The Mann Cave

Author Axle - Last updated: 07.09.2017

Good Morning! It’s been some time since I was out here, and just out exploring in general. Work and life, got busy, but I finally had a chance to get back out to Gary. My partner and I caught wind of this amazing high school and after some checking from our hotel a few miles away, headed out before the tornadoes came through the area (we were fine).

First the history.

The Horace Mann High School in Gary, Indiana was built over the course of seven years, opening its doors in 1928. Built to serve the community that once housed the families of the executives of US Steel in the prestigious West side of Gary, the school’s fortune was tied to that of the city as a whole. Named for the eduction reformation advocate Horace Mann who forwarded the idea of public funding of schools and education for all regardless of race or creed. The school operated with high enrollment through the early to mid 20th century, the school’s population peeked in the 1950s serving up to 2,500 students. However the next decade would see the crash of steel industry and the ‘white flight’ from Gary, and the general downturn of the fortunes of the city. By 1965 the school had shifted entirely to High School students only (an elementary school had been built on the outskirts of the campus). Despite the drop in population through the later half of the 20th century, the school built a new gym in 1985 to improve the intramural sports capabilities of the school, along with a new cafeteria, and shops. It did little to help, enrollment had fallen to just over 1,200 students and 55 teachers. The numbers would continue to fall. By 2002, the schools of Gary were showing their age and there had been no new schools constructed. Mann was nominated for closure, enrollment now at 550 students, the hammer fell in 2004.

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The place is huge, we did a quick drive around to see if there were any obvious access points. Sadly none caught our eye, so we parked on a side street and proceeded in on foot. Again, all the doors were locked, bolted, and welded shut. So much for the obvious. Also all the ground floor windows were boarded up. But eventually we found a "Mission:Impossible" style way inside. Our first order of business was to find the main auditorium.

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It was cold inside, much colder than the temperatures outside. But we had warm coats on, but there was moisture everywhere. The place had sure taken a turn for the worse (like many buildings) in the nine years it had been shut down. Not to mention the amount of vandalism that we found, probably why all the obvious entrances were sealed. It was almost like the city didn’t want us inside.

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But the school reminded me why I got into the hobby in the first place, it was all very ‘life after people’ as if a bomb had just gone off, and vaporized all the people, and just left the stuff behind. But if the site was anything, it was big! We maybe saw a half to three quarters before we had to leave.

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Nikon D300 – AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm 1:2.8G

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