GARY | The city of Gary and the Indiana Department of Transportation joined together Friday to commemorate the city's historic streetcar rail line with the unveiling of a historic marker at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway, where streetcars used to travel during the first half of the 20th century.
The historic marker features a vintage photograph of streetcars rumbling through the once-bustling intersection, circa 1913, and a brief history of the rail line, which began operating in 1908.
INDOT Northwest District Deputy Commissioner Robert Alderman said there were multiple reasons INDOT chose to present the marker to the city.
He said INDOT began a $14.2 million reconstruction project spanning 4th and 5th Avenues in Gary a few years ago.
"When we looked under the roadway, we found the old, original rail," he said. "We removed it but we recognized the history and significance of the rail. We wanted to make sure this project was the best it could be. This is just a token of what we could give back to the city."
A former member of the Indiana House of Representatives for 29 years, Alderman said he also has known Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson for many years. "She is really committed to this city," he said.
Freeman-Wilson said the marker serves as an important symbol of Gary's history.
The implementation and success of the Gary Streetcar Line was spurred by the booming steel industry of the early 20th century and the thousands of workers in need of transportation to the mills who populated the city. During the height of streetcar service in the 1920s, fares were 8 cents, and streetcars carried more than 50,000 passengers daily over 100 miles of track.