The Fort Wayne region is rich in history, and an awareness of that historys architectural legacy has led to many structures being given a second – or even third or fourth – chance.
Although some landmarks have succumbed to the wrecking ball, many still exist, repurposed, thanks to a consciousness about preservation that set in about three decades ago after several historically significant structures were torn down.
Here are a few buildings that recently have found new leases on life.
Van Gilder & Trzynka law office
436 E. Wayne St.
Its hard to believe this building was once a gas station/tire service center, but David Van Gilder, one of its attorney occupants, has a photo to prove it. Built in 1929, the building also served as a Spiegel catalog store, the site of a bulk mailing business and a storehouse for old cars.
When we bought it in 2006, it had been empty for eight to 10 years, Van Gilder says. The basement was completely flooded, all the brickwork needed to be done and it needed new windows. It was in pretty bad shape. But now, with lots of natural light, the building is sunny and a pleasant place to be in, he says. Our clients love it.
St. Felix Friary
1280 Hitzfield St., Huntington
Now renamed St. Felix Catholic Center, this sprawling former Capuchin Franciscan monastery in Huntington, built in 1928, was closed in 1978 after the orders numbers dwindled. The property was sold to a Protestant Church of the Brethren congregation, which left for new quarters. In 2010, Fort Wayne businessman and real estate investor John V. Tippmann, a Catholic, bought the property and vowed a $1 million restoration, still under way. This year, a growing religious order, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, announced they will move in by the end of the summer and use the building to house and train novices; a portion will remain open for religious retreats.
200 E. Berry St.
Perhaps nothing symbolizes Fort Waynes willingness to recycle buildings more than this 1950s structure, now home to city government. The city has spent more than $25 million to renovate the building into its fourth incarnation – previous uses were the Wolf & Dessauer and the L.S. Ayers department stores, offices for Waterfield Mortgage and Lincoln National Corp., a temporary location for the Allen County Public Library and the Lincoln Museum, which closed in 2008. Government offices moved in 2011. Their former home, the City-County Building, underwent its own renovation.
1014 and 1016 Broadway
When the back wall of a row of buildings youre trying to restore falls down when workers are pulling embedded vines from its brick, it doesnt usually bode well, says Michael Galbraith, executive director of ARCH, anon-profit historic architecture preservation group in Fort Wayne. But ARCH was expecting the mishap when it took ownership of 1014 and 1016 Broadway from nearby St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church in December 2011.
They were in dire need of repair, Galbraith says of the buildings.
Undaunted, ARCH continues to work on the long-vacant Canton Laundry and its neighbor, once a lawyers office, buildings that date to the 1870s. The first floor of the properties will become businesses and the upper levels living quarters, with completion expected in 12 to 18 months.
The Friendly Fox
4001 South Wayne Ave.
Its now a thriving coffee shop/bistro where business people congregate for lunch and Southwood Park moms bring the kids for an afternoon ice cream break. It used to be a neighborhood eyesore, standing vacant for several years after having been a corner drugstore, Schmidts Pharmacy, with a doctors office upstairs.
Trish Fox about the 100-year-old building six years ago with the idea of turning its brick storefront into a coffee shop close to her therapy office.
She gutted it and redid everything, says her niece, Becky Fox, who has been one of four co-owners of the business for not quite two years.
Upstairs, there is a Chicago-style three bedroom apartment. The finishing touches: a patio and old-fashioned lampposts.
T. Furth Center for the Performing Arts
500 W. Maumee St., Trine University, Angola
Built in 1910 as a Christian church, this classic, Ionic-columned brick building has a long association with Trine University, and its predecessor, Tri-State University, having been used for commencements as far back as the 1960s. After being acquired from Angola Christian Church through a donation in the spring of 2008 amid speculation that the building would be torn down, its instead being renovated with a stage and concert hall named for donor and alumnus Cliff Ryan, an Angola native.
With new seating to replace pews, classrooms, offices, rehearsal space and a reception/buffet area, the more than 500-seat venue will host student concerts and productions and community-oriented arts events. The roof already has been replaced and a stained glass dome in the concert hall is being refurbished. Trine has raised more than $3 million for the restoration; fundraising is continuing. An opening date has not been announced.