection of Victorian standards, and the development of new technologies. Prior to the turn of the twentieth century many architects had begun to feel that Victorian architecture, with its elaborate detail and bizarre shapes, was too extravagant in its artistic detail and too formal in its layout. This all combined creating a search for the ideal economic modern home. The functionality and aesthetics of the new home would stress practicality, simplicity, efficiency and craftsmanship. The simplicity of these smaller homes seemed to be more American with the older Victorian buildings being too European. These new concepts would be championed, not only by the public and private sector but would be endorsed by the United States government, making the trend towards the smaller home very American and democratic.

The Lincoln Street Historic District is a neighborhood of stylistic houses influenced by the Small House Movement with the homes varying from one to two-and-a-half stories in height. The Small House Movement had its beginnings in the Depression of 1893. The homes of the Victorian Era were described by architectural historian Clifford Clark as the house of artistic expression. Typically Queen Anne in style these homes emphasized visual pleasure inside and out and were expensive to build and maintain. They were stately and helped reflect order in society and, just as important, the owner's position within it. They were large, elaborately styled, and had a variety of rooms that served very specific social functions. They required a considerable maintenance and upkeep and though beautiful they were costly to operate; most required servants to help run them. The Depression of 1893 made many of these homeowners look at ways to balance the family needs and its social requirements with the pocketbook. One result of the depression was a rethinking of the Victorian general social order. This social reorganization was fueled by the new social concepts of the Progressive Reform Movement that was emerging around the turn of the twentieth century. The Progressive Movement in the United States, ca. 1900 into the 1930s, was a political reaction to the problems created from the 1893 depression. Many of its concepts, especially simplicity and efficiency, were embraced in the re-addressing of the Victorian social values. One of the universally embraced concepts of the Progressive movement was the trend toward a smaller, more economically efficient house that could be operated and maintained with a minimum effort by the occupant/owner and still be aesthetically pleasing. Prior to this movement, architects had been kept busy designing the elaborate homes of the Victorian upper middle class. The homes for the middle and working class were primarily functional, non-descript structures with very little thought put into the functioning of the layout or to its aesthetic design. As the middle and working class became more affluent, their desire to own their own home increased. They still saw the large Victorian house with its artistic applications as a sign of position within society but the older, large Victorian homes were not affordable for them to own or operate efficiently. The small house was. The beauty of a small home was now receiving national attention and the Lincoln Street Historic District reflects this; it is a neighborhood of eye pleasing, functional, single family homes influenced by the Small House Movement. The designs of the GLC and the National Tube Company housing on Grant Street are similar to those suggested in small house pattern books of the period.

The district over the years attracted many of Gary's professionals such as: attorneys Ora L. Wildermuth, Kenneth L. Call and James A. Patterson, newspaper owners, brothers Henry R., and Ralph J. Snyder, builder Harry Hall of Halls Brother Construction Company, bankers Louis H. Gluek president of Mid-City State Bank and James Hansen, president of Gary Trust and Savings Bank, investment broker Joseph P. Grantham, doctors; Dr. Calvin C. Brink, Dr. Theodore B. Templin, Dr. George s. Greene, as well as skilled tradesmen and mill management such as William C. Lloyd, manager of the American Sheet and Tin Plate Company as well as three of Gary's mayors; Roswell O. Johnson, mayor three times 1914-1917, 1922-1924, 1930-1939, Floyd Williams, mayor 1926-1929. Also, many of Gary's business owners were residents within the district; William J. Rooda owner of W.J. Rooda Jewelers and John B. Radigan, president of Radigan Brothers Furniture. The district was also home for the University Club, a benevolent society,and a neighborhood grocery store.

The Lincoln Street Historic District reflects several major transitions in residential neighborhoods that were taking place in Gary and across the nation in the early 20th century. The Small House and Better Home and aspects of the City Beautiful movements were embraced by the Gary Land. A new mode of transportation, the automobile, played an important part in its spread and growth and influenced the design of these residential neighborhoods. The Lincoln Street Historic District demonstrates the effects and applications these influences had on communities across the nation in the 1920s. The Historic District contains many fine examples and variations of the architectural styles popular in this era, with many homes retaining their entire historic integrity and reflecting a good degree of high artistic value in their design. The Lincoln Street Historic District reflects the development of modern Gary, Indiana.

‡ Gregg Abell, Partners in Preservation, Lincoln Street Historic District, Lake County, Indiana, nomination document, 2012, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
6th Avenue West • 7th Avenue West • 8th Avenue West • Buchanan Street • Fillmore Street • Grant Street • Hayes Street • Johnson Street • Lincoln Street • Pierce Street