Mahencha Apartments

Located across from the Horace Mann High School, the 4-story Mahencha Apartments building was constructed in 1928 was considered at the time, one of the most prestigious places to live. The apartments were built mainly for city officials and U.S. Steel management. Despite urban legend, former Gary mayor A. Martin Katz was never a resident here. His son though, Michael Katz, was set to live here but was rejected because he was Jewish.

By the 70s, the conditions of the structure had declined but that didn’t stop former Gary mayor Richard Hatcher and his wife who purchased the Mahencha Apartments in 1978. The apartments were renamed to the Hatcher Apartments and would operate under that name for just six years. The Hatchers never bothered to put any into the building, either because they couldn’t or because they just didn’t want to.

The already deteriorating conditions worsened throughout these few years. Residents dealt with power issues due to faulty wiring, mold issues, water damage, and fixtures falling off the walls. These issues coupled with the financial issues forced Hatcher to shut the building down in 1984.

Reports surfaced indicating that Richard Hatcher hadn’t paid any taxes on multiple properties around Gary, including the Mahencha. In 1987, he admitted that he hadn’t paid taxes on the building since 1983, but said it was due to an appeal he had with the city tax assessor and that the taxes would be paid in full once the building is sold. He later admitted that he had tried selling the property with no luck.

Abandoned and falling apart, by the 90s, the building was rife with new issues: homeless squatters, drug addicts, thieves, vandalism, and prostitution. Wiring and pipes were ripped from the walls, windows were busted, and fixtures were destroyed.

Code enforcement issued numerous $5,000 fines due to code violation which also went unpaid along with all the unpaid taxes Hatcher already owed to the city. Hatcher tried at first by boarding up the building and having a crew sent out to clean up the trash around the property. By the following week though, the boards were already ripped off and trash littered the premises. He eventually stopped trying. With more than $56,000 owed in unpaid taxes and fines, the city had enough and seized the property in the early-90s.

The upcoming years would have many plans come about to renovate and reinvigorate the ailing structure, but they would all fall through. In the mid-1990s, the city of Gary donated the property to the Horace Mann-Ambridge Neighborhood Improvement Organization (HMANIO) whose plan was to renovate the building and would include 27 bedroom units in varying sizes from one-bedroom to three-bedroom apartments. Construction was estimated to be completed by December 1998. Estimating to cost $3 million, HMANIO was expecting to receive low-income tax credits, a historic tax credit, and $750,000 in tax-exempt housing funds from the city’s Redevelopment Commission. The funds never came through as they had planned and the whole project fell apart.

In 1999, the Redevelopment Commission approved a sale of the building to the Tree Of Life Community Development Corporation. Their plan was very similar to the previous with a renovation cost estimated at around $3.4 million. In April 2001, it was announced that Tree of Life was to receive $1 million from the Gary Board of Public Works and Safety. They had initially planned to begin repairs on the Mahencha starting with the roof, and that construction was estimated to last 12-18 months, with the apartments re-opening by 2003. This plan also fell through due to the funding never materializing.

Today, the building sits in silence awaiting another developer to come around with hopes of actually renovating it. As with many buildings left in such a state, time is of the essence and unless something is done, it’s not long until the Mahencha meets its demise.

Pendleton-Graves House

Commonly referred to as the Pendleton-Graves House, it was built in 1815 by Thomas Whaley in the Plantation Plain style or I-house, an architectural style which is quite common throughout the Southern United States and described as being two rooms wide and one room deep. In 1853, the home was purchased by Edmund Monroe Pendleton, who expanded the home to accommodate his large family. The grandnephew of 1st Chief Justice of Virginia Edmund Pendleton, he was born in Eatonton, Georgia in 1815. He began his formal education in local private schools but left after only a few years due to his family’s financial misfortunes. 

Pendleton went on to co-own a jewelry store in Columbus, and then later ran a business with his cousin in Macon. Here, he found a chemistry textbook which was his introduction to science and developed an interest in medicine. He began studying in the office of a local doctor and then became an apprentice to a local pharmacist. In 1833, he enrolled in the Medical College of South Carolina in Charleston and graduated in 1837. He moved to Sparta where he practiced his profession and became a prominent figure in the development of agriculture and agricultural science in the South.

He developed the Pendleton formula for the manufacturing of fertilizer and what we still use today, and was the first to use animal matter as plant food. Along with his son, William Micajah Pendleton, they were the first to grind down cotton seed cake into meal and use it as an ingredient in the manufacture of fertilizers. Pendleton was also the first to observe that phosphoric acid and nitrogen were exhausted from the soil by cereal and cotton cultures. Pendleton became a professor at the University of Georgia where he authored Scientific Agriculture with Practical Deductions, a textbook used extensively by colleges and schools. He died on January 26, 1884, and is buried at the historic Oakland Cemetery located in the center of Atlanta.

A postcard for the home of Mrs. Richard Augustus Graves, postmarked 1913. Courtesy of the Sparta-Hancock County Historical Society

In 1880, the home was purchased by Richard Augustus Graves, who expanded the house and gave it its Victorian appearance. Graves moved to Sparta from Augusta and engaged in the mercantile business, before opening the town’s first commercial bank in 1887. The Bank of R.A. Graves moved to another building located on Broad Street in 1889, which still stands today. A couple of years later, he would go on to start Sparta’s first real estate agency. He held the office of Vice President of the Georgia Bankers’ Association on several occasions and at the time of his death, was chairman of the Hancock County commission. On December 27, 1901, Graves died in his home and was buried at Sparta Cemetery. At the time of his death, an article in the Atlanta Constitution described him as “a man of large wealth and prominence and was one of the best known and popular men in the county”. 

The house was purchased in 1989 by Nancy Stephens from the attorneys handling the Graves estate for $30,000, including the Graves barn next door. According to her, the Pendleton-Graves house was vacant for 15 years before she bought it and folks in town were complaining about the condition of the house. It was full of lizards, king snakes, and ticks when she first moved in, and promptly caught Rocky Mountain spotted fever and was bedridden for the next 6 weeks. Stephens removed the old calcimine paint and repainted the exterior and most of the interior of the house. Along with a new coat of paint, a new roof was added in 1992, fixing the leaks it had at the time. During the restoration work, she also found old letters from Pendleton behind the walls dating back to 1834. After her retirement in 1993, the house was sold and since then, it has changed hands plenty of times without any of the owners doing any further restoration work, leaving the property in disrepair. 

St. Nicholas German Catholic Church

Postcard depicting St. Nicholas School, 1910s

Later known as St. James Temple, this German parish was constructed in 1890 and designed by William J. Brinkmann. Brinkmann was born to German immigrants and raised in Chicago where received his architectural training at the firm of Burnham and Root. After furthering his architectural knowledge in Europe, he settled down in California where he designed homes for political and industrial notables such as Ulysses S. Grant Jr.

After returning to Chicago, he made a name for himself designing chirches, among them being St. Michael Church, Walsh Hall as part of the University of Notre Dame, St. Josaphat Church, Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica where he was one of three architects involved in its design, as well as the Mausoleum of the Bishops and Archbishops of Chicago in Mount Carmel Cemetery. 

Brinkmann died in a gruesome way; his mangled and decapitated body was found on train tracks in February 1911. Even though his death remains unsolved, it is theorized to have been suicide. 

St. Nicholas Church closed in 1973 when four parishes in the Roseland area were consolidated into All Saints parish, including All Saints, Holy Rosary, St. Louis of France, and St. Nicholas. After sitting empty for decades, residents began filing complaints to the City of Chicago as far back as 2018 in regards to chunks of the facade which had fallen off the building. At the time, a live demolition order was postponed since the church was being considered for landmark status. Unfortunately, the church was demolished in August 2019.

Using Format