Marktown, dubbed one of the “seven wonders of Northwest Indiana,” is best known for being the only town in North America where the cars park on the sidewalks and the people walk in the streets. It was featured on “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” for this reason, but this former company town also has a rich and interesting history.
Built in 1917, the neighborhood was designed by noted Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw in the English Tudor Revival style, with all but three of the original 200 residential homes built with a stucco exterior. The idea was to create quality worker homes for employees of Clayton Mark’s steel pipe manufacturing firm, encouraging them to stick around and stay with the company.
While the original plan called for 28 sections to be built, only four sections were completed. Construction stopped after World War I, when Mark Manufacturing was sold. The open lands where the additional homes, a high school, and other amenities were to be constructed were eventually filled in with steel mills.
Due to the proximity of Marktown to the surrounding the steel industry, as well as the nation’s first and largest inland oil refinery, Marktown has been referred to as “The Brigadoon of Industrial Housing, rising out of the mists of industry every few years.”
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the community, though its future is in doubt, as industrial giant British Petroleum is taking over the area and tearing down homes to make green space. Even though Marktown was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, that status does not stop private owners of buildings in the district from selling to companies looking to plant grass on the plots.
Marktown has survived previous threats to its existence in the 1950s and 1970s. There have been recent revitalization efforts, and some properties have landmark easements that should help protect them, but the diverse community is still worried it won’t last another hundred years. See it while you can, folks.
Know Before You Go
Walking and driving tour maps are available online at www.marktown.org.
North on Indianapolis Blvd. from I80/94 to Riley Road or 129th Street. Turn Right and you will be there in but a few minutes. If you are coming out of Chicago, try the Skyway Bridge and exit on Indianapolis Blvd. From here head south to 129th Street or Riley Road. Turn left onto either street and Marktown will be just ahead. As you approach the neighborhood you will notice the heavy industry and oil works. Don't turn back as we are nestled in their mists.