The city of Gary has won Indiana Landmarks' Cook Cup for Outstanding Restoration. It has been honored for improvements to century-old Marquette Park, including the restoration of pavilions and sidewalks and upgrades to historic buildings.

April 25, 2014

News Release

Indianapolis, Ind. – Indiana Landmarks, the private nonprofit organization that saves historic places throughout the state, awarded its annual Cook Cup for Outstanding Restoration to the City of Gary. The city was recognized for its transformation of Marquette Park, a 241-acre municipal park on Lake Michigan created in the 1920s.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson accepted the Cook Cup at an event in Indianapolis on April 26. A short video accompanied the presentation by Indiana Landmarks' Chairman Timothy Shelly and Vice Chairman Carl Cook.

Created in 1906 by U.S. Steel, Gary has famously suffered the industry's decline, along with population loss that has hammered the tax base. Constricted city budgets, combined with decades of bitter lakeside winters, meant that Marquette Park was in rough shape in 2010 – elegant pavilions deteriorated; concrete steps and sidewalks crumbling; natural areas choked with invasive species.

The restoration reached all of these areas and made the park's historic buildings accessible to everyone.

In 1921, noted Chicago architect George W. Maher designed the Bathing Beach Pavilion, now called the Aquatorium. 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.

To make the structure even more attractive – and more financially sustainable – the recent restoration completely 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. Long-gone original windows, doors and skylights were replicated, the original color scheme recaptured and the chandeliers re-created based on historic photos. “With the addition of an elevator, updated restrooms and all new mechanicals, the pavilion is once again a popular site for weddings, proms and community events,” noted the award video narration.

The project also restored historic footbridges, sidewalks and stairs, and repaired ecosystems, including wetlands and an oak savanna.

Battered by weather and pollution, artist Henry Hering’s 1932 bronze statue of Father Jacques Marquette stood at the park entrance on a stained limestone base flanked by unstable walls. The restored Father Marquette and his environs once again present a welcoming gateway for park visitors.

The project spanned two administrations, with about 85 percent completed during the administration of the late Mayor Rudy Clay. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, his successor, wrapped up the project in 2012.

“Marquette Park must have been very well built in the 1920s to withstand more than 90 winters,” observed Cook Cup committee chairman Carl Cook. “Indiana Landmarks' Cook Cup selection committee admired the comprehensive approach taken in the restoration. The design team and the contractors produced high-quality work, with attention to detail, in revitalizing the park’s historic structures while also making them accessible and competitive in today’s market. The Aquatorium, the Recreation Pavilion, Father Marquette, and the footbridges should stand strong for decades to come,” he added in presenting Mayor Freeman-Wilson with the engraved silver Cook Cup.

“The restoration of Marquette Park is one of many powerful symbols that Gary can get things done in a high-quality way. We know our citizens enjoy the park and its refurbished landmarks, and we plan to capitalize on it to draw tourists from throughout the region to our beautiful lakefront,” said Mayor Freeman-Wilson.

The award video concluded with a statement that reinforced the Mayor’s sentiments: “Indiana Landmarks recommends a visit. Head for the open-air gallery on the Aquatorium’s upper story at sunset—what a view!”

Source: Indiana Landmarks

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