Horace Mann High School

Horace Mann High School’s location in Gary and behemoth size have made it a well-established tourist destination and canvas for street art.

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Remember Superintendent William Wirt, the ambitious founder of Emerson High School? After its new program’s success, he decided to open four additional schools to match its red brick and classical white trim.   Froebel, Roosevelt, Wallace, and Mann were established within the next few decades.

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Horace Mann’s namesake revolutionized the public school system by declaring that education should be publicly funded regardless of a student’s sex or race.  Wirt himself appears to have had some motivation toward racial integration of the schools, but his execution was rather lacking.  History seems to show Wirt’s heart was in the right place with regards to racial integration, trying and failing to operate the schools under the “separate-but-equal” ideal.  Eventually, civil rights organizations began working toward full integration, leading to an incredibly tense situation among the students and faculty but ultimately sending Gary’s schools in the proper direction.
His plan for education, called Platoon or Work-Study-Play, cycled the students in “platoons” throughout the schools’ various classes and amenities, because he believed in ultimate efficiency: no part of the school should ever go unused, even during the summers.  The Gary Plan also focused on moving working class students through vocational programs, but this seemed to result in increased enrollment with decreased graduation.  [x]

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As we know, things started to turn sour in Gary when the steel plants started to shut down and people moved away throughout the 1960’s-1980’s.  Wirt’s elaborate, illustrious school buildings, each three story behemoths of classical architecture, no longer served the huge numbers of student enrollment of the first half of the 20th century. Of the five Wirt schools in Gary (Mann, Emerson, Wallace, Roosevelt, and Froebel), only Roosevelt remains open today.

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20 thoughts on “Horace Mann High School

    1. I never know why school districts choose not to auction certain locations, it seems like an easy way to raise money. There weren’t many artifacts left behind when we visited, maybe (hopefully), the equipment was distributed among the still open schools.
      Also, Lew Wallace had more stuff left behind in it than I’ve seen in a while! I’m saving that post for later 🙂

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  1. ITS SO HARD SEE TO MY OLD SCHOOL LOOKING LIKE THAT FOR YEARS I WISH I CAN GET MONEY AND REOPEN NO SUPPORT NO HELP GARY SCHOOL ITS SO JUST WRONG.

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  2. Ask the city to clean the buildings out and turn them into a street art exhibition! I have seen something similar in London. It was awesome and always changing. Actually did a street art tour while I was there. Very cool and great way to use otherwise abandoned urban – scapes.

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  3. Thank you those beautiful photos. I grew up across the street from HM. I also really love some of the graffiti inside. I would like to suggest having the city ? clean up the spaces inside and out & use the space for urban street art development. I saw something similar in London: taking vacant city scapes and allowing street art to flourish. It provides whole neighborhoods with a very vibrant, ever changing street art exhibit.

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    1. There are definitely some incredible pieces in there by well-known artists that people would love to see. As far as I know, the city of Gary allows individuals and media to purchase a sort of “all access pass” permit at city hall to photograph and film any city-owned (not privately owned) abandoned buildings like HM. I haven’t heard of any other area doing anything like this and I think it’s a great idea!

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  4. I am a proud 1969 graduate of Horace Mann High School. I am left with wonderful memories as a result of the friends I made in my classes, through numerous activities in which I participated, and having had the good fortune of being taught and mentored by many wonderful educators. It is very sad for me to see my once beautiful high school in such a poor condition.

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