Quick – think of things that are done in the middle of the night.  A third shift job?  Breaking into a home?  A little lovey-dovin?  Halloween pranks?  Now,  another, quite unusual activity can be added to that fairly short list – tearing down a historical building.

The Lake Shore  and Southern Michigan freight house located at Fourth Street and Clinton has stood its ground for 97 years, but it is no match for an unsympathetic owner itching to tear it down and a wrecking ball waiting in the dark of night. On Monday morning, citizens of Fort Wayne along with the included group of Clinton Street drivers woke up to the view of the freight house being smashed onto the ground – brick by brick and beam by beam.

Built in 1912,  the freight house is one of the last vestiges of an era when iron horses with their plumes of steam roamed the countryside  and provided a common way of travel and transportation of goods.  Back before flying machines and horseless buggies became a way of life – increasing familial distance and ushering in an age of convenient mobility that trains and railways could not match.


Beginning of teardown on 10/11/10


Rifkin, the Destroyer, spends much of his interview time tossing out various excuses as to why the building just “had to go.”  Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards, president of historic preservation group ARCH, which placed the depot on its “endangered” list in 1999, said she had discussed the depot’s future with Rifkin and even offered to pay for an analysis of the building’s structural integrity.

Rifkin never took ARCH up on its offer to pay for a structural analysis.  Why?  Rifkin claims he feared an analysis funded by ARCH might have been biased in favor of preservation.   Or perhaps his fear was that the building would be sound enough to save – getting in the way of his plans to rid the corner of the freight house.

Rifkin opines over and over again how he never heard from preservationist groups.  If anyone has followed this at all, he or she knows this is absolutely false. The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society along with Kelly Lynch and Michael Galbraith worked tirelessly to develop plans and ideas for the old freight station.

And, contrary to what Rifkin says about lack of interest, I have been told by an involved and trustworthy source that Rifkin was provided ample offers.  What he chose to do was to reject each as not sufficient.  Of course, he owns the property, and he can take that action.  But why not just come clean and admit that, all along, his game plan was to demolish the station and that any delay on his part was so he could simply throw his hands up at the end and cry, “See how hard I tried.”

Rifkin also tries to place blame on the City for issuing an order – not an order of demolition but rather an order that included the fact that the building was open.  Rifkin could easily have resolved that problem, but, somehow in his rush to get rid of the station, he perverted the contents of the order and turned it into a mandate to demolish the station.

As happens too often, economic priority trumps historical significance. Heaven forbid that private property rights of an individual might just need to yield to the greater good of saving our history.   So, on Sunday evening the wrecking equipment began appearing on the property – blending in with the bridge construction equipment in an effort to evade detection.

And, in the wee hours of Monday morning, before anyone had an inkling of what was happening, the equipment operators started their engines, lumbered toward the old depot, and went to work during the dark of night to attack and destroy a part of Fort Wayne rail history – a historical building that had life left in its old bones but now will be forever lost.


Remaining southern portion on 10/12/10



About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Fort Wayne, History, Local Government, Railroads and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Andy S. says:

    I saw this on the front page of the JG this am.

    Absolutely sickening. Contrary to what the owner says, the building was built to last and was in no danger of collapsing anytime soon.

    I guess when you rake in over 1 Billion dollars from the sale of OmniSource a few years back, it’s still not enough to satifsy your GREED.

    This story could have had a happy ending for the historic depot, Mr. Rifkin, our community and the future generations who are to follow.

    But – it looks as if we will soon be staring at a bare, brown, open field.

  2. mark says:

    Interesting contrast between the remembrances of Richard Doermer and the reported actions of the Rifkin family. I’m an absolutist on property rights and free markets, but they function best when the beneficiaries are not only restricted by the rule of law but tempered by charity, compassion and a sense of community. Other than behind closed door efforts to unload contaminated property on City officials at above-market values, the former OmniSource owners have done little to create a legacy of consequence.

    And kudos to former Mayoral candidate Matt Kelty, who brought attention to the egregious terms of the “option” on this property purchased by the City and demanded disclosure of the environmental audits. Without the scrutiny he invited, the option might well have been exercised, fattening already bulging private pockets with public moneys and saddling taxpayers with undetermined environmental liabilities.

  3. iceironman says:

    Yielding to the greater good? What if he builds a business there that creates 100 jobs. I dont like to see old things demolished. I think the city could well have not issued this “the building is being demolished after an emergency order issued Sept. 28 by the city’s Neighborhood Code Enforcement Department, which protects the public from unsafe structures. The order states that an inspection determined the depot is “open and accessible and unsafe … and is considered an immediate danger to life, safety or property.”

    As soon as the lawyers see a rich man and a broken bone from a kid, its over. Let the lawsuits begin.

    How many of the “preservationist” took the time to call or write him? How many pledged their personal fortunes to save the building?

    It is easy to sit back and judge others, I try not to. People get emotional about tearing out dams, railroad statioins, covered bridges etc. But before those things went up people were protesting the building of them. I guess as many preservationalist are also eco anti development, they should see the removal as a peaceful sign that the property is being placed back to the state that God created it. Just as people fight rural development, some day, people will fight to keep those communities in tack as “historical” sites, rather than putting them back to nature. Guess it depends on when youre born as to what is historical and what is an assult on nature. Go try to build a beautiful damn these days, good luck!

  4. Ice:

    It really won’t matter what I say – you will take the opposite position. All Rifkin had to was to seal the door that was found open. Try reading the following:


    Kelly Lynch has devoted months and months of time and talent to develop a plan for the Depot. Contrary to what Rifkin says, there were people willing to step. What Rifkin did was set the price so high that he knew it would be impossible to meet.

    I am posting Kelly’s time line as a blog post because you can’t into it if you don’t have a Facebook page.

  5. Andy S. says:

    Although there is still well over two months left in the calendar year, my vote for the best Iceironman quote of 2010 is:

    “It is easy to sit back and judge others, I try not to.”

  6. Ice:

    I decided not to publish Kelly’s time line as a post since he originally put it on Facebook, which is semi-private.

    If I get a chance, I will find out from him if he minds me putting it on my blog.

Comments are closed.