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Aquatorium FAQ

Twenty Questions about the Aquatorium

1. What is an Aquatorium anyway?
An Aquatorium is a place where one goes to view water. Admittedly, The Society made up that word so that people would stop thinking of the structure as a bathhouse. It may seem like an odd word now, but when Chicago renames Navy Pier " The Chicago Aquatorium," you will be able to say you heard it first.

2. So it's not a bathhouse anymore?
The Gary Bathing Beach Bathhouse ceased to function in 1970. Since that time the need for bathhouses has shrunk with the size of bathing suits. The Gary Bathing Beach Aquatorium is a place to view water, host family reunions, attend a violin recital, get married or view an art exhibit. It will be a place to view the history of Octave Chanute, in particular, and aviation in general.

3. Are those wooden stairs permanent?
Many of you who've visited the Aquatorium and noted the wooden railings on the staircases going up to the second level wonder if this represents a permanent situation. The answer is definite " No." The wooden handrails were erected when The Society opened the Aquatorium to the public on July 24, 1991 and will be removed during the process of reconstruction. The handrails were necessary to make the staircase safe for entry and will be replaced with concrete structures similar to the originals.

4. Why isn't it done yet?
The reconstruction of the Aquatorium is being done without tax dollars. This project began about 15 years ago. Since then, The Society has reopened the building to the general public, re-electricalized the building, added a new balcony, saved the roof from further destruction, built the Tuskegee Wing and secret garden, replumbed the building with new sewers, built a new sidewalk system, completely refinished the second floor and much more.

5. What about security?
The Aquatorium is open 24 hours a day, to whomever may wish to use the facility. The Society only asks that you use it carefully and leave it cleaner than you found it. If you have a special event that you wish to conduct at the Aquatorium, make arrangements through Jan at (219) 938-1986. In the years since the Aquatorium has been opened, vandalism and damage has been minimal. Let's all do our part, because this is the community's building and it belongs to all of us.

6. Is the Aquatorium just a monument to Octave Chanute?
In addition to honoring the memory of Octave Chanute, the Gary Bathing Beach Aquatorium has a special section dealing with black aviators and their contribution to the age of flight. Quentin Smith, secretary of The Aquatorium Society is a member of the Tuskegee Airman and part of living history.

7. Is it more than just a monument to aviation?
With the renovation of the Aquatorium, The Society will be participating in the rebirth and re-invigoration of the Gary community. The original building was built at a time when the City was young, wealthy and full of boundless energy. Today, The Society is meeting the challenge of renewing that spirit in Gary.

8. How can you help?
The Society is an all-volunteer organization. It has no paid staff. The Society board members actively participate with their time {and indeed their money}. Contact The Society at 613 South Lake Street Gary, IN, 46403, or call at 742-6456. They'll let you know what you can do to help.

9. Does it matter if we save this building?
The Gary Bathing Beach Aquatorium represents the heritage of Northwest Indiana just as whales represent our natural heritage. If the throwaway society throws everything away, including its natural setting and its man-made heritage, it shall assuredly throw itself away.

10. Is this an environmental issue?
Oddly enough, tearing down old building and building new ones, instead of repairing the old buildings, is an environmental issue. Research on landfills in the United States has determined that construction materials are the number one materials found in landfills. If we could learn to recycle our buildings instead of destroying them, we could significantly reduce the necessity of building additional landfills.

11. If I go to the Aquatorium will I learn anything?
At the present time, even though the museum portion of the Aquatorium is still in the planning stages, there are graphics throughout the building that will tell you about the history of the building, Chanute's flight, the City of Gary, and The Society. You are welcome to come and view the structure night and day. By special arrangements, you can view The History of The Tuskegee Airmen in the Tuskegee Room. Just call 219-742-6456.

12. If I don't have $100 can I still be part of The Society?
Of course. A $20 contribution to The Society makes you an Associate Member, and puts you on our mailing list. Moreover, contributions to The Society are cumulative. Therefore, if one were to contribute $20 per year, in five years one would be a full-fledged member.

13. Are there benefits in being a Society member?
Knowing that you are part of the solution and not part of the problem.

14. Why was the building allowed to deteriorate?
To quote Maya Angelou, "The past, no matter how painful cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."

15. What is special about the construction?.
Although from a distance the Aquatorium looks like a cast concrete structure, when you get up close the details can be fairly amazing. As an example, view the photographs that appear in the pages of this section and surely you cannot deny the beautiful detail the Aquatorium contains.

16. What is a lintel?
Above the openings in the Aquatorium are pieces of the cast concrete known as lintels. The deterioration over the past 85 years has damaged most of these lintels. During this summer construction season, the lintels that are in danger of falling will be removed. The lintels on the southeast corner {where a new/old balcony has been installed} will be restored. The Society invites all interested parties to drive by and watch the progress.

17. Will anyone come to Gary to see an Aquatorium?
Every year, several million people come to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Dunes State Park and related facilities. The growth in use of Gary's Marquette Park has increased steadily during the last decade. If we rebuild it, they will come!

18. When is the best time to visit the Aquatorium?

19.How can I contact the Aquatorium Society?
Call 219-742-6456, Email

20. How can I help the Aquatorium Society?
Click here to find out more!