GARY | Architect George Washington Maher would feel right at home today at Marquette Park Pavilion.
The Prairie School building he designed in the early 1920s has been restored to its former glory as part of the $28 million Marquette Park Lakefront East project funded by a grant from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday on the outdoor patio overlooking the lagoon brought together city and regional officials and Gary residents. The group then toured the two-story pavilion.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson recalled her wedding reception at Marquette Park Pavilion in 1991.
"I remember the beautiful view of the lagoon from the veranda," she said. "I encourage you to have your weddings, receptions, proms and other events here."
RDA board Chairman Leigh Morris called the pavilion "a symbol of resurgence of Marquette Park and the city of Gary. It's an incredibly important accomplishment."
The project is about 95 percent complete, said Joel Baldin of Chicago-based Hitchcock Design Group, which designed the project.
"It will be ready for the grand opening in June," he said, crediting the general contractors and subcontractors who have worked on the project.
"This will be the premier banquet facility in Northwest Indiana," Baldin said.
Inside the two-story main ballroom that accommodates 175 people, the barrel vault ceiling from Maher's design has been restored and accented with skylights.
Reproductions of the Prairie School box-style lighting fixtures hang from the ceiling, but contain new fluorescent bulbs. Wall sconces feature LED lights in a nod to energy-efficiency, Baldin said.
Various remodeling projects at the pavilion over the years covered up much of the original architecture with drop ceilings and other fixtures that have now been eliminated.
Paint was removed from brickwork, and historic replicas of the eight-pane windows were installed on the veranda surrounding the ballroom.
"We uncovered the skylights in the stairwells and raised the balcony area. The balcony railing is the original," Baldin said.
The first floor now features a new lobby and coat room and a restored lower lounge area for small cocktail parties. Next week French doors will be installed to lead guests from the lounge out to the veranda.
Baldin said the pavilion now features state-of-the-art alarm, sound and audio systems.
The restored Marquette Pavilion showcases the reason people came to Gary in the early 20th century, said Speros Batistatos, president/CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority and a member of the Gary Park Advisory Board.
"People came here because of Lake Michigan. It was simultaneously a strong tool for business and industry and proved a beautiful amenity for recreation," he said.
"This takes us back to Gary's roots as a world-class mill town where people want to work and play."