Arts groups need volunteers to board up Gary's General Services Building

The Heat Light Water Project, the Calumet Artist Registry and Gary Preservation Tour will board up and beautify Gary's long-derelict General Services Building this Saturday.

GARY — Arts groups need a few good volunteers this Saturday to board up and beautify the long-abandoned General Services Building in Gary.

Designed by noted architect George W. Maher, the General Services Building was built in the Prairie Style in 1926 as the Gary, Heat, Light and Water Co. Warehouse.

The building, which has many extravagant architectural flourishes like terrazzo floors and pilaster capitals, long has been abandoned and was declared blighted by the city in 2012, but the Heat Light Water Project led by Chicago-based artist and educator Jan Tichy has been working to bring it back to at least some semblance of its former glory.

The Heat Light Water Project, the Calumet Artist Residency and the Gary Preservation Tour organized a Board up and Beautify General Services Building project this Saturday. Volunteers are invited to come out to pull weeds, paint board-ups and help clean the historic structure at 900 Madison St. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"The old General Services Building, G.W. Maher's last commissioned design, is in need of a little love. Join us in our effort to beautify the exterior of the historic building," the group said in a Facebook event announcement. "We need help pulling weeds around the exterior and painting board-ups to install on the windows. This is a great opportunity to meet artists and community activists, draw attention to historic preservation in Gary, and enjoy a cookout afterward."

Anyone who's interested is encouraged to wear long sleeves, pants and long socks.

Tichy said his group hopes to revive the building because it's more structurally stable and salvageable than many of the long-abandoned structures in Gary, which has suffered from blight and massive population loss. 

Such architectural restoration projects are afoot all across the city. The Decay Devils recently transformed the historic Union Station downtown into an art and architecture park, and the Calumet Artist Residency's Gary Poetry Project has been boarding up the abandoned Emerson High School, plastering it with poems from Gary poets.

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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.