LAKE COUNTY INDIANA
By Elliott Flower
The United States last year made more steel (over 23,000,000 tons) than Germany, Britain, France and Belgium combined. New steel works are under construction which will produce enough to enable her to make more than the whole world besides. This she will do within five years, probably within three. - Andrew Carnegie in The Century.
This is not the age of magicians, we are told, and yet, judged by ordinary standards, the building of the city that is to enable the United States to fulfill Mr. Carnegie's prophecy must be regarded as something very close to magic, as a brief outline of its history to date and the plans for the future will show.
In June 1906, the site of Gary, Indiana, some twenty-six miles from Chicago, was a barren waste of drifting sand, with occasional patches of scrub-oak. It had no population, was valueless for agriculture purposes, had no natural harbor or shelter of any kind and no laden boat could get within a half-mile of the shore. The drifting sand piled up in ever-shifting ridges that buried whatever might lie in its path; three or four railroad lines, intent only on reaching points beyond, crossed it by the shortest possible route; and the Grand Calumet River - grand only in name - wormed a tortuous way in and out among the sand dunes until it finally found Lake Michigan. A gun club was located in the vicinity, and the average man would have said that nothing but a gun club could find any possible use of the land. Then - in June 1906, remember! - the first spade full of sand was turned for the new steel town of Gary.
For a long time thereafter there were still no outward indications of the building of a city. Many laborers were there, some housed in tents and some in hastily constructed shacks; but they were digging, digging, digging, in long trenches, and very little work was done above ground. For Gary, unlike the town or city of normal growth, was built from the foundations up. Houses are always so constructed, but it is rarely that a town is built on this plan. In brief, all underground work - the laying of sewers, water pipes, gas mains, electric light conduits, etc. - was done first, and they were laid in what were to be the alleys. The men who planned and built, and are still building, Gary had no mind to have things torn up for any purpose whatever after the buildings were erected and the pavements laid. So they began at the bottom. Some work on the Grand Calumet River, the course of which had to be changed and straightened, was done during this time; three railroads began moving their rights-of-way, so that space for the plant might be left clear; and the dredging of the slip that was to run a mile inland was started. Then, when the underground work was far enough along, the building began.
Now let us see how rapid has been the construction of this magic city, for the rapidity of construction is one of the most amazing things connected with the enterprise. A wonderful city Gary is to be, a model manufacturing city, an attractive city, a city that in its government and individual ownership of business and residence property will be altogether unlike most made-to-order towns; but, in spite of all this, it is the speed with which it has been, and is being, built that commands first attention, and even this cannot be fully appreciated unless one considers the natural obstacles and the character of the buildings. The open-hearth buildings, for instance, are 1189 by 204 feet each, the blast furnaces have a daily capacity of 450 tons each, and virtually all the buildings of the plant are of mammoth size. Moreover, they require the very strongest foundations, so that it would ordinarily require as much time merely to put in the foundations as it would take to complete a building of less solid construction. Again, the temporary housing of the men to build the plant and town required some extra thought and labor, for they had to be carried through one winter without permanent shelter.
Although the plant and town are and will be under the same municipal jurisdiction, they are being built by separate companies, both subsidiary to the United States Steel Corporation, so it is natural and easy to consider them separately, and I shall take up the plant first the town being merely a necessary adjunct to the plant.
In August 1907, fourteen months after work was begun, I spent two or three days in Gary, and this was the situation: All underground work was completed, and the water-supply tunnel, extending two miles into the lake, was well out under the waves; the dredges that were making the slip had penetrated a quarter of a mile inland; breakwaters, to protect the slip, already extended some distance out into the lake; the main office building was occupied, although considerable work on the interior remained to be done; the finishing touches were being put on the machine shop, boiler shop, blacksmith shop, pattern and carpenter shop and storehouse; the foundations for the first open-hearth building were in and the iron work about sixty per cent completed; the work on the foundations were in and about seventy per cent of the iron work completed on the first group of four blast furnaces; work on the second group of four blast furnaces had been begun; the pumping station was about seventy-five per cent done; the foundations for the electric station were about half completed; twenty per cent of the foundations of the rail mill were in and the iron work was started; the electric repair shop and blowing engine for the first four blast furnaces were under construction; the foundations for the ore bins were in and construction work begun; one great ore unloader was nearing completion and others were being erected; and the foundations for the ore bridges were being put in.
On July 23, 1908, the steamer E. H. Gary, with the first cargo of iron ore for the plant, poked her nose into the slip, and thereafter the ore bins filled rapidly. On December 21, 1908, just about two and a half years after the first spade full of sand was turned up, the fire in the first blast furnace was started and steel-making actually began. [On January 13, 1909, it was reported that the first rail had been turned out at the new plant. - The Editor.] On that date the superintendent reported the following buildings completed: four blast furnaces, with boiler house, blowing engine house and gas-cleaning plant; electric power station, central pumping station, two open-hearth buildings, rail mill, locomotive house, foundry, and all shops, including machine shop, roll shop, boiler shop, blacksmith shop, carpenter and pattern shop, etc. The slip, with its ore unloaders and ore bins, had been in use for some time, and the main office building had been completed and occupied for many months. Buildings then under construction were four blast furnaces, with boiler house, blowing engine house and gas-cleaning plant; pig casting plant, billet mill and merchant mills. The departments in operation were one blast furnace, the foundry and all the shops, but the opening of other departments would follow naturally and quickly upon the beginning of blast furnace operations.
Turning from the plant to the town, one who knew what the site was originally finds a transformation quite as startling. While the town lacks the tremendous buildings that made the problem of the plant, it had many more structures of one kind or another to put up and many problems of its own to solve. The building of the plant within so short a time was unquestionably the greater undertaking, but somehow to find an attractive city of 15,000 population and accommodations for as many more under construction, with trees and lawns and every modern convenience, where there was nothing but sand and scrub-oak before seems more like modern magic than does the plant itself. True, much remains to be done, and you may step into a side street here and there that shows some of the former desolateness or that building operations still keep untidy; or you may wander into The Patch, of which I shall have more to say later, where the steel company has been unable to carry out the plans it made for the rest of the town; but, on the whole, you will be mightily pleased and even more astonished at what you see.
Gary has two hotels - one of them as perfect in its appointments as any that your can find in the country, - two banks, a newspaper, a wide street (Broadway) lined with stores and office buildings, an arcade building for the smaller shopkeepers, and many handsome residences. As a matter of fact, you can find almost any kind of a residence you may desire in Gary, excepting only the hovel and the palace; and they are all sightly and well constructed. I am not including The Patch in this description. Every man builds for himself in The Patch without the restrictions that are imposed on those who build elsewhere in Gary, and it naturally follows that The Patch has structures that would not be tolerated in other parts of the town, although it also has some that are well up to the standard.
Education, both secular and religious, received attention from the very beginning; the need of recreation was recognized and provision has been made for first-class amusements. There are already one large permanent schoolhouse and many temporary ones. The temporary schools, so made that they can be taken apart and moved from place to place, have been a feature of Gary since the commencement of building operations, and they, as well as the construction camps, have been moved as work progressed. A temporary structure to serve as a sort of universal church where all denominations have equal rights was erected, and permanent structures are to follow. Sites have been secured and the plans approved for several. The Episcopalians, in addition to their church, will have a building for social gatherings and entertainments, to be known as the Universal Club, and the Roman Catholics have secured sites and prepared plans for a church, a parochial school and a parish house. A Chicago manger has purchased a site and agreed to build a theatre that is to cost not less than $125,000. For health and recreation, as well as beauty, two parks have been laid out very near the heart of the town, one on either side of Broadway and but a short distance from that thoroughfare.
I have endeavored, in this, to give some idea of the marvelous transformation that has taken place in two and one half years, but it is so big a thing that it is difficult to grasp it in its entirety. The building of either plant or town alone in that time would have been a tremendous undertaking, possible only for a corporation having courage and unlimited resources, and to build them together just about doubled the magnitude of the task.
Now let us see why Gary was built, and, more in detail, how it was built.
The primary reason for Gary lies in the fact that the United States Steel Corporation needed additional facilities for making steel. The existing plants were not sufficient - at least, if they were sufficient for the moment, they would not long be equal to the demands made upon them. Some of these plants could be enlarged, but to enlarge them, in the opinion of steel men, would be merely to postpone for a brief time a problem that would have to be met and solved ultimately. Satisfactorily to provide for the future a plant was necessary that would have room to grow. That meant a new plant. Then, too, a new plant could be built with a view to utilizing improved methods of steel making, there being many innovations that could not well be installed in an old plant. A plant that was planned in its entirety, with a view to future needs, would have many advantages over a plant that, in both plan and construction, was of gradual growth. So there was an economic reason for Gary, aside from the mere need of additional facilities. Moreover, the center of steel consumption was moving steadily westward, and the question of freight rates on the finished product was a big item. Pittsburgh was too far east to handle the western business satisfactorily, and the western plants were not equal to it. So a new plant seemed to offer the only solution of the problem.
The new plant, for reasons stated, would have to be west of Pittsburgh, it would have to be situated where it would have ample railroad facilities for the shipment of its finished product, it would have to be where ore-boats could reach it, and it would have to be where the necessary land was not prohibitively expensive. To find unimproved property of sufficient extent that had all these advantages was no easy task, and it was a foregone conclusion that any such property would have many disadvantages.
The site of Gary certainly had the disadvantages as well as the advantages. There was absolutely nothing about it, except the advantage of location that was not a disadvantage, as I have already shown. Even the river was in the way, there were gullies that had to be filled in, there was no harbor and much of the plant would have to be built on made land where the waters of Lake Michigan then rippled. Many of the buildings already constructed, by the way, are on sites that were under water when the land was purchased. Yet this tract offered all the necessary advantages, the only thing lacking being cheap coal. Pittsburgh still has the advantage in proximity to a suitable coal supply, but this is more than offset by Gary's advantage in getting ore without a railroad haul.
The site being selected and purchased, then came the problem of building and building quickly. The plans made provided for a far greater plant than Gary will have for some time to come, the purpose being to arrange the buildings for the greatest convenience of operation and in such a way as to leave sites for future buildings were those buildings would fit properly into the general plan. In other words, the Gary of twenty-five or fifty years from now will be as perfect a plant as if it had all been built at one time. Not only can it grown, but it can grow systematically instead of in the haphazard way that most plants grow. All this was provided for in the original plans.
The work to be done was of such magnitude that no existing company was prepared to undertake it, in view of the time limitations. Consequently, the United States Steel Corporation found it necessary to build both town and plant itself. For this purpose it organized the Indiana Steel Company, to build the plant, and the Gary Land Company, to build the town. Subcontractors there are in plenty, of course, but they are of one or the other of these two companies. The subcontractors have merely undertaken to construct certain parts of the town or plant.
Involved in the building of the town, however, as distinguished from the plant, there was much more than the mere problem of construction. The steel company would own the plant, but it had no desire to own the town. Paternalism has wrecked many a made-to-order town, and the company desired to avoid even the appearance of paternalism. Naturally, the best way to do this would be to sell lots and let the purchasers do the building, but that plan was open to three objections: first, the town would not be built as rapidly as was deemed necessary, and houses for many of the workmen would be lacking when the plan was ready to open; second, comparatively few of the workmen would be financially able to build their own homes; third, if others were allowed to build for these workmen it would unquestionably lead to land speculation and soaring prices. So the steel company, through the Gary Land Company, had to do much of the building itself.
Building by individuals, with certain general restrictions, was encouraged in every possible way, and many unimproved lots were sold. In every case, however, the purchaser bound himself to build a residence of a certain standard, depending upon the location, within a certain time. Gary, it should be explained, is divided into districts, and you may not build a $2,000 cottage in a $5,000 district; your house must be up to the standard of that district. Further, you may not build more than one house at a time, but, having built, you must sell your house, and the company will then cheerfully sell you another lot and permit you to build again. One woman, having a good head for business, built and sold three or four houses in this way, and the company was glad to have her do it, for it helped materially in building the town. The company merely wished to prevent the wholesale speculation that would have followed if one person or one company were allowed to buy and build on a number of lots simultaneously. While this would assist in building the town rapidly, it might easily result in monopolizing for speculative purposes much of the best property and thus prove a serious handicap. The company was principally interested in getting the town built and populated quickly, and reasonable prices were essential to this purpose. The manager of the Gary Land Company informed me that the prices of lots had been arranged to cover merely the cost of the land plus the cost of improvements. Every lot in Gary, outside of The Patch, it should be remembered, carries with it all modern civic improvements, leaving no possible excuse for special taxation. Sidewalks, pavements, sewers, water mains, etc., are all included in the price, and it is certainly worth something to know that it does cover them all and that there will be no special assessments to add to the cost of the property.
Subcontractors did the actual building for the company. One might be given a contract for a hundred houses and another for two hundred, each according to his facilities for handling the job. It was not, however, a mere matter of making a certain number of duplicate houses, for individuality was desired. Many of the cheaper houses were duplicated, it is true, and there are widely separated duplicates of some of the more expensive ones, but every effort was made to avoid the sameness that is so noticeable in most made-to-order towns. Even when houses of the better class are substantially duplicates of each other, there are usually minor differences in the exterior that give them a somewhat different appearance. The company, of course, must rent where a man is unable or unwilling to buy, but it prefers to sell and gives every encouragement to those who wish to buy, this being in line with its determination to avoid paternalism.
In the business district the conditions are altogether different. A business man may reasonably be expected to provide his own capital and put up his own store or office building, so the company has done no more than erect two hotels and one bank building. Aside from that, it merely sells the lots, always with the stipulation that a building of a certain class shall be erected within a certain time and with certain other stipulations with regard to the sale of liquor. And that brings us to The Patch.
It was never the intention of the Steel Corporation to make Gary a prohibition town, but it was never its intention that it should become a saloon town, either. To this end it decided in advance just where liquor might be sold, and the deeds to all other property contain the stipulation that no liquor shall be sold on the premises. There is one large saloon, which dispenses beer principally, on Broadway, not far from the entrance to the plant, and there is a bar-room in one of the hotels. This was deemed sufficient for the immediate needs of the town. But, unfortunately, there was a miscalculation in the original plans for Gary, and it presently became apparent that more land was needed than had been acquired. A part of the desired land, having a frontage of six blocks on one side of the continuation of Broadway, could not then be purchased as acre property. Indeed, it could not be purchased at all for any price that the company was willing to pay, the owners preferring to subdivide and sell as building lots.
The land to the east and west and the land north and south the company acquired and could plane upon it such restrictions as it deemed wise, but The Patch, as this little tract was called, was independent. It was all the more independent because the control of the government of Gary was not in the hands of the Steel Company or its subsidiary companies, but was absolutely in the control of the workmen who were engaged in building the town and plant and such others as had been attracted by the opportunities that a new town always offers. In brief, Gary was ruled by transients - by men who would move on when the town and plan were finally constructed - and the majority of these men wanted beer and plenty of it. So The Patch flourished. Saloonkeepers flocked to it, boarding-houses were erected and a large part of the temporary population chose it as a place of residence.
What will happen to The Patch when Gary gets settled down to business is another question. The permanent residents are quite likely to take a different view of the liquor business, and The Patch may find its activities in that line sadly curtailed. But it has had things pretty much its own way so far. Speculation has been rife in The Patch also. There is a well-graded and stable scale of prices elsewhere, but The Patch is given to startling fluctuations, and prices generally rule higher than they do in other parts of the town. This is accounted for, in part, by the fact that there are not the same restrictions upon the use of the property. In effect, during construction The Patch has practically ruled Gary, the company being so little in control that the franchise for a street railroad that it wished to build, as a matter of expediency, was given to others; but Gary will ultimately rule The Patch and place upon it such restrictions and regulations as it thinks advisable.
In the meantime, the company has shown its attitude in the matter by isolating this district so far as possible. The opposite side of Broadway has been left unimproved, and the same is true of some other streets that divide The Patch from the rest of the town. It is so situated that it had to be included in the corporate limits, but it is safe to say that the property immediately adjoining it will be the last that the company improves. Then, too, it was compelled to lay its own sewers, water mains, etc., so lots purchased there have been, or will be, subject to special assessments from which lots purchased from the company are exempt. Nevertheless, in spite of these drawbacks, The Patch has flourished, and many of the buildings erected there, especially in Broadway, are quite up to the standard of the rest of the town.
To make Gary attractive and really habitable, it was indispensable that there should be trees and grass, and trees and grass were generally lacking. So, also, was the soil in which they would grow. An occasional tree was found, in some favored spot, that was worthy of preservation; but the town, as a whole, was barren, and this condition of affairs had to be remedied. It was a mere question of money, of course, and the company decided to spend about a million dollars in transplanting trees and giving the lawns a covering of rich soil. Much of this work is yet to be done, but the town already boats of four thousand transplanted trees and some beautiful lawns.
The future of Gary is something concerning which no man can prophesy with any accuracy. It had a population of 15,000 when the fire was started in the first blast furnace. The opening of other departments will double that population almost instantly. The completion of buildings now in course of construction will further add to it, and the blue-prints show many buildings that are not yet begun. In addition to this, provision has been made to accommodate various allied industries, and some of these have already purchased sites; all of which means more men and their families. The American Car and Foundry Company, the American Bridge and Iron Works, the American Steel and Wire Company are among these allied industries. Estimates as to the probable population, within the next few years, run from 50,000 to 100,000; so it is safe to predict that Gary, a sandy waste less than three years ago, will be a city of at least 50,000 inhabitants within a very short time. What it may be ultimately only a rash man would venture to guess.
The cost is another matter for speculation. The United States Steel Corporation is not exactly garrulous in the discussion of its financial affairs. And, even if it were, the figures could hardly be given with any exactness. Estimates run all the way from fifty million to seventy-five million dollars. It is said that fifty million was the basis upon which the company figured in making its plans, but, even then, this was considered in no sense a limit. Over twenty-five millions have been expended already, and the completion of the work now under way, without regard to future plans, will probably bring the total up to thirty-five or forty million dollars. And Gary will still be building for some years after that. Further these figures represent only what the Steel Corporation has spent and is spending, without regard to what other companies and individuals are doing, Virtually all of the business district of the town is being built by outside capital; so are many of the houses; and some of the railroads, in changing their rights-of-way and elevating their tracks, have been put to heave expense.
In concluding this summary of the history, to date, of the magic city it may be well to emphasize one point concerning which there has been misunderstanding: Gary is to be supplementary, not destructive. It is not to put any other plant out of existence. Rumors have been circulated at various times that certain other plants would be abandoned when that at Gary was finally in full operation; but this is no part of the plan. Gary was needed to take care of business that the other plants could not handle and to provide for the future. It is not, and never was intended to be, the biggest steel-making plant in the world or even in this country. The blue-print plans allow for an open-hearth and blast-furnace capacity at least equal to that of any existing plant; but it will be a long before all of this space is utilized. Work has not even been begun on four of the six open-hearth buildings provided for in the blue-prints, and the same is true of eight of the sixteen blast-furnaces. This statement seems to be necessary to correct a prevalent belief that Gary is to be, in the near future, the biggest plant of its kind in existence.
It is to be a model plant, however, with all the most modern labor-saving and money-saving appliances. Even the smoke and the gas from the great furnaces will not be allowed to go to waste, but will be used to generate electricity; and the electricity, in turn, will be used for light and power, most of the machinery that is ordinarily run by steam being run by electricity. Thus it will be possible to approximate a smokeless manufacturing city, which in itself is a noteworthy achievement.
Gary's claim to distinction, therefore, lies not in the magnitude of the plant but in its perfection and the rapidity with which it and the town have been built.
[Source: Putnam's Magazine, Vol. V, March, 1909, No. 6]