Gays and Gary’s Glitterati Part II, Electric Boogaloo

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Greetings again!

The last leg of our Gary Preservation Tour took us to the Glen Park section of Gary to stroll through the micro-neighborhood of Morningside. Morningside, a tiny middle class enclave with verdant lawns, large homes, and where the streets sway more than a gay boy on his way to Chicago Pride (Swish, Swish, Bish). Though this historic district is tiny compared to previously visited Horace Mann, being just five streets, it still represents triumph for the middle class African-Americans of Gary. Morningside was exclusively white until the 1970s, and the Little Calumet River located to the north was more than simply a divider that separated the once independent suburb of Glen Park (annexed by Gary in 1926) from growing Gary. It marked the boundary where African Americans were not allowed beyond sundown until the 1960s. The pride of these home owners living in an area that was historically taboo to them is evident. African-Americans living in these historic homes where 50 years ago they would have only been allowed to clean toilets gives a big middle finger to the racism of the past.

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Though initially plotted in 1917, it took Morningside several decades to fill up. Here we can see a full range of architectural styles ranging from the eclectics of the 1920s to the more conservative homes of the 1950s. Larger lots, gently swaying streets (again with that swish, swish, bish), and being in a sylvan settling far from the industrial grit of Gary, Morningside was a premier enclave for industry movers and shakes who wanted to be farther away from the steel mills.

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This stunning home was built in the roaring 20s and totally embraces the French Eclectic Style more than a gay boy embraces Gaga. This house apparently has a doppelganger somewhere in LaPorte, Indiana (if you ever find it, let us know, even the owner didn’t know where it was) per the owner of the house. The owner who graciously let us in told us that this home was built as a wedding gift for an industrial owner’s daughter. The doppelganger was built for his son. And to think when I tie that knot, I’d be happy just getting a KitchenAid and some non Costco liquor to fill my alcohol cabinet….. (sigh)

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Unlike Horace Mann that developed uniformly, Morningside’s development staggered for over forty years, so we see a shift from the eclectic architecture for the 1920s to the more June Cleaver-inspired architecture of the 1950s. More reserved (and in my opinion a bit sterile) I can just imagine all the cream of chicken soup casseroles and other midcentury culinary delights  created within these walls. Kinda gives me a hankering for SPAM and Velveeta, no lie! Best dust off my Betty Crocker cookbooks.

MS3Meticulously well kept, one thing I noticed in Morningside was the fact such lush lawns were maintained by lawn care services and not personally by their owners. I guess when you acheieved baller status you don’t like to push a lawn mover in the blazing heat and get damper than a marathon runner’s crotch like yours truly.

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Though our tour of Morningside was cut short by an impatient bus driver (who did pick us up from Horace Mann late….but I digress) it was a quite a privilege to not only see the outside of these homes but be allowed to enter them, meet the owners, and hear their personal stories. Morningside, grander than Horace Mann, more suburban and so well maintained shows promise that the middle class of Gary are firmly rooted and thriving. Thank you Preserve Gary Tour for such a great tour. You guys really outdid yourself this year, even in this brutal heat you guys brought your A game. I on the other hand feel like I’m getting the vapors, so we are off to Miller Beach! Get your swim suits ready, bitches! Things are going to get wet (giggity)

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