History

Gary To Debut Lake County’s 9th State Historical Marker

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October 13, 2014 — A new Indiana state historical marker will be unveiled on October 31 in Gary recognizing the John Stewart Settlement House, built in 1924. The public is invited to the marker dedication at noon at 15th Avenue and Massachusetts Street, where the building once stood.

Rev. Frank S. Delaney and Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church built the John Stewart Memorial Settlement House to aid Gary’s African American community, especially World War I veterans and people migrating from the south to work in Gary’s steel mills.

William Wilson Cooke, Indiana’s first registered African American architect and a member of the Trinity congregation, designed the building. Cooke is also credited with the design of other notable African American Gary landmarks, including St. John’s Hospital and First A.M.E Church.

Stewart House was the only settlement house built to serve African Americans at a time when others would not. According to the text on the marker, “it helped thousands adjust to urban life. Services included lodging and meals, as well as legal, medical, and employment advice.” The settlement house closed in the 1970s and the building was demolished in the following decade.

Christ United Methodist Church started the Stewart House Urban Farm and Gardens on the now vacant site, continuing in the spirit of the institution by establishing a sustainable food source that provides fruits, vegetables and poultry for Midtown neighbors and Greater Gary.

The church and the its Urban Farm and Gardens began the process to recognize the significance of the Stewart Settlement House in 2012 with a successful application to the Indiana Historical Bureau. Christ United Methodist Church raised the money to pay for the marker and its installation, helped by a $1500 African American Heritage Fund matching grant from Indiana Landmarks.

The Stewart Settlement House marker is the ninth state historical marker in Lake County. The first was installed in 1949 and the most recent one earlier this year at the site where Froebel School stood in Gary.

State historical markers commemorate significant individuals, organizations, places, and events in Indiana history. For more than 95 years the Indiana Historical Bureau, an agency of the State of Indiana, has been marking Indiana history. Approximately 500 of the large distinctive gold-edged navy markers, with the state of Indiana outline in the crest at the top, dot the Indiana landscape.  For more information about this marker and the state marker program, visit the Indiana Historical Bureau’s website at www.IN.gov/history or call 317-232-6276.

Indiana Landmarks, a private nonprofit dedicated to saving meaningful places, offered a grant from its African American Heritage Fund to help pay for the historical marker. The group’s African American Landmarks Committee assists in preserving and promoting historic African American places in Indiana.   Check the resources tab at www.indianalandmarks.org for information on the committee and grants.

[Photo: Stewart Settlement House, c. 1934 — courtesy Indiana Landmarks]

Source: Indiana Landmarks

 

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