The Sign! Sometimes we take things for granted. We drive by this sign on a regular basis, and it has been a part of our West Central “family” for so long, it is hard to imagine what that area will look like if the complex is torn down and the sign shipped to some other location to live out its life. Or worse yet, be destroyed.

GE has a long history in Fort Wayne – at one time employing over 10,000 workers.  Now, it has gone the way of International Harvester, shutting down its operation and demolishing various buildings that compose its 1,000,000 square foot “imprint” located on the east and west sides of Broadway.

As GE abandons its former bustling campus and Fort Wayne officials seem lax in taking up the goal to save the campus and its buildings, now is the time to take action to ensure that this campus and its historic buildings survive.  GE has over a century of history invested in Fort Wayne – the company may be gone, but its historic impact on Fort Wayne should never be forgotten.

GE Sign - Scott

Photo credit – Scott Spaulding




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



Last week I drove down to southern Ohio to see one of my sons and his family.  I take a fairly regular route, heading southeast out of Fort Wayne on U.S. 27 to Decatur and then picking up U.S. 33 through St. Marys.  Just outside Sidney, Ohio, I hop onto Interstate 75 south through Dayton, finally catching Ohio 73 to my destination.

I usually stop at the Speedway gas station at the edge of Piqua, Ohio, to take a break and get a fresh cup of coffee.  So a couple of  weeks ago when I received one of my historical magazines, I was quite surprised to see an article with a magnificent restored building located in —- Piqua, Ohio.  The article discussed the restoration of the old Fort Piqua Hotel, and I knew instantly that the next time I headed to southern Ohio, I would be wandering into the heart of Piqua to see the hotel.

The Fort Piqua Hotel suffered from the maladies of its oldness – asbestos and lead paint contaminating its grand interior.  Decaying year by year, the hotel became a victim of indifference and benign neglect.  But its colorful history could not be ignored, and the City set out on a path of restoration of the Richardsonian Romanesque-style hotel.


The Fort Piqua Hotel was built in 1891 – almost one hundred years after the founding of Piqua in 1793 by General Anthony Wayne.  The hotel has been home to numerous businesses that have come and gone. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the hotel was a hotbed of political activity. During the 1912 presidential election, candidates William Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and Eugene Debs spoke from the grand balcony over the hotel entrance, drawing spectators from all over Western Ohio and Eastern Indiana.

During the Women’s Suffrage Movement, “Women for Warren Harding” held a rally in the hotel to promote the newly acquired constitutional right to vote. In 1947, in the midst of the National Civil Rights Movement, a lunch counter sit‐in demonstration resulted in an end to segregated restaurants in the City.

By the 1970s, the 85,000-square-foot building, once used as a hotel for transients and a bus depot, was all but vacant and had become the epitome for small-city urban decay.  Numerous developers approached the City over the next two decades, but the scope and enormity of restoring the grand old hotel forced them to back away from the project.

In 2001, the City of Piqua stepped up to the plate, creating a nonprofit development corporation to transform the faded old hotel into a bright new home for the local library.  Federal and state grants and tax credits helped move the massive effort forward, as did City funds and almost $4 million in private donations.  The result?  A remarkable restoration worthy of the award it recently received from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Fort Piqua Hotel, Piqua, Ohio

Fort Piqua Hotel built in 1891

Fort Piqua Hotel

Fort Piqua Hotel built in 1891

Fort Piqua Hotel

Tower of the Fort Piqua Hotel

And then on to the Grand Lake St. Marys just outside St. Marys, Ohio.

St. Marys, Ohio, is up the interstate and not too far from Piqua, so I decided I would stop and see the lake that carried the same name as the river that runs by my home.

I had never been to Grand Lake St. Marys, but the town has a unique curve in its main street with an old theater that sits along the curve.  As I drove into the Grand Lake St. Marys State Park which housed the lake, I wasn’t sure which way to go.  I saw some shimmering water and drove toward it, but it turned out to be simply an inlet.  I was disappointed.  Where was that lake?

I did not give up, though, and I am so thankful I did not.  I kept driving, and as I rounded a curve, I looked out upon a huge expanse of water.  The lake was enormous.   The Grand Lake St. Marys was constructed in the early 1800s as a reservoir for the Miami and Erie Canals.  The Lake – covering 13,500 acres in Auglaize and Mercer counties –  is the largest inland lake in Ohio in terms of land area, but it is extremely shallow, with an average depth of only 5 to 7 feet.

I continued around the Lake and discovered a rocky, narrow jetty that curved like a cupped hand out into the lake.  I parked my truck and began my trek out to the far point of the jetty.  The wind was chilly, but the sun was bright and warm as I stepped onto the well-worn trail.  Huge boulders lined the sides of the jetty, shriveled fish heads lay on the path – evidence that the fowl that languished around the jetty did not go hungry.

As I picked my way over the stones, I stopped several times to stare at the shimmering water.  Somehow several of the huge rocks had come to rest at various points in the middle of the path.  I paused a couple of  times to sit down on the huge boulders and rest – letting the cool, tingly breeze sweep across my face. I finally made it to the end, turning to stare back at the length of jetty.

I rested one final time and then started back toward my truck.  I climbed into my truck to warm up and spent a few minutes just thinking about how much beauty can be found in nature.  I know I will make it a point to stop at the Grand Lake again when I travel back to southern Ohio.  What a great day!  I saw the Piqua preservation of the Fort Piqua Hotel, and I enjoyed the serenity of the Grand Lake St. Marys.

Jetty into the Grand Lake

Beginning of the jetty path

Grand Lake St. Marys

Grand Lake St. Marys - largest inland lake in Ohio












Boulders along the jetty path

Boulders lining the jetty path

Grand Lake St. Marys

View of Grand Lake St. Marys from the jetty













View from the jetty

View from the lake end of the jetty



Last week was our annual Democratic Party IDEA Conference. This is the first one I have attended, but it won’t be my last. The conference was held in French Lick, Indiana, at the French Lick Resort and Casino – an enormous complex which includes two hotels, golf courses, and every type of amenity one could ever want.

I had a two-fold reason for going to the conference: first, of course, was to attend the conference, but second, I had been wanting to see the West Baden Springs Hotel ever since I had read about its restoration in one of my historical society magazines. Since a one-night stay was $147 at the French Lick Resort, and I knew I wouldn’t get to the hotel until later in the evening, I decided to find a less expensive alternative.

I belong to the Choice Hotels Reward program, so I located a Sleep Inn in Jasper, Indiana, for $62. Not bad, and, as long as it had a wireless connection, I was just fine. I had originally planned to leave work at about 12:00, but this past month was one of those times where chaos seemed to reign. I was running behind getting things ready so I could leave, and I started thinking maybe I would just cancel my hotel room and consider the $45 luncheon charge a donation to the Party.

But, I plugged along and completed the most critical tasks, leaving work at about 2:30. I ran a couple of errands and stopped at home to grab a few things and then was on my way at about 4:30.  I took Interstate 69 to Indy and intended to take 37 through for pretty much the rest of my drive. Somewhere, somehow, I missed the connect in Indianapolis and ended up on Interstate 65 headed south to Seymour – home of John Mellencamp.

The trip down was gloomy, and I ran into heavy rain as I entered the last leg of what turned out to be a 6-hour journey. At Seymour, I hopped off at Indiana 50 and started southwest toward uncharted territory – okay, for me it was uncharted. The rain continued to pound down, and I was not familiar with the winding curves of the road. Traffic built up behind me, and I found myself muttering to myself about the disrespect of other drivers – especially those behind me. The road was steaming and the rising mist looked like fog with its stealthy fingers curving and extending into the air.

I arrived at the Jasper Sleep Inn at about 11:00 – a little worse for the wear but thankful that I was now in southwestern Indiana – a part of my beloved home state that I had not yet visited. I checked in, and I immediately “hit the hay” as we used to call it.

I awoke at 6:00 a.m. even though I was still tired from my long trip the night before. I relaxed, took my time, and left the hotel for French Lick. Call me naive, but I really had no idea of what I would see. As I drove into the French Lick Resort parking lot, I was amazed at the opulence of the Resort. Its wings spread out – tan and golden in color and several stories high with caps of red standing out in the sunlight.

I stared at the halls and the pictures and the magnificence of the building.  A huge painting caught my eye with its nudging of history and what was –  a “gangster” car, sleek, brilliant, and incomparable in its splendor.

French Lick Hotel

French Lick Hotel

Fountain and garden area of the French Lick Hotel

Fountain and garden area of the French Lick Hotel

The French Lick and West Baden Springs Hotel served as the campingground for America’s most infamous hoodlums.

Their entourage and guests would start out at the Kentucky Derby and then move northward toward French Lick and West Baden Springs, where they would spend days of frolicking and gambling.  Then, it would soon be time to move up to the Indy 500.  And, then on to Chicago back to their lives of death and destruction.

But, back to my trip to French Lick and West Baden Springs.  The luncheon speaker was Ed Schultz, a well-known progressive liberal talk show host.  Mr. Schultz gave a rousing speech about reforming health insurance and health care.

After the luncheon, I decided to try my luck at the French Lick Casino.  I can’t stand to lose money, so I took out just $40.00.  I lost $11.75, and I was done.

Ed Schultz - 2009 IDEA Conference luncheon speaker at French Lick, Indiana

Ed Schultz - 2009 IDEA Conference luncheon speaker at French Lick, Indiana

Ann DeLaney, weekly commentator on Indiana Week in Review

Ann DeLaney, weekly commentator on Indiana Week in Review

Dr. Tom Hayhurst, 2010 Congressional candidate for the Third District

Dr. Tom Hayhurst, 2010 Congressional candidate for the Third District

I had to be on my way to the West Baden Springs Hotel, which was just a mile down the road.  The hotel had the largest geodesic dome in the United States until the Astrodome was built in 1963.

At one time, crews were ready to level this Hoosier treasure, but they didn’t succeed.  I parked in the back, lower level, and, as I was just getting out of my truck, a hotel employee stopped and asked me if I knew where I was going.  I said absolutely not.  He said he would be glad to take me on a tour of the hotel, so I eagerly accepted.

The first stop on the way to the main area of the hotel was to admire paintings of the angels along a lower hallway.  The paintings are replicas of the angels located in the very top of the dome, which are not visible by day.

Angels guarding the lower hallway in the West Baden Springs Hotel

Angels guarding the lower hallway in the West Baden Springs Hotel

The next stop was the main floor.  As we stepped from the elevator, I could see the magnificent, open atrium with its geodesic dome.  The sun was shining in and the columns and walls took on a soft glow.  Several areas were closed because a wedding was being held in the garden area, and the reception area, library, and verandas were being set up to accommodate the wedding party.

I was fortunate, though, because the employee was allowed into the closed areas, and I was allowed in too.  The library had that air of age and a slight darkness that reminded me of libraries of old.

Library in the West Baden Springs Hotel

Library in the West Baden Springs Hotel

After the library, we went out onto the verandas – wonderful, curving areas with their expansive views of the lawns and gardens.   And, finally, the view that I was anxiously awaiting – that of the huge, domed area located in the center of the hotel.

West Baden Springs Hotel - looking out from one of the verandas

West Baden Springs Hotel - looking out from one of the verandas

As I stepped into the area, the employee bid me farewell and went back to work.  I was absolutely entranced by the sight before my eyes.  A rounded, domed cavern lay before my eyes.  Many guests were milling about while others were seated on various couches, chaises, and chairs spread throughout the area.  I looked up at the dome, and couldn’t help but be in awe of such a feat from the turn of the 20th century.

The area contained a couple of boutiques  and a small bar area.  On one side of the huge expanse was a fireplace big enough for a person to walk into – like the ones found in old, European castles.  I picked a chaise lounge and settled in to spend some quality time just taking in the view.  I watched as people wandered back and forth, sat at the bar, or hovered near the fireplace.

I glanced at my watch and reluctantly got up, knowing I had to be on my way home.  A long drive awaited me, but I had finally gotten to see the historical West Baden Springs Hotel – something I had wanted to do for quite some time.  It was well worth the wait, and I will be returning to one of Indiana’s most beautiful, historical treasures.

Geodesic Dome area of the West Baden Springs Hotel

Geodesic Dome area of the West Baden Springs Hotel

West Baden Springs Hotel

West Baden Springs Hotel


Last weekend was our annual West Central Neighborhood Home Tour showcasing a number of historic homes, businesses, and a garden located in the city’s first historic district – West Central. Friday evening the owners of Klaehn, Fahl, and Melton Funeral Home hosted our annual pre-tour party. The generous hosts provided snacks, beverages, and a wonderful and tasty variety of cheesecakes.

Klaehn, Fahl & Melton Funeral Home


West Central residents and guests enjoying the hospitality of Klaehn, Fahl & Felton


I was scheduled to work on Sunday at the mission-style home just three doors east of my home. I woke Saturday to a beautiful day – mild, clear, and just perfect for a house tour. I had to finish some weeding at the Nelson Street side of my home, so I dressed, made my coffee, and hurried outside to beat the tourists.

As I knelt along the curbside to pull the weeds, I chatted with passersby who were on their way around the neighborhood. I was pleased with their compliments about my flowers, but I was even more delighted to tell them about Thieme Drive and the early entrepreneur for whom it was named, Theodore F. Thieme.

After I finished my weeding, I worked on the front porch – actually it was more like dallying so I could pick up on the comments as tourists strolled down the sidewalk and around the corner at my home. Many times I heard them say, “it is so peaceful down here.” Of course that is something that I have known for years and something that drives me to work to protect Thieme Drive from destruction.

As I picked wilted blossoms from my hanging baskets and potted plants and swept my front porch, I kept my ears open for the clip clop of the carriages coming down West Berry Street. Once a year, at the time of the house tour, carriage rides around the house tour route are provided free. What a wonderful sound as the horses approached – their hooves breaking the quiet of the morning and the peacefulness of the street. The first day of the tour was a huge success.

Horse and carriage sitting in front of 1229 West Berry Street


Sunday morning of the second day, however, broke with rain and a dreary sky. As I gazed outside, I thought this would surely discourage a good crowd. I was completely wrong. As the morning hours passed, the greyness and rain disappeared to be replaced with sunshine and balmy temperatures. By late morning, the sun was out, the tourists returned, and the horses and carriages once again lazily rolled through the neighborhood.

I was to work at the mission-style home located at 1229 West Berry Street – pretty handy since I lived three houses to the west. I walked down to the home a little early and sat on the front porch cement railing greeting guests until my shift started. I was stationed just inside the front door in the living room.

1229 West Berry Street – Mission-style home on tour


The mission-style of home – originating in California – was built around 1910 for Theodore F. Thieme. Mr. Thieme had traveled to California on business for his company, Wayne Knitting Mills, and returned with the idea of building a mission-style home in Fort Wayne. Although built for Mr. Thieme, he never occupied the home.

From 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., I provided instructions on touring the home. The line seemed never-ending at times, and I couldn’t help but think that this had to be one of the busiest tours ever. The day was gorgeous, and at 5:00 p.m., as the stream of visitors slowed, I was tired.

At 5:00 p.m., I picked up my camera and walked the short distance back to my home. I felt such a sense of accomplishment even though my part had been so small. As I walked home – to my own little corner of West Central – the heat of the afternoon fading away, I gazed over at Thieme Drive and the St. Marys River, and I truly understood how fortunate I have been.

It had, indeed, been a beautiful day – make that two days – in the West Central Neighborhood.

1229 West Berry Street, looking from living room into dining room – original hardwood floors



Zoning officials today are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to siting cellular-phone towers or other antenna installations. Although legally, local authorities cannot refuse them or attempt to design zoning regulations based on health effects, the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 does give local governments and entities the right to regulate the placement, construction, and modification of such towers.

(a) NATIONAL WIRELESS TELECOMMUNICATIONS SITING POLICY- Section 332(c) (47 U.S.C. 332(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

(A) GENERAL AUTHORITY- Except as provided in this paragraph, nothing in this Act shall limit or affect the authority of a State or local government or instrumentality thereof over decisions regarding the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities.

(i) The regulation of the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities by any State or local government or instrumentality thereof–
(I) shall not unreasonably discriminate among providers of functionally equivalent services; and
(II) shall not prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the provision of personal wireless services.
(ii) A State or local government or instrumentality thereof shall act on any request for authorization to place, construct, or modify personal wireless service facilities within a reasonable period of time after the
request is duly filed with such government or instrumentality, taking into account the nature and scope of such request.
(iii) Any decision by a State or local government or instrumentality thereof to deny a request to place, construct, or modify personal wireless service facilities shall be in writing and supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record.
(iv) No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission’s regulations concerning such emissions.
(v) Any person adversely affected by any final action or failure to act by a State or local government or any instrumentality thereof that is inconsistent with this subparagraph may, within 30 days after such action or failure to act, commence an action in any court of competent jurisdiction. The court shall hear and decide such action on an expedited basis. Any person adversely affected by an act or failure to act by a State or local government or any instrumentality thereof that is inconsistent with clause (iv) may petition the Commission for relief.

GenCom has a variance request in front of the Fort Wayne Board of Zoning Appeals to allow it to construct a 150-foot cell phone tower at 1427 Broadway, which is included in our West Central Neighborhood boundaries. The tower will then be leased to Centennial. The tower will sit close to the street and will be completely visible driving Broadway north to south. The tower will also be visible, due to its height, from the opposite direction.

GenCom has not made any effort to work with the West Central Neighborhood on this issue other than to have a Centennial spokesman attend our last meeting. He did not have all the facts or data with him as it related to the need to establish a tower, and it became evident as we continued to ask questions.

One piece of information that did come out of the meeting was the fact that the tower is not needed for residential reception. It primarily is needed to boost cell phone reception by motorists driving through a very minimal “dead zone.” The hypocrisy of this is that we admonish drivers not to talk on their cell phones while driving yet companies turn around and attempt to make reception available in every possible area so that motorists can talk on their phones on their homeward-bound drive.

The following clip is from YouTube and shows the creative ways in which some companies are actually trying to be a “good neighbor.” Apparently, some companies feel it is important to work with communities to reach a solution as to disguising the stark, ugliness of a straight metal structure jutting into the air.




To give an idea of the height of the tower, compare it to the Statue of Liberty – a symbol with which we should all be familiar. The Statue of Liberty is 306.8 feet from the bottom of the base to the top of the torch. From the Statue’s feet on the base to the torch is 152.2 feet. So imagine a tower the size of the Statue plopped down in a highly visible area of heavy traffic.



Photo Credit: Statue of Liberty Facts

We have every right to request the zoning board to deny this variance – to have the tower placed elsewhere. But, if the zoning board decides to approve the variance, then we should demand that it impose restrictions on the construction so that it conforms to the guidelines of the West Central Plan adopted by the City. Those guidelines state:

“Encourage new construction designs to be complementary to the historic nature of the neighborhood.”

The argument that it can’t be done is superficial. Fort Wayne Newspapers, Starbucks, and St. Joe Hospital have all done outstanding work on their designs to bring them into conformance with the West Central Plan. It is time residents and citizens made their thoughts and concerns known as to how our neighborhood will be perceived. It is our neighborhood, and we have the right and the obligation to ensure that new structures do, indeed, complement the historic nature of West Central.

WHAT: Public Hearing
WHERE: City-County Building, Room 126 (first floor)
WHEN: Janaury 31, 2008
TIME: 6:00 p.m.


Yes, the Three rivers Festival Parade will once again grace our fair neighborhood. The last time the parade wound its way through West Central was 2002. The next year was the Flood of 2003, and Thieme Drive, the route of the first leg of the parade, was deep under water.

I remember my disappointment because my home is right on the route of the parade. For several years, all I had to do was step out on my front porch and enjoy the parade. I had friends over, and we munched on snacks and coffee and beverages as we relaxed in comfortable seats or just sat on my front lawn.

While the parade is back in West Central, it will be taking a slightly altered route – one that, even if it did flood again, would not stop the parade from going on. The new route will cross the Main Street bridge and turn south on Rockhill, stepping lively by the Carol Lombard house. It will then turn east on Wayne Street and head toward Van Buren. Although it will not take in as much of West Central as in years past, the mere fact that it will be back is good enough.

West Central has some amazing architecturally significant homes, and, what a treat for those who rarely journey into our area to be able to get a glimpse of the different styles and designs.

Welcome back and thank you to the Three Rivers Festival Director, Shannon White, for returning a long-standing tradition to our neighborhood. Join us this July for the return of the Parade to West Central. Below our just a few of the myriad architectural styles that you will enjoy during your visit to our neighborhood! Aren’t they gorgeous?