“Plywood Palace” – 522 Broadway

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

Atrium

History: Sandwiched between the Gary State Bank Building (501 Broadway), and the downtown JCPenney-turned-Walgreens: this spot was a typical retail/office space in the heart of Downtown Gary. History is sparse up until its demise, but some final tenants – per whatever signage remained – include an architect/interior design firm, real estate brokers, a bail-bond place, and a counselor’s office.

Explore: Like its neighbor, this one was long-inaccessible until its final years, but probably vacant well-before 1997 and showed 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 skylit atrium with offices on all sides.

Plywood Palace

We had time to kill before the train home, so we popped in here after a visit next door. Save for the brick exterior and the atrium’s hand railings – which were probably metal and looted long-ago – it’s all rotten wood, here. Walls and door frames collapsing, entire floorboards missing, yadda, yadda, yadda… this place sucks and will probably kill someone. Basement stairs were stable-enough to warrant a look, but there was little of interest down there beyond some broken Pabst neon.

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 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 with the rest of the storefronts between the Genesis Towers and Gary State Bank Building in the fall of 2014. A Centier Bank branch moved into the latter, who built a drive-up lane on the site of this building. The rest of that former retail strip is now a parking lot.

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