The lakeshore in the Miller neighborhood of Gary, Indiana, including Marquette Park, has a long history of recreation, even before it officially became a park. The timeline below illustrates the evolution of Marquette Park.
1865 - 1920
The first road to modern day Marquette Park was constructed in 1865, when settlers first began populating the lakefront area. At the turn of the century, Octave Chanute flew gliders and biplanes off of the dunes in Miller Beach. Alice Mabel Gray, “Diana of the Dunes,” retreated to the dunes for a life of solitude. The area also attracted recreation seekers. Carr’s Bathhouse at the north end of Lake Street was the area’s most popular lakefront destination with bathing facilities, a dance hall, and beach cottages. In 1912, recognizing the recreational potential of the lakefront, City of Gary leaders assembled a committee to create a recreational area with access to the lakefront. After much discussion about how to secure lakefront property, U.S. Steel purchased 116 acres and donated the land to the City of Gary, setting the stage for what is now Marquette Park.
1920 - 2009
In the early 1920s work began on Lake Front Park including the leveling of the sand dune south of the future Gary Bathing Beach Pavilion (the current day Aquatorium). Construction on the Bathing Beach Pavilion continued through 1921 and the facility opened to the public on June 17, 1922. Following the construction of the Bathing Beach Pavilion was the construction of the Recreation Pavilion, completed in 1924. During the Great Depression, Works Progress Administration labor was used for improvements in the park. Also during this time, Lake Front Park was renamed in honor of Pere Jacques Marquette. A monument was erected in his honor in 1932. In 1941, the City of Gary purchased additional lakefront land northwest of the lagoon, extending to Lake Street.
During the last quarter of the twentieth century, Marquette Park fell into a period of disrepair. The Gary Bathing Beach Pavilion closed and was actually considered for demolition in 1971. In 1991 the Chanute Aquatorium Society formed and raised funds to rehabilitate the Aquatorium.
In January 2009, the City identified the need for the rejuvenation of Marquette Park and submitted an application to the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) for financial support. The Marquette Park Lakefront East Master Plan was made possible when the City of Gary was awarded, in June 2009, a grant for $28,190,000 from the RDA for planning, design, engineering, and selected capital and operational improvements.
Capital improvements laid out in The Marquette Park Lakefront East Master Plan, provide access to and circulation within the park, preserve and strengthen the park’s natural features, provide new recreational and educational amenities, and restore the park’s signature historic facilities. Collectively, these improvements will help re-establish the park as one of Northwest Indiana’s premier lakefront destinations and enhance the quality of life and park experience for Gary and Northwest Indiana residents.