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GARY — People interested in exploring the history of Gary may soon get a chance to tour some of the city's landmark structures as part of a venture relying on a fundraising campaign and a state grant. 

Interns with the city's Department of Redevelopment and Planning created the project and are leading the effort, according to Executive Director Joe Van Dyk.

"Gary's history and natural beauty are unlike any other place in America," Van Dyk said. "A lot of folks think only of industry when they think of Gary. While that is certainly part of our legacy, there is also a lot of depth to our cultural history and architecture. We welcome the opportunity to share our unique story with others."

According to the campaign's web page, more than $400 had been raised for the project by early Wednesday afternoon. The goal is to raise $7,500 through the crowdfunding effort.

If the city is able to reach that goal, a matching grant for that amount will be awarded through the CreatINg Places program of the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority.

The money will be used to host walking tours with guides on two dates during the summer and an "open house" on another date in which people can take a self-guided tour at their leisure. 

During the walking tours, guides will take 10 to 15 participants on a two-hour walking tour to every site. Participants will sign up on a first-come basis, but people donating $100 or more to the campaign will automatically secure two tour spots. Associate City Planner Alex Koerner said a maximum of eight walking tours could be conducted on each date.

During the self-guided tour, volunteers and way-finding signs will be in place to help visitors during the latter event.

Tax-deductible donations may be made at https://www.patronicity.com/project/gary_preservation_tour#/ or by sending a check to the Gary Redevelopment Commission, care of the Gary Preservation Tour, 504 Broadway, Gary, IN, 46402.

In addition to using the money raised to pay for tour expenses, the event organizer say they plan to use the funds to line Broadway with vertical street banners recognizing downtown as a nationally registered historic district. They also want to use the funds to protect the old Post Office at 601 Massachusetts St. and the former City Methodist Church at 517 Washington St. through such steps as boarding up windows, removing rubble, and installing protective canopies on the ceilings.

A total of eight to 10 structures may be included in the tour, Koerner said. Some of the other buildings slated to be on the tour include City Hall, Union Station, the Gary Land Co. building in Gateway Park, and the Hotel Gary, which is now called Genesis Towers and used for housing by the Gary Housing Authority.

The organizers said they plan to hold tours on dates when other events are happening in the downtown area, such as a RailCats baseball game or an arts festival in Gateway Park.

"The hope is that we can get a critical mass of people downtown," Koerner said.

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Ed has been with The Times since January 2014. He previously covered government affairs for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers in Florida. Prior to Scripps, he was with the Chicago Regional Bureau of Copley News Service.