Miller Beach, Part 1: Introduction

This is part of a series of blog posts about community history, urban planning, and the built environment in the Miller Beach community of Gary, Indiana, publishing in 2023 and 2024.

After several shorter visits over the years, I recently spent a full day photographing Miller Beach, a lakefront neighborhood of about 9,000 people in Gary, Indiana. There is much to say about Miller Beach - it's Gary's only meaningfully racially integrated neighborhood (crafted from a community that was once violently hostile toward Black visitors), it's by far the wealthiest part of the working class city, it has a long and complex history as a resort area for Chicagoans... through dozens of photos spread across many posts in the coming months, I'll discuss some of those histories in detail.



Architecturally, Miller Beach is fascinating. Since the early 1900s, the area has witnessed several waves of residential construction on different scales. Its midcentury dwellings, including custom homes from notable firms like Keck & Keck, have begun to receive preservation attention in recent years. But Miller Beach's later postmodern and contemporary homes are largely externally undocumented as of yet. This stems from Gary's relatively quiet role in the annals of Midwest architecture history, from poor availability of municipal construction records, and from the simple fact that many recent Miller Beach homes are still occupied by their original owners and have therefore never entered sale or rental markets. Adding to these challenges, major mapping services have not fully surveyed the neighborhood with their camera cars in years. Dozens of notable dwellings have been erected since the last thorough Street View pass in 2008, for instance.


The unusual concrete-clad beachfront home seen here, the more traditional home next to it, and the dark metal-sided one in the foreground are all new since the last time Street View came through. I've only been able to attribute the first of the three to an architect - DeSalvo Florian Architects made it easy on me by titling the project "Miller Beach House". I also don't know who designed the new home under construction in the second photo. Many of the attributions I'll make in upcoming Miller Beach posts are because of conversations with local residents, rather than from fruitful research of my own.