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Jakob Ehrensvärd | profile | all galleries >> Ruins of despair >> Gary Sheraton tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Gary Sheraton

To me, Sheraton hotels are a bit like McDonald's restaurants - you find them everywhere in all countries and they're equally boring wherever you go. I've yet not seen an abandoned McDonald's and I assume it is a part of keeping up the brand. I must say I never expected to see an abandoned Sheraton either, but...

In Gary, Indiana, an apparently defunct white building with a distinct Eastern Bloc silicate-brick look can be seen from all around the city. Although most of Gary is in various stages of decay, this dull yet freaked artifact certainly stands out from the rest of the ruins. When it becomes clear that this is not the local Stasi- or SED head quarters but an abandoned Sheraton, it all becomes even more thrilling. Something that could have been taken from the 1970s GDR or Czechoslovakia now stands there as a blasted skeleton and moves the mind to a post nuclear war scene. There must be some spectacular story hidden here...

When you stand on the very top of the building and overlook the vicinity, the US Steel blast furnaces on one side, a decayed convention center and the dying city in the other directions gives a clue what's it all about. Gary started to sink rapidly in the 1960s where the downturn in the steel industry together with the phenomenon of "white flight" emptied the city. It must have been really bad around 1970 when Holiday Inn opened its doors. Gary's trajectory downwards continued and around 1975, the new hotel closed. Without hotels - no visitors and as a part of a re-vitalization program, the defunct Holiday Inn became Sheraton and opened again in 1978. The adjacent Genesis convention center apparently never became what it supposed to be and the Star-Trek like skywalk extending out from the Sheraton towards the convention center appears to be cut off, ending nowhere.

Despite the bold plans, the problems for the Gary Sheraton came as soon as the doors were first opened. The convention center was delayed and the number of businesses in downtown Gary was sinking rapidly. Facing a deserted city, quickly advancing up on the top homicide league, the outcome could only be one and the hotel finally closed around 1984 after some futile attempts to keep it going.

Walking around these empty premises, the sense of someone simply giving up is omnipresent. Despite the bizarre fact that all floors are stripped of the interiors including the outer wall, there were still some hard-necked squatters living there. Up on the very top floors, there are still remains of the freaky wallpapers of the 1970s in the prestigious suites. Overlooking the US Steel mill and its giant smokestacks, one can just try to imagine what it would be to have a romantic weekend in this suite with this view.

Although the building is today probably owned by someone else, if I was a high-rank boss at Sheraton HQ, I would in no time pile up the cash needed to instantly turn this place into gravel. Hardly a place to be proud of...
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