Thursday, June 23, 2016

Just so you know...

...that I'm still alive, here are some pictures I took on a recent day trip to Marktown in East Chicago, Indiana.

Now I know what you're thinking: What the heck is Marktown? And East Chicago? Is he crazy?

First of all, East Chicago is just over the Indiana border, only about a half-hour drive from my house. And Marktown is a planned community patterned after a typical nineteenth-century village in either Switzerland or rural England (take your pick).

I was inspired to visit, of course, by one of my favorite blogs, A Chicago Sojourn.

From Wikipedia (my emphasis):

Marktown is an urban planned worker community, built during the Progressive Era in 1917 from marshland to provide a complete community for workers at The Mark Manufacturing Company.

The community was founded by Clayton Mark, a pioneer maker of steel in the United States. The renowned architect hired to design the community, Howard Van Doren Shaw, created a unique design in which the streets serve as walkways and the cars are parked on the sidewalks, as noted in "Ripley’s Believe It or Not." 

Only ten percent of the original design was built, as the building of the community was terminated due to the aftereffects of World War I and the sale of the Mark Manufacturing Company. Today, Marktown is one of the few planned worker communities in which all of the originally constructed homes still stand. The industries in East Chicago expanded to the borders of Marktown, surrounding the historic residential island with one of the densest industrial complexes in the world. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, and was listed as one of the seven wonders of Northwest Indiana.

Marktown is regarded as an important cultural resource of architectural and historical significance. In the words of the Marktown Revitalization Plan commissioned by the city of East Chicago in 2008, "Marktown is significant as it is a major work by a significant American architect, Howard Van Doren Shaw, for its association with the driving economic force of industry that served as an identity of the region, and is representative of the planned industrial community movement of the late 19th and early 20th century."

For more information you can visit the website of the Marktown Preservation Society.

The only thing I kept thinking as I walked through Marktown was: What if some billionaire like Bill Gates came in here and restored the neighborhood, one house at a time, to its founder's original vision? Wouldn't that be cool?

Marktown is really unique. See it before it's too late.

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