“An Industrial Utopia:  Building Gary Indiana, to Order”

From Harper’s Weekly, No. 51
(Oct. 12, 1907) p. 1482-1483, 1485,
By Henry B. Fuller

The manufacturing centre of the United States is preparing to shift.  Like other important factors in the national life, it is moving westward.   The creation of the new steel town of Gary, at the head of Lake Michigan, marks the transition.

This new "fiat"-city of the United States Steel Corporation is situated twenty-five miles southeast of Chicago , and seven miles across the Indiana State line.  It is the last in that wide group of industrial communities which includes Pullman; South Chicago, the seat of the Illinois Steel Company and the Chicago Shipbuilding Company; Whiting, the Western headquarters of the Standard Oil interests; and East Chicago and Indiana Harbor, new towns of a more general character.

It is named, of course, for Elbert H. Gary, chairman of the executive committee of the orporation.

A union of considerations operated to determine the site of Gary.  Broadly, the problem was a dual one.  First, to produce steel in greater quantities, and at lower cost than elsewhere. Second, to lay out and build a city for those who were to do the work.  To bring the raw materials together, to distribute the finished products, to look to markets present and prospective, to insure the supply and control of labor, to make provision for unlimited expansion - all these points to be kept clearly in mind from the first.

Gary stands at the centre of the country's transportation systems, whether by land or by water.  The tract is crossed east and west by five great trunk lines which connect with the Belt Line railroad that encircles Chicago and it lies little more than twenty miles distant from the Chicago Drainage Canal, that first and most important stage in a natural waterway from Lakes to Gulf.  Gary is equally accessible to all the material elements that are required in the steel industry:  ore from Lake Superior, coal from Illinois and West Virginia, coke from Pennsylvania, and limestone from Michigan and the nearer Alleghanies.  All these find a natural and easy "assemblage" at the head of Lake Michigan.

Topographically, the northwest corner of Indiana, is mere nothingness — a "tabula rasa," or easily rendered such.   Long reaches of desolate sand-dunes, alternating with swamps and swales, the whole sparsely overgrown with pine and scrub-oak, and set with shallow lakelets and sluggish streams, a region till lately the resort of the duck-hunter and the refuge of the occasional outlaw — such is the country in which the steel corporation, having purchased some eight thousand acres with a lake frontage of six miles or so, is expending a hundred and twenty million dollars at the rate of twenty-five thousand a day.

There is wide room here — the ground once prepared—for many and various activities.  Subsidiary companies engaged in the manufacture of tubing, wire, sheet steel, tinplate, and bridge material are expected to gather round the parent concern and to occupy a wide ten-mile tract from east to west, with Gary itself as centre.  Thus, with thick-coming accretions and a constantly growing momentum, the great industrial centre of the West of the country is establishing itself.

The general disposition of this curious town-site is markedly symmetrical.  A mile or less south of the lake shore there flows east and west, the Grand Calumet River, now straightened into a canal.  Within this space are rising the vast mills that are at once the nucleus and raison d'etre of the new city, with its present population of eight thousand, its probable population (by next year) of fifty thousand, and its ultimate anticipated population half a million.

Three miles south of the Grand Calumet there flows, also east and west, the Little Calumet, and within the ten or twelve square miles thus determined the city of Gary proper will take its expected expansion.

The mills themselves will expand lakeward.  The outer third of the space they occupy will be reclaimed from the water by a filling in of sand and of furnace waste.  Dredging will give a water-front deep enough to float the largest of lake craft; and these, as new constructing at various lake ship-yards, equal in draught and tonnage the larger class of ocean-going steamers.  Two breakwaters will form an adequate harbor, and a channel a mile long, 250 feet wide, and 25 feet deep, edged by concrete docks, will connect lake and river.

The mills will thus be surrounded on three sides by water.  This strategic position indicates a premonition of trouble. The Gary steel-mills will be an open shop, and the swarming hordes of Huns and Polacks will think twice — or at least try twice — before crossing the medieval moat to gain the industrial stronghold beyond.

[COMMENT -GDY]   What is this?  Evidently Mr. Fuller did not understand the "melting pot" concept?  If he did, he certainly had no appreciation for it!

Save for this seigneurial measure of precaution, the general scheme for the new city seems almost philanthropic.  Or perhaps the corporation would prefer to say that things are going to be "right," merely from motives of enlightened self-interest.

The new enterprise will avoid the excess of paternalism which put something of a blight on Pullman, and the hit-or-miss planlessness which has filled South Chicago with discord and cross purposes and the single-minded selfishness which has turned Whiting into a horror.  Briefly, the new town is to be given the proper impetus under the best auspices, and then allowed to look largely after itself — is to enjoy as considerable a measure of self-government as the average American community.  The idea is to make an economical and attractive place of residence for employees.

It is the expectation that reasonable rents, cheap light and water, and the usual municipal comforts and conveniences will result in colonizing superintendents, foremen, and office employees near the works.

The central subdivision of the new city has been laid out, and is now building under the direction of the corporation itself — or rather, under that particular section of the corporation which calls itself the Indiana Steel Company — or, rather, to be still more exact, under that particular member of the Indiana Steel Company known as the Gary Land Company.  This organization has provided for twenty-seven miles of paved streets, with water, gas, sewers, and electric lights. Through the centre of the city runs, north and south, the principal thoroughfare, Broadway, one hundred feet wide; and each half of the town will be grouped about a large residential park, in which the landscape-gardener has preserved and heightened the natural dune features.  Round these two green spots colonies of half-timbered brick cottages are helping to give shape to the corporation's ideal.  Another park is projected on the lake front.

As for the mills themselves, the company starts in with building four large blast-furnaces; and two more will be constructed later on the made ground.  Each of the six will have a group of fourteen open hearths, and each of these groups will be a quarter of a mile long.  There will also be the largest rail-mill in the world.  Several supplementary mills of varied nature will bring the total of men employed up to twenty thousand.  All the arrangements tend toward a heightened efficiency, as regards the economy, continuity, and rapidity of the various processes.  Many novel and effective adjustments are to be introduced. No hitch, no cessation from the moment the mechanical conveyors dump the ore and coke into the blast-furnaces until the billets, bars, rails, and various structural shapes are produced.  The rail-mills will be operated by gas-engines which utilize the waste gases from the large furnaces.  Another economy will come through the mill-side manufacture of blast-furnace coke.

Within that other square mile south of the Grand Calumet, which constitutes the nucleus of the company's industrial metropolis, that great power will be equally supreme.  It aims, in this restricted quarter at least, at a monumental dignity commensurate with the scope and grandeur of its general scheme.  The intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue — consecrated names! — will be the centre of the new city.  Both are intended to be business streets throughout their entire length.  The former, early next summer, will be, for a mile or more, a handsome, concrete-paved avenue a hundred feet wide, showing an unbroken succession of two, three, and four story structures in compulsory brick and stone.

These two streets already present two large hotels, two bank buildings, a public school, erected at an expense of $70,000, and an assembly, hall and restaurant, besides dozens of ordinary shops.  A theatre to cost $100,000 is planned; also a church, with clubroom building, gymnasium, and swimming pool.  Macadamized roads and cement walks are to be found everywhere.  There are carefully drawn building lines, and there is a unified system of house-numbering.

From this quarter — the "original town," so to speak — both the speculator and the saloon-keeper have been excluded.  Title in fee simple passes only on the erection of buildings, and a clause in deeds forbids the sale of liquor.

[COMMENT -GDY]   Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men.  What this carefully thought out scheme gave rise to was "The Patch."  It came to house all the bars, houses of ill repute and other dens of inequty which became a part of Gary's illustrious history.

Most of the public utilities — water, gas, electricity, and power — remain in the corporation's hands — the corporation being better able to finance such large undertakings than any private individuals would be.  It is erecting a great power-plant on the lake front, from which the public-service plants will be operated.  It is constructing a tunnel two miles out into the lake for supplying the city with water.  This tunnel will cost $1,000,000.

These various utilities are operated through conduits laid in alleys, and the tearing up of streets will be altogether done away with.  Each of these services is laid on its own level.  First, heating-pipes; next below these, gas and water connections and the like; then, lowest of all, at a depth of twenty feet, the system of sewerage.  This system is such as to accommodate the growth of the city for many years, and is so arranged as to cause no danger of pollution to the water-supply.

The intellect of Gary is, of course, in the East, but the muscle of Gary is on the spot, and can be met any noon at some one of the contractor's dining-houses, where strenuous thousands are fed with a rough liberality.  One may dine at second table with the firm's office force, and then go en tour through the camp with the restaurant's manager, who is equally amiable in showing the bunks where the men sleep and the extensive cold-storage reservoirs whence comes the hearty provender that is transmuted with such regularity into shops and dwellings, and sewers and water-mains, and parks and pavements and bridges.

Still, Gary itself hardly insists upon calm; there is too much to do.  And many thousands are doing it: finishing the great mills, urging the mule and the scoop-shovel, manning the pile-driver, running the electric wire, setting fire-plugs deep in sandy excavations; reeling off new subdivisions, and snatching franchises, and working toward the fifty or sixty thousand people that are looked for with the coming spring — a multitude which will assist in making Gary and its immediate vicinity the premier industrial region of the world. 

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Created 15 Sep 2008 - 11:39:53 Hrs.

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