This marker, placed by the Indiana Historical Bureau in 2014, identifies the spot on Massachusetts Street in Gary where the Methodist-created John Stewart Settlement House once served thousands of people in need.
In the 1920s, when black laborers and their families were streaming north to seek jobs in the burgeoning steel industry of northwest Indiana, any organized assistance for African Americans was almost nonexistent. The shining exception was the humanitarian work provided by the Lexington Conference's Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church of Gary. Under a dynamic pastor, Rev. Frank S. Delaney, their initial efforts grew into a movement to build a "settlement house" to provide food, shelter, clothing, schooling, medical aid, recreation, and even legal advice to people drowning in an unfamiliar urban life-style.
The house, no longer standing, was designed by William Wilson Cooke, Indiana's first registered African American architect and a member of the Trinity congregation, who agreed to waive his fee. The namesake of the mission itself was a noteworthy person – John Stewart had been a free black convert to Christ who walked hundreds of miles on the way to discovering his calling to preach to the Wyandot Indians of Ohio. His ministry there established the field of missions for the Methodist Episcopal Church, and Stewart is honored as the first of the American church's missionaries.
The lot, left vacant when the house was removed, assumed a new ministry when the Christ UMC of Gary organized the Stewart House Urban Farm and Garden ministry. In season, the once empty lot became verdant with sustainable crops cultivated by volunteers, providing produce and poultry to the community.
In 2012 Dr. Katurah Johnson, then pastor of Christ Church, led a campaign to provide the historical marker. Funding came from the African American Heritage Fund of Indiana Landmarks and from United Methodist donors and others.
Read about the dedication of the marker.
GPS: 41 35 16.14, -87 20 07.79