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Lovell's Barber College | Photo © 2020 David Bulit

Lovell’s Barber College

Location Class:
Built: 1915 | Abandoned: 2011
Historic Designation: African American Heritage Site
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: David Bulit

Lovell Amison, Founder of Lovell’s Barber College

Lovell’s Barber College was started by Lovell Amison, who was born in 1912 to Pearlene and Willie Amison in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He came to Gary, Indiana, at an early age, and it was there that he met Zelda Laverne Perkins. The two married in 1953 and had one daughter together, Sheryl Denyce Amison, along with his stepson, Charles Banks, and two stepdaughters, Laverne Dillard and Charlene Fulton.

Lovell opened the first Barber College in Northwest Indiana in 1959. Although he was a well-liked barber in the region, he found it difficult to operate his business. He felt he was being discriminated against by the Indiana State Board of Barber Examiners since they denied barber shop licenses to his staff and students.

Lovell was also a fierce boxing fan who loved attending boxing events. His wife died on March 23, 2002, and he soon followed on August 2, 2003. Their daughter Sheryl, who worked at Lovell’s Barber College for over 23 years, died in 2006.

The Former Gary Federal Savings & Loan Association Building

The former Lovell’s Barber College building, built in 1915 at 1700 Broadway, was formerly known as the Gary Federal Savings & Loan Association building. It was located right next door to the former American State Bank, another banking institution. During the 1940s, a post office occupied the building. Lovell moved his college into the building when Gary Federal Savings merged with Citizens Financial Bank in 1983.

After its closure, the building was briefly occupied by Platinum Barbershop and Jenia’s Salon around 2009 but closed by 2011. Over the years, the lettering, which read “GARY FEDERAL SAVINGS & LOAN ASSOCIATION,” was removed for safety, and portions of the facade had fallen apart.

Lovell’s Barber College
1945 Sanborn Insurance Map for Gary, Indiana. Library of Congress
Fire During’s Its Rehabilitation

On October 9, 2020, contractors were working on the roof as the building was being converted into office space when a fire erupted, heavily damaging the second floor of the building. The owner, Vanessa Braxton, initially planned to open the building in March 2021 to include a medical office, a mobile phone store, 15 office suites, a conference room, and a virtual office for small business owners. Braxton said the basement and first floor were still usable despite the damages, and a new plan would be drawn up.

Lovell's Barber College
Lovell’s Barber College student Avery Knight discovers that some customers are not as willing as others as he cuts Albert Clay’s hair. 1995. The Times
David Bulit

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