2300 Jackson Street: The humble origins of a musical dynasty

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Today we explore the musical home of the Jackson family in Gary, Indiana. 

Gary, Indiana may have a population of over 70,000, but it is still a ghost town. Over one-third of all the buildings are abandoned. Crime is up, and employment is down. But it wasn’t always like this. From the 1930’s to the 1960’s Gary was booming. It is here in January 1950 that Joseph Jackson and his wife Katherine bought a small house at 2300 Jackson Street. (called merely 23rd Street at the time)

 

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The house is tiny with just two front rooms and two back rooms and a toilet. The home is very well maintained today, but almost all the houses in the area are identical so you can get a better idea what it probably looked like at the time the Jacksons lived there. 

At the time they purchased their home, Catherine was already pregnant with their first child, Rebbie. Nine more children would follow while they were living here. (Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, LaToya, Marlon, Brandon, Michael, Randy, and Janet all between 1950-1966) Brandon was a twin brother of Marlon but was stillborn.

 

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This is the St Mary mercy hospital where all the Jackson children were born (except for the oldest, Rebbie who was born at home) The hospital is abandoned and vacant today.

 

 

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A view from the back of the house. Several houses in the area have added on, to the original frame. I seriously can’t imagine having eleven people living here, 

 

 

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The home is private and doesn’t allow visitors, you are also not allowed in the yard. I was never able to get an answer on who owns the house now, but several people said they think the Jackson family or someone associated with them has ownership. Several members of the family have made appearances here, most recently Janet. 

Having 11 people in a two-bedroom home led to a lot of stress and financial hardship. Joseph worked at two different steel mills, and Katherine worked parttime at Sears as well as caring for the children. Joseph was determined to find a way out. He had a band called The Falcons that toured local clubs, but it disbanded after the lead singer decided to go it alone. Joseph noticed that his son Tito had taken to playing guitar and formed a band called the Jackson brothers featuring Tito, Jermaine, and Jackie. He later added brothers Marlon and Michael and named the group The Jackson Five.

 

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A mural of the Jackson 5 in Gary, Indiana

Joseph was very relentless and at times according to several family members physically abusive. He would drill the brothers on their playing and singing. He was especially hard on Michael who had emerged as the primary talent of the group. They would go to school by day and rehearse or perform in local talent shows or taverns. Despite all this, according to his teachers, Michael was an above average student who especially excelled in music and creative writing classes.

 

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Michael Jackson’s sixth-grade class photo.  This is 1970 so he would have already moved to LA. He is second from the left on the front row. 

In 1967 the brothers had earned a spot on Amateur Night at Harlem’s Apollo Theater and won easily. This led to a record deal at a local label called Steeltown Records. Their first single was called “Big Boy” and was a hit in Gary and the neighboring Chicago area. (The song is available on Youtube. It’s obvious this is a small label because of the production values, but the talent is obvious) The success of the record got the attention of Diana Ross who saw them perform and set up an audition for the boys at Motown, Within months the family vacated the house and moved to California. While everyone knows just how phenomenal careers the Jackson 5, Michael and Janet have had, it’s worth noting Jermaine, Rebbie and LaToya have also had gold records as solo artists as well.

 

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The house is located on the corner of Jackson and Jackson Family Streets. There is also a Jackson 5 street in Gary as well. 

 

 

The yard has a plaque (that keeps getting stolen) honoring Michael, there are some plaques also in the sidewalk inside the yard.

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Signs state that the house is private property, but the owners have put up a board for people to sign and leave names. The sidewalks outside the fence and the fence itself have also been marked on quite a bit. 

The house is very easy to get find. Located just off of Interstate 80 and well marked. This is still a residential area and the neighboring houses are mostly occupied, so please be respectful. Sadly, Gary has an elevated crime rate, but if you just stop and take a few pictures and go about your day, you should be fine. DO NOT VISIT AT NIGHT. (But that is true about a lot of places in the USA, so just use caution) I feel like it’s worth visiting because can really appreciate just how far they came with hard work and a whole lot of talent.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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