Welcome to City Methodist Church
City Methodist Church, located in Gary Indiana, is one of the best known and most popular Midwest locations for Urban Explorers (UrBex), movie crews, indie films, music video shoots, and photographers. It's even been host to goth weddings and receptions! Not bad for a structure that's been abandoned since 1975, and is slowly crumbling.
Gary offers a plethora of buildings to explore, but it's best done in groups. If you're visiting a new building, go with someone who's been there before. They'll know where to park and how to get in. Rumors abound as to the safety - or lack or - in Gary.
Every resident of Gary I've met has been pleasant and helpful. The crime rate is actually lower than most areas in Chicago. Some people seem determined to give Gary a bad name. I've taken literally hundreds of people to Gary and never had a single problem. Would I walk in many areas of Gary after dark? No. But the same thing can be said about Chicago, Boston or any other large city.
So why all the abandoned buildings? When the steel industry crashed in the 1970's, Gary lost a massive number of jobs, and the city never recovered. The population is dropping, and as a direct result, sales and taxes, and loss of more business. It's a vicious circle. I encourage anyone visiting Gary to give something to the local economy, even if it's just purchasing gas. You'll find many fast food places, from Subway to McD's.
There are areas where it seems entire blocks are falling into decay. You'll have a row of pristine houses, transplanted out of any well to do suburb, boxed in by ruin. The main streets have shuttered businesses, often a dozen in a row. The remaining businesses sport steel bars and shutters. It's a city of contradictions. The area around city hall is beautiful - with the exception of an abandoned Sheraton Hotel that towers over everything in sight.
About the church: At nine stories, it's one of the more impressive gothic churches I've seen in the USA. It's inspiring, and so unusual in it's slow decay that it's been used in many movies, from "Nightmare on Elm" Street to "Transformers 3." On 7-29-2012 the crew of "Chicago Rot" (Indie film) was shooting here. In 2010, 24 different movies shot in Gary, many shooting scenes at the church. 2011 saw an estimated 50+ productions. Even parts of "Pearl Harbor were shot in Gary! The main part of the church and most impressive is the church sanctuary, the area where the congregation would worship. It's frankly amazing. Much of the stained glass remains, albeit high up and out of reach (especially from thrown objects.) The other huge open space is the theater. The chairs are gone, the stage collapsing, and it's stripped clean. But the stage remains.
The bulk of the building is taken up by classrooms, offices and ground-floor commercial space. You can explore all these areas, including the roof tops and basketball court. The basketball court is one of the more unstable areas, suffering frequent collapses. A recent collapse (June 2011) saw about 25% of the roof fall-in. The roof has numerous "soft spots" and large holes - I would not consider it safe.
The basement is an adventure in itself. There are several staircases leading down, but either rubble choked or slick with dust, mud, or garbage. The staircase near the stage is 95% clear and an easy climb down and up. The handrails are actually safe. You can't trust the hand-rails anywhere else - or walls for that matter (some are literally paper-thin), so you have to balance on your feet. Wear gloves. Look at all the staircases and pick the best. The basement is large, damp and clammy. Much of the floor is full of ankle-breaking debris. Several rooms are solid concrete, more of a bunker than basement, and are sometimes fog-filled. Under the Sanctuary you'll see the column bases and piles of rubble. The equipment room is a giant pool, flooded. The water is so clear it's literally invisible. I created a simple layout of City Methodist Church based on an aerial photo, here.
Bottom line - play it safe, don't explore alone, don't bring tools or spray paint.
I can go on and on, but many other sites have covered it all:
FYI, the address is 577 Washington St, Gary, Indiana so you can find it in your favorite map site!