Any time of year, finding something for the kids to do (and those kids can be of any size and age) can sometimes be a challenge. When the weather is beautiful, it’s time to get out of the house and explore your city.
In 1978, Clifford Richards and Pat Boice published an article in the Old Fort News entitled “Two Hour Tour of Fort Wayne Historical Sites”. We offer here a brief overview of the first part of this trip as something to do that will allow you to learn more about the city in which you live.
Begin at the Swinney Homestead on West Jefferson where Jefferson and Washington make the split and become two one-way streets. This home of the Swinney Family was once the home of the Historical Society. The Settlers maintain this property and offer events throughout the year. You can keep up with the Settlers via their website at: http://www.settlersinc.org/.
Then head down Thieme Drive toward Main. Stop along the way at the marker for the Old Methodist College. OMC was once the center of education in northeast Indiana. In 1893 it moved to Upland, IN and became Taylor University. The marker is right by the river and very close to the turn for Wayne Street.
As you look across the St. Mary’s River, you’re looking at the Camp Allen Area where young men were trained for battle in the Civil War. Camp Allen Park was the location of the first professional baseball game ever played on May 4, 1871. Fort Wayne won. See http://historycenterfw.blogspot.com/2013/04/camp-allen-park-play-ball.html for more information.
As you come to the intersection of Thieme Drive and West Main, you will see the Aqueduct Marker. This monument, one of a number in Fort Wayne, is dedicated to the young men who swam in the Old Aqueduct. According to the OFN article, “The Aqueduct was a huge covered wooden structure which carried the waters of the Wabash and Erie Canal across the St. Mary’s River. It was located where you now see the bridge of the Norfolk and Western Railroad crossing the St. Mary’s River.”
On the corner of Main and Union, you will see the house where actress Carole Lombard was born. Don’t know who Carole Lombard was? Read this blog post from Tom Castaldi: http://historycenterfw.blogspot.com/2013/04/jane-alice-peters-aka-carole-lombard.html
Drive on down Main Street to the corner of Main and Van Buren. The Rockhill House once stood on this site, the hotel where Stephen Douglas stayed in his campaign visit to Fort Wayne on October 2, 1860. See http://www.aroundfortwayne.com/blog/2008/10/02/148-years-ago-tonday/ for a little more information about this event or The Old Fort News article “The Douglas Has Come!” Stephen A. Douglas and the Presidential Campaign of 1860 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. John D. Beatty. 72:2, 2009, 18 pages.
Turn left onto Van Buren, crossing the railroad tracks, and continuing about two blocks. Here you’ll find the site of the first French fort, established around 1700 as Fort Miami and an historical marker noting this. For more on this site, see http://historycenterfw.blogspot.com/2013/04/signs-of-history-times.html
It’s easiest at this point to turn around and take Van Buren to Superior Street, turning left. A little way down on your left (about a block to Fulton) will be large grey house with white pillars. This was once the home of Hugh McCulloch, the father of modern banking. McCulloch was Secretary of the Treasury under Lincoln, Johnson and Arthur. His home once faced the Wabash and Erie Canal. Learn more about McCulloch at http://historycenterfw.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-father-of-modern-banking-hailed.html
As you travel on down Superior Street to the east, you can turn right on Ewing (which becomes Fairfield) and then left on Main. At the southwest corner of Main and Webster is the Edsall House. Built in 1839, it’s considered the oldest structure still standing in central Fort Wayne. William Edsall was the original owner and after his death, the house became Fort Wayne City Hospital, the precursor of Parkview.
From there, continue on Main to Calhoun and turn left. Travel north to Superior Street, turn right and stop one-half block on the south at the Canal House. You can learn more about the canal… and another idea for a day trip from Tom Castaldi’s blog post http://historycenterfw.blogspot.com/2011/05/take-drive-on-route-of-wabash-erie.html.
“The Canal House was built in 1852 by John Brown, a stone mason and building supply dealer. The date of construction and Brown’s name can still be seen above the doorway. The ground floor was used as a place of business. Apparently the upper floor was rented as living quarters. In 1971 the Norfolk and Western Railroad gave the building to the city. It was renovated under the auspices of the Fort Wayne Bicentennial Commission” and later became offices for Arts United of Fort Wayne, which is now housed in the Auer Center. (OFN, Vol. 41, No. 1)
Continue down Superior Street to Barr and turn right. Drive under the railroad elevation and park near Freimann Square. Here you can relax a bit and get a close up view of the Anthony Wayne Statue. See http://historycenterfw.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-anthony-wayne-statue.html and the latest edition of the Old Fort News with a photo of the statue on the cover. The railway elevation that you drove under runs along the site of what was the Wabash and Erie Canal. Two blocks to the west along Columbia Street was “The Landing”, where canal boats loaded and discharged passengers and cargo in the 1840s and 1850s.
Now that you’re in Freimann Square, it’s just a short walk over to the History Center where you can explore your city’s history in more detail. Remember, we have free admission on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. during the summer when the Barr Street Market is open.
Enjoy this, and other historic walking tours as you discover Fort Wayne!
The History Center
The History Center is the home of the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society. Housed in the 1893 Old City Hall, the organization offers a look at Allen County and Fort Wayne history via its museum, the National Historic Landmark Chief Richardville House, the George R. Mather Lecture Series, the magazine “Old Fort News”, its award winning blog “History Center Notes and Queries” and other programs. The History Center’s Festival of Gingerbread during the holiday season attracts over 12,000 people to downtown Fort Wayne during its three-week run with proceeds going toward support of the museum and its programs. The Heritage Education Fund provides free field trips to students in area schools.