Is this the end of historic Marktown?
The tiny, one-of-a-kind East Chicago Indiana neighborhood was designed
by noted architect Howard Van Doren Shaw a model industrial
community to house Mark Manufacturing Company employees in 1917.
But now, nearly a dozen of the iconic houses in the neighborhood have
been bought up by BP, most of them along Oak Street, likely in order to
build a parking lot.
The loss of such a large tract of homes could be a crushing blow for
the struggling neighborhood, which is already tiny and is fenced in by
BP, ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor and US Steel’s East Chicago tin plant.
Remaining residents would lose the Oak Street buffer between themselves
and the sprawling oil refineries within just a stone’s throw of the
neighborhood. Plus, demolitions would set an ugly precedent for the
future, particularly considering that BP would like to continue buying
up as many Marktown homes from existing residents as possible.
East Chicago seems to have plenty of money for building new residences
(billboards, in fact, brag about how they are building a "new East
Chicago”), but apparently there is no money to restore and preserve
remaining historic landmarks. This is indicative of the throwaway
society in which we live.
As Marktown resident and precinct committeewoman Kim Rodriguez has
said, quoted in the Post-Tribune newspaper, “We can’t make people
leave. BP is waiting for the last homeowner to sell. How dare they try
to take it away from us? It angers me that they can do what they want
East Chicago councilwoman Myra Maldano would like to stave off the
demolitions and has been meeting with other council members for ways to
do so. We wish her the best of luck.
I journeyed to Marktown on May 4, the day before the residences were
originally slated for demolition and tried to document as many of the
threatened structures as possible in nearly 100 photographs, a few of
which are here and the rest of which I plan to post to Flickr.
On the National Register of Historic Places, the community features
narrow streets and English cottage style houses, duplexes and
apartments. The neighborhood was featured in a Ripley's Believe It Or
Not strip due to the curious fact that residents park on the sidewalks
and walk in the streets.
Most or all the houses slated for demolition are still highly
restorable if action is taken quickly enough. Unfortunately,
recognition by the national register does not prevent demolitions.
3012 Oak Rear
3005 Neighbor Rear
3005 and Neighbor
516 - 518 Oak
514 516 Oak
512 - 516 Riley (bounded by Oak, Riley and Lilac streets)
Houses slated for demolition have been marked by the BP demolition crew.