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Thread: Marktown, East Chicago, Indiana

  1. #1
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Marktown, East Chicago, Indiana

    Marktown was (is) a planned industrial community located in the city of East Chicago, Indiana approximately 22 miles from Chicago's loop. Clayton Mark, of the Mark Manufacturing Company was a member of the Chicago Commercial Club which commissioned a study to discover why there was such a high turnover of industrial employees. What the study found was that there was a lack of quality, affordable housing for workers and their families. With this in mind Mark commissioned Howard Van Doren Shaw, a prominent Chicago architect to design a town that would meet the needs of his workers. The result was Marktown which was built in 1917.

    It should be noted that only four sections of the thirty sections that were orginally planned were actually built. Something called WWI got in the way which caused financial troubles for the Mark Company and alas Marktown is only a fraction of what it could of been.

    For more information on Marktown please see this website which has quite an exstensive amount of information.

    Link: http://www.marktown.org/



    Marktown was once featured in Ripley's Believe it or Not...

    Surrounding Context, Marktown is entirely surrounded by industry, steel mills, tanks farms, etcetera









    The above building was mixed-use, its been vacant since the 1970s, the original plan called for more buildings like this but this was the only one that was built. In addition there was to be a movie theatre as well as a few other civic ammenities.



    View looking toward a steel mill. The steel company wanted to tear down Marktown in the 1950s but faced citizen opposition. A park was installed along the border as a buffer.



    Some post-war bungalows (although in Buffalo we'd call these Cape Cods). There are a few other instances of in-fill within Marktown.



    Pavillion in park. Marktown has a large amount of park space.



    Historic District marker on the other side of town.



    Typical Marktown housing.



    Community Center, this was orginally the elementary school.



    Yes, people really do park on the sidewalks. Luckily the speed limit is 10 MPH so walking in the street is no problem.





    George Michels, the only bar in town.



    The former Mill Gate Inn, no closed. Despite the fact that the region is a poster child for urban decay many of the steel mills are still operational and production is at all time highs. Unfortunately they just need alot less people. I'd like to say the one across the street from this bar employs 1400 down from 14,000, but don't quote me on that. Whatever the exact numbers its quite dramatic and begins to explain why the area looks the way it does.





    Not much traffic here...




    Marktown has a 25% vacancy rate. Rents here are $350-550/month for about 1000 SF of space. Purchase prices are I believe around 30-40K, although I heard alot of different numbers when I was there.

    More to come...

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    The Yellowstone Trail Association has been working with East Chicago for Marktown historic tie-ins, too. The Trail went right by it on the major street between central East Chicago and Whiting (yep, through the steel mills and right past the big oil refinery).

    Mike

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Hceux's avatar
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    Oh wow - this was an interesting reading!

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Based on the negative stories I've only heard about the northwestern corner of Indiana in the sea of dead industrial buildings, I wonder if this area is safe to visit. Is it?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hceux View post
    Oh wow - this was an interesting reading!

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Based on the negative stories I've only heard about the northwestern corner of Indiana in the sea of dead industrial buildings, I wonder if this area is safe to visit. Is it?
    I didn't have any trouble. My tour guide said that there wasn't much crime in the area. There is/was of course some vandalism but I supposse the "eyes on the street" effect helps.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I'm sorry, but why would anyone want the cars parked on the sidewalks so they could walk in the streets? Is this really what the Swiss do?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop View post
    I'm sorry, but why would anyone want the cars parked on the sidewalks so they could walk in the streets? Is this really what the Swiss do?
    I'm not sure where Ripley got the Swiss bit from, it looks more English to me. Marktown was built in 1917 so of course accomodation of cars wasn't that important then.

  7. #7
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    To all readers:

    Marktown is a safe place to visit and to live. Guided tours are available, usually with a 7 day notice or request. The Ripley's card got it wrong. The family of Clayton Mark, the founder of Mark Manufacturing, was originally from Switzerland.

    The neighborhood was designed under the Garden City concept.

    The cars were to be parked on the sidewalk primarily because few residents owned cars at that time and their place of employment was within walking distance.

    In 1989 when the plans were developed to replace the streets and sidewalks and add relatively historic lighting we decided to leave the parking where it was.

    The city engineer had three ideas:
    1) To have everyone park on one side of the street so that the street could be widened an additional 8'.
    2) Remove 20' of the newly renovated park on two sides of the neighborhood and have people park there, and my favorite
    3) Remove all of the yards and turn them into parking lots for everyone.

    It is a most remarkable neighborhood with a great deal of potential.

    The homes were very well built and are solid masonry. A home that needs to be fully restores (exterior) and fully renovated on the interior can be purchased for as little as $10,000.

    If you are in Chicago for Labor Day there is usually a Pullman to Marktown bicycle ride and tour. You might enjoy it.

    Most respectfully,

    Paul A. Myers
    Resident Historian

  8. #8
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    Trenton, NJ has some duplexes of nearly identical design in a few neighborhoods, dating from the same era. They just set them back a few more feet and included driveways on either side. Maybe Mr. Van Doren Shaw was selling his designs in pattern books.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  9. #9
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop View post
    I'm sorry, but why would anyone want the cars parked on the sidewalks so they could walk in the streets? Is this really what the Swiss do?
    I don't know, but the streets seem to function as woonerfs.

    I wonder how snow removal is handled, especially considering there's no snow storage area.

    Paul, thanks for checking in, and welcome to Cyburbia!

  10. #10
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    Dear Boilerplater:

    Interesting about the NJ comment. Mr. Shaw did work in NY City both before and after the construction of the Mark Town Site (now the Marktown Historic District).

    If you have addresses for any of the properties, please let me know. I would be more than glad to look into it.

    If you visit our website at www.marktown.org you will find a PDF of a publication titled "Industrial Housing Problems 1917". In that you will find a set of drawings nearly identical to at least two of the Marktown plans.

    While we have not been able to prove it, we have long suspected that Mr. Shaw had a hand in those drawings.

    8 of the 11 Marktown exteriors were designed after Mr. Shaw's Lake Forest estate called Ragdale (1897). I do have a photograph of the original pencil sketch for the Marktown Quad. It is quite interesting to see how the plan developed between that sketch and the final drawings.

    Most respectfully,

    Paul A. Myers

  11. #11
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    Marktown, Trenton, etc...

    I know i'm jumping on this bandwagon several months late, but I thought i'd throw my two cents in anyways...

    There's a few places in Trenton that are similar - but I think there's a much more similar architecture in areas like New Brunswick (NJ).
    As far as Urban Planning - If you really want to find something strikingly similar - look at Minden NV. The layout of the "historic downtown" area (roughly the same size as marktown) is all but identical - and the few remaining original buildings (from roughly the same period of marktown) are virtually identical. There's not many photos online of these buildings - but i'll see if I can get downtown and snap some photos.

    As far as layout goes - on the east coast, if you look at the Van Vorst Park, Hamilton Park, and Paulis Hook areas of Jersey City (NJ) - and compare them to Marktown, and Minden NV - the similarities will absolutely knock you off your feet. The areas in Jersey City I mentioned were all built in the mid 1850s, where as Minden NV was closer to the 1900-1920 range. Marktown - if my history is correct was roughly in the 1917 era...
    There were some areas of Douglas Co NV (Minden) there were a few years earlier - most notably along Douglas Ave that came a bit earlier. One house especailly stands out to me that was built in 1912, that is still as solid as a rock, and just sold a few weeks ago for about $400,000 - and has elements of the same style...

    More important to this development than the specific planner or designer that put these ideas of urban planning place, I think is simply the basic mentality and history involved that went into that planning. All of these areas that I've spoken of were settled primarily by Germans and Swedes - and the style and mindset of the towns reflect that of their European counterparts. Marktown and Minden were developed roughly at the same time, by different people, for different purposes (Marktown had a more industrial purpose, where as Minden even to this day is largely based on AG/Ranching) - yet their styles are virtually identical.

    What I find even more amazing, is that as we look to the future of development, the ideas that formed the basis of these communities are coming full circle. More and more people are looking for the small, "walkable community" - and are trending less and less towards the suburban sprawl that plagues the countryside across the US.

  12. #12
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    community center

    the info sounds about right, but the building you have listed as the community center was never the elementary school. the building that housed the elementary school was knocked down in the late 80's and never rebuilt. it used to occupy the space to the right of the communty center if you are facing the front door. i know this because i grew up on School Street and attended that school when it was still functional.

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