“Plywood Palace” – 522 Broadway

TL;DR: Dangerously-dilapidated retail and office building in downtown Gary.

Atrium

History: 522 Broadway was sandwiched between the Gary State Bank Building at 501 Broadway (the two were separated by an alley), and the downtown JCPenney-turned-Walgreens. Very-little is known about it, though some final tenants include an architect firm, real estate brokers, a bail-bond place, and a counseling service.

Explore: Like its neighbor, 522 Broadway was long-inaccessible until its final years, but was probably vacant well-before 1997, showing obvious signs of charring from the adjacent fire (and probably attempts to light this place, itself). The layout featured two streetside storefronts, divided by an entryway which led to a skylighted atrium surrounded by an assortment of offices.

Plywood Palace

The entire building was made of wood, save for the brick exterior and the atrium’s hand railings – which were probably made of metal and looted long-ago. It didn’t take long at all to realize the place was sketch, especially considering most of the southern storefront’s floor was missing, but we snooped around anyway – eventually chancing the basement stairs, but finding nothing beyond some broken PBR neon. We did find another stair to the northern storefront (not accessible from the atrium, oddly) but the top had been floored-over.

Unsafe on Any Floor

It wasn’t until a few minutes were spent on the second floor that we gave the unanimous “fuck this” and bailed; it’s one thing when your foot carrying whatever you weigh goes through the floor, but when a camera tripod (admittedly battle-grade) can effortlessly punch-through then you’re asking for it. I took a few shots and we GTFO… no sense risking limbs for this cesspool, and it was getting late, anyway.

Epilogue: The place, which still personally ranks as the worst building I’ve been through, was finally leveled in the fall of 2014 – soon to become a drive-up bank being grafted onto the adjacent Gary State Bank Building, which will become a Centier branch.

Walgreen’s came down not long after.

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