From the East Chicago Series.
Throughout East Chicago, an eerie sense abandonment hangs in the air like the billowing clouds expelled from the refinery itself. Anywhere you walk in downtown East Chicago, the BP refinery is in view. The smell of oil sticks to you on a hot summer day. Most stores are boarded up or are long gone. Tracks from revved-up u-turns scar the empty parking lots.
The BP Whiting refinery looming over Marktown and surrounding areas offers residents a “fair” market value for properties – around $30,000 or less.Originally built to house steel workers in 1917, today just 25% of the homes in Marktown are occupied. Remaining houses are abandoned or have been bought and demolished by BP.
Still, within this struggling urban landscape some spaces are still bustling.
The many churches found in East Chicago are full on Sundays. Here is where people have a place and a purpose. The New Mission Of Jesus Christ Church in East Chicago provides support and a sense of community. In addition to their religious services, The New Mission also runs a community kitchen to assist neighbors who have fallen on hard times.
Marktown has escaped destruction twice, in the 1950’s and the 1970’s, before it earned its historic landmark status. There was even a Marktown Revitalization Plan published in 2008. Less than a decade later, as the Mayor of East Chicago offers residents incentives to move elsewhere, it looks as if the third time it will not be so lucky.