GARY | The city's newly restored Marquette Park and Aquatorium are award winners.
Indiana Landmarks, a private nonprofit organization, has awarded its annual Cook Cup for Outstanding Restoration to the city of Gary for its transformation of Marquette Park, a 241-acre municipal park on Lake Michigan created in the 1920s.
The restoration, completed in December 2012, cost $28 million. The funding was provided by the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, which receives money from local casinos and state grants.
Tina Connor, executive vice president for Indiana Landmarks, said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson was scheduled to receive the award Saturday in Indianapolis on behalf of the city.
Connor said the park suffered over the years along with the city, which experienced massive job and population loses and a declining tax base that left the city will little money to maintain the recreational facility on the south shore of Lake Michigan.
By 2010, its once elegant pavilions had deteriorated, its sidewalks were crumbling and its natural areas were choked with invasive species.
The restoration has reached all of these areas and made the park’s historic buildings accessible to everyone, Connor said.
Chicago architect George W. Maher designed the Bathing Beach Pavilion, now called the Aquatorium, in 1921. The Neoclassical structure sat boarded for 20 years until the Chanute Aquatorium Society took a 99-year lease in 1991.
The society restored much of the building as a museum commemorating aviation pioneer Octave Chanute, who conducted flight tests from the 75-foot dunes in 1890, and the Tuskegee Airmen, a World-War II-era African-American squadron that included pilots from Gary.
The recent work restored the exterior, renovated the Aquatorium’s north wing and adapted the west courtyard to accommodate performances, receptions and parties.
The park’s Recreation Pavilion, also designed by Maher & Son, was built as an entertainment center in 1924 with a ballroom and outdoor dance floor. The missing original windows, doors and skylights were replicated as well as the original color scheme. The chandeliers were re-created based on historic photos.
The project restored historic footbridges, sidewalks and stairs and repaired wetlands and an oak savanna.
It also restored artist Henry Hering’s 1932 bronze statue of Father Jacques Marquette, which had been battered by weather and pollution.
Carl Cook, the award's committee chairman said, “Marquette Park must have been very well built in the 1920s to withstand more than 90 winters. Indiana Landmarks’ Cook Cup selection committee admired the comprehensive approach taken in the restoration."