Horace Mann School - Beloved and Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann School, once teeming with thousands of students, now sits abandoned and rotting, another monument to the lost prosperity of Gary, Indiana.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

I parked beside a crumbling brick apartment building in downtown Gary, Indiana. In the cold autumn morning a few people were still asleep in nearby cars, a cruel irony in a city with so many abandoned homes.

Across the street a sprawling abandoned high school filled the horizon. Like the breathtaking ruins of City Methodist Church, which I had explored the previous evening, Horace Mann School was a casualty of Gary, Indiana's shrinking population.

Several middle-aged couples walked laps along the track that stretched the length of the building.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

The school was enormous, with a capacity of around two and a half thousand students. It originally consisted of three main structures that were eventually joined together. The cornerstone of the central building was laid on November 8, 1926 and construction was completed in 1928.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

On the large plot of land in front of the school's main entrance, an existing ravine was transformed into a pond with several pedestrian bridges and a rock garden, giving it the appearance of a beautiful park. It was a popular location for picnics, fishing, and ice skating in the winter.

Historic photo of Horace Mann School with original pond
(image courtesy of http://www.horacemann49.com)
The school was named after Horace Mann, one of the most important reformers of the public school system. He believed that a free society cannot exist without equal access to education and that schools should not be aligned with any particular religious denomination. Though controversial at the time, his ideas eventually became widely accepted throughout the United States. Many schools have been named in his honor. 

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

In 1929 Horace Mann School had a student body of 870. By 1937, it increased to nearly 2400 students and 80 staff members. 

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

When enrollment grew to nearly 2600 in 1956, exceeding Horace Mann's intended capacity, the district decided to build an additional school on the southern portion of the property. John H. Vohr Elementary School opened in in 1958. Sadly, the pond was filled in to make room for a parking lot.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

When the steel industry declined in the '60s, the population of Gary began to shrink, as did the city's tax revenue.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

By 2003, Horace Mann High School had only 546 students, roughly a fifth of its capacity.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

The school closed in 2004 due to budgetary constraints and a greatly diminished student population. The final graduating class consisted of only 72 students. The neighboring John H Vohr Elementary School closed too in 2010.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann School was an impressive institution in its day with many amenities including two science labs,

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

a pair of swimming pools,

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

a large auditorium,


Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

and a robust physical education program that included two gymnasiums.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

An incredible amount of materials were left behind when the school closed.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

The science labs were fully stocked, though most of the artifacts have been looted or damaged.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

A cursory effort was apparently made to consolidate textbooks and other supplies, some of which were gathered around one of the swimming pools.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Rows of boxes filled with textbooks lined one side of the school's newer gymnasium.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Vandals set fire to some of them. Thankfully it did not spread.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

It seems unlikely that the building will ever be put to use again. Vandalism and the elements have taken a heavy toll. There is a great deal of water damage in the basement. The floor of the gym is so heavily warped from moisture that a large section of it has risen up and buckled.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Many online communities have formed, where alumni keep in touch with one another and share fond memories of their time at Horace Mann School. Please feel free to share any memories you have of this magnificent school in the comment section below.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

After Horace Mann School, I stopped to appreciate the ruins of another of Gary, Indiana's magnificent historical buildings, the Gary Public Schools Memorial Auditorium.

Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana

Thank you for checking out this article. If you enjoyed it, please share it on Facebook.

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Until then, feel free to read my previous posts about the incredible places I explored on my Epic Rust Belt Road Trip

I have many more photos of Horace Mann School than I was able to include here. I'll be sharing them on social media, so please follow the links below if you'd like to see more of this incredible abandoned place.

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Thank you!


Horace Mann High School Abandoned in Gary, Indiana


41 comments :

  1. Great post!
    I can't believe how they just "walk away" and leave ALL the stuff in these places.....books, lab equipment, everything.
    Must have been neat (and scary!) to see.

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    1. I couldn't believe it either. It especially surprised me that the science labs hadn't been cleaned out. I was disappointed that it had been so thoroughly ransacked, but after more than a decade of abandonment it isn't too surprising.

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    2. That really tugged at my heartstrings. They even left the trophies!

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  2. I actually graduated from Horace Mann in 1977. I can't believe I walked these halls. This is such a shame to witness, but Gary has closed many schools due to a lack of jobs for parents. RIP HORACE MANN you were once loved

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    1. I bet you have a lot of great memories of this school. It seems like it used to be top of the line. It's sad to see such a place left behind and everything inside it gone to waste.

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  3. Great story, it is a wonder how fast our modern buildings deteriorate.
    You got me searching the world (online) for similar sites

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    1. Thank you! It really is amazing that they fall apart so quickly, especially when moisture finds its way in.

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  4. Fantastic photos and presentation....great job Jim!

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  5. Another great job, Jim. I feel for the former student who posted above. While it saddens any reader, it must torture the one's who walked the halls.

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    1. Thanks! I feel for the former students too. It must be sad to see an important place from one's past in such a terrible state. I wonder if I will ever see my old high school abandoned like this.

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    2. I was a student of Horace Mann from 1986-1988 when my family moved out of state. This is truly heartbreaking. I even lived in a house 1 block down from the school, that was a very majestic building that called out to you. As an elementary student at John H. Vohr, I could not wait to attend Horace Mann. This is really sad.

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  6. Wow, this is sad. It must have been a great school once. Time marches on, I suppose.

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    1. It really is strange and sad to see a huge school gone to waste like this. I've heard it was a wonderful school back in its day.

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  7. This is magnificent!! It's so sad how people destroy what is left behind. Such a treasure to see....
    Would love to see some things around Washington State (my home town) and Colorado (Where I live now). Really enjoy your work!!!!!

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    1. Thank you, Debbie! I haven't done any exploring in Washington yet, but I hope I get the chance before too long. I've been to quite a few interesting abandoned places in Colorado. To read about them, check out the list or map on my "Places I've Been" page.

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  8. Always love your posts! It's awful to see so much destruction and graffiti, what is wrong with people? Sad that such an amazing place was left to rot. Can't wait to see where you go next!

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    1. Thanks, Misty! I hate to see so much graffiti and vandalism too. I'll never understand the impulse to destroy things for no reason. I'd rather leave them alone and witness the beautiful ways nature wears away at them over time. My next article will feature another of Gary, Indiana's beautiful crumbling historic buildings. There are so many interesting places to explore there.

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  9. Thanks for the eye-opening profile of another of Gary's institutions. As far as the vandalism and graffiti, I view it as part of the natural progression of abandoned places. The best scenario would be renovation/reuse, but when that doesn't occur and the building is left standing, people will go inside them (as you every explorer can attest). Many of us are there to look and document, but just as many are there to destroy, tag, or seek shelter. We can debate whether it's better to view a building rotting away due to nature's effects (preferably) or due to human destruction, but I think it distracts from the larger issues of economic collapse and abandonment. I look forward to more from your Gary trip, Jim!

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    1. You bring up a great point, Greg. Economic collapse is the most important issue. It really hit home when I saw the abandoned places of the Rust Belt firsthand. It was one thing to see it in pictures from the comfort of my home, but to walk around these cities and imagine what it is like for the people who live there was truly eye-opening. I hope we come up with effective solutions to the economic decline of these great cities soon.

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Thank you! I had no idea there were 21 abandoned schools there. Such a shame. I love it when there are a lot of artifacts left behind.

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  11. Elaine (Wilkins) HallFebruary 17, 2017 at 7:55 AM

    I attended school at Horace Mann from 1966-1970. I was there just last week to look for myself. I am not sad because she still stands, the auditorium and pools and science labs still hold our hearts, thank you so much for caring enough to photograph this for us

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    1. Thank you, Elaine. It must have been strange to see your old school in the condition it is now in. It's nice to know that it still holds the hearts and happy memories of its former students :)

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  12. I was born in Gary, Indiana. My immediate family moved to the east coast. Every year I was in Gary for the summer and Thanksgiving. Memories of Gary still resonates when speaking about "Old Gary". Miss the good old days.

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    1. I bet you've seen the city change quite a bit over the years. It's good to hear that you have such fond memories.

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  13. Princess Garvis (Scott)March 21, 2017 at 8:02 PM

    I am a graduate of Horace Mann...c/o '93. Born & raised in Gary, IN, though I've since moved. I walked these very halls, used these lockers, watched many presentations in this auditorium, used the Science Labs, as well as classrooms. I'm heart broken by it all, but the gym with the buckled floor brings tears to my eyes. I was a cheerleader all 4 years here. I cheered on this floor, & watched MANY games...I know the young men who are the Champions on the gymnasium wall. I had P.E. & swam in these pools...I have yet to see Horace Mann in its' ruins in person...I have to say, I don't know if I'm emotionally ready. Thank you for a WONDERFUL article.

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    1. Thank you for commenting. I'm glad to hear that you had so many happy memories of Horace Mann. It seems like it was a great school back in its day.

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    2. Yes! It was...

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  14. I graduated from Horace Mann. It was sad to see what has happened to that school There were actually 4 science labs. 2 on the first floor and 2 on the second floor. We were one of the few schools to have microscopes for each student. All the school city of Gary did was close the doors and lock it. All those computers, books could have been used by someone. Now of course they would be all outdated. This school has graduated lawyers, doctors generals, admirals, teachers and nurses. etc It was a great school at one time.

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    1. I didn't see the science labs on the first floor. They might have been so badly damaged that I didn't recognize them for what they were. It's such a shame that the books, computers and equipment were all left there when the school closed. Such a waste.

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  15. That was sad to see I went to Horace Mann I graduated from there in 83

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    1. I can't imagine how sad and strange it must be to see your old school like this.

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  16. I graduated in 2001. They had just laid that gym floor after I left...it was brand new. It's sad to see it in this state, and especially vandalized. I would have liked to see them take the trophies at least.

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    1. I was really surprised to see the trophies there too. People worked so hard to earn them and they were just left behind. I was amazed by the way the gym floor warped. I'd never seen anything like that before.

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  17. Great article, Jim. I work at the mill down the road from this old school and have always been fascinated by it. The history speaks for itself. The great Tom Harmon graduated here and later won the heisman at Michigan. The school has a huge alumni following and all share fond memories including teachers I had growing up in nearby Portage.

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    1. Thank you. The school is amazing and huge. It's strange to think that it sits unused after decades of shaping so many people's lives. I enjoy reading the comments and happy memories people have of this place.

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  18. It's sad a fire destroy the auditorium.

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    1. I hadn't heard about that. What a shame.

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  19. I wear my father's 1937 school ring. So much of Gary has fallen to ruin. Sad. . .

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    1. How neat that you still have his ring. Great 80-year-old artifact. I was shocked to see the condition of Gary. It's hard to believe a city could deteriorate so badly.

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