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Roosevelt High School in Northwest Indiana on national endangered list

National Trust for Historic Preservation lists Gary, Indiana on Most Endangered Historic Places list
National Trust for Historic Preservation lists Gary, Indiana on Most Endangered Historic Places list 01:01
Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana, was built in 1930.  Tiffany Tolbert

Roosevelt High School, a pillar of the Black community in Gary, Indiana, that has fallen into disrepair after closing five years ago, is on the 2024 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. 

Since 1988, The National Trust for Historic Preservation has issued an annual ranking that spotlights significant sites of American history at risk of destruction or irreparable damage.    

Theodore Roosevelt High School,  730 W. 25th Ave., was one of three high schools in Indiana built specifically to serve the educational needs of Black Americans in the Jim Crow era, the group said in a news release.

The school, designed by architect William B. Ittner, was built in 1930 following large-scale protests by white students when the school corporation attempted to integrate Emerson High School racially. 

Built in 1930, Theodore Roosevelt High School is one of only three Indiana high schools built specifically for Black students in the Jim Crow era.  

Among the notable alums are Olympic boxer Charles Adkins, CBS reporter Emery King, NFL player Gerald Irons, actor Avery Brooks, Vee-Jay Records owner Vivian Carter, and members of The Jackson 5. 

The school, which had experienced declining enrollment and a lack of maintenance, closed in 2019 when the heating system failed, causing water pipes to burst. 

"This architecturally significant building that once was a center of community life is now sitting unoccupied and vulnerable to crime, vandalism, and arson, which has impacted other vacant structures across Gary, including other historic schools." the trust said. 

The high school was a mass vaccination clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health officials selected the location based on its proximity to many high-risk Hoosiers and because Gary lagged behind the rest of Indiana in vaccinations.

A coalition including the Gary East Side Community Development Corporation, National Gary Theodore Roosevelt Alumni Association, Indiana Landmarks, and other key partners are exploring feasible reuse strategies for the complex now that it will no longer be used as a school. The trust said repair costs are estimated at least $20 million. 

"I'm excited that I was a graduate of the class of 1983 from Roosevelt. I look forward to making this historical landmark a success. We will be having meetings soon to start talking about what plans we have in store. And Roosevelt will be up and running again," said Gary Councilwoman Linda Barnes-Caldwell.   

On Tuesday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation released its annual list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

Repair costs are estimated to be at least $20 million.

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