A Picture say's A Thousand Words
The population of Gary was 80,294 at the 2010 census,making it the ninth-largest city in the state of Indiana. From the middle of the twentieth century to the present, Gary has experienced drastic population loss, falling by 55 percent from its peak of 178,320 in 1960.
Gary, Indiana, was founded in 1906 by the United States Steel Corporation as the home for its new plant, Gary Works. The city was named after lawyer Elbert Henry Gary, who was the founding chairman of the United States Steel Corporation.
Gary was the site of civil unrest in the Steel Strike of 1919. On October 4, 1919, a riot broke out on Broadway, the main north-south street through downtown Gary, between striking steel workers and strike breakers brought in from outside. Three days later, Indiana governor James P. Goodrichdeclared martial law. Shortly thereafter, over 4,000 federal troops under the command of Major General Leonard Wood arrived to restore order.
The jobs offered by the steel industry provided Gary with very rapid growth and a diverse population within the first 26 years of its founding. According to the 1920 United States Census, 29.7% of Gary's population at the time was classified as foreign-born, mostly from eastern European countries, with another 30.8% classified as native-born with at least one foreign-born parent. By the 1930 United States Census, the first census in which Gary's population exceeded 100,000, the city was the fifth largest in Indiana and comparable in size to South Bend, Fort Wayne, andEvansville. At that time, 19.3% of the population was classified as foreign-born, with another 25.9% as native-born with at least one foreign-born parent. Gary was also becoming increasingly racially diverse, with 17.8% of the population classified as black, and 3.5% as Mexican.
Gary's fortunes have risen and fallen with those of the steel industry. The growth of the steel industry brought prosperity to the community. Broadway was known as a commercial center for the region. Department stores and architecturally significant movie houses were built in the downtown area and the Glen Park neighborhood.
In the 1960s, like many other American urban centers reliant on one particular industry, Gary entered a spiral of decline. Gary's decline was brought on by the growing overseas competitiveness in the steel industry, which had caused U.S. Steel to lay off many workers from the Gary area. The U.S. Steel Gary Works employed over 30,000 in 1970, declined to just 6,000 by 1990, and further declined to 5,100 in August 2015. Attempts to shore up the city's economy with major construction projects, such as a Holiday Inn hotel and the Genesis Convention Center, failed to reverse the decline.
Rapid racial change occurred in Gary during the late 20th century. These population changes resulted in political change which reflected the racial demographics of Gary: the non-white share of the city's population increased from 21% in 1930, 39% in 1960, to 53% in 1970. Non-whites were primarily restricted to live in the Midtown section just south of downtown (per the 1950 Census, 97% of the black population of Gary was living in this neighborhood). Gary had one of the nation's first African-American mayors, Richard G. Hatcher, and hosted the ground-breaking 1972 National Black Political Convention.
Since the 1930s, Gary had developed a reputation as a tough city due to rampant political corruption, racial violence & segregation, labor unrest, and industrial pollution. In the 1960s through the 1980s, surrounding suburban localities such asMerrillville and Crown Point experienced rapid growth, including new homes and shopping districts. Owing to white flight, economic distress, and a perception of skyrocketing crime, many middle-class and affluent residents moved to other cities in the metro area.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Gary had the highest percentage of African-Americans of U.S. cities with a population of 100,000 or more, 84% (as of the 2000 U.S. census). This no longer applies to Gary since the population of the city has now fallen well below 100,000 residents. As of 2013, the Gary Department of Redevelopment has estimated that one-third of all homes in the city are unoccupied and/or abandoned.
U.S. Steel continues to be a major steel producer, but with only a fraction of its former level of employment. While Gary has failed to reestablish a manufacturing base since its population peak, two casinos opened along the Gary lakeshore in the 1990s, although this has been aggravated by the state closing of Cline Avenue, an important access to the area. Today, Gary faces the difficulties of a rust belt city, including unemployment, decaying infrastructure, and low literacy and educational attainment levels.
Gary has closed several of its schools within the last ten years. While some of the school buildings have been reused, most remain unused since their closing. As of 2014, Gary is considering closing additional schools in response to budget deficits.
In April 2011, 75-year-old mayor Rudy Clay announced that he would be suspending his campaign for reelection owing to ongoing treatments for prostate cancer. After exiting from the race, Clay endorsed rival Karen Freeman-Wilson, who won the Democratic mayoral primary in May. Freeman-Wilson won election with 87 percent of the vote and her term began in January 2012; she is the first woman elected mayor in the city's history.