Gary's Sheraton Era - Brief History & Millennial Perspective
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Between 1968 & 2014 the 14 story, monolithic Holiday Inn opened as a symbol of hope and then tragically became a poster child of economic decline in downtown Gary. Opening originally as Holiday Inn in 1968 and ultimately closing as the Sheraton Hotel in 1984, the building's life merely spanned 16 calendar years. Yet the structure stood vacant, an albatross looming behind City Hall, through four Gary administrations over 30 years.
The hotel's development was included in a much larger plan devised by former Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher to revitalize downtown Gary to build a new City Center consisting of convention center (Genesis Center), transportation hub (Adam Benjamin Metro Center) and a brand name hotel (Holiday Inn/Sheraton Hotel) all linked through a network of climate controlled skybridges.
Upon the opening of the Holiday Inn, the hotel struggled to capture business and was closed in 1972. The hotel reopened as the Sheraton Hotel Steel Plaza in 1977. Unfortunately the Sheraton Hotel remained in operation for only seven years permanently closing in 1984.
Speaking only for myself as a Millennial having been born in 1989, the building had been vacant throughout my entire adolescent and adult life. In a testament to the situation not having the opportunity to occupy the building in my lifetime all my memories of the building consisted of my views from the outside. I remember riding in the car as a child looking up in amazement of how tall the building was, with old blinds and drapes that blew from the window openings. If you stared hard enough you can see the old striped wallpaper inside of the rooms where the windows had been broken and the trees that grew from the lower roof.
Immediately prior to Gary hosting the Miss USA pageant - a deal brokered between the city and future President Trump - a large banner was plastered on the facade of the building in 2001. The banner featured a woman gracing the building as if it were a magazine with the title, 'Gary Style' facing Broadway overlooking the Genesis Center greeting the pageant contestants and visitors alike.
My father and I used to joke that if the wind blew hard enough the banner would rip and fall, letting out a blood curdling scream you'd hear all across the city. In my high school Spanish II class, I wrote a short story about five teens that ventured inside of the Sheraton on Halloween night only to find themselves trapped in a multitude of hazardous obstacles preventing their escape.
All jokes aside, the Sheraton Hotel met its demise in 2014, through the persistence of Karen Freeman-Wilson's administration and funding from federal agencies. Upon demolition of the building I feel that downtown has gained a touch charm. Free from the large relic that cursed the city's skyline, there's a more picturesque view for those that travel through Gary via the I-90 Indiana Toll Road or the South Shore Line. And most importantly there is a more positive image to those of us who are proud to call Gary home.
Written by Chris Harris
If you have any personal stories or memories of the Sheraton Hotel we'd love to hear them. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!