Marker recalls IUN hall as 'symbol of hard work, fellowship'

By Steve Euvino, Times Correspondent

GARY — Tamarack Hall no longer stands on the campus of Indiana University Northwest. All that remains are memories of the building that once housed the entire regional Gary IU campus.

Faculty, staff, students and friends of IUN gathered Thursday to recall Tamarack Hall and dedicate a marker recalling the building that stood from 1959 until its demolition in 2012.

IUN Chancellor William Lowe noted that even in its absence, Tamarack Hall serves as a "symbol of hard work and fellowship."

The marker, embedded in Indiana limestone, the same building material used for Tamarack Hall, outlines the structure’s history. The city of Gary donated 26.5 acres in Gleason Park for a regional extension of Indiana University. Finished in 1959, the Gary Extension Center, also called "Gary Main," housed all campus facilities. These included classrooms, science labs, administrative and faculty offices, library, bookstore, lounge and a 600-seat theater.

The $2.4 million facility opened in May 1959, attracting 1,750 students in its first year.

In what became a local cultural center, Tamarack hosted IU’s first regional campus theater production in 1961. Six years later, Gary conferred 112 degrees, becoming the first IU regional campus to host a commencement ceremony.

In addition to Theater Northwest, Tamarack Hall hosted art exhibits and other cultural displays. A 65,000-square-foot addition to the hall was built in 1966.

With the inauguration of IU's regional campus system in 1968, Gary Extension Center became IUN. In 1977, the building became Tamarack Hall, named for a coniferous tree common to the area and often used by Algonquin Indians for making snowshoes.

Catastrophic flooding in 2008 spelled the end for Tamarack Hall, which was demolished four years later. In 2017, IUN dedicated its new $45 million Arts and Sciences Building, continuing the regional campus’ commitment to arts and culture.

Prior to the opening of Gary Extension Center, local IU classes were held in Seaman Hall at City Methodist Church in downtown Gary. On May 18, 1959, a parade of IU staff and students proceeded south on Broadway to the new Glen Park location.

James Capshew, IU historian, cited the post-World War II growth that spurred the development of regional campuses. The Gary center, he said, became "a symbol, a beacon of education in Northwest Indiana."

Susan Zinner, president of the IUN Faculty Organization, recalled the campus after the 2008 flooding. Through information technology and communications, faculty and staff were able to resume classes two weeks following the flooding.

Zinner said that experience showed staff that technology would be "a big part of our future."

Lowe noted that although Tamarack Hall is gone, the ongoing building at the Gary campus reflects the school’s commitment to continuity and change.

The demolition of Tamarack was a sad occasion, Zinner said, but continuing changes on campus show that "IUN will continue to survive and thrive."

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