In the great heap of architectural detritus that makes up downtown Gary, Indiana, this small abandoned structure did not immediately seem striking. Marked “East Side Branch Library”, it sits amidst burnt-out houses and is itself entirely gutted. But I thought that my friend Gayle, who works at the New York Public Library and writes on urbanlandscaped, would enjoy some snapshots.
Upon closer inspection, the building revealed interesting details – open books carved above doorways, scrolls and flowers, a bare lightbulb dangling above a radiant sun with a book at its center. “Knowledge is Power” is inscribed above the shuttered door.
Most intriguing was the relief of two children immersed in their books below a picture window. With the boarded space above them they look as if they’re huddling in a cellar. In this wasteland, with their heads bowed under the weight of abandonment, all they have left to hide out with is their books. It’s the only scene on the building that does not show the sun.