ICONIC GE SIGN FACES UNCERTAIN FUTURE

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

 

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REDEVELOPMENT COMMISSION TAKES AIM AT WEST CENTRAL HOMES

The Redevelopment Commission has taken aim at an entire block of West Central homes located near Parkview Field.  Twelve of the 13 homes are either rentals or are vacant – owned by absentee landlords who have simply allowed them to fall into disrepair.

The block contains several homes that at one time were magnificent specimens with their turrets and grand designs.  Yet, over the years, speculators have entered the picture, snapping up the homes through tax sales or foreclosures.  And, the focus of speculation?  Betting on the City’s appetite for implementing its “Around the Square” plan initiated several years ago.  According to the media, the plan is to demolish the homes and build new – either condos or rentals.  Not one mention of restoration.

DSCN2713

The above home is one of my favorites.  Although I have not been inside to see what it looks like, I have pressed my face against many of the windows to try to see what remains of a once-grand interior.  Hardwood floors, wood trim not found in new homes, pocket doors and French doors.  All will be lost to the wrecking ball and with little notice by many of our Fort Wayne residents.

It just doesn’t seem to matter to many in the City who would rather see cookie-cutter subdivisions spring up than undertake the effort to save and restore these older, once-magnificent, historic homes.  Not one person from the City bothered to communicate with us here in West Central to apprise us of the plans.  I, as president of West Central, have emailed the head of the department responsible for these decisions.  That was last Wednesday and, so far, no response.

Working quickly and without communication, of course, prevents the formation of opposition.   How many times will be subjected to this method of planning?  The bottom line is that our urban core neighborhoods deserve better.

DSCN2708Another home in danger of a rendezvous with the wrecking ball.

SELMA, LORD, SELMA

I recently drove to Florida and took a detour to Alabama to see three civil rights memorials which had been on my mind for quite some time:

1) the Birmingham, Alabama,  location of the jail where Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail;

2) the Edmund Pettus Bridge – the site of the Bloody Sunday march in Selma, Alabama; and,

3) the memorial to slain civil rights workers created by Maya Lin and located in Montgomery, Alabama, at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I planned my stops to visit Birmingham first, then Selma, then Montgomery, the Alabama state capital.

BIRMINGHAM

The Birmingham jail was a modern building, and, from the looks of it, I am sure it was not the original building where Martin Luther King, Jr. spent his time.   A police officer assured me it was the location but not the original jail.  He graciously took me on a short tour and opened a locked courtroom so I could see where the alleged defendants appear and plead.  I found myself wondering how one pleads when the “crime”  is asking for recognition of basic human dignities and respect.

Birmingham has several other civil rights sights, but I did not have time to see them – so, next time.  I left the jail a little disappointed but understanding that time moves on and buildings such as jails seldom withstand that march of time. I had envisioned, unrealistically, that I would somehow actually see the dark, gloomy cell with its small window where Dr. King sat and wrote by the fading daylight.

Birmingham Police Department

SELMA

I got into my truck and headed for Selma.  My one son had given me a plug-in GPS that he no longer needed, and I had been using it on the trip.  I found myself getting quite annoyed at the voice challenging me with the worn-out phrase “recalculating.”  I knew darn well where I was going, and I didn’t need the mouthy GPS to tell me differently – although I have to give it credit for some of its advice.

The route to Selma took me through the Alabama countryside along peaceful and tranquil back roads.   The terrain was hilly with picturesque hollows and ridges.  As I drove along at an easy clip, I found myself thinking about the ugliness of dragging blacks out to deserted areas, beating them savagely, and then hanging them – their lifeless,  bloodied bodies the remnants of their only “crime” – to be born black .  I pictured the Klan meeting down in a hollow, long flowing white robes with hoods covering faces, fires burning in the night, and hate spewing from lips.

As I approached Selma, I saw signs noting that the Edmund Pettus Bridge was not far away, but the signs had no indication of the Bridge’s role in civil rights history.  Perhaps the lack of acknowledgment was intentional.  Why would city residents remind visitors of their hometown’s role in one of the bloodier moments of civil rights history?

Selma’s main street – Route 80 – leads right to the Edmund Pettus Bridge – it cannot be missed.  As I headed down main street, the bridge loomed in front of me, an arch bridge of grayish hue spanning the Alabama River as it flows through Selma.  I parked along a side street with brick sidewalks and walked to the bridge.  The sun was bright with no clouds in the sky, but it was January, and it was cold.  As we anticipate an event, sometimes we are disappointed.  I was not disappointed in the bridge.

Now close to 46 years ago, the Bloody Sunday march began on March 7, 1965, and became a powerful symbol of the civil rights struggle in the south.   The march was organized to protest the killing of a protester who had been fatally shot by an Alabama state trooper.  Six hundred marchers assembled in Selma on that Sunday in 1965 and, led by the groups, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River en route to Montgomery.

Just short of the bridge, they found their way blocked by Alabama State troopers and local police who ordered them to turn around. When the protesters refused, the officers shot teargas and waded into the crowd, beating the nonviolent protesters with billy clubs and ultimately hospitalizing over fifty people.

Two weeks later, on Sunday, March 21, 1965, the marchers advanced again, this time 3200 strong. Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., who weighed the right of mobility against the right to march and ruled in favor of the demonstrators:

“The law is clear that the right to petition one’s government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups…,and these rights may be exercised by marching, even along public highways.”

As I walked slowly along, I visualized the hundreds of people lined up on the bridge, jostling and waiting to start their trek over the bridge.  I tried to imagine the chaos as the police blocked their path, determined not to allow them across the bridge to disturb the quiet of a Selma Sunday.  I tried to visualize the first tear gas thrown and the first blow of the billy club.

I really wanted to linger much longer in the bright yet cold January sun – gazing out on the Alabama River and just thinking about the struggles that occurred simply so a people could be free.  But I had to move on to Montgomery to my third goal – the Maya Lin memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Edmund Pettus Bridge

On the Edmund Pettus Bridge

Alabama River from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama

CIVIL RIGHTS MEMORIAL – SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER

My last stop was Montgomery and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) with its huge black granite civil rights memorial created by Maya Lin, who also designed the Vietnam Wall.  The memorial was commissioned to honor those who died during the struggle for civil rights.

Montgomery is built on hills, and I had a bit of a time finding the Center – parking spaces were also at a premium.  I finally found a parking place and set out for the memorial, which was about a block away.  The memorial is set out in front of the Center’s offices in a recessed area, and,  as I approached it, I noticed there were chains across the two openings with signs warning of ice.  The chains were to keep visitors away from the area where the water had splashed onto the ground and frozen.  I did not see much ice on the ground.  Come on, I thought, I am from the land of the frozen north – a little ice is nothing.

And, let’s face it; I had driven almost 700 miles to get up close to this memorial, and I was not about to stand ten feet away, content with just looking and not touching.  I took a few pictures from a distance – trying to decide whether or not I wanted to take a chance and move the chain on one side and enter into the “danger” zone.  My desire to stand by the granite table and actually put my hand in the water as it flowed over the sides got the best of me.

Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center

I looked around, and, seeing no one, I moved the chain back and slid into the area, replacing the chain.  The memorial was only three or so feet away, and I walked up to it – I couldn’t believe I was here after reading about the memorial and seeing a documentary about Maya Lin.  I took a couple of pictures and then placed my hand on the top of the table to feel the cold water.

Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center

I placed my hand in the cold water and understood – this was a remembrance of history all gathered in one place on a black granite memorial.  A memorial to make us think and remember.  I wasn’t at these momentous happenings but as I was tracing a pattern in the water and reading the dates of important civil rights events, I felt a connection to that part of our history.

I was deep in thought when I heard someone say, “Excuse me.”  I looked toward the building and didn’t see anyone, but I heard the voice again.  I turned around, and a security officer was standing on the sidewalk.  He told me what I already knew – that I wasn’t supposed to be in that area.

I apologized profusely and told him I had gotten several pictures.  I would leave – not that I had a choice.  I told him I had driven almost 700 miles, and I just wanted to touch the memorial and place my hand in the water.  He was very kind and polite but firm.

In a somber mood, I exited the memorial and walked back to my truck to head on my way to Florida and another new and exciting experience – while not of historical import – of an air boat ride on Arbuckle Creek and Lake Istokpoga.

RIFKIN ROLLS IN DURING THE DARK OF NIGHT TO DEMOLISH DEPOT

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

 

THE REMNANT TRUST – WORDS THAT CHANGED HISTORY

I am not shy about my love of books. I have my own library of somewhere around 800 books, and I don’t intend to stop anytime soon. I love to stop in at Borders and browse the bargain books, and I rarely leave with purchases under $50.00. I journey to Hyde Brothers on Wells Street every now and then as well and search through old books for prizes to return home with me. So when I learned of a group of aged books set to come to IPFW, I was thrilled.

This coming January through April at IPFW, the Remnant Trust will make available a world-class collection of manuscripts, first- and early-edition works in original form, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, and the Federalist Papers. The Remnant Trust is comprised of over 900 manuscripts, books, pamphlets, and related documents on subjects related to individual liberty and human dignity.

Photo Credit: IPFW – The Remnant Trust

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The IPFW exhibit will include more than 50 manuscripts, books, pamphlets, and documents on subjects related to individual liberty and human dignity. The books will be available to actually hold, touch, and read.

As a prelude to the exhibit, IPFW is hosting four lectures – open to the public – tying the books to their particular time period as well as describing the roots of social and political ideas. The lectures not only focus on social and political ideas but also weave in period architectural styles.

I missed the first lecture two weeks ago, but I attended tonight’s lecture, and I will be attending the remaining two lectures in October. I totally enjoyed learning about the social and political ideas, but it was the idea of tying these age-old philosophies to architectural styles that really intrigued me.

The lecturers addressed the topic of “organic conservatism” and its impact on and relationship to classical architecture. I can’t wait until the next lecture on October 8th when the discussion will center around the concept of the “individualist conservative.”

But even more than the lectures and the knowledge gleaned, I cannot even imagine what it will be like to actually touch books the likes of the “Prince” by Machiavelli, the “Emancipation Proclamation”, and the “Rights of Men.”

Whether you are a book lover or not, or a reader or not, this opportunity should not be missed. The books can beheld in our hands – we can touch the leaves of the books and read the age-old words that, indeed, changed history.

KOSOVO TO DECLARE INDEPENDENCE – RISING FROM THE RUINS OF YUGOSLAVIA

Kosovo is on the verge of declaring its independence from Serbia: a momentous occasion, yet most Americans will be too absorbed in the current political scene to pay any attention. Many will be thinking about whether or not Obama lacks substance or whether Clinton represents the politics of old or whether McCain is too old to be president.

Kosovo’s anticipated arrival on the world stage has not been won without sacrifice or criticism. It has been a long struggle – one which required the breakup of Yugoslavia and years of subsequent chaos, violence, and ethnic cleansing. Since 1999, Kosovo, a province of Serbia, has been under U.N. control.

Old Yugoslavia

On January 31, 1946, the new constitution of Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, modeled after the Soviet Union’s constitution, established six Socialist Republics, a Socialist Autonomous Province, and a Socialist Autonomous District that were part of SR Serbia. The federal capital was Belgrade. The Republics and provinces were as follows:

  1. Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the capital in Sarajevo,
  2. Socialist Republic of Croatia, with the capital in Zagreb,
  3. Socialist Republic of Macedonia, with the capital in Skopje,
  4. Socialist Republic of Montenegro, with the capital in Titograd (now Podgorica),
  5. Socialist Republic of Serbia, with the capital in Belgrade, which also contained:
    5a. Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, with the capital in Priština
    5b. Socialist Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, with the capital in Novi Sad
  6. Socialist Republic of Slovenia, with the capital in Ljubljana.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
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Photo Credit: Wikipedia
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From the end of the second World War until 1980, Yugoslavia remained a federation of the six republics. After Yugoslavian dictator Tito‘s death in 1980, some of the republics began to seek more freedom from centralized control, but, at the same time, Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian communist leader, whipped the Serbian people into a nationalistic fervor. Milosevic’s goal was to keep the Serb people together at any cost.

In 1990, after the fall of the Soviet Union, each of the republics held elections. Some of the republics voted for independence and some voted for continued unity with Yugoslavia. The stage was set for death and destruction as the forces that desired independence fought those who wished to remain tied to old Yugoslavia.

The New Nations

Yugoslavia formally ceased to exist on January 15, 1992, when all 12 members of the European Community officially recognized Slovenia and Croatia as independent states. One by one the former Yugoslav republics declared independence with each declaration leading to war and chaos.

Terrible atrocities were committed by all sides during the Yugoslavian wars. Serbian leaders had fought for an ideal of keeping all Serbs together in a “Greater Serbia”, but failed. In two of the most notable atrocities committed, both in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Serbia besieged Sarajevo, resulting in 12,000 deaths and massacred 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica.

The war in Bosnia ended with the Dayton Agreement on December 14, 1995. In all, about 300,000 people were killed and more than 2,000,000 were displaced. In 2003, the name of Yugoslavia was abolished and by 2006, all republics had declared their independence. But within the republic of Serbia lay the autonomous province of Kosovo, waiting for its day of independence.

Kosovo

Kosovo, lying in the southern area of Serbia, is predominantly Albanian and Muslim. Under Tito, Kosovo was granted semi-autonomy in the 1980s but the Kosvars continued to agitate for greater autonomy. When Milosevic assumed leadership of the communist party, he began a drive to subdue Kosovan nationalism. When Milosevic refused to accept an agreement by the European Union to end the conflict, NATO began a bombing campaign. After 78 days of bombing, Milosevic agreed to withdraw his forces from Kosovo, but the violence did not end.

As Albanians returned to their homes, violence among the ethnic groups continued to simmer. Serbs, who had entered during the purging of the Albanian population, were now the ones forced to leave. The hostilities continue to this day, and, with Kosovo on the brink of declaring independence, fears are increasing that this latest and possibly last of the declarations of independence will lead to yet another round of violence.

Earlier Saturday the European Union finally agreed on a security, administrative and legal task force to aid Kosovo once it makes its much anticipated declaration.

Within hours, Kosovo will declare its independence, joining the other players on the world’s stage of autonomous players. And we may see yet another round of violence in the Balkans. As all Americans should remember, independence comes with a price.

WHERE ARE OUR YOUNGINS? IS ACTIVISM TIED TO THE DRAFT?

Conscription is a system to provide manpower to be used in the armed forces. In the United States, conscription was introduced in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The 1863 Enrollment Act permitted draftees to hire paid substitutes to fight in their place. In the United States during more recent times, conscription has simply been called the “draft.”

During the Civil War and again during World War I the draft mechanism was dissolved at the end of hostilities. In 1940, prior to U.S. entry into World War II, the first peacetime draft in our nation’s history was enacted in response to increased world tension with the result that the system was able to fill wartime manpower needs smoothly and rapidly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

At the end of the war, the draft law was allowed to expire, but it was reenacted less than two years later to maintain necessary military manpower levels as a result of the Cold War. From 1948 until 1973, during both peacetime and periods of conflict, men were drafted to fill vacancies in the armed forces which could not be filled through voluntary means.

Induction authority expired in 1973, but the Selective Service System remained in existence in a “standby” posture to support the all-volunteer force in case an emergency should make it necessary for Congress to authorize a resumption of inductions.

Vietnam War draft

Opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War began slowly and in small numbers in 1964 on various college campuses in the United States. This happened during a time of unprecedented student activism reinforced in numbers by the demographically significant baby boomers, but grew to include a wide and varied cross-section of Americans from all walks of life.

Much of the protest movement was fueled by a system of conscription that provided exemptions and deferments more easily claimed by middle and upper class registrants – and thus inducted disproportionate numbers of poor, working-class, and minority registrants. By the end of 1967, as U.S. troop casualties mounted and the war ground on with no end in sight, public opinion polls showed a majority of Americans were opposed to the war and wanted it to end. In 1967, the continued operation of a seemingly unfair draft system then calling as many as 40,000 men for induction each month fueled a burgeoning draft resistance movement.

But where is that resistance from the youth of today? An undeclared war is being waged in a foreign land, thousands of military personnel are being sent to fight, thousands are dying, and thousands more are being maimed for life.

Yet, the youth of today are strangely silent. Could it be that the primary reason so many college age and young people are not participating is because they do not have a “vested” interest in this war? The Selective Service is still in place for males, but the draft is not. But it is folly to ignore the authority to reinstate the draft at any given moment.

The sole purpose of the Selective Service is to keep track of the number of available young males in case the draft needs to be reinstated. And, as the youth of today sit back comfortably assuming that they are “safe” from forced service to this country, the reality is that our military is stretched thin by our ongoing and misguided efforts in Iraq.

Of course, you will see some younger protesters at the rallies and marches, but take a closer look as you drive by. When I stand on the sidewalk along the Clinton street side of our Courthouse, I look up and down the row of protesters, and I see older individuals – many in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and, yes, even in their 70s.

Many of us protesting and rallying are from the Vietnam War era – we remember those days, and we are willing to stand on sidewalks and street corners in blistering hot weather as well as zero degree temperatures to protest a war that is not only unjust but also one of the greatest blunders ever made by a president.

So our youth, for the most part, turn their heads away from the horrors of Iraq, comfortable in their false sense of security and the notion that they are safe from being snatched into service. They are not yet affected; they are not the ones fighting and dying in an unjust war.

But those thoughts are misguided; the Selective Service hovers in the background with the power to rip complacent bodies into forced military service. A vested interest in this war and any other wars may very well arise only when the individual has the most to lose – his or her own life. What a shame that it takes extrinsic motivation to force the youth to do something that should arise from intrinsic values – caring about their fellow human beings.

Photo Credit: Mike Keefe – InToon.com

 

TOWERING OVER ALL – THE CELL PHONE TOWER CONTROVERSY

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.

SEC. 704. FACILITIES SITING; RADIO FREQUENCY EMISSION STANDARDS.
(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:
(7) PRESERVATION OF LOCAL ZONING AUTHORITY-

(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.

(B) LIMITATIONS-
(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.

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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
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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.

IT’S BAAAACK!! THREE RIVERS PARADE TO RETURN TO WEST CENTRAL

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

THIEME DRIVE – SAFE FOR NOW

Quite some time ago, I wrote about Thieme Drive and the St. Marys River, both of which are within a few dozen feet of my front door. In July 2003, we experienced what was labeled a “100-year” flood event with the St. Marys cresting at its highest level ever at 21.20 ft. on July 9, 2003.

After the waters had receded, the City requested that the United States Army Corps of Engineers undertake a Section 205 Study. Section 205 of the 1948 Flood Control Act, as amended, provides authority to the Corps of Engineers to plan and construct small flood damage reduction projects that have not already been specifically authorized by Congress. The City made such a request and the Corps submitted the Section 205 Study results in February 2005. The Study was released just a month after the third highest crest of the St. Marys at 19.06 ft. on January 14, 2005.

The Study identified four areas that had flooded in July 2003 that were not protected subsequent to the Flood of 1982 and its aftermath of building berms, levees, and walls. One of those areas was the Thieme-Berry area, with the suggestion made by the Corps to place an 1100-foot wall along Thieme Drive. The Study noted that not many homes in the Thieme-Berry location were impacted. After the release of the Section 205 Study, the City decided to go ahead with meetings to obtain input from the public on the four sites analyzed by the Corps.

Thus, began my fight against “the wall.” I attended meetings that were held not only in my neighborhood but also in other neighborhoods included in the Study. I wrote to the City numerous times, and I attended my neighborhood association meetings to ask for help in fighting the wall. The West Central Neighborhood Association was and has been extremely helpful, and we sent two letters to the City to let them know that a wall was not wanted.

All I could envision during this time were the monstrosities along St. Joseph Boulevard in the Lakeside area and along Camp Allen Drive in the Nebraska Neighborhood. Camp Allen Drive intersects with Main Street just across the Main Street bridge. The homes on Camp Allen Drive face a wall along the west side of the river, and driving along Camp Allen is like driving in a tunnel. The same can be said for driving along St. Joe Boulevard from Tennessee Avenue to the Columbia Avenue bridge. The traffic lanes restrict motorists, edging the drivers against the Wall in the traffic lane closest to the wall heading toward the Columbia Avenue bridge.

Concrete wall along Camp Allen Drive
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In a charrette held this past summer, a number of West Central residents impacted by the flooding of the St. Marys gathered with representatives of the City to discuss options to help with the flooding. No one supported an 10-foot wall, much to my relief. Those of us who actually suffer the flood waters stated that the water comes through our basement walls as the water filters through the ground. When I flooded in July 2003, I only had about an inch or two of water in my basement – most coming from oozing through the northwest corner of my basement wall. My home also sits at the low point on my side of West Berry, so the flow of water is naturally to my home and its foundation.

After much discussion, what was settled on as a consensus was a 4-foot wall with intermittent columns where barricades could be lowered into place to block the flood waters. These plans were then carried to the City by the two city employees who had facilitated the charrette.

I still did not want a wall of any type. Erecting even a 4-foot wall would have meant destroying the river bank environment since any wall would have required setting foundations in place deep in the ground. Trees would have been removed, many of them decades old. I realize to some this is not important, but we have very few river drive views left in Fort Wayne. Many once-visible river banks are now hidden either behind concrete walls or earthen levees and berms.

After the charrette, the City took soil borings, and, much to my delight, found that Thieme Drive is mostly fill with no way to support the footings that would be necessary for any type of wall. The City has determined that it would not be cost effective to go forward with a wall given that only a few homes are impacted by the flooding.

While I was elated at this news, it does not mean the fight is over. The City could place the project in the hands of the Army Corps of Engineers. But if the Corps becomes involved, it will trigger a Section 106 review. The following are the mandates of Section 106:

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires consideration of historic properties in the thousands of federal actions that take place nationwide each year. The law and regulations require federal agencies to consult with the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and/or Tribal Preservation Officer and give the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation an opportunity to comment before projects are implemented. The Section 106 process also provides for public input in the decision making.

This is relevant to Thieme Drive because Thieme Drive has been included in a multi-property document filed with the state and national historic registers, thus providing protection of a historical nature. Let me explain a little about the historic nature of Thieme Drive.

Thieme Drive History

Thieme Drive is named after Theodore F. Thieme, an early Fort Wayne entrepreneur who started the Wayne Knitting Mills and who donated the home where the Arena Dinner Theatre is located. He was also active in city improvement projects and was an early supporter of the beautification of our rivers. The overlook at the junction of Rockhill and Thieme Drive was built by Mr. Thieme on what was an old dump site. He donated his home to be used as an art studio, and it now houses the Arena Dinner Theater. One of my prized possessions which I found at the Hyde Brothers Book Store is a personally-autographed book of Mr. Thieme’s life titled “Theodore F. Thieme: A Man and His Times” by Ross F. Lockridge. I cannot help but think from reading the book that Mr. Thieme was a true “renaissance man.”

Around 1907, the citizens of Fort Wayne combined their effort with the local government to implement plans to beautify their city. The first plan was submitted by Charles Mulford Robinson of New York in 1909. This plan was followed by a park and boulevard plan by noted landscape architect George Kessler in 1911. The Plan highlighted and capitalized on the city’s most important and significant asset – its three rivers and the opportunity they presented.

After the Flood of 1913, the River Improvement Association was formed to review options for control and prevention of floods. The existing River Front Commission hired Kessler to supervise the work of revising the park system and beautifying the river banks. Kessler’s plan called for connecting the nine miles of rivers running though the city via parkways and boulevards.

The 1912 Kessler Park and Boulevard System for Fort Wayne included Present Parks and Parkways, Proposed Parks and Parkways, and Proposed Boulevards. A parkway includes the river, its bank, public green space along the bank, the vehicular drive along the landside of the green space. At the time of the Plan, the city had only two lengths of existing parkway:

  • one running along the east bank of the St. Joseph River south from the Tennessee Boulevard to link to the Maumee River at its confluence, and
  • one associated with Thieme Drive, along the east bank of the St. Marys River extending south from Main Street to Swinney Park.

The river drive along St. Joe Boulevard is encased on the river side by a cement wall over which no one can see from the street. Thieme Drive is the only river drive left of the original Kessler Plan. It is also one of the few drives left in Fort Wayne where motorists can actually drive right along the river – a rare sight indeed in today’s Fort Wayne landscape of berms, levees, and concrete walls hiding our rivers from view.

But Thieme Drive is neglected. Its river side is overgrown with unsightly brush and weeds and Trees of Heaven, which grow quickly and overtake almost any area they invade. The Drive is need of upkeep and care – it needs cleaned and weeded. The River Greenway runs alongside the river, but no formal path exists – I don’t know why because one could surely be established. This would require turning Thieme Drive into a one-way running from Washington Boulevard to Main Street, but that could be accomplished.

So, as I leave my home each morning and turn onto Thieme Drive and drive along the river, I breathe a sigh of relief – Thieme Drive is safe for now. I can only hope that somehow, someway the powers-that-be will soon look at Thieme Drive in a new light – a light that sees it for what it is – an historic river drive in need of care and attention to turn it into what could be a beautiful reminder of the man who gave it its name – Theordore F. Thieme.