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Gary to bring back architecture tour, host Gary Love Fest arts and music festival

People tour houses in the Morningside neighborhood on Gary's far south side as part of the Gary Preservation Tour last year.

Downtown Gary does not bustle the way it once did, but a busy weekend is coming up.

Gary will again offer tours of its historic architecture in mid-September, which will coincide with the Gary Love Fest arts and music festival in downtown Gary.

The city’s Department of Planning and Department of Redevelopment will host the third annual Gary Preservation Tour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 14 and 15 to "further historic preservation efforts in Gary, with a focus on placemaking, education, and blight remediation." The city will have an open house of notable buildings downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods, both historic and modern.

That weekend, people can tour 20 architecturally and culturally significant buildings, including City Hall, the Lake County Superior Courthouse, Union Station and Genesis Towers. The tour includes recently renovated cultural hubs, including  ArtHouse at 411 E. 5th Ave. and the Gary Public Library and Cultural Center at 220 W. 5th Ave.

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It also may be one of the last chances to see the Memorial Auditorium at 700 Broadway and the Indiana American Water Tower at 650 Madison St. before they are demolished.

The historic Gary Public Schools Memorial Auditorium dates back to 1927 and has hosted many greats over the years, including astronaut Frank Borman, president Harry Truman, crooner Frank Sinatra and the Jackson 5, who famously won an amateur talent show there. What's left of the venue for live music, prep basketball and countless high school graduation ceremonies has been vacant since the building was gutted by arson that rampaged through downtown Gary in 1997.

The 133-foot-tall water tower at the center of Jefferson Park, the city's first public park, has loomed large as part of Gary's skyline since 1909. The tower is unusual because the Gary Heat, Light and Water Co. encased it in "a concrete block shell that transformed the utilitarian tower into an octagonal landmark, complete with decorative cornice and parapet wall," according to Indiana Landmarks.

The Gary Preservation Tour starts at 504 Broadway, where people get a tour pamphlet that will help them go on a self-guided tour. They will get maps, photos, information about each building's history and vouchers for discounted rides on Gary public transit. 

Visitors on Saturday also can check out the Gary Love Fest at Gateway Park at 400 Broadway. The festival will feature public art installations, live music on two stages, live painting, vendors and food.

Both events are free and open to the public. 

Gary also is seeking volunteers to greet visitors and hand them information. To help out, email nwilson@ci.gary.in.us.

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Business Reporter

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.