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Mahencha Apartment Building

Mahencha Apartment Building

Location Class:
Built: 1928 | Abandoned: 1985
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: David Bulit

Mahencia/Mahencha Apartments

In 1927, the Mahencha Building and Realty Company was established with a capital of $40,000 by Charles Henry and William J. Maloney, and Patrick J. Kilroy. The four-story Mahencha Apartment Building was constructed in 1928 for $200,000 across from Horace Mann High School. Built with red brick and stone trimmings, the U-shaped apartment building featured a courtyard in the rear. It was designed in a combination of architectural styles, most notably the Italianate style with its low-pitched roof, asymmetrical square tower, and the central stairway with an “eyebrow” above it.

The apartments were built mainly to house U.S. Steel management and city officials. However, the building wasn’t as successful as the owners had hoped, and by 1938, creditors were breathing down their necks. Not too long after, the building was sold.

Mahencha Apartment Building
1946 Sanborn Insurance Map for Gary, Indiana. Library of Congress

One common tidbit usually tossed around is that former mayor A. Martin Katz once lived here. According to his son, Michael Katz, in an interview published in the September 29, 2013 issue of The Post-Tribune, he says his mother and father never lived there. In 1941, the newlywed couple put a deposit down, and their lease application was accepted, but they were told the next day that the apartment was no longer available.

Soon after, they saw an ad in the newspaper advertising apartments for rent at the Mahencha. They never received an explanation, but they knew it was because they were Jewish. A. Martin Katz would serve as Gary’s city judge from 1955 to 1963 and mayor of Gary between 1963 and 1967. Katz lost the Democratic primary in 1967 to Richard G. Hatcher, who would be the city’s mayor for the next 20 years and eventually own the Mahencha Apartments.

Mahencha Apartment Building
Judge Arthur Martin Katz and former mayor of Gary. 1967. Wirt High School Yearbook

Hatcher Apartments

Richard Gordon Hatcher and his wife purchased the Mahencha Apartments in 1978 and renamed it the Hatcher Apartments, even though residents still referred to it as the Mahencha. The Hatchers ran the apartment building for just six years before shuttering it.

At that time, the unattended structural issues had worsened, and Hatcher was either unwilling or financially unable to make any repairs. Residents reported water damage, mold issues, fixtures falling off the walls, and old wiring causing infrequent blackouts. These issues and a lack of profitability caused Hatcher to shut down operations in 1985. A former employee would later accuse the Hatchers of purposefully neglecting the property since they purchased it.

It was later reported that Richard Hatcher was not paying property taxes on multiple properties he owned in Gary, including two homes, several vacant lots, and the Mahencha. In March 1987, Hatcher acknowledged he had not paid taxes on the Mahencha in 1983, but this was due to an ongoing appeal with the city tax assessor and that the unpaid taxes would be paid with the proceeds. He also added that he had been unsuccessful in selling the property. By 1988, the tax bill on the Mahencha Apartments was well over $38,500.

The city of Gary would try to sell the property at the Lake County treasurer’s tax auction but was unsuccessful. In 1989, the Hatchers filed an injunction to block the city from seizing the property, citing their ongoing appeal with the tax assessor. The Hatchers later filed a lawsuit against the Indiana State Board of Tax Commissioners over the appeal. As the Hatchers were still unable or unwilling to pay their taxes on the Mahencha, the city was adamant about seizing the property and selling it at the next county auction.

Mahencha Apartment Building
Mayor Richard G. Hatcher of Gary, Ind., center, in 1979. Associated Press

The Abandonment and Decline of the Mahencha Apartments

While these disputes were happening behind the scenes, the Mahencha sat abandoned, where it became a home for the homeless. Drug abuse and prostitution were recurring problems, along with theft and vandalism. Windows were smashed, piping and other valuable metals were stripped from the building for salvage, and every fixture was removed.

Gary’s building code and enforcement department issued numerous $5,000 code violation fines, which were unpaid and added to the Hatchers’ growing bill for the city. The Hatchers initially tried fixing these issues by boarding up the building and sending out a crew to clean up the trash around the property, but a week later, the boards were pulled off, and trash littered the grounds once again. Eventually, the Hatchers stopped trying. By 1990, the Hatchers owed more than $56,000 in taxes and fines for the Mahencha. Despite the Hatchers’ appeals and the lawsuit, the city seized the property in the early 1990s.

Failed Renovation Efforts

In the mid-1990s, the city of Gary donated the property to the Horace Mann-Ambridge Neighborhood Improvement Organization (HMANIO) with hopes that the non-profit organization could renovate the building. After careful planning, it was announced in October 1997 that the newly renovated building would include nine one-bedroom units, 12 two-bedroom, and six three-bedroom units. And the first-floor units will be accessible to those with disabilities.

The renovation was estimated to cost $3 million and was slated for completion by December 1998. HMANIO was expected to receive low-income tax credits, a historic tax credit, and $750,000 in tax-exempt housing funds from the Redevelopment Commission through city-issued bonds. The funds were to be repaid with the monthly rental fees of the units. Unfortunately, the funding failed, and HMANIO’s plan fell apart.

In 1999, the Gary City Redevelopment Commission approved the sale of Mahencha to the Tree of Life Community Development Corporation. The new plan was to have 29 units ranging in size from one-bedroom to three-bedroom units, with a projected renovation cost of $3.4 million. The Tree of Life announced in 2000 that they would be repairing the roof, but the plan fell through when funding never came through.

In April 2001, the Gary Board of Public Works and Safety announced that $1 million in funding would come in. The Tree of Life announced they would use nearly $500,000 of their share to renovate the building, with construction planned to be completed by 2003. This plan also never materialized.


That was the last attempt at renovating the building. On April 6, 2021, firefighters responded to a fire at the 93-year-old derelict structure. When they arrived, the second and third floors were engulfed in flames. The building suffered excessive damage, leaving it entirely gutted. Two years later, in April 2023, the building was finally demolished as part of a larger effort to develop more areas in the city.

Mahencha Apartment Building
The Mahencha apartment building burns on the night of April 6, 2021.
David Bulit

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