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.

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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.

THIEME DRIVE TO UNDERGO SHORE STABILIZATION

I have written about Thieme Drive on numerous occasions with my primary concern the construction of an atrocious, 1100-foot long, 10-foot high concrete wall along the river bank at the intersection of West Berry Street, Thieme Drive, and Nelson Street.  But Thieme Drive has two issues that involve the St. Marys River – the wall is one of them.  The second is the erosion of the river bank at the southwest end of Thieme Drive.

Those who travel Thieme Drive on a regular basis – or live in the area – can’t miss the “Road Closed” signs at each end of the drive.   The signs warn of the critical condition of Thieme Drive at its intersection with West Washington Boulevard.  The approaching shore stabilization project, which has been let for bids,  represents the culmination of years of starts and stops – many of which were impacted by the lack of federal funding.

The Thieme Drive river bank erosion issue begins at the southwest end of Thieme Drive where it intersects with West Washington Boulevard and runs for approximately one block northeast to the intersection of Thieme Drive and West Wayne Street.  The river bank has eroded from the natural processes of the river’s flow as it curves like a serpent through Swinney Park, along the southern edge of the Nebraska Neighborhood, and along Thieme Drive.

Rivers – no matter how slow they appear to meander – exhibit a natural process called “cutting” and “depositing.”  As a river flows, two forces work on the sides of the river banks.  On the inside edge, the river flows at a slower pace and drops – deposits – its load of silt, rock, and any other materials that have been bounced and carried along.  On the outside edge, the river flows at a faster pace, carving – cutting – into the outside edge of the bank and carrying away soil and undercutting tree roots.

The process is a natural cycle and, ultimately, over thousands of years, will result in the curves coming so close to each other that a heavy flash flood will bisect the curvature, and an ox-bow lake will be born.  The Google Earth image below shows the exaggeration of the river’s curves as well as the area of the river bank stabilization project.

The stabilization project using gabion baskets is a much-needed repair of the river bank.  The downside will be the probable destruction of many of the trees along the bank.  The equipment necessary to work on the project will no doubt require access which will require removal of the trees.  I am hoping that the Corps will take it easy on the existing vegetation, especially the long-standing elms and cottonwoods.

Now as to the other issue – the flooding at my intersection – I will continue to fight against the erection of a concrete wall and the destruction of 1100-feet of river bank.  Period.

SIGN, SIGN, EVERYWHERE A SIGN – AHH, MY FAVORITE SIGN

I love traveling, but lately, I haven’t traveled the way I used to travel.  I have been to 40 of the 50 states with virtually all of my travels on my own, playing the radio or the CD player, and talking to myself – yes, I talk to myself – does that really surprise anyone? Oh, and, by the way, I answer myself, too.

I can’t imagine traveling with anyone.  I like not having to answer to another person.  I can stop when I want, eat when I want, and do what I want.  I can drift off the beaten path and wander if I want.  While the interstates certainly make travel fast and easy, they also make one miss so many quaint and beautiful sights.

Last week I took a trip to Cincinnati to attend a corporate meeting – not far – about a three and a half hour drive.  I got up at 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning, and packed a few things.  Not  many, though, because I was only going to be gone over night, staying at my son and daughter-in-law’s on the way home to see them and my grand kids.

My route of travel was to take 33 south out of Fort Wayne, through Decatur and into Ohio, pick up Ohio State Road 29 outside St. Marys, Ohio, and then hop onto Interstate 75 at Sydney, Ohio.

As I left my home in the early morning hours, I thought what a wonderful feeling it is to take off in the early morning hours, the balmy summer air stirring slightly with a gentle touch against the face, pulling into the gas station for a cup of freshly-brewed morning coffee, and then on the road with the sun just hinting with its rosy glowing beams of light that it was anxiously awaiting the proper moment to show its rising face in the eastern sky.

I always allow myself about 30 minutes of  “get lost” time, and it was a good thing I did.  No problem getting to Cincinnati, but I am not very familiar with downtown Cincinnati itself.  I had prepared my route beforehand, and, as I deftly wove my way through the inner parts of Cincinnati following my Google map, I thought I had it made.  The last direction was to turn on Eden Park Drive – and the instructions showed that it was totally close to my exit from Reading Road.

And, it was – and, I missed it.  If you have ever missed a turnoff on these highway mazes, you will understand the panic I felt at that point.  It was 9:30 a.m., and my meeting started at 10:00 a.m. – hence my relief that I had my “get lost” time.  As I was forced up onto another clover leaf, I started thinking of options.  I drove down a street and stopped a pedestrian to see if she knew where to go.  No – she didn’t.

I knew that if I could just find Interstate 71, I would probably – I say probably because I had no clue – be okay.  I managed to locate the exit I wanted, but as I missed that turnoff also, I saw that it was on my right and lower down.  So, unless I wanted to drive over the side of a freeway and nosedive down about 30 feet, I wasn’t going to get onto it.  I quickly doubled back and found the right exit.  I pulled into the parking lot just on time and made it to my meeting.

On my way back, I stayed all night with my daughter-in-law and my four grand kids.  My son was on the road, so I missed seeing him.  He travels extensively in his job, and he is a wonderful provider, but I know it has to be hard on him to be gone so much.

I had such a wonderful time.  My daughter-in-law is a great cook and mother.    They have a home in the country – a huge old brick home that has been restored, lying in the gentle rolling hills of southern Ohio.   The windows are open at night with the air wafting through – something I miss here in the city.

I found out how naive and dangerous leaving my windows open at night could be – three years ago this August, I surprised a burgler coming through my screen in my dining room, and, he, ever the macho character he surely was, reacted to my screaming and carrying on by fleeing – thank God because he had cut the screen with a knife.  I certainly would have been no match for a burgler with a knife.

My windows haven’t been open at night since, and I now have an alarm system.  So, so sad!  I miss that trust of people that I used to have.

As I slept at their home that night, I was anxious; I worried that someone would come through the open screen windows.   The fear of that happening will never leave me no matter how much time will pass and where I am – I am still scared.   But, of course, I worried for no reason – nothing happened; I awoke in the morning with all still asleep in the early morning quiet and the air peaceful and warm.  I left quietly without waking anyone.

As I traveled home, I thought about what a great trip I had.  I enjoyed my business meeting, but, more than that, I enjoyed seeing my family and spending a few hours with them.

As is the case with every trip I have taken, I couldn’t wait to see the Indiana state line.  That sign, that wonderful sign, is what makes coming home so special to me.  It is what makes my travels so special to me.   My favorite sign through all my travels is this one below.  I stopped at the Ohio-Indiana state line to take this picture – one that I had always kept putting off taking.

No matter where I roam, this will be my favorite sign.

And, this is will forever be my favorite song.

MY FIRST FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT REQUEST

I filed my first Freedom of Information Act request – better known as an “FOIA”  request – asking for information about Thieme Drive and the City’s plans to destroy it.

I received a couple of calls from a city attorney to clarify a couple of items, but other than that, I haven’t heard about the materials I requested.  Of course, those who read my blog know how much I love this small, little corner of the world and how much I loathe the City’s attempts to tear down the river environment and erect an ugly, concrete wall.

As far as I am concerned, the City is responsible for the increased flooding in my area.  After the completion of an extensive wall that was erected to protect the Nebraska neighborhood from flooding, this area began to flood more frequently.  How do I know?  Well, I have lived here now for 14 years, and, since the 2001 completion of the Nebraska Wall, this small “cup” area has flooded five times in six years:  July 2003, June 2004, January 2005, February 2008, and March 2009.

Of course, the City personnel simply tell me I am not an engineer so I really have no understanding of river dynamics.  But I do have common sense, and common sense tells me that if you wall off water from spreading out in one area where it has typically gone, it will seek an open and lower level to spread out. Unfortunately, that is now my area.

The City keeps slapping up short-sighted flood measures such as berms, levees, and walls, and, with each one , it marches toward the destruction of Thieme Drive – an historical drive named after Fort Wayne entrepreneur Theodore Thieme, and which is probably the last river drive left in Fort Wayne.

So, I will see what I get from my first FOIA.  And, believe me, I will certainly let you know via my blog.

CITY MANIPULATES THIEME DRIVE FLOOD CONTROL ISSUE

And now, the rest of the story – the real story that is.  The City, through one of its engineers, continues to misrepresent and manipulate information about flood control measures along Thieme Drive located in the historic district of West Central.  The  City’s goal?  To build a wall along Thieme Drive.

Thieme Drive, one of the few remaining river drives still visible to joggers, bikers, and motorists, suffers from two separate and distinct issues that are the result of its location along the St. Marys River.  The first issue involves river bank erosion.  For a number of years, a section of the river bank located in the 900 block of Thieme Drive at the junction of Thieme Drive and West Washington has been subject to erosion during times of flooding.

To understand why this happens, one must understand river dynamics.  Rivers are not static entities – they are in constant motion.  Over time, a young river begins to slowly deviate from its straight path and take on a more curved “S” form; it begins to meander.  As a river begins to form curves over time, two dynamics are involved.  The water on the outside of the “S” curve along the river bank moves at a faster pace, and the river cuts into the bank carrying away soil and exposing tree roots over time.

On the inside of the river, the water moves at a slower pace and deposits soil.  Thus, one dynamic cuts into the river bank and the opposite dynamic deposits.  Eventually the river forms an exaggerated “S” and doubles back on itself.  This process over time has led to the river bank along the 900 block of Thieme Drive to be slowly eroded to the point where little embankment is left.

To resolve this issue, the Army Corps of Engineers undertook a Section 14 Study under the Corps’ Continuing Authorities Program (CAP).  The Section 14 Study was nearly complete in 2004 when funding ran out and additional funding was not allocated in either 2005 or 2006.   But the Section 14 Study was not the only study done in reference to Thieme Drive.

The second issue that involves Thieme Drive is flooding at what I call the “cup” area located at the intersection of Thieme Drive, West Berry Street, and Nelson Street.   I have lived in my home now for a little over 14 years – first as a renter and now as an owner.  Since the City’s completion of a concrete wall in 2001 just across on the other side protecting the Nebraska Neighborhood, my intersection has flooded five times in six years:  July 2003, June 2004, January 2005, February 2008, and March 2009.

Flood of 1985 – intersection of Thieme Drive, West Berry Street, and Nelson Street – note that the water does not rise to the level of the first floor – the homes in the area were built higher and on hills

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The City would argue that the Nebraska wall has nothing to do with the flooding at Thieme Drive.   And, because it refuses to recognize the impact a wall in one area can have another area, the City continues to throw up more walls and levees, which I believe only increases the odds of more flooding in the Thieme Drive area.  After all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that if you prevent water from entering an area where it previously spread out, it will be pushed somewhere else seeking a lower spot on its route.

Intersection of Thieme Drive, West Berry Street, and Nelson Street – my home is the gray one on the corner

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While the flooding is traumatic and aggravating, the water does not enter the living quarters portion of my home.  What little water I do get in my basement is the result of ground flow through the soil and not over it.  The water also does not rise to the level of entering other homes in the area.  Two garages which back onto Thieme Drive usually get water in them.

In all five floods, I have never had to make one claim involving structural damage or personal property damage to my insurance company.  I suspect – but I am not sure – that the other home owners also have not had to make any claims either.

After the Flood of July 2003, the City asked the Army Corps of Engineers to undertake what is called a Section 205 Study under its Continuing Authorities Program (CAP).  Although the study was done under the same Continuing Authorites Program as the Section 14 Study, it was a much broader study and included several different areas along the St. Marys.  The results of the study were released on February 17, 2005, with findings that impacted several areas prone to flooding.  One of those areas was the intersection of Thieme Drive, West Berry Street, and Nelson Street – the area where I live and where the recommendation was construction of an 1,100 feet concrete wall.

Despite the fact that the Section 205 Study found, in reference to Thieme Drive and West Berry, that “the area impacted by the 2003 flood event is a relative small area”, the City pressed ahead with its  goal to wall in Thieme Drive.   I immediately contacted my West Central Association to let them know of my opposition to a wall and  to ask for the Association’s support to prevent a concrete wall along the Drive.  The Association agreed and let its position be known to the City.

Protective retaining walls built in front of two homes on Thieme Drive, just down from me –  a measure I have asked about on a couple of occasions with no response

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The Association then began a series of meetings with City officials to try to come to some resolution about the two different issues involving Thieme Drive.  The Section 14 Study involving river bank erosion was at a standstill due to lack of funds, and neither West Central residents nor the City had any control over this fact.  Thus, the focus was on resolving the flooding issue at the Thieme Drive, West Berry, and Nelson Street intersection.

After a couple of presentations by the City and a charrette conducted during 2006 and 2007, a consensus was reached and a plan was sent to the City through two city officials who participated in the meetings.  The plan was to construct a lower wall of about four-feet in height rather than a 10-foot wall which would completely destroy the river environment.

The lower wall would be constructed with columns set at specific distances along the lower wall into which solid plates could be dropped when necessary to protect from higher river levels.  In addition to the above ground wall, a slurry wall was suggested to block the flow of the water through the ground.

Subsequent to presentation of the plan to the City, the City contracted with a local engineering firm to complete an evaluation of Thieme Drive for the purposes of proceeding with the suggested plan.  Soil borings were taken in six different locations along Thieme Drive.

Imagine my surprise – and no doubt the surprise of others who were involved in the discussions – when the evaluation dated October 26, 2007, of which I have a copy, came back with the findings that the area was fill and construction of the wall – even at a lower level – was outside the scope of what was considered “normal or usual construction”.  In layman’s terms – it wasn’t feasible.

The recommendation was to deem the project economically beyond the City’s ability to implement or to refer the project to the Corps for implementation.  So, when I hear a City official spout to TV cameras or newspaper writers the following statements pointing a finger at West Central, I get irritated:

The city has been aware of the gradual erosion, and says plans to stop it were presented to the neighborhood over the years.

“Nobody could really come to an agreement on they wanted for the flood stabilization, so the projects been dormant now for about a year,” said City of Fort Wayne Engineer David Ross.

The City does a true disservice to its citizens when it allows its officials to manipulate information which is known to be untrue.  I have literally every communication – emails, studies, reports, and letters – over the past four years since the original Section 205 Study that involves the Thieme Drive area.  To know that Mr. Ross has the audacity to go on TV and make statements that simply are not true is extremely disturbing.

The truth is the Section 14 Study stabilization project – the first issue – did not have funding to complete the process and has lain dormant for that reason, not because West Central residents couldn’t make up their minds.  And, the truth is that the plan proposed to the City by West Central residents to resolve flooding at the Thieme Drive intersection – the second issue – could not be implemented because of the nature of the soils and the inability of the City to fund the project, again not because West Central residents couldn’t come to an agreement.

CITY CONTINUES TO STRAIGHT-JACKET THE ST. MARYS

The City doesn’t seem to want to quit messing up the banks of the St. Marys River.  After the Flood of 2003, the City requested a Section 205 Study of the St. Marys River for the purpose of deciding where more levees, walls, and earthen berms would be slapped up.  A Section 205 Study of the Flood Control Act of 1948 as amended is a partnered effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – which doesn’t have exactly the best reputation for its plans – and a governmental entity.  In this case, the governmental entity was the City of Fort Wayne – also known as a sponsoring agency.

The Section 205 study was released in February 2005 with “recommendations” as to four different areas prone to flooding along the St. Marys.  One of the recommendations – which I oppose and have since the Study was released – impacts the river and Thieme Drive just across from my home.

A project which I suspect is still in the back of the minds of the City planners is to erect a god-awful concrete wall along Thieme Drive in West Central where I live.  This is the “cup” area – as I call it –  that floods at the intersection of Thieme Drive, Nelson Street, and West Berry Street.

The water does not come into the several homes that are impacted, which were built high enough that the water remains lower than the first floors of the homes.   The flooding is certainly an annoyance, but it is not critical enough to call for the destruction of one of the only river drives left in Fort Wayne.

Thieme Drive, Nelson Street, and West Berry Street

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As to the other projects, the City is well on its way to implementing the Study’s recommendations regardless of the impact on other areas along the river.  The City recently completed the 5400 foot levee and wall project extending from the Airport Freeway to Hartman Road along the east side of the St. Marys River.

Another project is now going full steam ahead, and that project will be constructed at the Park-Thompson area along the St. Marys River.

Here is the issue and my concern – every time a wall, levee, or berm is erected, it shoves water somewhere else.   Water finds  a way around barriers.  Each time the City takes a short-term approach which, granted, generates “oohs and ahs” of relief for some areas, residents of other areas are subjected to increased concerns about displaced river waters.  Unless the City frees up some storage area to provide a relocation area for displaced waters, the chances that another area will flood more extensively are increased.

St. Marys River, Flood of 1982 – Photo Credit:  News-Sentinel

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After the Flood of 1982, the Corps and the City undertook several phases to wall in the City’s rivers.  A final phase was built to protect the Nebraska neighborhood – a section of the City lying to the west of downtown and accessible by the Main Street bridge.  Since the completion of that phase in 2001, my area has flooded four times in five and a half years:  July 2003, June 2004, January 2005, and February 2008.

I have lived in my home now since 1995 – 14 years this month, and prior to 2003, the area rarely flooded.  But after completion of the Corps’ projects, this area has flooded several times in just a few years.  Now with the City’s continued straight-jacketing of the St. Marys River with its additional projects, I suspect that we will see an increasing number of floods in certain areas.

And what will the City’s response be?  Why, to try to put up more walls and levees – the process is never-ending.  All one has to do is to look at the photo above of the Flood of 1982 and its range to see that there aren’t enough walls and levees to protect every section of Fort Wayne – and it is futile to try to do so.

CONSTITUTIONAL PROPERTY CAPS BAD IDEA

Attaching an amendment to a constitution is a serious matter, whether it be the United States Constitution or the Indiana Constitution.  Amendments take a lot to pass, and they become virtually set in stone once implanted into constitutions.

So I have been anxiously watching the debate over whether or not to make the property tax caps permanent by placing them in an amendment to the Indiana Constitution.   The flaw in taking this step is that even if they are made permanent in this manner, all that has to be done is raise the assessment.

Short on funds?  Just assess properties at a higher value.  My property taxes went up 50% instead of going down like I had thought they would.  And that was after an adjustment.  When I opened my bill, I was stunned to see that my assessed value had jumped $44,000 from the year before.

After I recovered from the shock, I called the assessor’s office to discuss how this was possible.  The clerk who helped me was very nice and resolved my concerns by lowering my assessed value by $20,000, so my final increase was a mere $24,000.  This got me to thinking – what difference does a cap make if the assessment can be raised or lowered this easily?

Attaching an amendment to our Constitution only freezes the top rate that can be levied.  To increase property tax revenue, all that has to be done is to increase the assessed values of properties.   The caps – whether they remain simply a legislative enactment or become a constitutional amendment – do not resolve property tax issues.

But making the caps a part of the Constitution before we have had a chance to see how they will work is simply a bad idea that will compound an already easily manipulated system.

IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

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

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

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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

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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

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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

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REMEMBRANCE – 9/11 AT THE FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL

The Fort Wayne Professional Fire Fighters Local 124 hosted a remembrance and celebration this evening at their beautifully restored, historic fire house. Old Engine House No. 5 opened in 1893 using horse-drawn fire apparatus. While on duty, early firefighters spent twenty-nine straight days in the small brick building. It served the city of Fort Wayne as an active engine house until 1959 and was designated as a Local Historic District in 1987.

The architectural firm of Wing & Mahurin designed the Queen Anne/Romanesque fire house built in 1893. Architectural details include two arched stall openings constructed of brick and outlined in stone, flattened brick segmental arches above the windows, and a cornice ornamented with dentils and modillions.


Fort Wayne Professional Firefighter’s Union Local 124 purchased the historic structure in 2004 and extensively rehabilitated it for use as a meeting facility. The gorgeous stripped and refinished stall doors and the warm, exposed brick interior walls make an inviting location for get togethers and celebrations.

The Local 124 is an active participant in the West Central Neighborhood Association and partners with Wellspring Interfaith Social Services and Emmanuel-St. Michael Lutheran School on neighborhood social issues.

Giant flag hung from front facade of Fire Fighters Local 124

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Bagpipers at remembrance and celebration – Fort Wayne Fire Fighters Local 124

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Inside Fire Fighters Local 124

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Earlier in the afternoon, the public was invited to attend a ceremony at the newly created Law Enforcement Firefighters Memorial at 1000 N. Wells Street. Many from that gathering journeyed to the Fire Station at 1405 Broadway to continue the remembrance held from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

I arrived at about 6:00 p.m. – right after getting off work. A crowd had already gathered and was enjoying the snacks and refreshments provided by the Fire Fighters. The restored hall is amazing. The brick walls still bear outlines of various scars left by removing old brick and wood. The metal firemen’s pole still stands between the massive, refinished oak doors which once swung open to allow escaping fire engines to race to tend to their duties.

What a loss if the old fire station had disappeared as so many other historic buildings have done over the years. The saving of this building with all its memories is an example of what can be accomplished with dedication and perseverance – those very qualities that today we celebrate in the courage of the fire fighters and officers who perished in 9/11.