I love old homes and early architecture. I am not much for the stark look of some of today’s more “modern” buildings – the square, gray, cold look with little or no artistic detail either inside or outside. That is one reason I love living in West Central, the City’s oldest residential historic district.
The District is roughly bounded by Main, Webster, Jefferson, Broadway, Jones, and St. Mary’s River, Fort Wayne. The area began to develop as a residential area during the canal era of the 1830s. The homes represent virtually all architectural styles popular between 1830 and 1950. The West Central neighborhood was listed on the National Register of historic Places as the West End Historic District in 1984. A portion of the neighborhood received local designation shortly thereafter and was expanded in 1985.
One of the most disheartening events occurs when the older homes are abandoned by their owners – many of them absentee landlords who do not live in the neighborhood. Or, if not abandoned, the homes are relegated to neglect and disrepair while transiting tenants in and out on a monthly basis. When a home finally succumbs to its age and neglect, it is ripe for demolition, leaving in its wake an empty lot sprouting overgrown weeds and bare soil.
Sometimes we are fortunate, though, and a home’s ultimate demise is cut short by the intervention of a group or a person who steps forward to buy the house. Such a house is the “Grand Blue Lady” which sits at the corner of Van Buren and Washington. Although the house was not yet on the demolition list, it would have just been a matter of time. The house faces busy West Washington, looking out on a constant flow of traffic heading west.
No doubt about it, the house is in disrepair and needs thousands of dollars of work to bring her back to glory. She has three floors and is divided into two sides – each side with distinctive features.
The inside has much of the old woodwork: foyers, stairways, and pocket doors appear to be hard, solid oak. Today’s world of cookie cutter homes sprawling outward from the City’s core do not have the same massive wood trimmings and doors that were used in yesteryear’s homes.
The house was purchased by ARCH to save it from the fate from which so many other homes in the downtown area have suffered. This past summer members of ARCH as well as some of us from West Central helped clean the house for a city inspection. I took my camera and ended up taking over 90 pictures – those above are only a few of the ones I took.
Although I know of no one who has come forward at this time to buy the house from ARCH, it would be a true shame if the Grand Blue Lady were saved from demolition only to be unable to attract a new owner to renovate and lovingly restore her to her former self. I am hoping that someone will come along soon and save this Grand Blue Lady of West Central.