Investigation underway into ‘heavy’ fire at historic Gary Emerson High School, site of 1927 student boycott

A fire broke out on Saturday evening at the abandoned Emerson High School in Gary, Indiana, causing severe damage. Firefighters arrived at the scene at around 9:45 p.m. to find flames spreading rapidly through the roof and attic due to strong winds. The fire was mostly extinguished by 3 a.m., with no reported injuries.

The Gary Fire Department, along with the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office, are now investigating the cause and origin of the fire. The school, which has been closed since 2008, has had a history of recent crimes, including shootings and other fires.

Emerson High School holds significant historical significance for the community. In 1927, the school was the site of a four-day student boycott, where Black students faced racist threats but eventually returned to the school. The building, which opened in 1909, is also known for being the birthplace of the modern educational system and for being the first school in the country to have a swimming pool.

Despite its historical significance, the property has been considered “uninhabitable” and has been unused since its closure. The fire department stated that there were no active utility connections to the building.

It is a devastating loss for the community, as many people have fond memories and significant connections to the school. The property was transferred to the Gary Housing Authority in December 2020, but its future remains uncertain.

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