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054736 2 1 00
Roy M. Bates
Kenneth 6. Keller
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Roy M. Bates
Kenneth B. Keller
FORT WAY^^E&ALLLM CO., .■-■^'
Fort Wayne Public Library
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Ivan A . Lebamoff, Mayor
Fort Wayne Bicentennial Commission
Ladonna Huntley, Chairman
Board of Trustees of the Fort Wayne Public Library
Charles E. Slater, President
Allan J. Tremper, Vice-President
Helen Knoblauch, Secretary
Florence Buirley, Treasurer
Public Library Board for Allen County includes seven
members above and
William E. Miller
The tri -state region, confined by lines drawn
from Chicago to Grand Rapids, Lansing, Detroit,
Toledo, Columbus, Dayton, and Indianapolis, com-
prises an area approximately the size of the state of
Indiana. Fort Wayne has consistently through the
years been this area's most populous city, challenged
only occasionally by Gary, Indiana.
Early in the aboriginal era, the portage at what
is now Fort Wayne was found to be the shortest route
between the Great Lakes and the inland waterways .
Here a ten-mile overland trail connected the Maumee
and Wabash rivers . As the French, the British, and
later the Americans arrived, the importance of this
portage was apparent, and forts were erected to com-
plete control of this connecting link and area.
General Anthony Wayne, after subjugating the
confederated Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers,
proceeded directly to the headwaters of the Maumee
River. Here he erected a fortification, which was
dedicated on October 22, 1794, and named Fort Wayne.
At first the growth of the community around the fort
was very slow but was greatly accelerated after the
Wabash and Erie Canal came to the village.
Columbia Street paralleled the canal one -half
block to the south in the business district of the city
and became the principal business street. The rail-
roads later preempted the function of the canal and
greatly intensified the street's activity. The co-
authors of this publication have attempted to portray
for the reader the considerable business activity
which existed here and to point out the importance of
the street to this area over a period of almost 140
years. With the advent of commercial motor vehicles,
the decline of the street came rapidly. Merchants
were no longer dependent on railroad sidings for
receipt of merchandise and could locate and expand
their establishments in outlying areas. Fort Wayne's
recent redevelopment program absorbed four of the
street's five blocks. The 100 block of West Columbia
Street is now called "The Landing."
The following story of Columbia Street proceeds
as the street developed from east to west. The ac-
count was gleaned largely from the many Fort Wayne
newspapers published through the years and a few
interviews with descendants of former business
people associated with the street.
Roy M. Bates and Kenneth B. Keller
The joint sponsors of this publication, the Fort
Wayne Bicentennial Commission, the Board of Trustees
of the Fort Wayne Public Library, and the Public
Library Board for Allen County are pleased to present
the COLUMBIA STREET STORY.
The paper has been prepared as a local com-
memoration of the American Revolution Bicentennial,
1776-1976. The authors have made considerable
effort to verify facts, personal and place names, and
dates. Errors may have inadvertently occurred, as
old Fort Wayne newspapers provided source material.
The sponsors wish to express sincere appreciation to
the coauthors, Roy M. Bates and Kenneth B. Keller.
They have recorded an important chapter in the city's
commercial and economic history and have incorpo-
rated the picturesque social life of the period.
A GAY COLUMBIA STREET GREETED
Dust off bowlers and turn back the clock --it's
Saturday night on Columbia Street!
These were the five blocks that usurped the in-
tended schematics of Fort Wayne and controlled the
ebb and flow of the city's economy for many years .
As its name implies, Main Street was laid out for
that purpose --but Columbia Street fooled the planners
and started playing host to the city's commerce and
culture when the canal came, and continued that role
for several decades after the railroads puffed in,
forced the canal to run dry, and settled permanently
in the transportation field .
Columbia Street Saturday ni^ts were a tumult
of people, buggies, wagons, blazing store windows,
and panhandlers. The heavy odors of malt and sawdust
fanned over the sidewalks from swinging doors to
tempt or revolt the shoppers .
A policeman with walrus mustache lumbered
through the crowds and when he tarried for any length,
it was accepted that a lane soon would be cleared for
the horse-drawn police paddy wagon- -its warning bell
could be heard for blocks .
The dreaded conveyance usually came for the
panhandlers who were inclined to settle matters of
competition with their fists .
This was Columbia Street of the early 20th
Century- -famous for its wares, its cuisine, its bar-
bershops and above all, its people. It was an avenue
of saloons, free lunches and enterprise.
During its life as the city's real Main Street,
old Columbia Street saw some 2, 500 different busi-
nesses come and go along its short spread.
Mornings were a strange contrast- -some of the
merchants came to their offices in silent, gliding
electric cars --they were a signal for the barbers to
check their linens .
Some remember the old battery station, at the
present site of Coopers, Washington and Broadway,
where weird lights flickered all night as batteries for
the electrics were charged for the next day's use.
Today Columbia Street breeds nostalgia for those
who remember the magic of her youth. Saturday
nights are filled with shadows now, for Columbia's
single block has settled down to the tempo of wholesale
houses and hostelries. But she certainly had her fling!
The old business day started early on Columbia
Street- -at 7:00 a.m. and the doors closed reluctantly
at 6:00 p.m. Saturday generally was payday in Fort
Wayne and that meant longer hours from 7:00 a.m. to
11:00 p.m. for store workers.
Their own payday was prudently timed after the
evening lunch period on Saturday.
A typical business was the H.J. Ash kitchen-
ware and stove firm which stood in the 100 block east.
For many years it was the best -kept agency in the
nation for the Garland Stove Company. Fred Ash,
associated with his father in the business, couldn't
tolerate dust or fingerprints and he was out to banish
them from the time he arrived until the doors closed
for the day .
And so there was never a dull moment for anyone
hired to "flunky" in the store. The day opened with
sweeping the sidewalks, which had been sprinkled first
to lay the dust, and then the store. The windows were
washed daily and the handyman helped trim them, too.
The nickel work of the ornate stoves on the dis-
play line had to be rubbed constantly to erase finger-
prints of shoppers and freshening up Ash's office was
a daily chore. The showcases had to be cleaned inside
and out once a week, and the shelves kept filled with
In the winter, the basement furnace and five
heating stoves had to be stoked. When the essentials
had been taken care of, there were stoves to be un-
crated and assembled. And the handyman still found
time to help deliver and install stoves of various kinds.
Stove hauling and installing was a heavy, dirty
task and often the nearby swinging doors had a special
temptation for these laborers. Every time the Ash
dray left the loading platform in the rear with a burden
of polished cast iron, it had to pass one or two famous
saloons --Dutch Heine's or Norm Hendrickson's .
The young men who helped keep the business
running were rarely tempted. They often visited the
saloons for a glass of milk which gave them access to
the free lunch including a wide assortment of cold
meats and cheese .
It was a popular custom for them to close a long
Saturday with a pie -eating contest at the Crescent
Restaurant around the corner on Calhoun Street. This
bilious pastime was a tribute to the culinary art of
There was another responsibility, happily ban-
ished for many years now, that Mr. Ash was equally
touchy about; the cuspidors had to be kept fresh and
Roy M. Bates, Allen County historian, remem-
bers the store very well --he was a handyman there
for five years . On occasion, he even found time to
wash and polish the boss's Overland roadster, which
was garnished with brass headlamps, brass running
lights, brass windshield frame and support rods. These
had to shine like the spittoons .
The Columbia Street businessmen usually got the
day started while stroking their chins . The store boys
were dispatched to the nearest barbers for tickets --
there was to be no time wasted in barbershops . By
hook or crook, these enterprising young men always
had to know when their bosses' numbers were about to
The Wayne (now Rosemarie) Hotel employed
thirteen barbers and they were busy from morning
until night. These shops, had their "boys" too --lather
boys . A fellow started the barber trade then by learn-
ing to apply lather. Most of the Columbia customers
had their own cups with gold initials and brushes in the
barbershops of their choice. It was unthought-of for a
businessman to shave at home.
Hoff Brau House was a stone's toss away from the
Ash store on the southeast corner of Calhoun and
Columbia. Proprietor Harry Wiebke made the estab-
lishment famous throughout the Midwest. It was a
picturesque place with a timbered exterior borrowed
from Nuremberg and lush accommodations for private
dinner parties . The Hoff Brau got fifty cents for a club
sandwich when king-sized hamburgers were selling
for a nickel .
To the east, in sequence, were a brave little mid-
dle class restaurant, the Scheiffer shoe store, the
B. R. Noll drug store, Pickard house furnishing com-
pany, the Ash store and finally the City Rescue Mis-
sion whose tenants on a late Saturday night must have
been frustrating to the meticulous Mr. Ash.
Not far away Andy and Jesse Brosius opened the
city's first Ford agency although their showroom was
little more than a "hole in the wall."
Columbia Street was tolerant of its minority
patrons who asked nothing more than a bare existence.
For years the street was home for two men who mixed
cunning with panhandling and spent their nights in a
curious hideaway under the south arch of the Clinton
Street Bridge .
One answered to the name of "Never sweat" and
the other, Jeff. Something tragic had happened to
Jeff- -he was a highly educated man and former school
Their artifices were jig-dancing in the barber-
shops or hammering out crude and sometimes mean-
ingless articles which could be peddled for a pittance.
They combed the butcher shops for meat scraps and
"gleaned" stray onions and potatoes from the produce
They wined on flavoring extract and the juices
they could squeeze from canned heating pastes .
Even so, they never got reckless until the first
snow came to Columbia Street. Then they got out of
line just enough to merit county penal farm sentences
that provided food and shelter during cold weather.
For winters on end. Never sweat tended the penal farm
poultry and Jeff the swine .
They were proud of their summer home under
the bridge, and an invitation to visit it was a mark of
esteem they rarely showed their fellowmen.
There were others of similar ambition but far
less skilled in the art of panhandling. Jeff and
Neversweat were fixtures and won for themselves, if
nothing more, a fondness in memory that likely would
surprise them . They were part of the color that has
left Columbia's cheek.
THE CITY'S FIRST PULSE THROBBED
Columbia Street, the cradle of metropolitan Fort
Wayne, leaves only one block of itself to remind how a
community grew out of the wagon tracks .
The Landing, which captures the old atmosphere,
is all that remains of the city's birthright.
Columbia Street was never intended to spawn a
great Hoosier city; John T. Barr, Baltimore merchant
and wealthy John McCorkle of Piqua, Ohio thought Main
Street would be main street when they platted the vil-
lage in 1823 after buying what is now the center of the
city for $1 .25 an acre .
But these enterprising gentlemen did not know
that nine years later thousands of immigrant laborers
would start digging a waterway to connect Lake Erie
with interior Indiana. The Wabash and Erie Canal
commissioners chose Columbia Street for its frontage.
Thus Main Street lost out as the flower of commerce .
However, the real origin of Columbia Street was
rooted in savagery: it developed from a side trail of
greatest convenience to the old fort. Its original east-
ern terminus, Lafayette Street, was at the threshold
of the stockade. It became the line of demarcation
between the tomahawk and the business ledger.
This story of Columbia Street, never fully cov-
ered in narrative, is drawn from the archives of Roy
M. Bates, Fort Wayne and Allen County historian who
has spent years documenting the subject. Along its
five-block length occurred more "firsts" in the devel-
opment of a community than perhaps can be attributed
to any other street.
Its history was so intense during the developing
years that 60 per cent of the facts concerning it have
been lost to research, Bates believes . At least 2, 500
businesses have come to Columbia Street, and gone.
The chronology of business along the street be-
came a babel. The street numbering system began
east to west, was reversed in later years and finally
split east and west at Calhoun Street. In some in-
stances, business houses bore two sets of numbers.
Three famous old buildings gave Columbia Street
an identity as far back as 1820 --the Samuel Hanna log
trading post built in that year, Alexander Ewing House
(Washington Hall) which made its appearance two years
later and the Suttenfield Tavern, 1823, all at the inter-
section of Barr and Columbia streets . They served as
town meeting places and the first function of municipal
government began there.
During its busy life, covering nearly a century
and a half, not a single lot along the street escaped
the ravages of fire. Estimating conservatively, Bates
thinks the sum of these losses down through the years
represented the destruction of at least one -fourth of
the modern Fort Wayne.
The structures of brick and stone which rose
over the busy thoroughfare bore the ornate architec-
tural garnish of the period. What remains of Columbia
Street has been described as the most architecturally
consistent in the city, and is the last street bearing
any resemblance to the remembered past.
"It is interesting to leisurely visit the street and
carefully observe its aging structures with their cast
iron fronts, roof adornments and upper windows of
yesterday's gaunt design," Bates points out.
Buildings on the north side of Columbia actually
fronted on the canal but for years their finery was
wasted on an alley used for deliveries .
The existence of Columbia Street cannot be sep-
arated from four pioneer forts, the sites of which are
all within the corporate limits of the city. The first
French fort was built about 1700 just west of the
present Van Buren Street Bridge about the time the
capitol of the Mian^i nation, Kekionga, was established
in what is now Lakeside. The commandant of this first
military stronghold, known as Post Miami, was
Baptiste Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes . This fortifica-
tion was burned by the Indians in 1747. A second
French fort was built by M. de Raimond on a new site
overlooking the St. Joseph River near what is now
Delaware Avenue. Occupied in 1750, the stockade was
taken over by the British in 1760 near the close of the
French and Indian War.
The first American fort was fabricated from
wilderness materials in September, 1794 near what
was the east end of Columbia Street --some of the
stockade was in the path of the Wabash and Erie Canal.
It was named after the builder. General Anthony Wayne,
who shattered Indian resistance in the old Northwest
Territory, and the name remained with the community
that sprang up in its shelter .
The second American fort, constructed in 1800
by Col. Thomas Hunt, stood at the present intersection
of Main and Clay streets, and for a time the two forti-
fications stood a block apart .
The military influence upon the city ceased in
1819 when the troops withdrew, leaving the lonesome
community to fend for itself. It was incorporated as
a town in 1829 and as a city in 1841.
Land offered by the government went on sale at
Washington Hall or Ewing's Tavern in October, 1823.
Since the first court house did not make an appearance
until 1831, the business of the County Commissioners
and Allen Circuit Court was conducted in Washington
Samuel Hanna's trading post served as the first
post office, and Hanna was instrumental in development
of the canal through the city. It was an advantage, of
course, to have the waterway parallel Columbia Street.
Strangely, the street that was to flourish so
abundantly took its name from a hawk-nosed hotel
proprietor, Dana Columbia; obviously he was of a
personality that made a deep impression upon the
growing community and his twenty -two room hostelry
which stood on the site of the Wayne (now Rosemarie)
Hotel was a popular gathering place.
Twice during the middle of the 19th Century flood
waters invaded Columbia Street. In the spring of 1844
rainfall was so heavy that water collected on both sides
of the canal and the street itself became a morass
where people sank to their knees in muck. This ca-
tastrophe led Isaac D. G. Nelson to finance the manu-
facture of tile so the land of the area could be drained.
In May, 1851 heavy rains again flooded the cen-
tral city and canalboats floated off into the streets in
the vicinity of Columbia and Harrison streets.
The confusion of record concerning Columbia
Street began January 21, 1851 when an ordinance was
passed to number business houses westward, begin-
ning at Lafayette Street. On October 29, 1859 the
City Council ordered the numbering to proceed from
Harrison Street eastward and the climax came Novem-
ber 8, 1871 when a final renumbering was ordered
east and west from Calhoun Street.
The wear and tear that came to Columibia Street
also is evidenced by records of the City Council. The
planking of the street was authorized in April, 1853
and on June 25, 1879 legislators noted the street had
been graded between Barr and Lafayette streets .
A trial pavement of Nicholson block was ordered
for the intersection of Clinton and Columbia on April
27, 1864 and the following August 24 a contract for
this type of paving was awarded to B. H. Kimball &
Company, Chicago, at $2.60 a square yard. The street
squirmed a little at progress because on September 14
of that year a contract for that part of the work be-
tween Calhoun and Barr streets was in controversy.
On October 2, 1865, three blocks of Nicholson Block
paving were completed on Columbia.
Complete repaving of Columbia with shale block
was ordered August 6, 1909 and over this eventually
applied the modern asphalt treatment .
An omnibus service came to the street Septem-
ber 5, 1859 under a contract that provided six round
trips daily over all planked streets of the city, the
fares being five and ten cents.
Columbia Street again reneged at progress in the
form of a remonstrance against a streetcar line being
laid; merchants believed the noise and movement of the
cars would discourage horse-drawn traffic.
Merchants finally acquiesced for on March 5, 1892
rails and cars for the Columbia and Lakeside Street
Railway were ordered .
Lakesiders followed up with a remonstrance
against placing the track at one side of the street on
June 10, 1892 --four blocks of the track already had
been laid .
The first shipment of three electric streetcars
arrived on June 17, 1892 and soon the clang of the
trolley was added to the commercial hubbub of Colum-
FLAMES DID THEIR BEST
TO DESTROY COLUMBIA STREET
Columbia Street's five -block stretch of industry
and merchandising always held doggedly to the tenet of
business as usual despite a plague of fires that began in
1849 and persisted until today.
More smoke from Columbia Street business
disasters darkened the Fort Wayne skies than along
any other local business thoroughfare.
The first recorded conflagration, during the sum-
mer of 1849, destroyed an entire block of fifteen busi-
ness houses on Columbia and Main streets, westward
from Calhoun. The fire started in mid -block on the
west side of Calhoun Street and spread with the pre-
vailing winds .
On the heels of this waste came Fort Wayne's
first official fire limit which made illegal the construc-
tion of wooden buildings within that area bounded by
the Wabash and Erie Canal (just north of Columbia),
Main, Barr and Harrison streets; the business heart-
land of the city at that time .
Fort Wayne's first fire department had been
formed in 1834, consisting of a muscle -powered
engine company, a hose company and a hook and ladder
unit. This fire -fighting cluster was organized into the
Anthony Waynes in 1841. Each house was required
to supply its own fire buckets .
By October 31, 1865 nine fire cisterns, filled at
considerable expense from the canal, had been con-
structed in the business district. Already several had
been excavated under Columbia Street. As late as
1881 a man fell into the cistern at Lafayette and
Columbia streets and drowned. Those not particularly
concerned with fire safety, good health or the law
surreptitiously drew their water supply from these
On February 28, 1897 fire wiped out the Morgan
& Beach Hardware housed in the Morgan Building (10-21
East Columbia Street) causing between $125, 000 and
$150,000 loss. This time the flames spread to the
Nathan, Kircheimer & Company wholesale paper house,
the Romary Goeglein hardware store and westward to
Julius Nathan wholesale liquors and the stove and tin-
ware business of Alexander Staub. The west wall of
the Morgan Building collasped after the fire, adding
to the loss .
Another assault upon "business as usual" came
December 27, 1899 when flames destroyed the whole-
sale and retail dry goods of George Dewald & Company
and the Mathias F . Kaag chinaware store both housed
in a four -story building on the northeast corner of
Calhoun and Colunabia streets.
At the time the DeWald Building was a Fort Wayne
landmark; Robert T. DeWald, president of the firm,
announced the building would be torn down and re-
placed and temporary quarters were opened in the
Baltes Block, southeast corner of Berry and Harrison
streets --later the site of famous Berghoff Gardens.
Kaag later purchased and assumed management of the
H. Ward crockery business at 8 West Columbia Street.
The fire loss was estimated at $225, 000.
There was a respite until February 5, 1905 when
flames ravaged the Weil Building on the north side of
Columbia between Barr and Lafayette streets, wiping
out the shirtwaist plant of Paragon Manufacturing
Company which had leased the premises in 1894, Four
days after the fire Charles MacDougal, owner of
Paragon, announced the firm would move to new leased
quarters at 825-27 South Barr Street. The Weil Build-
ing was rebuilt.
The $150,000 Mayflower Mills fire on May 21,
1911 is still remembered and this firm left Columbia
Street, building a new plant at Leesburg Road and the
Nickel Plate Road (now Norfolk & Western). The mill-
ing plant on the site of the present Fisher Brothers
Building was destroyed . Bates remembers stopping to
watch the fire -fighting on his way home from Sunday
The last of the great Columbia Street fires oc-
curred in 1957 and destroyed the Fort Wayne Waste -
paper Company, a building formerly housing the Globe
Mills and later the Globe Printing Company, on the
northeast corner of Barr and Columbia streets . There
were many other lesser fires .
Columbia Street "first" in the development of
the present community dates back to 1820 when the first
post office was established on the northwest corner of
Barr and Columbia- -the Barnett & Hanna Trading Post
where Samuel Hanna served as first postmaster.
The first hotel (Washington Hall) was built by
Alexander Ewing on the southwest corner of Columbia
and Barr. It was also called Ewing's Tavern.
Organization of Allen County occurred on Decem-
ber 17, 1823 in Washington Hall and the county seat
selected effective April 1, 1824.
First session of the County Commissioners was
held May 26, 1824 in Washington Hall.
First session of the Circuit Court, August 9,
1824 also convened in Washington Hall and court con-
tinued there until the first court house was built in
The city's first brick structure was erected in
September, 1824 at 205 East Columbia by James
Barnett and the last occupant, after a long tenure, was
the Schweeters Bakery which quit business in 1907.
The building near the northwest corner of Columbia
and Clinton was razed a year later.
The first Masonic building appeared in 1830 and
was used by Wayne Lodge No. 25. This Masonic build-
ing also housed the city's first newspaper, "The
Sentinel"; Thomas Tigar was the original editor and
the printing was done on a 500 -pound hand press
brought from Indianapolis by horse and wagon.
Fort Wayne Branch, Indiana State Bank was the
first to begin banking in the city in the home of Francis
Comparet on the south side of the street between Cal-
houn and Harrison. Hugh McCuUoch, who later be-
came first U.S. comptroller of the currency, was
cashier and manager .
The first telegraph line from Toledo to Fort
Wayne was wired into the Fort Wayne Times office,
northwest corner of Columbia and Clinton, in 1848.
Fort Wayne's first glimpse of a railroad locomo-
tive occurred at the Comparet canal basin, Columbia
and Lafayette streets in 1852; the engine was brought
here by canalboat to aid in construction of the Ohio
and Indiana Railroad; this event proved to be the death
knell of the thriving waterway.
The first railway station was erected in 1853 on
the northwest corner of Columbia and Lafayette --years
afterward the site of the City Rescue Mission. The
railroad ran up Lafayette Street and the freight house
and yards extended almost to Clinton Street.
Edward F. Colerick erected the first theater
and meeting house in 1853, and it was converted into an
opera house in 1864. Known as Colerick Hall, it was
destroyed by fire in 1881. It was on the north side
of the street between Clinton and Barr .
The first mail into the city by rail in 1885
was delivered into the Columbia Street station; recip-
ient of the first letter was Royal Taylor.
The city's first public bathhouse was established
May 27, 1859, by Edward Colerick on the first floor
of the opera house; admittance was twenty-five cents .
Ice cream was introduced here in 1879 at the
John G. Maier Grocery on Columbia Street between
Calhoun and Clinton.
The first teletype (then called writing telegraph)
was set up and operated in the lobby of the Wayne (now
Rosemarie) Hotel on April 11, 1891.
Fort Wayne's first hydraulic barber chair made
its appearance in the barbershop of what is now the
Rosemarie Hotel, December 29, 1899.
THE OLD CANAL FINALLY DRIED UP,
BUT COLUMBIA STREET KEPT ON!
The Wabash and Erie Canal, the longest inland
waterway ever excavated by man, gave Columbia
Street a commercial sweep of 350 miles .
It brought riches to a five -block business
thoroughfare which in turn nourished the development
of Fort Wayne into a great Midwestern city.
The canal never actually tapped Lake Erie as
its name indicates: it stretched from the Miami and
Erie Canal at Junction City, southwest of Defiance,
Ohio to Evansville . From Junction City (or Junction
as the meeting of the waterways often was called) the
Wabash and Erie traffic could veer either northward
to Toledo or southward to Cincinnati.
Fort Wayne was distinguished as the highest
level on the canal. Technically referred to as the
"summit level" the highest point extended from Glas-
gow Avenue westward through the city to the present
Fort Wayne Country Club. A lock at each end of the
summit level defined the stretch. The canalboats
from the east were locked upward into Fort Wayne,
and downward to points west of the city.
Congress ordered a survey of lands for the canal
May 26, 1824 and in February, 1826 a Board of Canal
Commissioners was appointed. The first commis-
sioners were David Burr, Samuel Hanna and Robert
Johns, all appointed by the state. Jessie L. Williams
was named chief engineer for the project.
First of the gigantic earth movements along the
canal began in Fort Wayne on February 22, 1832: the
first channel cut was the feeder canal which tapped
the St. Joseph River six miles north of the city where
Robison Park later blossomed. It joined the main
channel of the canal near the former Wayne Knitting
Mills complex on West Main Street. This feeder
brought water to supply the main canal .
The construction work itself brought a new,
sturdy population to the Wabash Valley- -thousands of
Irish immigrants who cut the channel of the canal with
hand tools .
The first construction contract on the canal
proper was awarded in June, 1832, for a fifteen -mile
section through the summit level.
The U. S. government gave Ohio and Indiana
alternating sections of land along the route and sales
of these properties helped finance construction. Land
sales boomed in Fort Wayne area and a shantytown
for canal workers and their families stretched west-
ward from the intersection of Calhoun and Berry
Canal traffic between Fort Wayne and Huntington
began July 4, 1835 and the completion of the waterway
to Lake Erie was celebrated on the same national
holiday eight years later.
As early as 1847 the canal was in financial dif-
ficulty at the state level because of heavy construction
investments that did not pay off. However this had
no effect upon traffic. The state sought to recover
through the issuance of depreciated script known as
The state's financial embarrassment over the
canal led to an 1851 constitutional provision limiting
the bonded indebtedness of governmental units which
remains effective today.
In 1849 a steam -powered packet cruised from
Toledo to Fort Wayne and several such boats made
their appearance later. It is likely the wash from
their propellers caused rapid deterioration of the canal
banks . The steamer "John Good" made her trial trip
in 1863: she was built in Roanoke by Captain Van Becker
and her machinery was produced by the Fort Wayne
Machine Works. She had a crusing speed of six miles
an hour. The same year another steamer "King
Brothers" was entrusted to command of Captain
Donovan and a third, the "St. Joe," began moving
freight over the feeder canal and the St. Joe River to
But at no time during the history of the canal,
which ended on July 19, 1875, was the waterway com-
pletely open to traffic from Junction City to Evansville.
Collapse of the earthen banks and accumulations of
silt were always blocking the passage of vessels at
some point along the channel .
The most heavily -traveled portion of the water-
way was between Peru, Fort Wayne and Junction. For
years Fort Wayne depended upon the canal for fire
protection and the handling of water power rights along
the channel at one time approached a public scandal.
When the winter freeze came, the canal supplied ice
for the next summer's crude refrigeration.
In 1872 critics of the canal management claimed
that the annual water power revenues of the waterways,
averaging between $4, 000 and $6, 000, were only half
of what they should have been. They further argued
that inroads of the railroads were being used as an
excuse for the meager revenues of the waterway.
During October of that year, 721 boats carrying
cargoes valued at $1, 208, 000 moved up and down the
Rafts of black walnut timber were floated down
the canal to various mills and pleasure craft, largely
with young people aboard, made frequent use of the
waterway. But penalties were enforced for swimming
or bathing in the canal .
Downtown bridges across the canal were a fre-
quent source of trouble and expense: in 1856 the center
span of the Harrison Street bridge over the Orbison
Basin collapsed under the weight of a circus band
wagon. No lives were lost.
Funds were voted for a pivot bridge over the
canal at Calhoun Street in 1859 and the Barr Street
span was closed for repairs . Barr Street finally was
served by a pivot bridge and in 1863 the Harrison
Street span was replaced by a swing bridge and street -
level docking area.
During a committee meeting in Lafayette on
February 3-4, 1874 it was decided the canal should be
abandoned. A year later, canal commissioners asked
an appropriation of $10, 000 for the repair of locks,
aqueducts and other equipment: the Indiana General
Assembly in 1873 authorized counties served by the
waterway to appropriate up to $10, 000 for maintenance
Finally on July 19, 1875, the state having de-
faulted the payment of interest on bonds, the canal was
ordered sold to pay the bondholders whose investments
totaled $10 million.
Judge Gookins of Terre Haute was named to con-
duct the sale which drew a number of bidders on
February 24, 1876. Jonathan E. Gapin of Terre Haute
bought the right-of-way from Lafayette to the Ohio
State Line for $85, 500 . Meanwhile, the United States
Senate had taken steps to prevent sale of the property.
The canal property through Allen County brought only
On March 31, 1876 the canal right-of-way from
the feeder dam at Lagro to the Indiana-Ohio state line
was purchased for $44, 500 by William Fleming of Fort
Wayne, William Dolan, C. B. Knowlton, J. W. Dritt
and C. H. Shirk. This later became the right-of-way
of the Nickel Plate (Norfolk & Western) Railroad.
But business, now firmly established onColumbia
Street, went on as usual.
COLUMBIA STREET FLIRTED
WITH THE RAILROADS
When the Wabash and Erie Canal, which brought
life and prestige to Columbia Street, died in a welter
of mud in 1876, the unsightly 468 -mile ditch became
a strange battleground for aggressive railroad tycoons.
Columbia Street already was flirting with the
railroads and the death of the waterway only put her
alongside what was to become one of the fastest freight
lines into the portal of the West.
A country newspaper editor called it the "Nickel
Plated Railroad" and the name (Nickel Plate Railroad)
stuck until a few years ago. It is now a part of the
Norfolk & Western system.
Columbia Street even had the power to challenge
the wealth and influence that proposed that the rail-
road be laid between her curbings . Railroad interests
settled for the canal route through Fort Wayne: mak-
ing the fill was an expense they had hoped to avoid .
The new railroad, first known as the New York,
Chicago and St. Louis, posed a serious threat to the
William H. Vanderbilt interests: a parallel competitor
to his Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, which later
became part of the New York Central. The Nickel
Plate ballast had hardly settled when Vanderbilt
acquired a controlling interest.
The canal bed had become rather a headache to
Columbia Street in 1876. The great basin at Harrison
Street was being filled in for real estate development;
the feeder dam at what was later Robison Park col-
lapsed the following year; and in 1880 the canal bank
gave way at Clinton Street, flooding basements and
carrying away a timber sewer in which the city took
great pride . The sewer was replaced with a brick
These things were a discouragement to "friends
of the canal" who in 1879 held a convention in Hunting-
ton and discussed the possibilities of resuming naviga-
tion on the waterway between the Wabash River and
Lake Erie. The canal at Logansport already had been
The waterway was in receivership and rumors
flew that private owners of the canal right-of-way
were conniving with the railroad interests. True or
not, fifty-six miles of the canal property were sold to
the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad Febru-
ary 12, 1881 --just three days after the Wabash Railroad
made overtures to buy certain sections of abandoned
The last cargoes of the few remaining canal -
boats were dirt, moved unceremoniously to the larger
Articles of consolidation of several railroads
with the New York, Chicago & St. Louis were filed
April 9, 1881 with the Indiana Secretary of State.
The capital stock amounted to $35 million and William
Fleming was one of the directors.
Track laying to the west was begun at the Grand
Rapids & Indiana Railroad near the Ortt residence
now occupied by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Water
rights of the canal and additional right-of-way were
acquired for $50, 000 by the new railroad the following
By the middle of June, 1881 fill-in operations
along the canal became widespread and on July 26 the
State Treasurer paid off $135,000 in canal bonds
issued 25 years earlier.
The transformation of the canal brought exciting
days to Columbia Street. Construction trains began
snorting to and fro where the canal had been and law-
yers pressed condemnation suits against farmers for
right-of-way needed in the New Haven area and west
of Fort Wayne. The railroad was offering from $200
to $250 an acre for the land while the owners requested
as high as $850 for three-quarters of an acre.
By September 20 much of the track had been laid
between Fostoria, Ohio and Fort Wayne: track layers
eventually followed the crews who filled in the canal
at the rate of about a mile a day. It was a much
easier task to obliterate the old waterway than to lay
rail for the new system .
The first train arrived in the city from Fostoria
on November 3, 1881, and the most important pas-
senger was D. R. Gibson, a right-of-way agent for
the railroad, dispatched here to expedite the legal
But progress was not justified by all who shared
in it. A referendum on the sum of $25, 000 to estab-
lish the railroad shops in Adams Township failed on
May 15, 1882 and the shops were awarded to Chicago.
On May 19, 1882 officials of the railroad decided upon
a depot location at Calhoun Street, and a contract for
building the structure which served until 1967, was
awarded on August 28, 1882. The cost was $12, 000.
The preceding June 4 the railroad spent $25,000
for 15 acres between the canal and what is now the
Lake Erie and Western Railroad for a track yard, re-
pair shop and roundhouse .
So rapidly had the railroad line developed that
most of the trackage between Buffalo, New York, and
Chicago was complete when the building of the local
depot was started. The cost was vaguely estimated
at between $25 and $29 million. The first passenger
train over the new road from Chicago arrived in Fort
Wayne at 10:55 a.m., August 30, 1882 and 500 citizens
gathered at the station to witness the inauguration of
regular passenger service the following October 23.
Three days later the Vanderbilt interests stepped into
the financial limelight of the Nickel Plate Road . An
old stone building on Superior Street, constructed in
1852 to serve the canal, was eyed by the railroad as
a dispatcher's office and a new slate roof was ordered
for the structure . This building still remains owned
by the City of Fort Wayne. Efforts are being made to
preserve it as a landmark of early Fort Wayne trans-
portation history .
Residents of the Nebraska district rejoiced on
February 6, 1893 when a Nickel Plate crew demolished
the famous old canal aqueduct over the St. Mary's
River. Residents had threatened to blow up the aban-
doned structure, claiming that it dammed up water
which filtered into their basements .
When the VanSweringens assumed control of the
Nickel Plate in 1916, John J. Bernet was named presi-
dent. In six years he doubled the gross revenue of the
line. In 1923 the Nickel Plate absorbed the Clover
Leaf and the Lake Erie and Western railroads .
Bernet accepted the presidency of the Erie Rail-
road in 1926 but returned to the Nickel Plate in 1933.
It was Bernet who developed the 2-8-4 Berkshire loco-
motive which proved to be the most efficient steam
power ever developed for fast freight service.
Between 1951 and 1954 the railroad experimented
with diesel -electric locomotives which were to replace
steam power. The Nickel Plate elevation through Fort
Wayne followed in 1955 and 1956
June 1963 - Nickel Plate R.R. Locomotive #767
a Berkshire type engine used in the NKP R R'S high
speed freight service. This particular locomotive now
on display at Fourth and Clinton streets, broke the
ribbon dedicating the elevation of Nickel Plate tracks
in Fort Wayne in 1955.
The last steam passenger run through Fort
Wayne was made by a 14 -car special made up in the
East Wayne yards with the LaSalle Street station in
Chicago as its terminal .
The Nickel Plate was acquired by the Norfolk &
Western Railroad October 16, 1964, a line dating back
to 1838 with general offices in Roanoke, Virginia.
AFFLUENT COLUMBIA STREET
ELBOWED INTO LAKESIDE
While enterprise and affluence paid court,
Columbia Street wrested not only the business heart
away from Main Street, but a bridge into the Lakeside
residental area as well.
This was a period before the turn of the century
that Historian Roy M. Bates refers to as the "battle of
the bridges." The present Three Rivers high-rise
apartments mark the scene: the time was 1889.
The first bridge was raised across the Maumee
there in 1812 giving the fort complex entry to an
orchard property which later became Lakeside. It
was a crude timber structure which somehow found
support in the riverbed. The county replaced this
span in 1863 with another wood span which had stone
abutments and a stone support in the center of the
Around this bridge a controversy, explosive
legally and in other ways, began swirling on April 15,
1889. As a result Columbia Street moved as far east-
ward as it could --to the bank of the Maumee.
After the military abandoned the second fort
property in 1819, first business activity began to
blossom on Columbia Street between Barr and Lafay-
ette streets . Beyond Lafayette Street was a flood
plain which with the arrival of the Wabash and Erie
Canal was converted into the Comparet Basin, where
canalboats could turn and there were special facilities
for special cargo loadings and unloadings and also
docks for repair of the boats themselves .
The only bridge to serve Columbia Street during
its history involved a huge earthen fill and causeway
through the lowlands. This earth movement created
the fourth block of East Columbia Street to connect
with Clay Street. Six or eight business buildings fol-
lowed, adjacent to the confluence of the rivers and the
first of these was the Hanna-Breckenridge factory, a
gaunt three -story frame structure on the north side of
the street .
The "battle of the bridges" actually began when
fire heavily damaged the Main Street bridge into Lake-
side on December 21, 1888. Temporary repairs were
completed in two weeks . On January 12 the county
commissioners proposed construction of a new bridge
across the Maumee River and made suggestions for
On April 15, 1889, city officials decided the
new bridge should be built at Columbia Street, just
east of Clay Street. They accordingly began to assess
potential benefits and damages.
The battle of the bridges was on.
J. George Strodel and others filed a suit in Allen
Circuit Court June 15, 1889 to mandate the county
commissioners to condemn the old Main Street Bridge
and erect a new one on this site.
This brought on an injunction action in the name
of Louis Brames which was venued to DeKalb Court
and eventually heard by a jury beginning August 10,
1889. The Columbia and Main Street factions were
The jurors voted in favor of the Main Street
Bridge, recommending that it be repaired . However
Judge Stephen A . Powers found a technicality for a
decision of his own.
A month later, he ruled in favor of a new bridge,
and on the same day County Attorney Samuel R . Alden
filed an opinion on the matter along with engineering
data. On the heels of this legal procedure, the county
commissioners made their final decision and ordered
the construction of a 300 -foot steel span across the
Maumee at Columbia Street. It had a 24 -foot roadway
and 5 -foot sidewalks on each side.
The new bridge, which closely resembled the
recently replaced Anthony Boulevard bridge, con-
tained 350 tons of steel. The structure was completed
on December 2, 1890 and the Fort Wayne Land and
Improvement Company petitioned the county commis-
sioners to remove the old Main Street span.
The day before Christmas, 1890 an attempt was
made to dynamite the old Main Street bridge; several
attempts also had been made to destroy it by fire.
Out of concern over these acts of vandalism,
the commissioners on March 18, 1891 ordered the
bridge removed and on the following June 22 the north
abutment of the old bridge was removed and the river
deepened to lessen flood dangers. On January 26, 1893
The New Steel Columbia Street
Bridge of 1890
the pier of the old bridge in the center of the river
was removed to eliminate future ice jams in the
Thus, Columbia Street won the "battle of the
bridges" but its days as the main business artery of
the community were numbered . For seventy years
Columbia Street had developed from the old flood plain
westward. The final spurt of influence occurred dur-
ing the bridge controversy which lengthened the street
one block to the east .
The scene of the "battle of the bridges" had been
completely changed; the fourth block of East Columbia
Street is now occupied by the Three Rivers Apartments
and Lafayette Street has been connected with Spy Run
Avenue to the north, providing a heavily -traveled
through street. Spy Run used to be Avenue of the
Circuses coming to the city and the heavily -shod draft
horses used to strike sparks from the old brick pav-
This was an unusual and turbulent phase of the
development of the city, but Columbia Street is not
known for the bridge it won. During the waning years
it was commonly referred to as "the waterfront" - -
why, most people didn't know .
FORCED CITY OFF THE COMPASS
Columbia Street not only primed the metropolitan
development but forced the downtown business district
out of kilter with the points of the compass as well.
Most people have noticed the streets between
Superior and Lewis streets run northeast and south-
west: surveyors who laid out the city below Lewis
corrected the angles to true north, south, east and
This tilt was caused by a well-marked trail leav-
ing the old forts at the headwaters of the Maumee
River toward Fort Dearborn, (Chicago) which did not
run true east and west.
When John Barr and John McCorkle, the city's
first real estate developers, platted the primitive
downtown section, buildings that had made their ap-
pearance along the trail from the fort presented a
problem. It was far easier to use the trail as a base
line than to try to negotiate moving the buildings. The
intersecting streets were accordingly laid out at right
Strangely, Barr and McCorkle expected Main
Street to become the main business thoroughfare, but
the Wabash and Erie Canal favored the development of
Columbia Street instead.
The northwest trail, which later became Colum-
bia Street, angled across the site of the present Cen-
tral Fire Station, then straightened into a northwest
Seven buildings were constructed in the fourth
block of East Columbia, ending at the river, during
its comparatively short life . On the north side of the
street were the Foster shirtwaist factory, a business
that was to gain national prominence; The Banner
Laundry; Brinkman Sign Company; the Furnas Ice
Cream Company (later Borden); and earlier the Hanna-
Erected on the south side of that block were the
A .H. Perfect & Company building and the Pettit Trans-
fer & Storage Company.
The 400 block of East Columbia Street
The shirtwaist mill, founded by Samuel M.
Foster, a New Yorker, was established on a new site
adjacent to the Nickel Plate Railroad in September,
1888 and employed about 300 women and girls. A year
after the plant was moved to Columbia Street it was
closed by a strike which lasted only a few days . The
business flourished and following a reorganization on
August 4, 1905 became known as the Samuel M. Foster
Company. Many of the older employees acquired an
interest in the firm which became one of the leading
mills of its kind in the country.
Foster also founded the German-American Bank
which later became the Lincoln National Bank & Trust
Company, and he was the first president of the Lincoln
National Life Insurance Company. At one time he as
president of the Wayne Knitting Mills and a brother,
Col. David N. Foster became fathers of the present
Fort Wayne park system through the donation of land
for Foster Park.
After the Foster mill closed, the building was
used as a warehouse for years by the Wolf & Dessauer
Department Store. It was torn down in 1964.
Neighboring to the east stood the Brinkman Sign
Company. This corporation moved to Industrial Park
when downtown redevelopment began. The last build-
ing on the north side of the street was the home of the
Furnas Ice Cream Company, which in recent years
became a part of the Borden complex. This firm has
moved to a location on Wells Street.
Development of the south side of the 400 block
east came in two packages in 1909. On June 24 Fisher
Brothers Paper Company entered contract with General
Construction Company tobuild a three -story reinforced
concrete storage building on the southwest corner of
Clay and Columbia. It cost $27, 000 and was leased to
A. H. Perfect & Company, a wholesale grocery firm
organized in 1896 by Arthur H. Perfect, Harry A.
Perfect, T. Guy Perfect and Henry H. Eavey. The
Perfect firm finally moved to a new location on the
Nelson Road and the structure was leased as a ware-
house by the former Grand Leader Company.
William L. Pettit Jr., a native of Fort Wayne
and graduate of Lehigh University, established the
Pettit Transfer & Storage Company after serving as a
surveyor for the Pennsylvania Railroad and subsequently
operating his own blueprint business in Minneapolis.
A contract for erecting a six-story reinforced con-
crete warehouse building at 414 East Columbia was
awarded the Indiana Construction Company on May 1,
This was the second reinforced concrete struc-
ture to make its appearance in the city: the first was
the Shoaff Building, now the Gettle Building.
In 1970 the Pettit firm observed its 60th anniver-
sary. Joseph Pettit, son of the founder, now manages
the business and the firm's volume recently required
the erection of a building in Industrial Park with
20, 000 square feet of floor space.
Early in 1962 the Three Rivers Redevelopment
Project acquired a 7 1/2 acre triangular area that in-
volved the 400 block east, the same block of east
Superior Street and extending southward to near Main
Street. This represented an investment of nearly half
a million dollars, and some of the property was ac-
quired from M. H. Foster estate through the Lincoln
National Bank & Trust Company as trustee. On this
triangular site was erected the 14 -story high-rise
The Borden building disappeared from the scene
in 1963 and the Foster structure followed in 1964. The
former Perfect Building was razed that year and early
in 1965 the township trustee's headquarters and the
Brinkman building were eliminated .
Work was started on the high-rise apartment
buildings in 1965 and they were ready for occupancy
in 1967. Various redevelopment projects eliminated
all of once powerful Columbia Street except the lone
block between Calhoun and Harrison streets which has
been redeveloped as The Landing- -reminiscent of the
old canal docking area.
A MAGNETISM BROUGHT THE RAILROAD
Together, the Wabash and Erie Canal and
Columbia Street set up a commercial magnetism that
attracted a railroad line from Pittsburgh.
The railroad soon outmoded the canal and finally
the seemingly insignificant relocation of a railroad
terminal broke the spell that had made Columbia Street
the city's main artery of business.
That is how the business district moved south-
Although the canal brought development to Fort
Wayne, it took less than a decade to prove that the
waterway would never be a financial success; it was
always losing money though traffic was deceivingly
Jesse L. Williams, a brilliant man and chief
engineer of the canal construction, had visions of a
;railroad line connecting Pittsburgh and Chicago. Be-
fore he could apply himself to the venture, three sep-
arate railroads became involved in the projection of
rails through Fort Wayne from Pittsburgh to Chicago:
the Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad which ended at
Crestline, Ohio; the Ohio and Indiana Railroad from
Crestline to Fort Wayne; and the Fort Wayne and
Chicago Railroad .
Oddly enough, the financial panic of 1857 forced
a merger of these railroads into the Pittsburgh, Fort
Wayne and Chicago Railroad which eventually became
a leasor in the Pennsylvania Railroad, currently the
The early railroads, and even the toll roads,
set their courses for terminals on Columbia Street.
The Ohio and Indiana and Fort Wayne and Chicago rail-
roads formed almost a direct line through the city.
However, the tracks were laid up Lafayette Street to
a terminal on Columbia Street between Barr and
Lafayette streets; the first rail complex consisted of
a station, freight house and engine shed.
A contract for laying the Ohio and Indiana Rail-
road from Fort Wayne to Crestline was awarded July 4,
1850, (the company was organized at Bucyrus, Ohio)
and the first locomotive came to the city on a canal
flatboat. It was used for construction work on the
Fort Wayne section of the railroad and then was
pressed into passenger service.
Ground for the Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad
was broken July 4, 1849 and the organization of the
Ohio and Indiana came one year later .
Organization of the Fort Wayne and Chicago
Railroad was effected at Warsaw in 1852 and four years
elapsed before the tracks connected Fort Wayne and
Columbia City. The panic of 1857 found the railroads
in dire financial shape, particularly the Fort Wayne
and Chicago line .
This was a crisis for the genius of canal engineer
Williams who drummed up financial aid from the
counties crossed by the railroad and the line finally
was completed to Chicago, connecting the 450 miles of
rails between Pittsburgh and Chicago.
The first excursion train rolled into Fort Wayne
over the Ohio and Indiana on November 15, 1854 and
the passengers trudged through the mud of Columbia
Street to Colerick Hall for a celebration. The way
was lighted only by the glow from store windows .
A newspaperman, Robert D. Dumm, commented:
"Upon our arrival at Colerick Hall we were bade wel-
come and when our eyes fell upon the most sumptuous
of viands, we forgot the difficulties encountered in our
tramp from the depot and could but admit the open-
hearted hospitality of our reception."
The prestige of Columbia Street was undermined
February 9, 1857 when it was decided to discontinue
rail shuttle service up Lafayette Street, and the ter-
minal, freight house and engine house were removed.
The Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad erected
a brick terminal on its main line between Calhoun and
Clinton streets (Kanne & Company got the contract)
and station house served until 1914 when the present
passenger station was erected at Baker and Harrison
A building destined to shelter humanity for a
period of 110 years made its appearance on the north-
west corner of Lafayette and Columbia streets the
year after the railroad ended its shuttle. It was known
far and wide as the City Rescue Mission from 1915
until its demolition in 1968.
Fort Wayne Rescue Home and Mission
343 East Columbia Street
The landmark served as a hotel from 1858 until
its acquisition by the Mission; first known as the City
House under the management of Fred Volkert until its
purchase by George Phillips in 1859 who added a sec-
ond floor and gave it his name --Phillips House. He
operated the hostelry only a short time . Subsequent
proprietors Benjamin C. Pierce, (March 6, 1868);
Peter S. Cresenberry (November 8, 1876) and a Mr.
France who acquired the property August 24, 1880.
The hotel was known as the Phillips House until
about 1888 when the name was changed to Oliver
House. It was deteriorated into an establishment of
ill repute and the management boldly gave the brick
structure a coat of crimson paint in February, 1890.
To improve conditions there, Oliver House was
transferred by lease to the Land & Improvement Com-
pany and on September 11, 1892 Mrs. Tom Clark be-
came proprietress and the hotel was renamed Arling-
ton House .
Phillips left the hotel business to operate a stage
line between Fort Wayne and Maysville, a service he
continued until his death November 12, 1896.
The Fort Wayne Rescue Home and Mission was
organized in 1903 and began its service at 118 East
Columbia Street. Rev. Kenneth A. Hawkins served
as superintendent of the mission for more than thirty
years and was succeeded by Rev. Charles Dickinson.
In March, 1963 the millionth patron of the Mis-
sion was registered for food and lodging.
The venerable building began to show signs of
serious deterioration in 1959 and usage was limited to
the first two floors.
In 1968 the landmark disappeared from Columbia
Street and the Mission was moved to a modern struc-
ture at 301 West Superior.
CANAL BASINS DREW INDUSTRY
Two great basins of the Wabash and Erie Canal
brought industry to Columbia Street and contributed
heavily to the commerce that made it the city's main
thoroughfare for many years .
Best known, perhaps, was the Comparet Basin
at Lafayette and Columbia serving a milling complex
that became one of the country's largest.
At the other end of Columbia Street, near Har-
rison, was the Orbison Basin, a part of the heritage
that is preserved by The Landing- -a single block that
has been tastefully blended into urban redevelopment.
Both basins were turnabouts for the canalboats
and around the perimeters appeared boat yards and
The Norfolk & Western Railroad cuts directly
across the site of the Comparet Basin, named for the
three elevators that could process 8,000 bushels of
grain daily and a cornsheller -warehouse that could
deliver 2, 500 bushels of grain per day.
These mills, operated for many years by Joseph
and David Comparet, were established before the Civil
War and the brothers operated a fleet of grain boats
between Fort Wayne and Toledo including the steamer
"King Brothers" which made its trial run on May 18,
1863. The mills ceased operation about 1876.
The Comparet interests were served by a spur
of the Ohio and Indiana Railroad and when the Columbia
Street terminal was moved southward to the main line
between Calhoun and Clinton streets, the Comparets
enlarged their stables to accommodate 100 horses for
transporting their grain to the railroad.
In later years the milling firm was reorganized
as Comparet, Hubbell & Company.
On May 31, 1861 a fire destroyed the Comparet
flour mill at an estimated loss of $10,000. The mill,
in which new steam power had been installed, was
The entire complex, finally owned by Mr. and
Mrs. LucienP. Stapleford, was reduced to ashes by
another fire on December 16, 1876. Destroyed were
the old warehouse which had been converted into a
stable; a two -story frame structure; the five -story
brick mill and a three -story frame structure known
as "Comparet House" --operated by Mr. and Mrs.
Lewis Clark as a hotel for farmers patronizing the
Before the fire, the stable building had been
purchased by E . H. Tompkins of New York City, Two
canalboats, "The Nile" and the "David Davis, " were
lost in the blaze. The total loss, most of it borne by
the Staplefords, was estimated at $37,000. According
to record, the frame buildings on the property were
erected prior to 1840.
Little is known of the use of the mill site for
several years after the fire . For some time a horse
barn was operated on the premises by an unidentified
The Wunderlin Building at the southeast corner
of Columbia and Lafayette streets. In the rear is the
Pettit Storage Warehouse building. This was the site
of the Comparet Mills adjacent to the site of the Com-
paret Canal Turning Basin. Photo by Sid Pepe.
Early in the 1890s William Wunderlin ended his
service with Weil Brothers Company and in 1893 built
a two -story brick building on the southeast corner of
Lafayette and Columbia where he entered the salvage
business for himself. In 1916 he was joined in the
business by two sons, Arthur and Elmer, and the firm
name was changed to William Wunderlin & Sons in
1921. William Wunderlin died April 23, 1934 at the
age of seventy and his sons continued operation of the
Elmer Wunderlin died in 1962 and the surviving
brother continued to operate the firm until 1967 when
the building was razed in the redevelopment of the
downtown area. The business had flourished, a third
floor was added to the original building in 1923 and
there were further expansions after the elevation of
the Nickel Plate Road in 1955-56. The firm leased an
area for a scrap yard on the south side of the 300 block
East Columbia Street. The Wunderlins dealt in hides,
wool, scrap iron, rags and other waste material.
What was to become another landmark of the
Comparet area was founded on the southwest corner of
Lafayette and Columbia about 1895 by Henry F . Buller-
man. A native of St. Joseph Township he became in-
volved at twenty in a California gold mining operation.
The "old stone yard" of Haag and Bates Company at
the southwest corner of Columbia and Lafayette streets
about 1905. H. L. Bates on the left and Charles E.
Haag on the right.
Later BuUerman established a stone monument
business here and the property for years was known
as "the old stone yard." Structurally, it was distin-
guished by an open -sided display area topped by a
cupola. Bullerman, the father of six children, formerly
resided at 1005 Rivermet Avenue. He served as county
commissioner here and for twenty-five years was a
township justice of the peace. He also was a secretary-
treasurer of the Central Foundry Company and was
associated with the Fort Wayne Tile Company. He
died in February, 1936 at the age of eighty-six.
Bullerman sold the stone business in 1901 to
Henry L. Bates, a native of southern Indiana who
learned his craft in the stone quarries of Westport
before moving here in 1892. The firm's name was
changed to H. L. Bates & Company and a year later he
entered a partnership with Charles E . Haag, a stone
mason from Stuttgart, Germany and the business as-
sumed the name of Haag and Bates. Haag was a city
councilman from 1896 to 1900, and after his death in
1906, Bates entered a partnership with Herman Daler.
The firm continued as Bates & Daler Company until
December of 1916 when Daler withdrew to establish a
motorcycle business .
Immediately, Harold W . Carr became associated
with Bates in the business and the firm changed its
name to the Bates & Carr Monument Company. During
their partnership, the use of pneumatic tools was
adopted for stone carving and later sand blasting was
introduced. Bates and Carr moved the business to
708 West Washington Boulevard in 1920.
Bates was the father of Roy M. Bates, Fort
Wayne and Allen County historian, and during his
twenty-seven years in business here, the principal
products were granite and marble monuments, head-
stones and interior marble work for building. Vermont
and Georgia quarries were the principal sources of
marble and the firm processed granite from Vermont,
Missouri, Minnesota, North Carolina and Oklahoma,
In later years some granite was imported from Scot-
Following the death of elderly Bates in 1928,
Carr moved the monument business to Hicksville,
Ohio and after moving to Defiance was elected to the
Ohio State House of Representatives.
The stone yard at Lafayette and Columbia streets
was followed by a one -story brick building owned by
William Prange and until 1936 several businesses oc-
cupied the structure, including a truck service and a
Willys auto dealership.
In 1924 Roy Westrick founded the Fort Wayne
Spring Service at 605 Lafayette dealing in auto springs
and chassis parts. The firm remained there until 1959
when it was moved to the present site at 614 East
Washington. The Lafayette Street structure then was
used by the Paramount Paper Company. This building,
too, came under the sledge of the redevelopment pro-
gram and disappeared from the scene in 1967.
ONE BLOCK HELPED LIGHT UP
Now part of the Fort Wayne Fine Arts complex,
the 300 block east of historic Columbia Street did not
share in the business and industrial hubbub of this
one-time principal thoroughfare until the late 1880s.
A muddy lane for many years and a part of the com-
mon road to the old fort, it lay between Barr and
Lafayette streets .
The earliest recorded activity there was a large
log tavern erected on the northeast corner of Barr and
Columbia by William Suttenfield in 1823 and within its
walls a part of the city's future was planned. Years
later the block provided frontage for the Jenny Electric
Light & Power Company, a forerunner of General Elec-
tric and a pioneer in municipal street lighting from old
New Orleans to Oakland, California.
Without paving, drainage, curbings or lighting,
the first improvement came to the 300 block east in
1879 when its rutted dirt surface was graded.
Suttenfield was a dynamic man who served as
trustee of the community when it reached the status of
a town. An extensive traveler in the area, he had
joined Major John Whistler's forces in Newport,
Kentucky before they came to Fort Wayne. He carried
the mail between Fort Wayne and Chicago, making
one trip on foot in 1814.
Suttenfield likewise was one of the organizers of
the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Wayne. His
home was convenient to the tavern- -on the southwest
corner of Barr and Columbia .
The Deneal boat yard flourished on theComparet
Basin at the east end of the block after the completion
of the Wabash and Erie Canal and one of the many as-
sociated with it was Captain John W . Whittaker who
went to the Pacific Coast where he became governor of
the State of Oregon. The Deneal yard suspended op-
erations in the 1840s.
The boat yard was followed on the entire north
side of the block by the canal-side terminal facilities
of the Ohio and Indiana Railroad which shuttled up and
down Lafayette Street from the present right-of-way
of the Penn-Central . The tracks, passenger depot,
freight and engine houses filled the entire north side
of the street until 1857 when the terminal was re-
established on the main line between Clinton and Cal-
Long after the Suttenfield Tavern left the scene,
the corner was occupied by the M. P. Beegan Grocery.
In the early 1890s the Globe Flour and Spice Mills
began operations on the corner and on January 26,
1895 Henry C. Berghoff disposed of his interests in
the Berghoff Brewery to give full time to the mill.
The Wiegman Brothers became operators of the
mill on February 12, 1906 and an addition was made
to the building, expanding production to 100 barrels of
flour a day.
Two years later, June 10, 1907, the property
was leased by the newly organized Globe Printing and
Binding Company and that business continued at this
location for twenty years .
Final occupant of the Suttenfield Tavern site was
the Fort Wayne Waste Paper Company. A fire destroyed
the corner building in 1957 and the firm moved its
operation to Dwenger Avenue .
Other enterprises came to the 300 block East
The northeast corner of Barr and Columbia streets,
site of the Suttenfield Tavern erected in 1823. The
site was later occupied by the Globe Mills and the
building at the right was the recent home of the Con-
sumers Pipe and Supply Company. Photo by Sid Pepe .
Columbia Street and either died out or changed loca-
tions . Consumers Pipe and Supply organized by Patrick
E. Rooks and a son Daniel J. occupied the building at
305 East Columbia until April, 1969 when the business
was moved to 1217 Broadway. The Columbia Street
building was subsequently demolished .
Jacob Weil, a native of Switzerland and his heirs
were familiar figures on the street for many years.
The elder Weil opened a hide and wool business in a
building owned by Perry A. Randall on the north side
of the block, number 85-87.
On July 31, 1887 a roaring fire raced through
the building and gutted it; the flames also destroyed
the George P.Barnum livery stable at 91 East Columbia
but the Pennington Machine Works on the other side of
Weil Brothers somehow was saved .
Three days later the Weils temporarily resumed
business on the south side of the street in a building
at 78 East Columbia.
The fire aroused a tempest in Landlord Randall
and he subsequently became involved in a $10, 000
slander suit filed by Abraham Weil, a son of the firm's
founder. Then on March 29, 1893 the Weils purchased
the fire site from Randall for $8,000. This became
the location of the Paragon Manufacturing Company,
makers of shirtwaists, a firm operated by Weil's
sons, Abraham and Isaac. The shirtwaists became
highly popular through the Midwest .
Another fire damaged the Weil Brothers building
on the south side of the street on September 28, 1895,
but the firm operated in that location for more than
forty years . The building was demolished in 1963 .
The Paragon Company, managed by Charles
MacDougal, operated without incident for eleven years
when a fire on February 5, 1905 so heavily damaged
the building that the firm moved to 825-27 South Barr
Jenny leased another Randall building at 89 East
Columbia Street on November 5, 1893 and by February
of the following year the city signed a contract with
the firm for street lighting. On March 18, 1884 the
Jenny Company received orders for six lighting towers
in Danville, Illinois and four in Goshen.
On April 2, 1884, Jenny contracted with the city
for erecting light towers in the schoolyards onHarmar,
Butler, South Hanna and Wells streets in the Nebraska
section, Archer's Addition, at Taylor and Broadway,
and the southeast at the Bass Foundry & Machine
Works. On May 22 of that year they crowned the court
house dome with electric lights .
Subsequent orders were received for lighting
the streets of Oakland, California, New Orleans,
Louisville and Peoria, Illinois.
The Star Iron Tower Company of Fort Wayne
furnished the fourteen 12 5 -foot structures for lighting
the city of New Orleans .
On February 27, 1885 Charles Jenny petitioned
the circuit court to release him from a contract made
by his father which bound all their inventions to the
service of the Jenny firm and this led to his organiza-
tion on April 3, 1895 of the Jenny Electric Light Com-
pany, Inc. with capital stock of $50,000. This firm
later negotiated for the purchase of the Gaus Works
on Broadway which subsequently became General Elec-
tric. In 1883 James A. Jenny organized the original
company which occupied sites at the southwest corner
of Calhoun and Superior streets and on West Superior
at the foot of Wells Street. R. T. McDonald was
among the original sponsors of the electric company.
The Metropolitan Livery Stables, 91-97 East
Columbia were leveled by the Weil fire of 1887 but the
business survived. In operation for many years, Dr.
Barnum added a hack service in 1889 comparable to
the modern taxicabs. The firm suspended business
in the early 1900s.
In 1906 International Harvester erected a four-
story building in the 300 block of East Columbia as a
retail outlet for farm machinery, service and other
agricultural needs. Earlier, this location had been
the site of stone and salvage yards. For a number
of years after International Harvester closed the
subsidiary was used as a warehouse by the Sigrist
Furniture Company. The structure was demolished
Late to come into its own, the 300 block of pass-
ing Columbia Street had a part in mapping the future
of the city and contributed to the lighting of cities
from the Mississippi Delta to the Golden Gate.
HEDEKIN HOUSE SERVED 124 YEARS
Hedekin House, which tumbled to the swing of
the wrecker's ball in April, 1969 was a part of the
Columbia Street growth pattern though it stood 124
years in the comparative hush of nearby Barr Street.
For twenty -five years it was but a block distant
from the Wabash and Erie Canal --conveniently aloof
from the constant movement along the waterfront. It
is best remembered as the Home Hotel, the dean of
Fort Wayne hostelries .
The Hedekin House (later the Home Hotel) erected
1843-44. Demolished 1968. Photo by Sid Pepe-- 1960.
For several years before it left the downtown
scene, there was hope that somehow it might fit into
the development of the Fine Arts Center.
The three -story structure, whose second -floor
balcony hosted many prominent leaders in earlier
years, was carefully restored by the late Roscoe
Hursh; his wife, Pauline, continued its management
after her husband's death in 1962.
For many years it had been home to pensioners
and other permanent residents and so its label through
a great part of the 20th Century was fitting. In what
had once been the basement kitchen, there remained
a spit large enough to accommodate a side of beef.
Michael Hedekin, the builder of the hotel in 1844,
came to Fort Wayne from County Westmeath, Ireland
early in 1843 and by June of that year had opened a
general store on the southeast corner of Barr and
Columbia streets. The business venture prospered
and nine years later he began planning the hotel build-
ing that was to bear his name.
The southeast corner of Barr and Columbia
streets site of the Hedekin general store from 1834 to
about 1870. To the rear is the Hedekin House (later
the Home Hotel).
Photographed by Sid Pepe--1960.
Perhaps the most unusual guest of its 124 -year
history was Samuel F. Curtis, who in 1856 registered
not only himself but 25 wooden boxes, each containing
1,000 silver dollars. Curtis came to establish the
Bank of Fort Wayne, and the capital was stored in
Hedekin House until accommodations were made ready
for the bank on the east side of Calhoun Street, near
Curtis later volunteered his services to the
Union cause when the Civil War began, and he rose to
the rank of major general, serving in Arkansas, Mis-
souri and in the Indian Territory ,
Hedekin House was opened with a military ball at
which appeared the "Silver Grays," a crack Detroit
military unit. The hotel was leased on June 16, 1846
by Calvin Anderson of Manchester, Vermont whose
dedication to temperance kept the flow of liquor away
from its walls .
The Andersons had six children; Lydia, Calvin,
Sara, Mary, Eli and Theresa. Eli G. Anderson for
many years operated the Anderson Tea & Coffee Com-
pany at one time located at the corner of Broadway and
Jefferson streets; he was a deacon in the First Baptist
Church and active in the work of the historic congre-
Hedekin House had thirty-four guest rooms, each
equipped with fire escapes of knotted rope. The iron
fittings for these rope ladders were still imbedded in
the walls when the old building was razed .
Probably by design, the first floor of Hedekin
House was proportioned for business purposes- -a
wide and age -resistant staircase led to the second -
floor lobby. There were two large rooms, second-
floor front, and one of these the Hurshes converted
into a modem, tasteful office .
The declining years of former Hedekin House
were its most gracious ones. Lloyd Hursh, former
businessman of the Leo-Grabill area, became the first
owner of the building outside the Hedekin estate in
1921. The establishment had deteriorated into some-
thing of a flop house, but its strong fittings stood up
remarkably under years of abuse.
When Roscoe Hursh, a son, became involved
with the historic structure in 1953, its possibilities
appealed to his varied mechanical skills. A sales
representative for National Mill & Supply Company for
many years, he set his imagination to work towards
One of the difficulties he overcame was refur-
bishing the distinctly period wrought iron railings of
the recessed balconies on the second and third floors.
At the time of his unexpected death, Hursh was
excited about the restoration of the fireplaces which
had been closed and concealed down through the years.
He scrounged buildings on deteriorating Colum-
bia Street as they were demolished to stock various
items of vintage wood trim that might be needed for
future maintenance of the building.
Previous leasors and owners of old Hedekin
House are vaguely recorded as J. Johnson, J.J. Knox,
J. C. Gaylord, Ely Kerns, H. J. Mills, a Mr. Wolf,
Avery Freeman, a Mr. Denison, Edward Purcell and
Jacob Swaidner. In 1876 the management was assumed
by Avery Freeman, Jr., former proprietor of the
Exchange Hotel on West Main Street.
Michael Hedekin had died in 1872; he was seventy-
nine. He had been active in civic affairs and for three
years before his death served on the city council.
The Hedekin homestead on East Main Street later was
occupied by Congressman James M. Robinson.
Hedekin had three children by his first marriage,
two daughters and a son. Thomas became a vice-
president of the White National Bank; his widow, the
former Cornelia O'Connor who died in August, 1933,
at Santa Cruz, California, was the last of the Hedekin
The 300 block of East Columbia Street, with
which Hedekin House neighbored, was immediately
east of the original plat of the city. A long-tenure
business on the south side of this block was operated
for more than forty years by the Weil Brothers .
Through the years the block had a scattering of
blacksmith shops, taverns, barbershops, scrap yards
and rooming houses. Lots (342-344) at the extreme
east end of the block were owned by the Ohio and
Indiana and subsequently the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne
and Chicago railroads from 1853 to 1914 when title
was transferred to Henry Bullerman, a stone mason
and from 1936 to 1959 occupied by the Fort Wayne
Spring Service ,
Several doors to the west was a blacksmith shop
operated by Tom Clark, later acquired by John Jackson
and his father early in the century. The Meyer Ruch-
man Company and the American Sanitary Wipers Com-
pany later chose this site, occuping three buildings,
334-340. In August, 1940 a fire destroyed these prop-
erties but the adjoining barbershop of Dale Inman
West of the Weil Brothers yard was a smithy
operated by Owen Farnan for many years . Another
prominent business in this area of the block was the
Mulhaupt Printing Company established at 306 East
Columbia in 1923 by William Mulhaupt, Maurice Min-
nick and Eldon Crawford. They engaged in general
printing until 1948 when they moved to 340 East Berry.
These were some of the many business neighbors
old Hedekin House survived --just a stone's throw off
Columbia Street. Just close enough to the action,
Hedekin built his hotel .
When decline came to Columbia Street, it was
CORNER STEEPED IN HISTORY
What Historian Roy M. Bates identifies as the
most historic site in the city of Fort Wayne is now
the western end of the Fine Arts Center, formerly
the southeast corner of Barr and Columbia streets.
On this ground once stood Ewing's Tavern some-
times called Ewing's Washington Hall, a log gathering
place in which the destinies of both Fort Wayne and
northeastern Indiana were charted by pioneer govern-
So well known did it become in a few years that
"Washington Hall" was designated as the meeting
place for the most significant legislative acts of north-
ern Indiana --decisions that also effected the develop-
ment of a much wider area.
Some of these events were shared by the Sutten-
field Tavern on the northeast corner of Barr and Co-
lumbia, a log shelter erected shortly after Washington
Hall in 1823. It originally catered more to entertain-
That was the year of the organization of the first
fraternal society in Indiana north of Indianapolis.
With special dispensation, meetings were held in
Washington Hall which led to the chartering of Wayne
Lodge No. 25, Free and Accepted Masons. The
charter was granted on November 10 and the first
official meeting of the lodge was held in the office of
Indian Agent John Tipton within the palisade of the fort,
a week later.
The last building to stand on the site of Washing-
ton Hall was a three -story brick structure finally
occupied by the Pembleton Electronics, which recently
moved to 513 East Wayne Street before the property
was razed by order of the Redevelopment Commission.
Alexander Ewing, who served with distinction
under General William Henry Harrison, the first ter-
ritorial governor of Indiana, lived to operate his widely
respected tavern for only a few years .
A native of New York State (born 1753) Ewing
and his family moved to what is now Monroe, Michigan
in 1802 after some financial reverses. Five years
later the Ewings moved to Piqua, Ohio where Alexander
built a log structure that served both as a tavern and
trading post. Later the family moved to Troy, Ohio.
As a resident of Ohio, Ewing became involved
with the Miami County Militia in which he reached the
rank of colonel. This unit joined General Harrison in
his expedition to relieve the siege of Fort Wayne dur-
ing the War of 1812. This was Ewing's first visit to
Later Ewing became a volunteer spy in Harri-
son's service and took part in the Battle of the Thames
in Ontario where the great Shawnee war chief Tecumseh
was defeated and killed .
In 1822 Colonel Ewing moved his family to Fort
Wayne and the following year Washington Hall became
a focal point of northern Indiana history.
Southeast corner of Barr and Columbia streets
William Suttenfield, the rival tavern proprietor,
lived within the fort for some years and in 1814 erected
the first residence outside the palisade. This occurred
before any streets existed. After the original plat of
the city was prepared, the Suttenfield house was found
to rest in the center of Barr Street, near Columbia.
Subsequently it was moved to the southwest
corner and made a part of Ewing's Washington Hall.
Five years after coming to Fort Wayne Colonel
Ewing died of a respiratory ailment; he was a six-
footer weighing 200 pounds. After his tenure, opera-
tors of Washington Hall included Robert Hood, Abner
Gerard, Samuel Sowers and a Mr. Timmons.
Immediately after the fort was abandoned as a
military post in early spring, 1819 Captain James Riley
surveyed a military tract of forty acres around the
bastion for use of the local Indian agent.
With the exception of the forty acres. Congress
drew up an act May 8, 1822 authorizing the sale of all
government owned land in the area. The act was
signed by President James Monroe and the land sale
opened October 22, 1823 at the land office in the fort.
Joseph Holman was the first receiver of the land office.
It was at this time that John T. Barr and John
McCorkle pooled their resources and bought the gov-
ernment tract for $1.25 an acre and immediately
platted the land for business and residential use . These
110 lots, now a part of the central business district,
became the Original Plat of the City of Fort
Wayne. Much of the Barr and McCorkle holdings were
sold at Washington Hall.
These original Fort Wayne real estate men in-
fluenced the selection of Fort Wayne as the county seat
of Allen County on March 26, 1823 by offering a liberal
area for the erection of a court house and jail.
The four commissioners who made this selection
were directed to meet at Washington Hall; Lot Bloom -
field of Wayne County, Abiathar Hathaway of Fayette
County, William Connor of Hamilton County and James
M. Ray of Marion County. They made the trip by
horse, and quickly concluded their business by select-
ing Fort Wayne as the county seat of Allen County.
Allen County boundaries, as approved by the
Legislature December 17, 1823 to become effective
the following April 1, embraced what is now Wells,
Adams, DeKalb and Steuben counties and portions of
Noble, LaGrange, Huntington and Whitley counties.
Governor William Hendricks appointed Allen Hamilton
the first sheriff. His first official act was to supervise
the first county election which took place May 22, 1824
in Washington Hall.
Four days after the election, the county com-
missioners began a six-day session at Washington
Hall and their first action was to name Joseph Holman
as county treasurer. The new treasurer was required
to post a bond of $1, 000.
Subsequent meetings of the commissioners were
held for the most part at Washington Hall--sometimes
it was expedient to meet in Suttenfield's Tavern across
On May 31, 1824 the commissioners met at
Washington Hall and strangely defined Wayne Township
as embracing the whole of present Allen County, which
at that time constituted all of northeastern Indiana.
So it remained until January, 1826.
The first session of the Allen County Court like-
wise was held in Washington Hall August 9, 1824; the
court continued to hold most of its sessions at the hall
until the first court house was built.
There is no complete record of activity on the
southwest corner after Washington Hall was destroyed
by fire in 1858. John Laurent & Son operated a liquor
business on the corner and about 1873 a three-story
brick building was erected there, and it bore the num-
bers 234-236 East Columbia Street. Several brick
soaking tanks found in the basement of the structure
indicated that a saddlery was once operated there.
Shortly after the turn of the century, Joseph
Langard operated a saloon on the first floor, and the
second and third floors were used as a boardinghouse.
Later Louis Langard, one-time member of the city
council, operated a combined grocery and saloon on
the first floor of the premises.
The final tenant, Pembleton Electronics, was
organized in 1932 by Frederick W . Pembleton at 919
Parkview Avenue; the firm later moved to a building
on the northeast corner of Broadway and Washington
Boulevard which later became the site of Mrs .Cooper's
restaurant. In 1945 Pembleton moved to 236 East
Columbia Street and remained until 1969.
A son, James W. Pembleton, was associated in
the business with his father for a number of years.
Once a horse -watering trough stood on the Barr Street
side of this building, and for the safety of pedestrians,
the Pembleton's removed a number of hitching rings
secured to the sidewalk.
Before Pembleton Laboratories, the structure
was occupied for a time by the Peter J.Refakis Pioneer
Barber Supply Company, a firm that remained on
Columbia Street a total of forty-four years , In 1966
it was moved to 234 West Main Street to provide clear-
ance for development.
Refakis came to Fort Wayne from Chicago in
1921 and became associated immediately with the
Columbia Candy Kitchen. Later he went to the Levy
Brothers store on Barr Street and subsequently was
employed by Patterson-Fletchers. In 1925 he pur-
chased the barber supply business that had been estab-
lished at Brackenridge and Calhoun streets by Charles
Obseer and subsequently operated by Martin L. Lose.
SAMUEL HANNA, FATHER OF FORT WAYNE,
WOULD HAVE LOVED SPACE AGE
Samuel Hanna, sometimes aptly referred to as
the "father of Fort Wayne," would have reveled in the
It was his extreme impatience with pioneer
transportation that influenced the building of plank
roads, the construction of the Wabash and Erie Canal
and finally the projection of the railroads .
Hanna, a versatile man of great discipline, used
this philosophy of speed progress around himself.
Ironically, his first business venture as a teen-ager
was a failure. His partner disclaimed his obligations
under the old infancy statute but Hanna worked years
to settle his debts with interest.
He died a wealthy man in 1866- -his funeral pro-
cession extended from the court house to the ceme-
tery, a distance of two miles .
Until a few years ago the old Henderson-Reed
Brothers Company building on the northwest corner of
Barr and Columbia streets remained a monument to
his civic enterprise. This was the site of the famous
Barnett -Hanna trading post, a partnership that proved
The Hanna Building at the northwest comer of Barr
and Columbia streets as it appeared in 1952 after the
east one -third of the building was removed --Photo by
Hanna was born October 18, 1797 in Scott County,
Kentucky and in 1804 the family settled on a new farm
near Dayton, Ohio. As was the way of life, then,
Hanna' s elementary education was neglected while he
helped his father, James, clear and develop the farm
At age 19, he was clerking in a store at Piqua,
Ohio. He and another young man bought out the store,
giving their $3, 000 personal notes as security. It was
this business that ended in failure.
For some time after this, he taught in a country
school and as an instructor his dedication to discipline
and system became evident. His favorite maxim was
"Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well."
Formal negotiations with the Indians, leading to
an expansion of the white man's enterprise, attracted
Hanna to St. Mary's, Ohio in 1818. There he and his
brother, Thomas, became engaged in provisioning
men and horses at the busy treaty center, moving the
merchandise in by oxen from Troy.
This was a profitable venture and provided the
nucleus of the colossal Hanna fortune that was to be
At St. Mary's Hanna became interested in the
military establishment to the west known as Fort
Wayne. In 1819 Hanna found the city he was to help
shape little more than an Indian trading post, with a
few white stragglers from the old military post. The
forests that extended for hundreds of miles in every
direction were inhabited entirely by Indians .
Hanna was only twenty -two when he settled in
A year earlier he had made the acquaintance of
James Barnett, a Pennsylvanian (born 1785). Barnett,
too, came to Fort Wayne and they formed a partner-
ship to establish the trading post, a log structure built
almost entirely by Hanna.
The trading post became sort of a hub in the
development of the village. At the time there were
no streets, only trails, and the area had never been
platted. The log trading post eventually was replaced
by a story and half frame structure and as the years
passed, this gave way to a substantial block of brick
business houses .
Barnett and Hanna developed a flourishing busi-
ness with the Indians and subsequently the settlers
who followed them.
The supply lines of the post extended as far as
Detroit, Boston and New York City. The supplies
came all too slowly for Hanna in canoes, pirogues
(those boats hollowed out from logs), flatboats on the
St. Mary's River from Miami County, Ohio and horse-
drawn wagons .
In 1820 Hanna became the community's first
postmaster and as a result the trading post became
Fort Wayne's first post office.
Hanna and Barnett became brothers-in-law in
1824; Barnett married Hanna's sister, Nancy, at Troy,
Ohio, while Hanna married Eliza Taylor, daughter of
Mr. and Mrs. Israel Taylor of Boston. The Hannas
soon established a home on the northwest corner of
Barr and Berry streets, opposite the former City Hall.
Late in the 1830s the Hannas built the mansion at
Lewis and Gay streets that remained a landmark until
its demolition in 1962. For years it was known as
Hanna Homestead .
From the time he came to Fort Wayne, Hanna
was deeply disturbed by the inconvenience and dis-
comforts of transportation of the day. Grain raised
in the area had to be processed in southern Michigan
or Ohio and to correct this Hanna and Barnett built a
grist mill on the west bank of the St. Mary's River
directly south of the present Oakdale Bridge.
The surveying mind of President George Wash-
ington already had suggested the construction of a
canal through the Fort Wayne area and this idea never
left Hanna's mind. Discussions on the subject between
Hanna and David Barnett led to Hanna's procurement
of surveying instruments in the East so the engineer-
ing could be started .
Hanna subsequently became the chief promoter
of the Ohio and Indiana Railroad which, when merged
with other lines, became the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne
and Chicago Railroad --now the Penn-Central.
He became president of the Grand Rapids & In-
diana Railroad and headed a company that constructed
the Lima Plank Road, a route that now connects Fort
Wayne and Howe, Indiana. He also served as road
supervisor of Wayne Township, a natural position for
one so intent on improving travel conditions in the
Fort Wayne area.
His other interests were varied; he served as a
judge, state senator, treasurer of Allen County and
was an organizer of the First Presbyterian Church.
A fire destroyed the famous trading post in 1842
and on the site Hanna erected a three -story brick
structure which served various business enterprises
until 1955. Occupants of the site included J. W. Robb,
commission merchant; O. W. Jefferds, notary; George
Wood, land agent and the first mayor of the city; the
Judson McComb grocery; Welsh Clothing and W. E.
Harber & Company, produce and fruits.
The Hanna Building as it appeared in 1938. W. E.
Harber & Company occupied the corner room while
the balance of the building was occupied by Henderson-
Reed Brothers Company- -Photo by R. M. Bates.
The final occupant, Henderson-Reed Brothers
Company, used the structure during its last seventy -
five years. The firm dates back to an 1850 merger of
two outlets dealing in feed and harness. After one of
the longest tenures on Columbia Street, the firm
moved to 3626 Northrup Street.
Judge Hanna fell ill on June 6, 1866, died on the
eleventh and was buried on the thirteenth. The Masonic
Order had charge of the services and all business of
the city was suspended out of respect to the city's
champion for so many years .
CITY'S FIRST FOOTLIGHTS DREW
Fort Wayne's first footlights shone upon the
great and near -great of the 19th Century stage
during the thirty-year span of Colerick Hall.
The three-story building stood at 215-17 East
Columbia Street and was razed to clear the site for
Never really abandoned during the 118 years of
its existence, the structure served as the city's first
opera house and the first assembly hall. The street
floor housed Fort Wayne's first public bathhouse.
Colerick Hall, finally known as Grand Opera
House, met a fiery end as a theater on July 5, 1881.
It was rebuilt for business use and has served the
various firms down through the years, largely as a
Colerick Hall or Grand Opera House building at 215-17
East Columbia Street. Erected 1951-53.
While on the circuit of the great road shows
Colerick Hall hosted Edwin Booth, Joe Murphy, Laura
Keene, Novelist Francis Bret Harte, Horace Greeley,
Thomas A. Hendricks, Oliver P. Morton, Andrew
Johnson (later to become president of the United
States), George Holland and finally William "Buffalo
Bill" Cody, the last celebrity to appear on its stage
before the fire .
Edwin Booth, called the greatest tragedian of the
last century, was a brother of the infamous John Wilkes
Booth who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in
1865. Edwin, who went into seclusion after this real-
life tragedy, appeared on the stage of Colerick Hall
in "Hamlet" April 19, 1873.
Greeley was the first distinguished lecturer to
appear there --on February 8, 1860.
The once nationally -known playhouse bore the
name of Edward F . Colerick, its builder, who held
the offices of county clerk, county recorder and county
surveyor during the theater's heyday. Upper -floor
gathering places were a pattern of the day, and Col-
erick chose his site in the center of the block of Co-
lumbia Street between Clinton and Barr streets .
Before this, the court house and several other
buildings provided rather austere space for public
assemi)ly and entertainment.
Colerick made known his plan to provide the
city with a theater in 1851 and the day after Christ-
mas, 1853 Colerick Hall was opened under the man-
agement of C. C. Hill and S. Bond. Since the facili-
ties were in the nature of a gift to the city, the first
attraction, appropriately, was a local minstrel per-
Though architectured as a theater, the original
accommodations of Colerick Hall brought some dis-
content among audiences. Commented the Fort Wayne
Times of July 27, 1865: "A lady must have a neck as
long as a giraffe and as slender, too, if she expects
to see anything on the stage from the back of the gal-
lery. People won't pay their dimes to see nothing or
break their necks or backs, too, in the effort!"
There was a public gathering of historical signi-
ficance there November 15, 1854 marking the arrival
of the first excursion train over the new Ohio & Indiana
Railroad. Celebrities aboard the train spattered
each other with mud as they trudged from the termi-
nal to Colerick Hall, but their spirits were heightened
by a feast that awaited them there.
Colerick, himself installed the first public bath-
house on the first floor on May 27, 1859; he charged
twenty-five cents for a hot or cold bath or a shower.
Coincidental with the opening of a paint and
wallpaper store on the first floor of the structure
March 24, 1864 by J.J. Kamm, Colerick Hall was
unexplainably glorified for the fall opening; the roof
was raised, galleries and boxes were installed and a
parquet floor was laid. Also new was a semi-
circular balcony. This finery was dedicated by the
Colonel Woods Troupe from the Chicago Museum .
Another renovation came February 8, 1869 under
the new management of Albert Nirdlinger. The interior
was further embellished, new seats were installed
and new stage scenery and other props appeared.
Two years later the playhouse began to feel the
pinch of competition from the Ewing and Summit City
halls and The Rink on East Berry Street. More
improvements were made to the interior for the
August 27, 1872 reopening with the Jennie Hight
These followed a three -year period of physical
deterioration which moved the Fort Wayne Sentinel to
comment on June 2, 1875:
"The old shanty which rejoices in the high-
sounding name of Colerick' s Opera House has at last
fallen so low that there are none so poor as to do it
reverence. Good troupes are passing Fort Wayne
daily and refusing to stop over. The theater is in a
bad state of deterioration."
When the Bijou Theater opened across the street
on the former site of Schlatter's Hardware, the opera
house bowed out to competition on December 16, 1878.
On October 8 of the following year James N. White,
proprietor of the progressive White Fruit House,
purchased the opera house at a sheriff's sale.
The future of Colerick Hall was further compli-
cated January 11, 1880 when a winter storm swept the
roof from the building; the theater now had been re-
named Grand Opera House .
Fruit Merchant White responded with improve-
ments the next month intended to restore the theater's
prestige . J . Bond and George Dickinson of Indianapolis
were installed as managers.
On May 10, 1880 the owner of Grand Opera House
and his two daughters left the city for an extended visit
to Scotland .
The following July 5 Grand Opera House and the
fur store of S. Oppenheimer were gutted by a $20,000
Thus ended the brilliant history of Colerick Hall
as a place of entertainment; it had never made money
despite the talent of the people who crossed its
Subsequent business tenants of the property
have included W. T, Abbotts and the Boston Drygoods
Company. National Mill occupied the premises for a
number of years .
A few of the Colerick Hall billings have survived
the years to remind of great stage attractions of the
February 8, 1860--Horace Greeley, lectured.
March 1, 1860- -Madam Lola Montez, countess
of Lansfelt, lecturer.
March 8, 1860 --Professor Carver, Illinois Uni-
May 22, 1860- -Peak Family Swiss Bell Ringers.
May 27, 1860--Colonel Thomas A. Hendricks,
candidate for governor.
February 11, 1861 --Masquerade party and ball .
September 23, 1861 --Volunteer Soldier's Benefit.
October 22, 1861 --Holman's Comic Opera Troupe.
April 3, 1863 Frankenstein Cyclorama of the
May 19, 1863 --Goodwin and Wilders Polyrama.
May 28, 1863 --Old Folks Concert Company.
June 1, 1863 --Queen City Dramatic Company.
April 19, 1864--Charles and Eliza Nestle (Fort
Octobers, 1864- -Andrew Johnson.
October 1, 1864- -Oliver P. Morton, governor of
November 1, 1864- -Meeting of War Volunteers .
September 3, 1866- -Major General Nathan Kim-
October 4, 1866--"East Lynn, " Pittsburgh Opera
November 10, 1866 --Chang and Eng, Siamese
February 8, 1869--"Blind Tom," Negro pianist.
June 18, 1870- -Democratic Convention.
October 16, 1870- -The Great Ricardo (Prima
November 17, 1870--JohnE. Owens, comedian.
February 28, 1871- -Adelaide Phillips, Concert
Octobers, 1872- -Laura Keene.
November 12, 1872 --Japanese Troupe.
November 23, 1872 --Rubenstein Concert Troupe.
December 27, 1872--Felix A. Vincent, "The
Organ Grinder ."
February 27, 1873 --Madam Carlotti Patti, vo-
April 19, 1873 --Edwin Booth in "Hamlet."
October 22, 1873 --Joe Murphy, comedian.
December 28, 1874- -The Wallace Sisters.
January 29, 1875 --Bret Harte, lecturer.
March 24, 1875- -Temperance mass meeting.
April 20, 1875--Fritz Listerman, violinist.
May 20, 1877 - -Kate Clazton Troupe.
March 12, 1878- -George Francis Train, lecturer .
June 23, 1880- -Joseph Jefferson, comedian.
March 2, 1861, William "Buffalo Bill" Cody.
Colerick Hall passed from the cultural scene
eighty-eight years ago but it will be remembered as
the upstairs theater that introduced Fort Wayne to the
fine arts .
COLUMBIA STREET'S EARLY PROFILE DIM
Of the 2, 500 firms estimated to have shared the
business life of historic Columbia Street, only 125
left any record of their existence.
This attests, perhaps, to the old affluence of the
one-time main street of the city and a progressively
confusing system of numbering that stymies research.
Some merchants chose to abide by the big numerals
of gold plate that appeared on the transons of their
stores in the earlier days, others did not.
Throughout its business life, the 100 and 200
blocks of East Columbia Street were the busiest.
Columbia Street looking west from Barr Street .
John W. Dawson, at one time editor and pub-
lisher of the Fort Wayne Times, a newspaper that
brought the city's first telegraph lines from Toledo
to its offices in the 200 block of East Columbia, set
down a vague word picture of that particular block in
1838. This did not reach the public print until March,
1872 under the title of Dawson's Charcoal Sketches
of Early Fort Wayne.
It gives a ragged profile of the north side of the
200 block east, between Clinton and Barr streets (now
Freimann Park). He recalled construction of the
large brick Barnett and Hanna building at the western
extremity of the block, then the largest building in
northern Indiana which served variously as a court
house, clerk's office and sheltered several law offices
as well as that of the Times. This early landmark of
the street burned in 1860.
At the east end of the block was the famous
Barnett and Hanna Trading Post and in between were a
small residence of William H. Coombs, then a young
lawyer; a building housing the firm of Wright and
Dubois and several less imposing structures. Lawyer
Coombs' home was in the shadow of the Barnett -Hanna
building. This is all history records of the north side
of the 200 block east prior to the Civil War.
At the start of the war a three -story brick build-
ing made its appearance on the northeast corner of
Columbia and Clinton streets and on October 7, 1861
the firm of Thieme & Brothers, tailors, moved into
the structure and remained there until the early part
of the 20th Century. In the early 1870s a barber-
shop was operated in the basement of the Thieme
Building by Calvin A . Brooks, a negro.
On January 9, 1893 Frederick Eckart and Charles
McCullough sold the Thieme Building to the Hamilton
National Bank. A fire caused an estimated $12,000
damage to the tailoring firm which then purchased the
Louis Heilbronner saloon property at 18 West Berry
Street. This Berry Street property later was occupied
by the Meyer Tailoring, successor to Thieme & Sons,
and a reorganization of the original firm.
In later years the Thieme Building itself was
occupied by a fruit and produce house; it finally was
razed and replaced by a parking lot .
The Barnett and Hanna structure, which so im-
pressed Dawson, was built by James Barnett in 1824
and was the first brick building in Fort Wayne. There
is a good record that the brick was made locally by
Benjamin Archer; the building was unusual for the
time and attracted sightseers from great distances.
During its early years the building was used for
residential purposes; for nearly half a century it was
occupied by Schwieters Bakery. B. F. Pettit bought
the structure on January 8, 1907; part of the building
had collapsed, probably as a result of the 1860 fire.
It contained black-walnut beams, split oak lath and
a fireplace that would accommodate ten-foot logs .
After the fire, Dawson moved the Times office
to the northwest corner of Main and Calhoun streets.
Barnett, the builder, was the city's first town
marshal when it was incorporated in 1829. His
stipend was $2.00 a year. He became township trustee
Herman Schwieters opened his bakery and eating
house during the Civil War and after his death two
sons, Charles F. and John continued the business.
When the Schwieters Bakery closed, its proprietors
joined the bakery firm of Myron Downing.
The Barnett and Hanna building was replaced by
a three -story brick structure that was occupied for
many years by a branch office of Swift & Company,
Chicago meat packers . In later years the property
served as a warehouse.
A significant addition came to the 200 block east
in 1904 with organization of the National Mill Supply
by Sol A . Lehman. Prior to the turn of the century he
had been involved in the lumber business and founded
the Woodburn Lumber Company. In 1900 he relin-
quished his holdings to devote his business energy to
the Fort Wayne Steam Specialty Company established
in a one -story building at 223 East Columbia.
In 1917 this company took over the business of
the Indiana Electric Appliance and the following year
acquired Electric Supply & Fixture. The firm grew
rapidly and soon invested in a five-story building at
207 East Columbia which National Mill occupied up to
1969. The old firm then constructed a new home north
of the city near Industrial Park.
Included in the National Mill complex was former
Colerick Hall standing immediately to the east.
Another old-timer of the 200 block is Indiana
Feed & Seed, operated by Arthur Hille, established
at 219 East Columbia in 1921. Previously, the build-
ing was occupied by several fruit wholesalers.
The P & H Supply opened its doors at 223 -25 East
Colunnbia in 1896, and in 1957 moved to 101 East
Columbia on the northeast corner of Calhoun Street.
The firm moved to 1815 South Anthony Boulevard in
Meanwhile, the corporate name of the firm was
changed to Wayne Pipe & Supply Company with E.J.
Trier as chairman of the board, J. M. Wilson, presi-
dent, A.J.Jackson, secretary-treasurer and David
Scherer, assistant secretary -treasurer .
The former P & H Building on Columbia Street
was occupied in later years by the Yarnelle Supply,
founded by James Yarnelle and later operated by Na-
Alexander M.Orbison operated the largest grain
warehouse in the city on the Orbison Basin of the Canal
near this block, starting in 1842. When the canal was
abandoned, Orbison moved to the 200 block of East
Columbia Street and in 1880 relocated in Sturgis,
It was in this block that Benjamin Tower oper-
ated the B. H. Tower furniture factory and planing
mill for many years: the mill was located on the north
side of the canal. In 1850, the industrialist was named
chief engineer of the fire department.
Various other businesses are believed to have
operated in the 200 block east, including Jared Cothrell's
Mad Anthony Saloon and Eating House; Solomon Smith,
agricultural implements; M. L. Mills & Company,
furrier; W. Haskell, commission merchant; C. P.
Fletcher billiard parlor and saloon; C. H. Schultz,
saloon; Carrier & Weaver, wines and liquors; Nelson
Wheeler, cabinet maker; D. O. O'Connell's Palace
Hall saloon; Morris Cody grocery; John Reed, leather
goods; Fort Wayne Buggy Top Company; Fort Wayne
Paper Mills; Julius Beurett, stoves and tinware; H, P.
Ayers, physician; American and U.S. Express Com-
panies; John McCarty and J. H. Marshall.
The north side of the 200 block east includes lots
34-39 inclusive of the original plat of the city of Fort
Wayne; each of the lots was of sufficient size for two
buildings; the numbering of the plats themselves began
at Barr Street and ran westward .
Today Freimann Park beckons downtown workers
and visitors to relax on its grassy turf and wonder
among its shrubs and trees --a far cry from the bustle
and noise of former Columbia Street.
FIRES CHANGED SKYLINE WHEN
STREET WAS YOUNG
Now but the shadow of a once robust business
corridor, Columbia Street had a whim of changing its
complexion with spectacular bursts of flame.
That is how the Bijou Theater met its end and
gave way to a hardware store. The Bijou, originally
the Olympic, was an upstart on the southeast corner
of Clinton and Columbia streets that starved out the
box office of famous Colerick Hall across the street.
It was peculiar to Columbia Street that the most
important structures occupied street corners . This
was typical of the south side of the 200 block east with
the Olympic Theater to the west and Washington Hall,
northern Indiana's finest hostelry for many years on
the east corner.
Officially, the south side of the 200 block east,
included lots 58 to 63 inclusive of the original plat of
the city of Fort Wayne.
The first building of importance to precede the
Olympic Theater on the southeast corner of Clinton
and Columbia streets was an "elegant" department
store operated by Marion Sweeter. It was recalled
by John W. Dawson, early Fort Wayne publisher and
political figure. Next door was the two-story log
home of William G. Ewing.
The record is not clear what happened, but the
drygoods store was succeeded by the David M.Lunce-
ford harness shop in 1854. A series of fires in spring,
1860 made sudden changes in the business history of
On March 19, 1860 the Lawrence Grocery and
Barber Shop several doors east, directly across the
street from Colerick Hall, was destroyed by fire.
Two days later an attempt was made to burn the har-
The following April 3 a frame building on the
southwest corner of Clinton and Columbia streets went
up in flames and the fire leaped Clinton Street and
razed the harness shop, the old Ewing homestead and
two other buildings. From the charred remains of
the log building, Colonel George W. Ewing salvaged
enough timber to produce a number of canes which
were distributed as gifts during an Old Settlers func-
tion at Rockhill House, which stood on the present site
of St. Joseph's Hospital,
It was in 1878 that a contract was let for the
construction of the Olympic Opera House on the site of
the Lunceford harness shop. The contract called for
an expenditure of $4,736. The grand opening of the
theater came on December 16 and though some prom-
inent road shows appeared there, the theater was
temporarily closed by creditors on March 26, 1880.
The theater reopened on April 19 for a run of
"Yankee Robinson," a troupe which originated with a
show in the old court house in 1848, and Robinson en-
livened the performance with his personal experiences
in show business .
Presented by competition, the Olympic began
serving its audiences beer and cigars on June 25, 1880
but the house finally closed for the summer. The
theater reopened the following August 20 under new
management and with a number of improvements. On
November 22 the new manager, William H. Morris,
disappeared leaving a string of unpaid bills and a
stranded show troupe.
R. S. Smith of Indianapolis leased the theater
and changed the name to the Bijou; a large audience
responded to the opening on December 20.
This management was short-lived; on February
4, 1881, a fire gutted the theater causing damage es-
timated at $1, 500. This ended the theater experience
of the structure and in 1882 it was occupied by the
Pfeiffer & Schlatter Hardware after extensive repairs
and improvements had been made. In January, 1883
the firm excavated a basement under the building.
Henry Pfeiffer withdrew from the firm early in
1899 and Christian Schlatter incorporated the business
as C. C. Schlatter & Company, capitalized at $50, 000.
An explosion of oil and paint in the new basement
of the Schlatter firm caused between $10, 000 and
$15, 000 damage to the building on October 22, 1903.
The former Schlatter Building at 601 South Clinton
Street; corner of Columbia site of the "Olympic,"
later the Bijou Theater. Photo June 1962 by Sidney
This had been a two-story building until 1927
when the widening of Clinton Street was begun. To
compensate for space lost in the street widening and
provide for future growth the Schlatter building was
raised to five floors with display windows on the
Clinton Street frontage. By this time it had become a
complete hardware department store with sixty -five
employees and the firm name was changed to the
Schlatter Hardware Company. As urban redevelop-
ment approached in 1967, the firm established two
new retail outlets in the northern part of the city. A
heavy fire in the abandoned Clinton Street building
hastened its razing.
Merchant Sweeter, whose drygoods establish-
ment gave prestige to the 200 block East Columbia,
was active in behalf of the city's growth. He came to
the city in 1832 and immediately engaged in business.
In the civic area, he served as a trustee of the town,
was a member of the committee that promoted the
construction of the Ohio and Indiana Railroad, became
a member of the first board of aldermen when Fort
Wayne was incorporated as a city in 1840 and three
years later served on the reception committee for the
dedication of the Wabash and Erie Canal. He died in
Another prominent resident, Frank D. Paulus,
partner in the Paulus -Kaough farm implement busi-
ness at 58 East Columbia, was a personal friend of
President James A. Garfield.
From publisher Dawson's time until after the
Civil War some of the known businesses of the south
half of this block were the Phillip McDonald grocery
and trading post, Patrick Corman grocery, gunsmith
W. S. Smith, Frank LaSalle, Adam Hiltz bakery,
Hypolite Mainer grocery and saloon, Francis Bercot
boardinghouse, tailor Rudolph Boerger, John Mohr
bootery, Miller and Blosser Bakery, Hiram Wells
grocery, tailor John Grieb, shoemaker G. Reffel,
John Did ier, grocery and liquor store, Henry Stellhorn
bakery, Brandriff and Roberts home furnishings, S.
Bryant fish and candy store, A.J. McCormick, furni-
ture store, Robert Noll butcher shop, Fred Betsch
basket shop, Louis Schenk Willow Ware store, M.
Reed & Company produce house and the IraD .Williams
Some of these early names may still be found in
the city's present directory of residency.
BUSINESS BOOMED ALONG DOCK STREET
More change came to the now -extinct 100 block
of East Columbia Street- -once the city's business
heartland --than any other portion of that thoroughfare .
The business and industrial growth of Fort Wayne
started on Columbia Street and this one -block area of
great change involved only lots 40 to 45 of the city's
Within less than a half-block of the area, on
which the City -County Building now stands, were born
the Meyer Brothers drug empire, the Wayne Hard-
ware Company and S. Freiburger & Brother, once a
prominent merchandiser of leather goods .
100 block of East Columbia Street on the north side.
An early business anchorage wasthe AllenHam-
ilton trading post which occupied the northwest corner
of Clinton and Columbia . In 1855 this became the
site of a four-story building occupied by N. B. Free-
man & Company drygoods merchants.
These businesses on the north side of the 100
block east actually faced north at one time, overlook-
ing what was a docking area of the Wabash and Erie
Canal. After the passing of the canal, tracks for the
Nickel Plate Road were laid over the dock and this
stretch was referred to as Dock Street for many years .
And, after the canal was abandoned, these
businesses about-faced to front on Columbia Street.
But architecturally they remained two-faced until they
came down to make way for the government building.
Organized in 1853 and at one time one of the
largest wholesale drug outlets in the county, Meyer
Brothers held its identity for a period of 116 years
and only recently sold its interests to Hook Drugs .
John Fredrick William Meyer, born at Halden,
Westphalia, Germany in 1824, came to America at
twenty-three with a brother, Fredrick. They made
the crossing on an English sailing ship which docked
at New Orleans . The brothers proceeded by packet
to Cincinnati and by canalboat to New Bremen, Ohio
where, for some reason, they lacked transportation
westward. They walked from New Bremen to Mon-
mouth, near Decatur, arriving exhausted and nearly
frozen on December 3, 1847 .
During a four -month stay in that community,
they purchased and cleared a tract of land. They es-
tablished permanent residence in Fort Wayne in 1849
and obtained employment in the pioneer drug firm of
Hugh B. Reed. In 1852 John became a partner in the
firm of Wall & Meyer on the north side of Columbia
Street a short distance west of Clinton Street.
The following year the brothers organized the
drug firm of Meyer Brothers & Company. So capable
were the brothers at merchandising that in 1856 they
organized an outlet in St. Louis which became one of
the largest wholesale drug firms in the United States .
A fire in 1862 destroyed the Fort Wayne invest-
ment of the Meyer brothers but they reopened the
store and operated at the original site until 1872 when
the retail and wholesale divisions were moved to the
southwest corner of Columbia and Calhoun streets in
the new Keystone block where operations continued
A second branch was established by Meyer
Brothers in 1875 at Kansas City, Missouri and a third
opened in Dallas in 1887.
The business was purchased by a local group of
businessmen in 1903 but retained its name. Directors
of the new firm were J.F.N. Meyer, William J . Vesey,
Charles F. Freese, F. B. Kunkle, Arthur Beuke, G.
H. Heine and Robert Klaehn. After the death of Meyer
in 1910, Gottlieb H. Heine became president of the
firm and it flourished for many years . For a number
of years the firm's executive offices were maintained
on West Columbia Street immediately west of Fisher
Brothers Paper Company.
In early 1969 the Meyer Brothers chain was
acquired by the Hook Drug Company of Indianapolis;
the transaction involved ten stores in Fort Wayne and
outlets in Anderson, Kokomo, Muncie, Noblesville,
Richmond, South Bend, Goshen, LaPorte, and Misha-
waka. In its recent history the Meyer's firm had
corporate offices at 5025 New Haven Avenue under
the name Meyer's Rexall Drugs.
The birth of Wayne Hardware, another promi-
nent member of the Columbia Street family, dates
back to 1862 when Alvin S. and Edwin W. Prescott
entered the hard goods business on West Columbia.
In the early 1880s, the firm moved to the northwest
corner of Clinton and Columbia where on June 18, 1883
it closed its doors temporarily because of financial
difficulties. The business was purchased the follow-
ing September for $24,000 by Gideon W. Seavey.
Seavey a native of Palmyra, Illinois, came to the city
in 1877 and engaged in the practice of law three years
In 1880, Seavey became involved in the lumber
business and upon purchase of the defunct Prescott
firm the store reopened as the G. W. Seavey Com-
pany. His son, Walter, entered the firm and in 1897
Seavey' moved to 121 West Main Street and on January
30, 1914 was incorporated as the Seavey Hardware
Increasing business led the firm to move to the
northwest corner of Pearl and Harrison streets; the
first floor of this building had been occupied by the
interurban waiting room and ticket office. In 1919 a
business group headed by Frank H. Cutshall acquired
the Seavey interests and on April 5, 1920 was incor-
porated as the Wayne Hardware Company. Dean F .
Cutshall, a son of Frank H. Cutshall, now heads the
The Freiburger firm was established in 1870 by
Leopold Freiburger who had come to Fort Wayne from
Mt. Carroll, Illinois. Joseph and Herman Freiburger,
sons of the founder, served as president and secre-
tary-treasurer, respectively; they were dealers in
leather goods and adult and children's shoes.
Soon after the Seavey building was vacated on
the northwest corner of Columbia and Clinton, the
Freiburgers opened a subsidiary there, the Fort
Wayne Glove & Mitten Company.
One of the many fires that persisted in changing
the business complexion of Columbia Street destroyed
the Morgan & Beach Hardware Company, 119-21 East
Columbia Street, the Nathan Kircheimer wholesale
paper store and the Romary-Goeglein Hardware Store
at a loss of $150, 000 on February 28, 1897. Shortly
after the fire the Morgan & Beach site was acquired by
the Freiburgers who built a six-story building there
and subsequently moved to this center position on the
north side of the 100 block east.
In 1837 the post office was maintained in a low,
frame building on the north side of the 100 block east
by Henry Rudisill. A four-story brick building made
its appearance on the site of the old Hamilton trading
post in 1855 and was occupied by N. B. Freeman &
Company, drygoods merchants. The general offices
of the Wabash & Erie Canal, including the superinten-
dent and toll collector, were located on the second
floor of this building on the northwest corner of Co-
lumbia and Clinton.
In 1837, Dr. Merchant W. Huxford operated a
respected drug firm in the half -block north, westward
from Clinton Street . The Huxford residence, a gray
stucco building, still stands at the rear of a service
station on the southeast corner of Spy Run and Tennes-
see avenues, now occupied by Old Fort Books.
More than a dozen older firms are known to
have done business in this bustling half block during
the earlier years, dispensing groceries, leather
goods, spices, hard goods, meat, books, stationery
ENTERPRISE WAS LEGACY OF A
STREET THAT DIED
Imaginative merchandising was a way of life
along old Columbia Street, the street that began as a
path to the fort and served as the city's main thor-
oughfare for many years .
This was particularly true of the north side of
the 100 block East Columbia where one establishment
had a resident buyer in the East and another scattered
its salesmen all over the Midwest.
The Rothchild Brothers, Solomon and Benjamin,
were widely known through the Midwest in the men's
clothing field. Their retail outlet, known as the Red
Front Clothing Store, first occupied the imposing
Keystone Block on the southwest corner of Columbia
and Calhoun streets and moved to 107 East Columbia
in 1876. The business expanded into an adjoining
building and a wholesale outlet was developed that
dispatched sales people all over the Midwest.
On the northeast corner of Calhoun and Columbia
streets Jonas Wade Townley of Elizabeth, New Jersey
established a general store in 1839. He sold the busi-
ness in 1862 to a brother, Robert Townley, George
DeWald and Henry Bond, then the firm became known
as Townley, DeWald, Bond and Company. Robert,
senior partner who also served as town trustee and
councilman, resided in Elizabeth, New Jersey and
served as the firm's eastern buyer, making annual
visits to Fort Wayne. He was elected mayor of Eliza-
beth in 1876, and his death occurred four years later.
The firm subsequently became known as George De-
Wald & Company.
Inevitable circumstances and one of those spec-
tacular fires changed the leadership of the firm in
rapid sequence; Townley died in 1897 and George
DeWald passed away two years later.
Late the same year the DeWald building and the
adjoining M. F. Kaag china store were destroyed by
a $225, 000 blaze. The next day, President Robert T.
DeWald of the firm announced the block would be re-
built and temporary business quarters were established
in the Baltes Block on the southeast corner of Berry
and Harrison streets.
The George DeWald Company building at the northeast
corner of Columbia and Calhoun streets . Erected in
1900 following the DeWald Company fire of 1899.
Photographed 1961 by Sidney Pepe.
The new DeWald business building on Columbia
Street was completed in 1900 and the firm continued
until 1936 with Robert W. T. DeWald as president;
George L. DeWald as vice-president and William Beck
as secretary-treasurer. This firm, with a record of
ninety-seven years in the city, was succeeded by the
Fort Wayne Drygoods Company.
In 1937 the P & H Supply Company which had
operated at 223-25 East Columbia moved into the De-
Wald building and continued there until 1956 when the
firm moved to 1815 South Anthony Boulevard. This
then became one of the buildings to absorb the bur-
geoning services of Allen County government which in
recent years, overflowed the court house and took
offices in quarters scattered through the business
Another great firm on Columbia Street, the
Morgan & Beach Hardware, was wiped out by a $125,000
fire February 28, 1897. The business had been es-
tablished in 1846 by Henry Durarie, a native of Ger-
many, who sold out to Oliver P. Morgan ten years
later. Fredrick Beach, a native of Germany, was
admitted to the firm in 1862 and in 1864 a fourth floor
was added to the hardware firm's building at 19-21
East Columbia. Beach died in April, 1895 and Morgan
purchased his partner's interests from heirs of the
estate, Morgan, a native of Lawrenceburg, Indiana,
served as a member of the city council, recorder and
public school trustee . His father, Joseph Morgan,
served as mayor. The younger Morgan also had serv-
ed as a collector on the Wabash and Erie Canal,
The firm was known as Morgan & Company when
the fire wrote an end to the business. Freiburger
Brothers, prominent leather merchants, erected a
six-story building on this site.
Just west of Morgan & Company stood the Post
House, one of the earliest structures on the north side
of the 100 block east which served the public until
after the Civil War. It took its name from the pro-
prietor, James Post, and for some years was one of
the two establishments in the town where a full course
meal could be had.
After the Civil War several businesses occupied
Post House without leaving any record. The City's
first Ford auto agency was established in this build-
ing by Jesse Brosius, who lived on the southwest cor-
ner of Cass and Fourth streets.
Late in the 19th Century Alexander H . Staub
operated a tin shop on the site; Staub sold out to two
employees, John Kissing and Charles B. Rundell who
changed the name of the firm to Kissing and Kundell.
Kundell later became sole owner of the business until
his death in April, 1938; shortly afterward the firm
was liquidated .
Joseph Bell crossed the threshold of two busi-
ness failures at 11 East Columbia Street to open the
most plush buggy agency in the area . The firm of
Harper, Edsall and Monahan which operated there
earlier, filed bankruptcy in 1876 and during December,
the Douglas S . Low millinery house was moved there .
This business ended with the assignment of Low's
property to Fredrick T. Zollars, attorney for the
Bell featured a large display room in the build-
ing in which various types of buggies were displayed
under hitch to life-size figures of horses. Bell also
stocked the latest trends in harness; this business
continued until the early part of the present century.
Probably the first of several grocers to make an
appearance on the south side of the street was William
Henderson whose store was just east of Calhoun Street .
Later Henry T.Sharp had a hat and fur business there
which was destroyed by fire early in March, 1863.
Sharp moved to the old post office building on Clinton
Street near the mayor's office; he subsequently was
the successful Citizens Ticket candidate for mayor,
winning a majority of 693 votes over his opponent,
B. H. Tower.
The H. K, Schwegman Drygoods firm opened at
the scene of the Sharp fire in 1864 and operated for a
few years until the C. Orff drygoods and millinery
business occupied both 105 and 107 East Columbia.
On Christmas Day, 1874 the Orff store was the
scene of an $8, 000 robbery and the next February the
firm went into receivership with liabilities of $10, 000.
On April 29, 1875 K.T. McDonald was chosen assignee
for the store at a meeting of creditors, and an
effort was made to liquidate the encumbrance. The
store operated until 1880 when another of those Co-
lumbia Street fires destroyed the contents of the store
and gutted offices of a newspaper, The Dispatch, on
the second floor at a loss of $3,000. The following
April 20 the Orff Company moved to the southwest
corner of Calhoun and Columbia streets. Orff had
been elected to the city council in 1857 and was ap-
pointed to the board of school trustees in 1863 .
M. F . Kaag & Sons, a once widely-known china-
ware business organized on what is now the West Co-
lumbia Street "Landing" was moved to 105 East Co-
lumbia after Jacob Kaag, a member of the firm, died
September 17, 1884. With the move, the firm was
reorganized by Mathias F. Kaag, C. F. W. Kaag and
Fred Kaag, and as importers and jobbers they devel-
oped a leadership of the chinaware field here, handl-
ing china, glass, queensware, silverware, cutlery
and crockery. The great fire of December 27, 1899
destroyed this business along with the DeWald store .
The next day, Mathias Kaag, purchased the entire
stock of Ward's Crockery, 108 West Columbia, and
after rebuilding at the scene of the fire, the business
continued for another quarter century.
CITY -COUNTY BUILDING LINKS PAST
The City -County Building has swallowed up the
100 block of East Columbia Street, a once- teeming
business frontage that yielded fortunes, often throbbed
with excitement and sometimes was shadowed by
It was the only block of the city's original main
street that gave deference to one bearing the shingle
of "T. Hoagland, draper and tailor." Just southward
on Clinton Street was the shop and residence of Jean
Baptiste Bequette, silversmith and jeweler who could
be identified as the city's first manufacturer. A bit
further south lived Captain Dana Columbia of canal -
boat fame, after whom the street was named.
South side of 100 block of East Columbia Street
A constant Columbia Street visitor was White
Racoon. This tribesman was at the Indian trading
house on East Main when he was stabbed by a huge
savage known as "Bob" in a fur room at the rear of
the structure .
This was the summer of 1838 and John Dawson
had occasion to visit White Racoon frequently as he
lay dying. The devotion of the Indian's Squaw im-
pressed the early newspaperman and moved the editor
to an eloquence that has been preserved by history in
Charcoal Sketches .
a devotion on the part of his (Racoon's) squaw
wife which Washington Irving could not sketch truer
than he did the wife in his Sketch Book. It was an af-
fecting sight and like a 'thing of beauty which is a joy
forever.' It impressed my young mind so deeply as
to be undimmed by the lapse of long and busy years .
In fact, since that time, while mingling with the world
and taking notes of its lights and trying to forget its
shadows, I have seen wives who while deeply con-
scious of their spiritual relation to every child of God,
and polished from the fountains of literature and
science, were yet seemingly wanting in the love of
that untutored heart which needed a faith and hope that
could not be bounded by earthly limits and restraints."
Because of what might have been the custom of
the time, no punitive action was taken in the case by
the white community, but the giant Bob lived in con-
stant fear of reprisals from White Racoon's friends.
One day Bob was decoyed to a spring on the
Miami reservation and while he lay on the ground to
drink, two avenging compatriots of White Racoon
crushed his head with a rock.
Much later prestige came to what is now the
north frontage of the City-County Building with such
firms as the Rurode Drygood Company, H. J. Ash
Company, the Pickard Home Furnishings, Maier &
Son Grocery and Hoff Brau Haus, a place which be-
came noted through the Midwest for its German
The Rurode firm, originally known as the New
York Store, may have served as a filament for other
enterprising businesses which followed. E.G. Rurode
came to Fort Wayne in 1860 from Terre Haute as a
young man and with John MacDougal and L. B. Root
established a drygoods firm at 90 East Columbia be-
side the Maiers Grocery Store.
The established firm name was MacDougal, Root
& Company and it flourished from the beginning. The
firm was represented by a buyer in New York City
who took advantage of auctions and forced sales in the
metropolis. The store was burglarized on April 13,
1863 and $5, 000 worth of silks stolen.
The store moved to the present site of the new
Fort Wayne National Bank Building across from the
court house on Calhoun Street in 1870. MacDougal
had withdrawn from the business just before the move
and the firm became known as Root & Company. Mac-
Dougal, who had married Julia Hedekin, the daughter
of Michael Hedekin, builder of Hedekin House on Barr
Street, died October 24, 1895.
Root passed away two years later and Ernest C.
Rurode and Charles Kremmel completed the purchase .
The firm then became known as the Rurode Drygoods
or the New York Store. After operating for many
years, assets of the Rurode Company were acquired
by the former Earl Groth & Company, which remained
a prominent downtown firm for many years .
The name of Henry J. Ash was to become asso-
ciated with the winter comfort of Fort Wayne citizens
for many years. A native of New Hampshire, he came
to Fort Wayne February 12, 1860 at the age of twenty-
one and opened a tin shop at 61 East Columbia Street.
There he put into use a metal forming machine
invented by a brother-in-law, I. Fay, of Cincinnati.
The same year he formed a partnership with E.Agnew
of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the resulting firm was
known to the trade as the Union Store and Tin Shop.
They moved in October, 1861 into a building at
87 East Columbia formerly occupied by H . E . Schweg-
man and five years later Agnew sold his interests to
Frederick McCulloch and the name of the firm was
changed to Ash & McCulloch.
This partnership lasted three years when Ash
sold out to McCulloch and briefly retired from the
field of business. He re-entered the stove and tinware
business in 1871, both retail and wholesale. The firm
was area agent for the famous "Garland" line of stoves,
ranges and baseburners and shortly after the turn of
the century. Ash became the first outlet in Fort Wayne
for the Holland Furnace Company.
The son of the founder, Fred Ash, managed the
business until March, 1912 when assets of the firm
were sold to the Pickard House Furnishings . The
elder Ash, whose home was on the site of the present
Davis Auto Company, Main and Barr streets, was
eighty-three when he died in November, 1922. He had
been in business on Columbia Street for half a century.
An estimated 2, 500 different business firms
came to and left Columbia Street before it bowed to
urban development. The records of many are lost.
An example is the Atlantic Gardens, a popular gather-
ing place late in the 19th Century which was located
about mid -block in a building last occupied by the
Korte Paper. No record can be found of when the
Gardens was established or by whom, but there is a
record of the business being purchased December 24,
1888, by Hyppolite Gerardin, who was the maternal
grandfather of Arthur Wunderlin. Gerardin died in
1911- -his is the only name that can be linked to the
Atlantic Gardens .
CITY -COUNTY BUILDING SITE OF
FIRST ICE CREAM PLANT
Somehow, the City-County Building should
preserve the remembrance of grocer John G. Maier
who gave the city its initial taste of manufactured
ice cream. This palatable experience came some
time between 1861 and 1867,
The Maier store, a brief business facade for a
man of innovations, was located along what is now the
north wall of the new government building; it preceded
the Korte Paper building about midway of the south
side of the 100 block of East Columbia Street.
Maier, a native of Germany, came to Fort Wayne
from Ohio in 1846; he served as postmaster from 1852
to 1860. He raised and distributed the first straw-
berries in Allen County and introduced to the local
market the first musical instruments and toys.
And more --the Maier family was the first to
press grape wine for commercial purposes and it was
used for some years in the sacrament of communion
at Trinity English Lutheran Church .
The details of these contributions to community
life have been lost in history. However, it is known
that the Maier Grocery opened its doors May 1, 1861
and operated as John G. Maier & Son until January 31,
1867 when the business was sold to A . R. Henderson
and H.N. Putman.
The Maier family resided at 78 South Lafayette
Street. This early Columbia Street merchant died
July 4, 1880, aged seventy years, and funeral services
were conducted at the family homestead by Rev.
In later years there came to the same row of
Columbia Street buildings a firm organized as an out-
let for stoves manufactured in Lawton Park; in the
early 20th Century it became the Pickard House Fur-
T. R . Pickard came to the city from Mt. Vernon,
Ohio to become superintendent of the Bass Foundry &
Machine Company. Later he started the T. R. Pickard
& Sons stove foundry just south of the present City
Light & Power plant. The store on Columbia Street
was opened as an outlet for the foundry, and a son,
Peter E. Pickard, who was a year old when the family
moved to Fort Wayne, became manager of the store
after completing high school.
The stove foundry closed June 9, 1883 and on
October 19, 1885 the building burned to the ground;
it was never rebuilt.
Peter Pickard continued operation of the Colum-
bia Street store and was joined by a brother Harry R .
Pickard; the firm operated as Pickard Brothers. In
1893 Peter supplied the designfor a new building raised
by R. L. Romy on the south side of Columbia Street
near Calhoun Street to replace two old business houses.
The Pickards moved into the new accommodations in
August, 1893 and expanded in the areas of furniture,
rugs and chinaware . M. Woodruff of Van Wert, Ohio
purchased the Romy Building on April 8, 1895 for
An incorporation of the firm under the name
Pickard House Furnishing Company came in 1908 with
Peter Pickard as president; A. W. Pickard, secretary
and Thomas E. Pickard, treasurer.
In 1912 the firm purchased the adjoining stove
business of H. J. Ash giving it a frontage of sixty feet
on the street, 112-114-116 East Columbia. The store
was destroyed by a fire in 1926 and the business con-
tinued in leased quarters at 1124 South Calhoun Street .
Peter Pickard, who resided at 702 West Wayne
retired after fifty -four years of business life and died
August 24, 1935 at the age of eighty at his summer
home on Torch Lake, Michigan.
The southeast corner of Columbia and Calhoun
streets began and ended as the scene of convivialty,
and its heyday came during the era of Hoff Brau Haus,
a tavern of Barvarian decor that became known all
over the Midwest for its German food .
To begin with, a Captain Ben Smith, possibly of
Wabash & Erie Canal background, operated a grocery
and saloon on the corner --the two businesses often
went together on Columbia Street. After Captain
Smith's time there were numerous occupants, among
them the Benham Photo Gallery, John Hamilton's boots
and shoes, N. P. Stockberger book and stationery
store, and shortly after the Civil War, the Meyer and
Graffe Jewelry Store went into business there and re-
mained until September, 1904.
At this time Mrs. William Fleming sold the
property to Alex Jaxtheimer, a tailor, for $25,000.
Later the building was acquired by Harry Wiebke and
became known as the Wiebke Block. For several years
Wiebke operated the Palace Saloon there, assisted by
Clem Ruple and John Joho.
The property was architecturally converted to
become the Hoff Brau Haus between 1906 and 1907, and
a German cuisine was developed that became widely
popular. In later years it served only as a tavern and
was known simply as "The Hoffbrau."
The business was liquidated in 1947 after
Wiebke's death, and the building was purchased by
Goodwill Industries, Inc. in 1947. Goodwill was
operating a few doors east on the old Pickard site and
cleared the corner in 1950 to provide auto parking for
MAGNETISM OF A SQUARE WILL
LINGER IN MEMORY
The new City -County Building effaces a 19th
Century image of downtown that appealed to genera-
tions from the horse and buggy era into the nuclear -
Around the block measured by Calhoun, Colum-
bia, Clinton and Main streets were businesses that
became institutions: Riegel's, the Fortriede shoe
store, for a time Hoff Brau Haus, Meeker's barber
shop, the Dutch Lunch and a fragrant comer that
housed the Moritz fruit store .
"Nothing like this will ever exist in the city
again," commented Roy M. Bates, city and county
historian, who made the rounds of that block with
countless others until the memorable and frescoed
skyline fell under redevelopment.
Saturday afternoon could start with lunch at
Riegel's and continue with a business or social call at
Fortriede's, a refreshing interlude in Choral W.
Meeker's barber chair, a round-table at the Dutch
Lunch and finally a package snack for home from
Moritz' s .
And during an afternoon round of that block,
anyone was liable to meet most everyone else.
For more years than succeeding generations
will believe, Saturday afternoon was a ritual there.
The pulse of the city, even the county, was taken
around the square, and sometimes the issues of the
day were distilled in these business institutions where
sociability was a way of merchandising. Every shop
had something to offer off the shelves--or in friend-
The barbershop, in which Meeker groomed
friends and patrons for sixty -four years, was the first
to close its doors on the square in December, 1966.
His patrons were loyal to the finish - -Albert Fortriede,
one of the proprietors of a business around the corner
and Historian Bates were the last customers . The
shop at 132 East Columbia had been in business for
many years when Meeker took a chair there .
Dutch Heinle's or the Dutch Lunch would have
rounded out that year at 6 16- 18 South Clinton Street but
for circumstances that forced an earlier vacation of
the premises. Arnold Heemsoth, who succeeded his
father, Henry, as proprietor of the popular tavern
and several of his employees were stricken by illness
and the bar taps were closed for the last time on the
eve of Christmas, 1966.
Historic Riegel's on the northeast corner of
Main and Calhoun streets, which had prepared a new
location across the street, closed its doors just before
a razing ceremony on August 10, 1967 and Fortriede' s,
in business since 1863, closed its doors five days
later. The last to leave the shoe store were again
Historian Bates, barber Meeker along with Paul Wolf
and Henry Wyss, the owner of a pair of boots hand-
crafted for his grandfather by Louis Fortriede, founder
of the business .
Fortriede's, which continued to offer custom
footwear after the development of the shoe industry,
was a place filled with heirlooms of the trade, and
like other institutions of the square, its salesroom
offered comfort for those who just came to sit awhile.
The repair shop contained some tools that had
been used to make footwear for Napoleon's army. A
grandfather of Andrew Lindner, one of the thirteen
shoe builders once employed by the firm, had been a
shoemaker in Napoleon's army. Lindner straddled a
shoemaker's bench in the store for more than forty
years and many of his tools were left to the shop.
Later the items were given to the Allen County -
Fort Wayne Historical Museum.
For many years the four brothers who succeeded
their father, Louis the elder, in the business, were
known as "The Harmony Four" --Waldemar, the shoe
builder, Edwin, Louis, Jr. and Albert. Prior to the
closing the store had been operated by Louis, Jr. and
In the old days, dressings compounded for fine
leather could be used also as ointments for skin in-
fections! Until its closing the store maintained an
index of fittings for customers living from northern
Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico.
When it passed out of existence, Fortriede's
was the fourth oldest business establishment of the
city. The original store was founded in the 100 block
West Main Street, but had been located on Calhoun
Street since 1887 .
The second floor of the building for many years
sheltered the Trouteman & Ortman cigar factory, and
the flooring was so impregnated with the essence of
tobacco that the Fortriede brothers, who later used
the space for warehousing, had only to sprinkle the
timbers with water to produce vapors that drove pests
The third floor of the old business building once
was the domain of Encampment No. 16 of the Odd
Fellows Lodge, a fraternal organization that dated
back to the 1850s .
Insulating of the floors withtanbark was a unique
feature of the business structure. Its appearance in
the debris, if noticed, likely puzzled the wreckers.
Riegel's was a Grand Central Station in minia-
ture when the streetcars and later the trolley coaches
went their separate ways from the Transfer Corner .
For years there was a spacious basement kitchen that
served the lunch counters upstairs. Riegel's has been
Riegel's since 1905, but for many years a cigar store
was operated on the original site by Joseph Getz . Al
Riegel founded the business which had become widely
known for its tobaccos. The business descended to two
nephews, Frank Rougher and the late George Kuntz,
and they remained partners until the latter' s death.
Riegel's is now located at 624 South Calhoun Street.
The business has been described as the hub of
the home-to-work and the work -to-home cycle of the
downtown workers. The store opened at 5:30 a.m.
and did not close until after the last streetcar had left
the Transfer Corner at night.
Meeker's place of business had been a barber-
shop continuously since 1889 and until the last it re-
mained a place where men stopped for social ex-
changes as well as a freshening in Meeker's chair.
Former residents who returned to the city were often
surprised to find Mr. Meeker still crafting at the
same old stand. As the time neared for the shop's
closing, Meeker discouraged talk of it among his pa-
trons; "Lets talk about something else, " he'd suggest.
The Dutch Lunch, known for its German food as
was Hoff Brau Haus on the southeast corner of Colum-
bia and Calhoun streets, became a popular haunt for
succeeding generations. On Saturday afternoons,
tables would be pushed together for regular gatherings
of fifteen or more people, and for a time there was
talk of incorporating one of the groups that got together
there regularly on the weekend .
There were songfests on Saturday night, and for
years a German band, crowded against the sidewalk
windows, livened the tempo of things.
One Saturday afternoon group always closed its
session with a ceremonial drink, for some reason
called a "schwope." Normally this consisted of a
mixture of gin and kimmel, but if the afternoon had
been a particularly jovial one, the schwope was some-
times drawn from the water tap.
For seventy-three years the Moritz Brothers
firm vended solid fruit, crisp vegetables, peanuts and
bulk candies for all but a few years on Main Street a
few doors west of Clinton Street. When buildings
began tumbling to make way for the City -County Build-
ing, the business was moved to 621 South Harrison
It was an irony that the building of court houses
influenced the beginning and ending of the Moritz busi-
ness. In 1896 August Moritz opened the store on the
south side of Main Street, near Clinton, and when the
street was closed for the beginning of work on the
present court house in 1897, Moritz moved the store
across the street. When Gus Moritz died in 1905
Ongle and John Moritz took over the store. John had
begun working for Gus Moritz when twelve, and re-
mained in the business until seventy.
"The old place at Main and Clinton meant a lot
to us," Mrs. Moritz commented as business was fi-
nally suspended. "We saw a lot of changes take place
from the windows."
Now only one business remains to remind of the
fellowship that attracted people to the square for more
than a half a century. "Drop me off at Riegel's,"
Historian Bates asked a friend the other day: "I want
to browse around and see what's going on."
HAD TIME FOR WELFARE PURSUITS
Two institutions that have contributed to the
strong social philosophies of the century were born in
the 100 block of East Columbia Street, along the north
wall of the present City -County Building.
The Fort Wayne Rescue Home and Mission, or-
ganized in 1903, first occupied a building at 118 East
Columbia and in 1937 Goodwill Industries, Inc. set up
its sheltered workshop at 112-14 where a grand
opening was held on January 15 the following year .
Thus, the contributions of this one-time main
street of Fort Wayne were not confined to the com-
mercial and industrial development of the community.
The mission, whose dedication has been to the
loneliest of men, now occupies a modern structure at
301 West Superior. The mission was experienced at
over -coming odds since at one time in the late 1950s
the institution was forced to curtail its services as
the building it occupied was condemned for safety
reasons, floor by floor .
Goodwill, a sheltered workshop for the handi-
capped that has won national recognition in the field,
outgrew its facilities on Columbia Street and now has
a modern store and plant at 3127 Brooklyn Avenue.
A Grand Rapids and Indiana locomotive engineer
named Cooper resigned from the railroad to become
the first director of the Rescue Mission. Several
years later Rev. Kenneth Hawkins became super-
intendent and held that position for more than thirty
years . The first floor of the original Columbia Street
building was used for religious services and dining.
The second floor was converted into a dormitory.
In 1945 the mission moved to a four -story build-
ing on the northwest corner of Columbia and Lafayette
streets; in earlier years the structure had served as
a hotel for many years under a number of proprietors
and at one time was painted red as a symbol of the
trade to which it catered.
During occupancy by the mission, the building
slowly began to surrender to age and its upper floors
were closed off. In 1959, the Mission was forced to
suspend dormitory services and issued tokens for its
patrons' food and lodging elsewhere.
The expense of this operation crystalized com-
munity support of a new facility for the mission, and
in 1968 new quarters were made ready for the institu-
tion on West Superior Street, through the efforts of
Rev. Charles Dickinson, present superintendent.
Goodwill Industries first made use of what had
been the well-established Pickard House Furnishing
Company which moved to Calhoun Street during the
decline of Columbia. A hardware store and the DeWald
Drygoods occupied the structure immediately before
In May 1939, Goodwill purchased the Columbia
Street building from the First & Tri -State Corpora-
tion and in 1945 purchased the Wiebke Block on the
southeast corner of Columbia and Calhoun, the site of
the once -famous Hoff Brau Haus . Three years later
the building was removed to provide a parking area
for Goodwill workers.
The site of the Hoff Brau Haus at the southeast corner
of Columbia and Calhoun streets. This half -block
area was cleared in 1959 to make way for a parking
lot and future site of the proposed City-County Build-
ing. Photo April 1960 by Sidney Pepe.
Reverend H. A. Davis managed the first opera-
tion of Goodwill, and Homer Gettle served as president
of the board. Further expansion and modern facilities
came during the administration of Louis R . Veale as
The fortune of a prominent Fort Wayne family-
was seeded along that north wall of the City -County
Building. B. R. Noll for many years operated a drug
store at 110 East Columbia. He was the father of the
late Bishop John F. Noll of the Fort Wayne diocese of
the Catholic Church and founder of Our Sunday Visitor
Publishing House; William Noll, founder of the nation-
ally-known Pinex Company on West Columbia; George
Noll, who for many years represented Pinex in Canada
and Albert Noll who succeeded his father in the drug
Earlier businesses along the north side of Gov-
ernment Square included the shoe firm of C . Schiefer
& Son, opened in the 1870s at 108 East Columbia.
Members of this firm were Christian and William D.
Schiefer and Herman H. Hartwig. By mutual consent,
the firm was dissolved in March, 1888 and shortly
afterwards the business was reopened by William
Schiefer at the same location with Hartwig as man-
ager. The firm continued in business until the mid-
1930s . Christian, who had come to Fort Wayne in
1846, resided at 333 East Main Street and lived to be
seventy -eight .
At what became 106 East Columbia, Abraham
Hyman opened Sam's Clothing Store in the 1870s. The
business ran into financial difficulty, and Hyman
loaded up his stock and departed on August 2, 1876.
The wagon train was intercepted in New Haven by
Constable John Robbins who impounded and ware-
housed the stock.
East of the fire alley, the only one along all of
former Columbia Street, Henry Klebe operated a
harness shop for many years; at number 122 was the
J. M. Stouder hardware store. Stouder, an authority
on Indian lore, was responsible for the identification
of the bones of Miami Chief Little Turtle when his
grave was unexpectedly opened during the excavation
of a basement of the late George W. Gillie residence.
It was on the south side of this block that the
Fort Wayne Saddlery operated for many years under
the management of Frank Singery. The business final-
ly was moved to the east end of Superior Street near
Spy Run Avenue Bridge .
This block also saw the coming and going of the
J. B. Keely Grocery and Saloon, the Kline grocery,
the Baker Ale House and the Baker Brothers Saloon.
There was another oasis at 126 known as the
"White Glove Saloon." There is a record that belies
its name: On April 24, 1894 proprietor JohnGronendyke
and Police Chief Frank Wilkinson fought almost to the
death: both were badly injured. Gronendyke was
arrested on a charge of assault with intent to kill
WEST COLUMBIA LIVES ON
IN MODERN PATTERN
A dash of Fort Wayne's old flavor had been pre-
served by a happy pairing of sentiment and enterprise.
This escape into yesterday is provided by the
100 block of West Columbia Street, the only block of
the city's one-time main thoroughfare to survive ur-
ban redevelopment . It has become an interesting
contrast to the pattern of today through the efforts of
Mrs. Edward (Joan) White, wife of a Fort Wayne
industrialist, and a number of cooperating individuals
Officially, this nostalgic business block became
known as "The Landing" in 1965--the area once paral-
leled busy docks of the Wabash and Erie Canal which
fed its hotels and grain mills . Now butted against the
new City-County Building, West Columbia will in
coming years provide a unique and sharp contrast of
metropolitan today and yesterday.
West Columbia is the only business corridor
that has echoed all the sounds of mass transportation;
the chop-chopping of shod horses, the trumpeting of
canalboat skippers, the hoarse bark of the steam lo-
comotive, the rattle of streetcars and the rumble of
the diesels. To this din the automobile added its un-
muffled staccato. The street has been rocked, too,
by sonic booms.
The west end of the block, at Harrison Street,
once sloughed away into a great bulge of the canal
known as the Orbison Basin. The basins gave leeway
for maneuvering and turning the canalboats .
The Orbison basin, which took its name from
an enterprising miller, made a crescent through what
is now the northeast corner of Columbia and Harrison
streets . It took out the north side of that block the
space now occupied by the last two business struc-
The shore activities that developed around the
basin gave the western terminus of Columbia Street
its hotels and grain mills .
West Columbia is bisected by a significant
boundary- -a reminder of the city's small beginning.
The eastern half of the block was a part of the original
plat of the city of Fort Wayne, as laid out by the com-
munity's first land brokers, Barr and McCorkle. The
west half of the block belonged to the Taber Addition.
Just west of the Orbison Basin was a causeway
of earthen fill leading to the Harrison Street Bridge
over the canal. West of the causeway was a smaller
basin known as the "George"; these lagoons served
the canal traffic in the same way the switching yards
of the railroads that followed .
The Hill and Orbison Mill on the basin was a
forerunner of the milling industry that was to develop
along this block and on eastward. Hill and Orbison
were followed by the varied enterprises of Solomon
Bash and his descendants who became prominent
merchants in the area of grain, seeds, feeds, hides,
produce and the milling of flour, as represented by
the Mayflower Mills, the Volland Mills and Wayne
Until the early part of the century, the city's
leading hotels were located on West Columbia, the
first being the Columbia House, operated for many
years by Dana Columbia after whom the street was
named. Hotels that followed in the wake of industry
were the American House, the Tremont House, Wayne
Hotel, the Jones Hotel and now the tastefully refitted
Rosemarie, all on the same site.
The Franklin House once operated just west of
the American House, and at the west end of the street
stood the Brunswick, followed by the Randall Hotel,
a landmark for many years . All were the result of
intense business activity along this block.
Perhaps the first business on West Columbia
Street was the trading post of Capt. James B. Bourie
and John B. Peltier in an area northwest of what is
now Columbia and Calhoun streets . A log structure,
it was eventually destroyed by fire. Later members
of the Ewlng family, who developed a fur empire,
operated a trading center on the site.
Columbia Street actually terminated at the lobby
of the Randall Hotel, and beside the Randall, on Pearl
Street, was located the city's first electric railway
The first scheduled interurban service was in-
augurated December 12, 1901, between Fort Wayne
and Huntington, and shortly afterwards the terminal
made its appearance on the northwest comer of Pearl
and Harrison streets.
The coaches loaded and discharged passengers
in the street, and the first depot had simple accommo-
dations --a ticket office, waiting room and an area
devoted to baggage and express.
Tracks serving the first terminal were laid on
Pearl and Harrison streets and along the block of West
Columbia Street. Cars bound for Kendallville and
Waterloo were routed east over West Columbia to
Calhoun Street, north to Superior and west to Wells
Street. Cars or trains bound for Van Wert, Lima
and Decatur turned south at Columbia and Calhoun
Thus, West Columbia Street carried an almost
hourly flow of interurban traffic until the services
north and into Ohio were discontinued in 1935.
The railway traffic lessened in 1912 when a
residence property was converted into an enlarged
passenger terminal on West Main Street on the present
site of an auto auction lot. The increasing popularity
of interurban travel forced the abandonment of the
Pearl Street terminal after little more than a decade .
Never was access more convenient to the busi-
ness life of West Columbia Street than during the era
of the fast, clean electric car.
GAVE WORLD A NEW TEXTURE
While Columbia Street reveled in the traffic of
the trading area, two men compounded a new texture
for living in the back room of its original drug store .
This new leavening agent that tossed pastries to
the imagination gained such immediate acceptance
that Columbia Street is not even remembered for it,
and the names of the inventors barely sift out of
Fort Wayne housewives, of course, were the
first to use this mixture of sodium bicarbonate, starch
and tartaric acid that added so much to their baking.
This was about 1867 and the acceptance of the house-
hold powder here quickly led to the founding of the
Royal Baking Powder Company in Chicago.
This now indispensable household product was
compounded on the site of the present four -story
building at 506 South Calhoun, at the east end of The
Landing. In recent years the building has been
sporadically vacant: the last occupant was the Allen
Business Machine Company.
For many years this site on the northwest cor-
ner of Calhoun and Columbia streets was devoted to
the drug business --in fact, the city's first drug store
was established there in 1848 by Colonel Hugh B.
Reed. It survived a $12, 000 fire that broke out in an
adjacent business on September 3, 1864 but on June 30
of 1866 was sold to a pair known only today as Biddle
and Hoagland from Troy, Ohio. Upon disposing of
the business. Reed retired.
It was Biddle and Hoagland who gave baking
powder to the world. Soon after tests of the product
in Fort Wayne they opened a branch in Chicago in 1867
for its manufacture. Hoagland left the firm in 1868
to devote his full time to the manufacture of Royal
Baking Powder in Chicago, while Biddle chose to re-
main here . The Hoagland interests were purchased
by a Mr. Brandriff, and the firm became known as
Biddle and Brandriff.
There is no known record of when Biddle and
Brandriff ceased operations, but they were succeeded
on the site by the Dreier Drug Company which had
been formed in 1866 and was incorporated in 1910 with
William H. Dreier as president, Charles F. Freese,
vice-president and Martin F. Scheele, secretary-
Freese,who began work on the northwest corner,
later spent some time in Chicago. Returning to Fort
Wayne, he became associated with the Meyer Brothers
Drug Company and in 1900, along with M. F . Scheele,
bought into the business and leased the Dreier store.
In 1920, the firm opened another store at 1402
South Calhoun and the present store moved to the
southwest corner of Columbia and Calhoun streets.
There the atmosphere and flavor of the old-fashioned
ice cream parlor were maintained for many years .
The business discontinued after the death of Mr.
Neighboring the birthplace of baking powder,
108 West Columbia, was the Yankee Grocery, believed
to have been the city's first general store. It was
founded by Charles M. Wells, a bachelor, in 1844
soon after he came to the city from New England.
Wells, who lived with his sisters, Almira and Ruth at
Barr and Madison streets, died in 1883.
This pioneer grocery store gave way to a crock-
ery and glassware business which had been founded
on East Main Street by Horatio M. Ward, in the 1870s.
Ward's unusual advertising gimmick made the store
known all over the area: it was a life-sized paper -
mache dog placed in the entranceway with a sign "I
am Ward's dog, whose dog are you?" Ward sold out
to M. F. Kaag, and in 1899 the business was destroyed
by a fire which also ravaged the George DeWald store.
The paper dog found its way into the Creighton Williams
family and was moved to Lake Everett, where it
The structure at 108 has been sporadically idle
down through the years: it was occupied successively
by Altschul Produce, the McCoy Hatchery, dealers
in Laval equipment and Busco Feeds, and finally as a
warehouse for the Butler Paper Company.
A stimulant to Allen County corn production
existed at number 112 where Frank Alderman operated
an implement business and offered premiums for high
com yields. The winner in 1880 was George Ziemer
of Springfield Township with a yield of 112 bushels.
Earlier, a harness business was run there by
Samuel H. Shoaff who came to the city January 21, 1841
with his bride of five weeks. He later moved to 119
This site also housed a forerunner of the
Mossman-Yarnelle Company which later grew into a
new business block on nearby Pearl Street. Marshall
Coombs, who started an iron, steel and hardware
business on the southeast corner of Main and Clinton
streets in 1870, first affiliated with Edward F. Yar-
nelle, a partnership that existed until 1882 when
Yarnelle entered partnership with Frank Alderman,
forming the Alderman-Yarnelle Company. In 1887
Alderman retired and sold his interest to William E .
Mossman, and the firm became Mossman-Yarnelle
Company. This firm absorbed the failing Coombs
business in 1893 and in 1906, moved into the present
Pearl Street building.
In .1894, two days after a total loss fire at La-
fayette and Brackenridge streets, the Moellering
Brothers & Millard wholesale grocery firm moved
into 110 West Columbia and a year later decided to
remain on Columbia. In 1907 the firm leased the ad-
joining building, 112 West Columbia as an expansion.
Meanwhile the firm's original building at Brackenridge
and Lafayette streets was rebuilt as a warehouse .
The Moellering Brothers, William and Henry, later
became involved in a partnership and the firm operated
as Moellering Brothers & Green until about 1929 when
it was dissolved.
The Western Newspaper Union located in the
building at 110-112 West Columbia in November 1929
and in 1935 it became the Butler Paper Company. The
stock of the firm was heavily damaged by a fire on
October 16, 1941 and in 1965 Butler Paper Company
moved to its present location on Engle Road.
Since that time the building has sheltered the
"Why-Not" tavern which was succeeded for a time by
Bimbo's of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Currently this his-
toric site is occupied by The Pickle with a kitchen that
specializes in luncheons and dinner menus.
As The Landing, this surviving block of Colum-
bia Street still follows the traditional pattern of
BASH INFLUENCE STRONG UPON
A BUSINESS BLOCK
Much of the development of West Columbia Street
resulted from various business enterprises of the
Though buildings still bear the Bash name, the
family was not one to parade its genealogy, and so
chronology of Bash influence upon this original main
street of the city is not on record.
Solomon Bash, the first to make an appearance
in business here, was born in Starke County, Ohio in
1827, and his first local experience was apparently
as a clerk in the Hill & Orbison Mill. Charles and
Willis were other members of the family who engaged
in milling operations and merchandised in produce,
wool, furs, hides, pelts, seeds and butter.
Spaced along the Wabash & Erie Canal water-
front were a total of six mills. Four of them on the
south side of the waterway were steam operated. Two
mills on the north side of the canal were water -
powered, drawing their water from the canal and
draining into the St. Mary's River. These were
French -Hanna & Company east of Barr Street and the
Tusselt or City Mills at Clinton Street . Later these
mills were converted to steam.
At City Mills it was not unusual for farmers
who arrived late with their grain to sleep overnight
in the mill offices, waiting for the grain to be pro-
cessed the first thing in the morning.
For many years Columbia Street catered to the
rural people of Allen County and neighboring areas
and served as a market place for the growing city as
well. A spin-off from the agricultural trade was the
Barr Street Farmers Market which operated on adja-
cent Barr Street for more than 100 years. The mar-
ket place was abandoned in 1967 and the pillared shel-
ters subsequently removed.
A singular development came late in the 19th
Century that began to change the tempo of business
along Columibia Street and was responsible for the
decline of farm markets over much of the country. In
1880 United States census showed for the first time
a greater urban than rural population.
Farm patronage was attracted to Columbia
Street because of its many saddleries, harness shops,
smithies, boot and shoe stores, implement and hard-
ware establishments and a scattering of livery stables
in the area .
Saloons were numerous and convenient for all
traders along the street. They became famous for a
free counter lunch with the purchase of a five -cent
glass of beer, a ten-cent slug of aged whiskey or, if
the patron chose, a boilermaker and helper --a shot
of whiskey washed down with a glass of beer. There
were no mixed drinks in that day, only the boiler -
maker and helper.
A farmer would bring his cargo to Columbia
Street, and after it had been sold would attend to
purchases of supplies for the week or a longer period.
It was common practice to meet with friends over a
drink to discuss matters of interest while the wagons
were being repaired or the horses shod.
The slowing of farm trade was a factor in the
gradual decline of the street over a period of thirty
or forty years. Finally much of Columbia Street was
devoted to wholesale houses and warehousing with
scattered service establishments.
Other factors that brought change to the busi-
ness complexion were the flexible transportation af-
forded by the automobile and motor truck and the
more recent establishment of outlying shopping
centers . Motor transport relaxed the dependence
upon railroads with their back door tracks and sidings.
Merchants could locate at sites of their own
choosing assured of store -door deliveries. A trend
toward more modern business accommodations in-
duced merchants to move away from Columbia Street
to where off-street space for automobile parking was
A facet of the Bash family business history that
cannot be clarified is that Solomon Bash is known to
have served as a clerk in the drygoods store of D . N.
Bash in 1858 at 125 West Columbia. Later he launched
a wool, hide, fur and seed business with a man named
North side of the 100 block of
West Columbia Street
Eakin at 61 Columbia Street. The firm was known as
Bash & Eakin, and Solomon established residence at
242 West Berry.
Later the firm was reorganized as S. Bash &
Company with Solomon Bash as president; his partners
included a son, Charles, P. D. Smyser and a Mr.
McKinn. Following the death of Solomon Bash the son
Charles became head of the business.
Charies Bash was born on a farm near Roanoke
and in later years became associated with the Sala-
monie Gas Company; his home on West Wayne Street
was the first in the city to be heated with natural gas .
Charles Bash erected the building at 130-32
West Columbia occupied until recently by the Protec-
tive Electric Supply Company. What information is
available on the Bash family was gathered by the late
Edward Dodez, for many years an active member of
the Allen County -Fort Wayne Historical Society.
BUSINESS FIRMS REMIND OF STREET'S
Two business giants, Fisher Brothers Paper
Company and Mayflower Mills currently remind
residents of the one-time importance of Columbia
Street to the city's development.
These firms had their origin on the north side
of the only remaining block of Columbia known as
The Landing since 1965. Mayflower was an enterprise
of the progressive Bash family and a general -alarm
fire that induced the mill to leave West Columbia
Street provided an opportunity for expansion of the
An example of the versatility of enterprise on
Columbia Street, Mayflower developed out of a linseed
oil mill which in the early 1880s was a scene of a fire
that threatened to lay waste to West Columbia Street,
endangering even more of the Bash interests. Joseph
Hughes and Solomon Bash organized the linseed opera-
tion at 118-20 West Columbia in the early 1880s and
the fire, causing damage of $25,000, struck July 16,
Flames threatened the S. Bash & Company pro-
duce and commission house immediately to the west .
Rebuilding of the millwas started almost immediately,
but it never resumed operations --events happened too
Mayflower Mills, which had been organized in
1886 by Charles Bash, began operations in 1889 at the
rebuilt linseed mill building. Actual transfer of the
structure to Mayflower did not come until March 20,
1891, and equipment of the linseed mill was shipped to
Buffalo, New York and Minneapolis, Minnesota and
was absorbed by plants of the National Linseed Oil
In the space of two years, the Mayflower Mills
were operating full blast, around the clock. Widely
known flours of the firm were "Silver Dust" and
"Silver Dollar" and a cake flour known as "Martha
On May 21, 1911 fire revisited the site and this
second mill was destroyed at $150,000 loss. This
business interruption, coupled with already cramped
quarters on Columbia Street, led the milling company
to its present site on Leesburg Road at the Norfolk &
Western Railroad. Associated with Mayflower through
the years were Harry, David, Edward and Robert Bash.
The paper company actually began with the busi-
ness partnership of Samuel F.Fisher and Harry Graff e
March 27, 1882 as Fisher and Graffe. They bought
out A.M. Webb, a leather goods firm at Berry and
Clinton streets . Six weeks later MaxB. Fisher pur-
chased Graffe interests and the firm became Fisher
Brothers Paper. As the business prospered, several
moves were made to satisfy expansion, and at the
time of the Mayflower fire, Fisher Brothers was lo-
cated at 130-32 West Columbia.
The brothers immediately purchased the May-
flower site and constructed a six-story building with
terra -cotta front, into which the firm moved in 1913.
They remained at the location until early 1970 when
the operation was moved to a new 40, 000 square -feet
warehouse on a 2 1/2 acre site just off theEngle Road
in the southwestern part of the city.
For many years the firm has operated Jackson
Paper at Jackson, Michigan and through the years ac-
quired Becker Paper Company, Consolidated Paper
Company, and the Sanitary Supply Sales Company.
Roger I. Fisher became associated with the
company on June 20, 1910; his father, Samuel Fisher,
died in Decem.ber of 1922; Roger's uncle, Edwin, had
passed away several years earlier, and another uncle.
Max Fisher, died in 1932. Roger I. Fisher, current
president of the company, has been associated with
the firm more than half a century.
The structure at 114 West Columbia, vacant for
a number of years, last was occupied by J. W. Bash
& Company, operating as Wayne Feeds . The first
business of record in the structure was Frank C.
Stophlet who went under the firm name of Stophlet
Brothers home furnishers. A change of the firm
name came later to Stophlet & Company, and the field
was changed to public lighting. As agents for the
Underhill patent lamp, the firm had a contract in 1876
for lighting the suburbs of Toledo, Ohio. This ap-
parently was a lamp using gas, for electric arc light-
ing was not introduced until 1878, and electrical public
lighting did not become general until the early 20th
Later the building was occupied by the Vollard
Mills, an enterprise of Fred and Otto Vollard and
subsequently the Wayne -Bash -Seed Company.
Another vacant structure at 116 West Columbia
was erected by the F. H. George Company, processors
and dealers in dairy products . The butter of this firm
carried the brand name of "Rosemary" and became
widely known in the Fort Wayne area.
A preceding building on this site was occupied
by W. B. Smith tobacco merchants; Fred Weikel, a
well driller and dealer in water pumps, also occupied
this earlier site for many years .
FIRST LODGE, NEWSPAPER CHOSE
SITES ON LANDING
A vintage ice cream parlor and country candy
store, which cater to those with a sweet tooth on The
Landing in 19th Century fashion, stand on the site of
the city's first Masonic Lodge building which later
was occupied by Fort Wayne's first newspaper. The
present four-story building was built about 1880 by
S. Bash & Company and bears the numbers 122-24.
The first fraternal order chartered in north-
eastern Indiana was Wayne Lodge No. 25, Free and
Accepted Masons, and the installation was conducted
November 10, 1823 in the old fort, abandoned as a
military post several years earlier.
Meeting places for such organizations and other
groups were at a premium at the time; aside from
several taverns the only other available space was
provided by the old County Seminary on the west side
of Calhoun north of Superior Street then known as
Water Street because of its proximity to the Wabash
& Erie Canal. John P. Hedges was the first school-
master there, and when his classes were not in ses-
sion, the school was used for church and political
meetings. Wayne Lodge divided its meetings between
the Seminary and the first court house .
Tiring of the uncertainties posed by temporary
quarters, members of Wayne Lodge launched plans
for their own lodge home in 1825, but it was four
years before the organization could arrange for the
purchase of a lot from John T.Barr, John McCorkle and
Joseph Holman at what is now 122-24 West Columbia.
A two -story building was erected on the site and used
by the lodge for its meetings .
Financial difficulties forced the sale of the lot
and building on June 3, 1833 to Holman, Richard L,
Britton, Francis Comparet, Alexis Coquillard and
Hugh Hanna. The stipulation was only $1,328.
Until 1880, when the first temple was erected
on the northeast corner of Wayne and Clinton streets,
Wayne Lodge conducted its meetings at various places,
including Kaiser's Hall, Stewart's Hall, the McDougal
Building and a hall over the Post Office building on
Court Street. The present Masonic Temple on East
Washington Boulevard was dedicated in 1926. Vaca-
tion of the first lodge building might have hurried a
movement for the establishment of the city's first
newspaper. Henry Rudisill, wealthy miller, is
identified as a spokesman in negotiations with two
Indianapolis men, S. V. B. Noel and Thomas Tigar to
come here and publish a newspaper.
Rudisill and his associates offered $500 for the
purchase of a press, which was to become a property
of the backers, if the newspaper did not pay off the
sum after a year. Tigar and Noel declined the loan
and managed to get their own equipment together;
their printing equipment was a Washington hand press
formerly used to publish the Indiana State Journal at
A wagon train brought the appurtenances of the
first newspaper to Fort Wayne --a hazardous venture
over muddy roads requiring six days. The press and
office equipment were installed in the former lodge
building and the first newspaper became The Sentinel,
a label that has remained since that time^
The first issue of The Sentinel went on the
streets July 6, 1833 and prominently reprinted the
Declaration of Independence . The first local story
was a report of the Independence Day celebration
which had occurred two days earlier.
Editor Tigar, was a native of Yorkshire, Eng-
land and a forceful writer. A Democrat politically,
he remained editor of The Sentinel until 1865. His
death occurred ten years later at the age of sixty -
In later years The Sentinel was merged with the
Fort Wayne News and became the Fort Wayne News -
Sentinel . The merged newspapers once occupied a
building at 114 West Wayne and later established a
plant at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Barr
Street, now the Foellinger Center.
After the newspaper era, the Masonic building
was occupied for a time by Solomon S.Smick, a dealer
in farm machinery. Forced into bankruptcy, Smick
assigned his real estate and personal property,
amounting to $46, 048 to creditors on January 3, 1876 .
S. Bash & Company, replaced the Masonic build-
ing with its present four -story structure which in 1887
was heavily damaged by a fire which gutted the ad-
joining linseed oil mill controlled by the Bash family.
For many years after it was repaired, the Bash
interests used the structure for warehousing, and a
portion of it was later occupied by Bell's Five- And -
Ten Cent Store.
About 1940 the long-established Meyers Brothers
Drug Company moved its general offices into the
structure and used the excess space for warehousing.
Meyers later moved offices to the eastern section of
During the development of The Landing as a
practical shrine to the canal era in Fort Wayne the
street floor of the structure was outfitted as Ma and
Pa's Candy Store and the Old Ice Cream Parlor, both
preserving the tastes and atmosphere of the 19th Cent-
ury. Both are operated by Edward Collins as unique
features of The Landing development.
BASIN SITE BECAME MANUFACTURING HUB
The northeast corner of Columbia and Harrison
streets has been significant both to the development of
transportation and the growth of the city.
The site was once part of the Orbison Basin of
the Wabash & Erie Canal. This 80 by 110 foot pool
enabled canalboats to turn around and gave access to
the Hill & Orbison Mill, one of Indiana's largest dur-
ing the waterway boom. The building itself was used
for many years by the Protective Electric Supply Com-
In 1876 the Orbison Basin was filled in and real
estate plans developed. These plans were abandoned
when the canal right-of-way was sold to the New York,
Chicago and St. Louis Railroad on February 12, 1881.
And so the Norfolk & Western (formerly Nickel Plate)
still follows the route of the waterway through the city.
Alexander M. Orbison and John E. Hill, as
partners in a commission business offering grain,
hides, wool, seeds and other products, established
themselves on the rim of the basin and subsequently
became wealthy. Orbison was one of the incorpora-
tors of Lindenwood Cemetery and was deeply involved
in work of the Fort Wayne Relief Society. The mill,
established in 1846, died with the Canal and Orbison
operated briefly in the 200 block of East Columbia
Street before moving his interests toSturgis, Michigan.
A few years after the basin was filled Charles
Bash began the construction of a two -level stretch of
buildings extending for 120 feet along West Columbia
Street and stretching 110 feet back to the canal docks .
The center section of the building was built six stories
high with adjoining wings of four stories each and are
part of Fort Wayne's historic Landing.
This is the Bash Block taken about 1897 showing the
four-story east and west portions of the building and
the six-story center section. This building involved
numbers 126 to 136 West Columbia Street. Built by
Charles Bash in the 1880s.
The Bash interests retained use of the eastern
wing for many years, and when they suspended busi-
ness, Standard Oil established local offices there. In
1918 the oil suppliers offices were moved to the bulk
plant on the Leesburg Road. Subsequently Meyer
Brothers Drug used the premises for warehousing,
and the last occupant was Frank's appliance division.
Bash erected the central building specifically
for the use of A. L. John & Company, manufacturer of
fine harness on the fifth and sixth floors. Windows on
the four sides gave ample light for the work. The
firm used the lower floors for warehousing and re-
tailing. At the time it was the oldest and largest har-
ness firm in the state.
Besides an extensive line of buggy, driving and
team harness the firm was involved in saddlery, hard-
ware, whips, collars, fly nets, lap robes, leather
dressings and even axle grease.
After the harness firm suspended business, the
central portion was occupied by Fisher Brothers Paper
until the Mayflower Mill fire of 1911, when they pur-
chased the site and in 1913 moved into a newer build-
ing at that address, 118-120 West Columbia Street.
A firm of wide reputation followed Fisher Broth-
ers into the building- -the Protective Electric Supply
Company. Back in 1906 M. B. Larimer perfected a
lightning arrestor and protective device marketed as
the "Protective Can Top Cable Terminator, " and with
E. M. Popp formed a company to manufacture the
device. Both men formerly were associated with
Home Telephone & Telegraph and most of their busi-
ness was absorbed by the telephone company.
The first site of the company was on Clinton
Street, but larger quarters were needed in a few years,
and it moved to West Columbia Street across the street
from the former Bash Building. Five years later they
moved into the Bash property. Protective soon branch-
ed into other electrical equipment including radios .
Officers of the company before business was
suspended in 1967 were Milton B. Larimer, chairman
of the board; Thomas G. Popp, president and Herbert
W. Henline, treasurer.
The west section of the Bash Building, numbered
134-36, was used for many years by the H. W. Skelton
Wholesale Grocery, a firm that was succeeded by
Beyer Grocery. Finally, the west portion was ab-
sorbed by the Protective Electric Supply Company.
CANAL SKIPPER'S LEGACY WAS
LASTING HOTEL SITE
What Dana Columbia really meant to the early
community has become a vague subject, but he chose
a hotel site that remained true to purpose for nearly
A unique hotel property on The Landing, called
the Rosemarie,is a former canalboat captain's legacy
to the modern weary. Seven hotels as distinguished
by changes of management have occupied four different
buildings on this same stretch of earth except for the
brief interlude after a devastating fire in 1867.
Entrenched perhaps more than ever in Victorian
atmosphere, the name Rosemarie might not have
served the hostelry so well in years past. The flower-
ing years knew it as the American, the Tremont and
the Wayne Hotel. The widely respected Jasper (Jap)
Jones acquired the hotel property in the early 1930s
and restored much of its lost magnetism . During his
regime it was the Jones Hotel.
Refurnished recently as the Rosemarie, the
ninety -five room hotel has regained its old charm in a
downtown area that has been reserved for 19th Century
In 1831 Dana Columbia built a log hotel there
and named it the Columbia House. Five years later
during the country's first financial panic Columbia
House was replaced by the American House; Joseph
Morgan was the financier during this unseeming time
for investment, and the property later was operated
by Francis Comparet.
Presumably the panic changed the course of
Columbia's career, but his hotel site has remained
down to the present .
For thirty-one years the American House served
the growing public needs in Fort Wayne, and then it
was destroyed by fire --the final proprietors were a
Mr. Butt and F. F. Dean.
In structure the Rosemarie dates back to 1868
when the New American House, a three -story brick,
replaced the ruins of the frame American House. The
new hotel opened March 5 of that year with J . C . Hursh
as manager. Later, he was replaced by Colonel
Chauncey B. Oakley. Bernard H. Schneiders became
owner of the hotel property on September 6, 1876, and
Oakley retired from the hotel business.
Less than a year later, March 8, 1877, the
hotel's name was changed toTremont House and C . C .
Fletcher simultaneously assumed management. The
record indicates a declining period for the hotel which
ended abruptly on December 7, 1887, with its purchase
by John C. Peters, the grandfather of actress Carole
Lombard. There followed a renovation of the property
which included the addition of a fourth floor.
There was a refreshment of management, too--
Peters leased the hotel under improvement to Captain
Henry McKinnie, a hotel man of wide experience, and
his son, William, for a period of ten years . The
name was changed too, and the Tremont opened for
business February 1, 1888 as the Wayne Hotel.
The Wayne Hotel Annex begun March 12, 1889
and completed the following year made up the present
facade of the Rosemarie and added 20 per cent to the
hotel capacity. The building was enlarged eastward.
Now, the locally famous old hotel was ready for the
The reign of Wayne Hotel in Fort Wayne and the
Midwest is bracketed between the year 1909 and 1930.
As Fort Wayne's leading hotel of the period, its serv-
ice and cuisine was unequalled in the Midwest. Its
register carried the names of the country's leaders
in the fields of industry, politics, entertainment and
the sciences. It played host to three presidents:
Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield and Benjamin
Harrison and other national figures .
On October 21, 1896 presidential candidate
William Jennings Bryan spoke from the marquee of the
Wayne Hotel. His audience on the street was so dense
that a number of store windows around the hotel were
shattered by the press of humanity. After the speech,
Mr. Bryan was hosted by R. C. Bell at his home on
West Wayne Street, the present Klaehn Funeral Home .
The parlors of the Wayne became a mecca for
innovations and public gatherings. The first "writing
telegraph" - -a forerunner of the modern teletype- -was
exhibited and experimented within the lobby of the
hotel. The machine attracted a distinguished gather-
ing of electricians, scientists and telegraphers to the
city in April, 1891.
A Century Commercial Club which later devel-
oped into the Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce was
organized at the Wayne Hotel February 16, 1895 when
articles of agreement were signed by forty-five prom-
inent businessmen. Mayor Charles F. Muhler was
named president after Louis Fox declined the nomina-
On December 29, 1899 the Wayne Hotel Barber
Shop had installed the first hydraulic barber chair
used in the city.
At the termination of the McKinnie lease, Peters
negotiated with William McKinnie for purchase of the
hotel furnishings. The hotel was closed by this devel-
opment between January 4 and 10, 1898. The elder
McKinnie, who came to Fort Wayne after the close of
the Civil War, died October 1, 1899 at the age of
seventy -seven. While in Fort Wayne he also estab-
lished McKinnie House, a hotel operated in conjunc-
tion with the old Pennsylvania Railroad Station which
once stood between Clinton and Calhoun streets.
Various improvements were made to the hotel
in November, 1899 including the installation of its
own electric plant. In June, 1901 there was a $25, 000
fire loss at the hotel- -thirty -five guests were evac-
uated without incident.
A. W. McClure sold a half interest in the hotel
property to Charles E . Young of Swannanoa, North
Carolina on April 3, 1905. A few days later the North
Carolina man filed a legal action charging misrepre-
The city's growth to the south put the Wayne
Hotel off the beaten path early in the century, partic-
ularly with construction of the Anthony Hotel in 1909
and the Keenan in 1923. The Wayne began to lose
the interest of community gatherings which patronized
newer accommodations .
This decline was arrested in the early 1930s
under the Jones management, and through services and
remodeling Jap managed to restore a portion of the
hostelry's old popularity. However, it was patronized
largely by the retired and people of moderate income.
On New Year's Day, 1967 the venerable hotel
began a new era under the ownership of Mr . and Mrs .
John E. Arnold and Lenna Belle Arnold operating as
the Jems Realty Corporation. They negotiated the
purchase of the property from Mrs. Hazel Jones,
widow of the former owner.
In deference to the atmosphere of The Landing
and its offering of old elegance to the modern world,
the hotel name was changed to Rosemarie.
The old charm of the hotel is being preserved
to fit this 19th Century capsule of downtown Fort
Wayne- -The Landing development. There are such
eyepieces as a base -burner stove, kerosene lamps and
other conveniences of yesterday .
Untouched are the marble staircases of the hotel,
the rich mosaic floors and the stained and bevel-glass
windows. Many of the hotel's ninety-five rooms have
been redecorated and furnished in period, an enchant-
ing contrast to the patterns of today.
The Rosemarie had entered a new era after
reaching deeply into the gracious facets of the past to
keep company with The Landing- -a soft light refuge
that compliments both yesterday and today.
THE LANDING'S GROWTH DATED
For hindsight on the one block of once arterial
Columbia Street to survive redevelopment the archives
are indebted to the whim of an early artist, John H .
Dille,who photographed in 1865 what is now The Land-
ing from a perch high on the old brick court house .
This view establishes that much of the develop-
ment of this business block began after the Civil War,
probably in the 1870s. The only portion of the 100
block of We St Columbia Street that has been consistent-
ly occupied through the years since 1831 is the Rose-
Perhaps the first structure erected in this sec-
tion after the Civil War was the Keystone Block at the
southwest corner of Calhoun and Columbia streets,
one of the largest to be built up to that time and the
first in the city to be equipped with running water and
On an upper floor were the offices of a respected
dentist, Dr. Isaac Knapp, and the street floor once
housed a famous variety store founded by James
"Jimmie" Kane. It featured display cases onthe side-
The Dille photograph shows only the American
House hotel (predecessor of the Rosemarie) and im-
mediately to the west a federal-type structure believed
to have been the old Franklin House. Neighboring
Franklin House on the west was a two -story frame
structure, painted white in which the artist maintained
a studio and completed his first painting in 1852. Be-
tween this building and Harrison Street was a shed-
like structure, its frame considerably weathered and
possibly occupied by the Fry tannery. If so, it en-
joyed a certain isolation.
The Keystone Building held a business popularity
from the start, and one of the early occupants was the
Taylor and Freeman Drygoods Company. This firm
was succeeded on March 15, 1866 by the Nirdlinger &
Oppenheimer Drygoods firm; Nirdlinger served on the
City Council in 1853 and 1865. He died in 1873, leav-
ing an estate of $150, 000.
William H. Hahn founded the Boston Store in
1886 and commenced business in the Keystone Building
at 606 on the South Calhoun site; the building was an
"L" fronting on both Calhoun and Columbia streets.
In the early 1900s the Boston Store moved to 620 South
Calhoun but returned to the original location in a few
The Boston Store was sold to J. L. Goldman who
in 1932 moved the business southward, following busi-
ness trend, to 110 East Berry. At this time the store
was under the management of Myron Goldman.
The James M. Kane & Son Variety Store on the
corner was operated prior to 1910; the proprietor died
on July 9 of that year.
More recent occupants of the Keystone Building
have been Sigrist Furniture and Sheray Furniture.
Before the Keystone Block joined the downtown
scene, Freeman P. Tinkham operated a cabinet shop
at what is now 109 West Columbia. Apparently no
records exist on this operation.
Prior to establishment of the Rosemarie Hotel
Annex (originally known as the Wayne Hotel Annex) at
111 West Columbia, the site was occupied by the
Leichner saloon. Upon his retirement in 1872 the
structure was connected to a billiard hall, and later
the building was occupied by the Goodman Saloon. A
succeeding tenant was the DuWan Sign Company, later
the Jones Hotel snack shop and currently Johnny's Gold
Immediately west of the Rosemarie, bearing the
street number 123, was the site of another hostelry
known as the Franklin House, operated for years by
Mills and Taylor. Some believe this building was
originally the homesite of Francis Comparet, wealthy
Fort Wayne business pioneer who built a home on the
street in 1835. Others think it was located between
Calhoun and Clinton streets.
There have been buildings on this site since
Franklin House, and the earliest known business op-
eration there was Paul's Grocery.
Five years after it was organized March 24, 1902
with capitalization of $100, 000 the Wayne Shoe Com-
pany was moved to Number 123 from leased quarters
at Pearl and Harrison streets. William F. Moeller-
ing, heading the firm, planned the eventual employ-
ment of 200 persons in the business. On February 9,
1909 the stock was destroyed by a $75, 000 fire and
the site was absorbed by Protective Electric which in
1912 moved across the street to 130-32 West Colum-
In 1910 a firm came to 123 that eventually be-
came an international household word- -the Pinex
Company. The founder of the firm was William H.
Noll, and it produced a variety of products, notably
Pinex, a cough syrup that served as a popular remedy
for many years in American and Canadian homes .
Ten years ago Pinex was sold to Revlon of New
York and became a part of Revlon' s wholly -owned
Thayer Laboratories with Bernard T. Kearns as local
manager , Later, Revlon withdrew holdings from Fort
Wayne, and the property is now occupied by the Beauty
South side of 100 block West Columbia looking east
from Harrison Street.
During the busiest years the Pinex Company
purchased the adjoining building. Number 125, from
the Borgmann trucking interests and interconnected
the two buildings for its own use. This gave the firm a
total frontage of forty feet on Columbia Street .
What prompted artist Dille to sight his camera
upon West Columbia Street is something that has been
erased by the years. There may be a hidden signifi-
cance in the picture besides a clue to the business life
of the street.
It shows the present Landing in a straggly phase
of growth --perhaps dormant from the exhausting
strain of the Civil War. K this is so, The Landing,
preserved as a section of old Fort Wayne, also re-
flects the return of a warweary city to constructive
SPICY THEATER CLOSED IN MORE
When buttonholes were effective holds upon
government function, G. G. Grady's Variety Theater
at 127 West Columbia appealed to unimaginative audi-
ences for the short span of five months and then was
closed as "Fort Wayne's biggest nuisance."
Mr. Grady likely was in business for several
months before the community became fully aware of
what was going on. His Variety Show deserves men-
tion because on November 18, 1872 it probably became
the first tenant at Number 127 on The Landing. It's
short span of activity attests to the effectiveness of
the public's buttonhole lobby late in the 19th Century.
Today, Variety Theater likely would be laughed
out of business in a much shorter time. For the rec-
ord, it closed its doors April 18, 1873 and all refer-
ences on the nature of the shows presented there have
been expunged by public disdain.
Charles W. Getz, who came to Fort Wayne in
1877 and established a brickyard on the Illinois Road,
later formed a partnership with Charles Orr and es-
tablished a grocery business there which continued
until shortly after the death of Mr. Getz in 1942.
Next door, at 129, Louis Schroeder operated a
saloon for many years until the Gutermuth Bakery
occupied the premises. The Gutermuths operated a
restaurant along with the Bakery which became widely
known in the Fort Wayne area and a mecca for the
weekend farmer trade . Each table in the restaurant
was supplied with a fresh loaf of bread on a board so
patrons could slice off what they wished.
Once separate buildings, 127 and 129were inter-
connected during the tenancy of Daniel Brothers, a
Columbia City meat firm. Daniels were the last oc-
cupants of the building, presently vacant.
The Louis Blase Grocery and Bakery was the
first known occupant of the building at 131 West Co-
lumbia Street . The bakery was followed by the Joseph
Sampson Barber Shop. Saloonkeeper Charles Uplegger
was a later tenant and the 131 Club was being operated
there when a fire damaged the structure, injuring
several rooming house tenants on the upper floors .
The building is now occupied by Hancock Imports .
A shoemaker, George Nill, was the first known
occupant at 133 West Columbia, and he was succeeded
there by Henry Nill, a dealer in boots and shoes.
Succeeding occupants were the Dixie Lunch, the Stephan
Candy & Tobacco and the C. P. Marshall Company.
In 1965 the renovated premises became The
Caboose, a tavern of vintage railway decor which
became the first business in the redevelopment of the
block as The Landing. Since then. The Caboose has
become part of The Big Wheel tavern, a museum of
Fort Wayne artifacts at Number 135 on the southeast
corner of Columbia and Harrison streets .
Buildings occupied by The Caboose and The Big
Wheel are estimated to be more than 100 years old--
the corner restaurant and tavern formerly was the
site of the Paige & Fry Tannery which some time after
1865 moved to the west side of the city near the old
canal aqueduct which stretched across the St. Mary's
River at approximately the present location of the
Norfolk & Western railroad bridge .
Several grocers, William Shoppman and W. H.
Hasket occupied the present site of The Big Wheel,
and later Teresa Bouse operated a dressmaking shop
there . For about a half century after that, the build-
ing consistently was occupied by taverns under var-
ious owners, the last being the Har-Col Lunch.
The remodeling of the comer structure was an
extensive process of historical research and crafts-
Before the building of the present tavern com-
plex existed, there was a strange assortment of busi-
nesses, according to information gained by Mrs . J .
Howard Wilkens, Fort Wayne genealogist. In 1836
Peter Kiser bravely operated a butcher shop between
the odorous tannery on the corner and Henry Strong's
leather shop. Across the street was the Bash ware-
Before the Pinex Company made the city inter-
nationally known in the way of nostrums at 125 West
Columbia, this structure was the home of the William
Pratt Seed Company. Pratt was one of the directors
of the Indiana State Prison, a responsibility that then
required monthly inspections of the penal institution.
The tenure of this firm began between 1870-75, and
early in the 1880s the structure was used by the
McComb Hardware, a predecessor of Mossman-
The Claussmeier and Archer Implement shop
was the next tenant, and this firm sold the property
to Brown Trucking on January 16, 1905. William
Brown, the founder, was the son of John Brown an early
blacksmith who came to the city in 1825.
In 1898 William Borgmann resigned as the
captain of police and with John Kelker purchased the
trucking firm. On July 6, 1906 the firm purchased
the Fort Wayne Transfer Company and the following
September sold the transfer business to A.G. Barnett.
After the death of Captain Borgmann in 1905 the truck-
ing firm was assumed by Clifford and Walter Borg-
The trucking firm moved to 3 18 -20 East Douglas
Avenue after the sale of the Columbia Street building
to Pinex in April, 1937.
Variety Theater's brief existence on what was
to become The Landing points up how history can seri-
ously fault --there is no record of what the perform-
ances were like to serve as a comparison of standards
and method today when the city of Fort Wayne is
rebelling against a profusion of smut.
It was a community experience wasted
HOTEL MANAGER'S FAMILY KEPT
THE PIPES FLOWING
No one could appreciate the luxury of running
water more than the Buckles boys whose lot it was
many years ago to help keep the taps running in the
old Robinson House, best remembered today as the
Randall Hotel. It stood at Harrison and Columbia
Their father was J. H. Buckles, first proprietor
of the hotel, which for more than a century stared
from many windows downthe length of Columbia Street ,
Randall Hotel facing east on Harrison Street
The Randall, known successively as the Robinson
House, Grand Hotel and Brunswick House, finally at-
tained eminence as the "best $2.00 hotel in Indiana,"
and the strong backs of the Buckles brothers (conveni-
ently there were four) were undeniably helpful .
When the water level of the nearby Wabash and
Erie Canal was too low to power a hydraulic ram
(which was often) the Buckles pumped water from the
wells in the basement to a reservoir on the roof which
served a single tap on each floor. Water was carried
in pails to the rooms but even so this was a convenience
that endeared the hotel to the trade . Buckles made
ice water available to his guests, too.
Manager Buckles might have been a severe
father, but he appreciated the efforts of his sons: he
did his best to persuade the city to convert the feeder
canal into a city waterworks . It could have been had
for $250, 000 from downtown six miles up the St .Joseph
River to the feeder dam.
The late Winifred Randall, at one time the coun-
try's only feminine lumber buyer, was the life of the
old hotel in its declining years. She died March 11,
1963 and two years later the building was razed and
the site became a parking lot.
Besides running water the hostelry in early days
had its own sawmill for cutting up firewood and a
horse -powered elevator; all were innovations.
There was even hope the Randall could remain
as a familiar backdrop for The Landing. For many
years it had been maintained as a residential hotel by
Mrs. Randall. Her husband, the late Perry A. Randall,
had bought the property in 1889.
What was to be one of the state's leading hotels
started as a three -story brick granary and tannery,
built in February, 1856 by James H. Robinson. He
opened a boot store on the first floor and later a tan-
nery in the basement.
In earlier days an upper floor was occupied by
a sporting organization of young people who called
themselves the IKZ's. Often they dropped initiates
through a trap door into the George's Basin of the old
canal. But first they were roped around the waist so
they could be drawn out to safety.
The IKZ's also held bizarre parades, carrying
candidates and human skeletons in coffins through the
downtown district .
Buckles leased the property late in 1871 and
converted it into a hotel. There was a dining room,
a laundry in the basement, and the kitchen occupied a
two-story building at the rear.
Coal was not generally used in the community,
and the hotel was heated entirely by wood stoves.
Only a few of them, however, were installed in the
rooms, the majority were in the hallways. Thus, it
became an expedient to set up a treadmill in a large
room of the building on which usually two horses fur-
nished the power for sawing up lumber into stove -size
lengths. Sometimes three boatloads of wood were
required to heat the hotel for a winter. One morning
in the dead of winter a guest appeared at the desk with
his beard a solid mass of frost. He had slept com-
fortably, but his breath had frozen among the whisk-
ers. The hotel once weathered 28 degrees below zero.
A horse harnessed to a windlass also supplied
power for the hotel's elevator. Later, hydraulic
power was applied to this passenger lift.
Mrs. Mary C. Robinson, wife of the builder and
a son, Henry H., eventually became owners of the
hotel property. On May 17, 1876 the name of the
hotel was changed to Grand Hotel, and during Buckles'
tenure as manager it became theatrical headquarters
for Colerick Hall.
Grand Hotel was operated as a Methodist Hotel,
no drinking and no dancing. Benjamin Harrison was
a guest at the hotel during his campaign for governor
of Indiana, and the house always sheltered Buffalo Bill
during his several appearances at Colerick' s.
These distinguished guests provided rewarding
experiences for the Buckles brothers. William P.
recalled delivering a wash bucket and clothing to
Colerick Hall to be used as "props" for a stage show;
he and two brothers stayed to watch Joe Jefferson play
Rip Van Winkle.
Numerous theatricals appeared at Colerick Hall,
and some stock companies stayed for the season, of-
fering such productions as East Lynne, Uncle Tom's
Cabin, Ten Nights in a Bar Room and others .
In 1881 a 24 -foot section was added to the
north end of the hotel building. The Buckles tenure
as manager had ended by 1888, and under a new lease
the name of the hotel was changed to Brunswick but
only briefly. Attorney Randall purchased the hotel
building from Mrs. Robinson and her son for $45, 000
Formal opening of the hotel under the Randall
ownership came on May 23, 1890, and it soon became
a popular meeting place for community groups, in-
cluding the monthly round table of the ministerial as-
sociation. The first annual meeting of the National
Cribbage Association was held there November 17,
Randall added a 3 5 -foot veranda to the main
entrance of the hotel in 1891, and in 1894 the hotel
installed its own electric plant . On Thanksgiving of
that year more than 400 guests attended the annual
game dinner in the hotel dining room featuring a wide
selection of wild game and fowl on the menu .
Dick Townsend, who had become manager of the
Randall in 1890, disposed of his lease and furnishings
in 1899 to Frank W. Beard of Chicago and Joseph W.
Irwin of Little Rock, Arkansas, both experienced
hotel men. The consideration was $19,300 and the
new lease was for a period of fifteen years. Townsend
subsequently leased the St. Charles Hotel in Toledo.
Another remodeling program had been conducted
at the hotel in 1897, and at that time Randall announced
that a fifty-room addition was to come later.
This enlargement of the hotel was hurried by a
$90,000 fire, October 28, 1904 that destroyed an ad-
jacent building at 608-10 South Harrison and heavily
damaged the Randall. Randall immediately made
plans to rebuild the damaged section and add two
floors, making a building of five stories.
Of all the competitive ventures at the Randall,
the one which brought its greatest popularity was a
change from American to European plan on June 19,
1907 under the managership of Frank E. Purrell. This
change of program kept the hotel filled to capacity for
a number of years afterward, and it was during this
period it became known as the best $2.00 hotel in In-
diana --a substantial rate for the time.
The city had been growing up around the Randall
and newer hotels made their appearance downtown- -
the Anthony, Hotel Keenan and the Indiana, Usage of
the Randall changed, and finally it became a place for
Mr. Randall died on February 1, 1916 and was
buried in Noble County, Mrs. Randall remained close
to the hotel business until the time of her death. She
had been active in the lumber industry at a time before
hardwoods were replaced in various areas of use by
Unfortunately, the Randall Hotel was not destined
to remain with The Landing, but many of its treasures
were salvaged as it left the downtown scene .
Fromi aching-back plumbing through the Euro-
pean plan, it survived an amazing span of hotel devel-
END OF COLUMBIA STREET: BUT THE LANDING
REFLECTS ITS OLD GLORY
Change began to creep along Columbia Street
early in the 20th Century, like age upon a dowager,
and after the close of World War II a dissipation of
interests that had once attracted the Tri -State area
moved the thoroughfare rapidly into the area of re-
Buildings were requisitioned by progress and
leveled. An area bounded by Clinton, Lafayette and
Main streets and the Norfolk & Western Railroad was
earmarked for the Fort Wayne Fine Arts complex.
The block bounded by Calhoun, Clinton and Main streets
and the railroad was chosen as the site of the City-
On August 11, 1970 it was proposed to develop
a six acre formal park in the tract just east of the
City-County Building in memory of Frank Freimann,
late president of The Magnavox Company.
All that is left of once-teeming Columbia Street,
the city's main business artery for many years, is its
block -long western terminus that has been adopted by
Urban Redevelopment as The Landing- -an area once
distinguished by the canal docks .
Until 1963 this nostalgic stretch of the old city
had been eyed as a parking area to serve government
and the fine arts. Late in that year, an interest
developed in the preservation of the 100 block of West
This awakening of civic interest was stimulated
the following year when eighteen junior and senior
architectural students of the University of Notre Dame
chose this section as a field restoration project. They
began their work April 30 under the direction of Dr.
Robert Schlutz of the university school of architecture,
Mrs . Thomas (Jane) Dustin and Mrs . R . Gerald
McMurtry of Fort Wayne.
With their research and sketching, the students
actually accomplished a transformation of the fading
business block --they were catalysts for what was to
Mayor Harold S. Zeis, a student of history,
named a Mayor's Commission for the Preservation
and Restoration of Historic Landmarks on August 10,
1964: Mrs. Edward (Joan) White was named chairman
and her original co-workers were Mrs. Dustin,
secretary; Roy M. Bates, city and county historian;
George Bradley; Daniel Reibel, then director of the
historical museum; Mrs. S. C. Snyderman; Rex M.
Potterf, now city librarian emeritus and Edward C .
Dodez, now deceased. Appointed consultants to the
Commission, were James R. Fleming, president and
publisher of the Journal -Gazette and Fred Reynolds,
chief librarian of the Fort Wayne and Allen County
The western block of Columbia Street came of-
ficially to the attention of city councilmen the evening
of March 23, 1965. They suspended rules to set aside
the old business block as an historical project and
passed an ordinance removing parking from both sides
of the street. It was to be called "The Landing" be-
cause of its old association with the canal docks.
The Landing from the southwest corner of Columbia
and Calhoun streets looking west. Photographed 1966
by George Craighead.
Physical transformation of The Landing began
on April 12 of that year with the installation of eighteen
gas lights and the planting of trees. Sidewalks were
extended and the street narrowed to twenty-eight feet.
Building fronts were restored and redecorated and
landscaping was added .
The development and dedication of The Landing
was managed by Canal Days, Inc., a non-profit or-
ganization of historical interests. The membership
drive of the corporation was directed by David L.
Hughes; Mrs. Ruth Whearley was publicity chairman,
Mrs. R. Gerald McMurtry corresponding secretary
and Robert Kigar co-chairman.
The first of the gas lamps was presented to The
Landing Project by the Fort Wayne Newcomers Club
with Mrs. Jack Walter, president, directing the cere-
mony. Also participating were Mrs. Carson Noecker,
treasurer of the club, Robert Kigar, member of Canal
Days, Inc., and Harley Jensen, division manager of
the Northern Indiana Public Service Company which
furnished the labor and materials for the lighting
Development of The Landing then proceeded
rapidly with various firms and individuals donating
services and money --nothing was used from tax rev-
enues. Contributors were John Dehner, Inc., exca-
vation; Fort Wayne Park Board, trees and earth fills;
May Stone & Sand, Inc., materials; Hagerman Con-
struction, fills and tamping; Concrete Products, Inc.,
large tree tiles; the Northern Indiana Public Service
Company, fittings and gas line installations; Decatur
Salvage Co., railroad ties; Erie -Haven, Inc ., cement;
Jocquel Supply Co., tiling; L. W. Dailey Construction
Co., construction forms; General Portland Cement
Co., mortar; Bricklayers Union, Local No. 2, brick
laying; Paul C. Brudi Stone & Gravel Co., gravel;
W . & W . Gravel Co . , Inc . , mortar sand; Krick-Tyndall
Co., Decatur, tiles; L.I. Griffin Co., crane; C. L.
Schust Co., retaining wall sealer; Central Catholic
High School students, painting and miscellaneous
work; Art Mosaic Co., sidewalk work; Sandpoint
Greenhouses, Inc., flowers and planting along the
street; Pion Landscap)e Co., flowers and paintings.
The first distinguished visitor to The Landing
was Sen. Vance Hartke on September 18, 1965, and
the following September the restored business block
was visited by a group of northern Indiana mayors
who were entertained by Ed Kane, proprietor of The
Big Wheel Restaurant.
Dedication of The Landing on October 23, 1965
was effectively coordinated with celebration of the
125th anniversary of the city by the Fort Wayne
During the civic ceremony an historical marker
listing the highlights of the street and honoring His -
tor tan Roy Bates was unveiled and presented to the
city. The marker was a gift of patrons of 1965
Batesway Tours conducted by Bates for the Allen
County-Fort Wayne Historical Society.
John Haley was general chairman of the program
which began downtown with a torchlight parade, and
George Kinne was master of ceremonies. Al Kalazk
and Ray McFarland were co-chairmen of the Jaycee
promotion. On that evening The Landing officially
became a part of Fort Wayne's historical heritage.
In 1968 a Landing Association was formed by
Columbia and Pearl streets merchants to promote and
direct activities along the street. Businessman Kane
was named president; Edward Collins, vice-president;
Dale Byers, secretary-treasurer and Mrs. White
"Special thanks are due Mrs. White for her
foresight, organization and planning that resulted in
the preservation of this last remaining block of the
most active street in this tri-state area, " commented
Bates who has spent years compiling this history of
the city's first main street.
All walks of life contributing a broad range of
effort have saved The Landing as a practical munici-
pal heirloom and an example of civic pride among
those who remember Columbia Street in its heyday
and those who enjoy a backward look.
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