Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

Thursday, June 15, 2017 1:00 am

City boasts numerous tourist attractions

STEVE WARDEN | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne boasts some great museums, attractions and a thriving arts community. You've probably visited a few of them. Here are a few facts about some of the organizations that you may not know about:

Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

The Fort Wayne Children's Zoo was named one of the Top 10 zoos for kids by Child and Parents magazines. Not only is it an award winner, but it is annually mentioned as one of Indiana's top tourist attractions by info.visitindiana.com. Here are some other facts about the zoo:

• In 1952, 54 acres were added to Franke Park to establish a nature preserve.

• Since the zoo's opening in 1965, it has had only two directors: Earl B. Wells (1965-1993) and Jim Anderson (1994-present).

• The zoo houses 1,913 animals in 201 species. The largest is Jelani, one of the giraffes, and the smallest is a praying mantis in the farm exhibit.

• Through last season, over 21.5 million guests have visited the zoo.

• The zoo has 74 full-time employees, 43 part-time workers and 82 seasonal employees. It also has 553 volunteers.

Fort Wayne Philharmonic

The Philharmonic has been making beautiful music in Fort Wayne since 1944, when it began under the leadership of maestro Hans Schwieger. Since 2010, it has been under the direction of Andrew Constantine. Here are some other facts about the Philharmonic:

• Its first concert was Oct. 18, 1944, at the Palace Theater, 126 E. Washington Blvd., current site of the Civic Garage between Clinton and Calhoun streets.

• Igor Buketoff, who succeeded Schwieger, is the longest-tenured conductor in Fort Wayne Philharmonic history. Buketoff served 19 seasons, from 1948 to 1966. Ronald Ondrejka (1978-93) is second, with 16 seasons.

• Since 1980, the orchestra has won five awards for adventuresome programming from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

• Notable musicians who have performed with the Philharmonic include Gil Shaham, Van Cliburn, Ben Folds, Bernadette Peters, Heather Headley and Manhattan Transfer.

• The Philharmonic recently began a series of “Live at Lunch” performances in which the orchestra visits various Fort Wayne locales during lunchtime. 

Memorial Coliseum

The official name of the structure is the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, a tribute to the county's World War II heroes. Twenty-four veterans' organizations and 10,000 people attended the September 1952 opening ceremony. Here are some other facts about the Coliseum:

• In '52, the Fort Wayne Komets hockey team immediately called the Coliseum home and has been there ever since.

• The Zollner Pistons, the city's NBA franchise, also played at the Coliseum beginning in 1952 before moving to Detroit in 1957. The 1953 NBA All-Star Game was played at the Coliseum. In that game, Boston Celtics guard Don Barksdale became the first Black player to participate in an NBA All-Star Game.

• Some notable entertainers who performed at the Coliseum include the Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Jefferson Airplane, Neil Diamond, Louis Armstrong, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Hope, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.

• In 2001, the building's 1,200-ton roof was raised 41 feet, 10 inches for a construction project that would increase the arena's seating capacity to nearly 13,000 and includes luxury suites.

• During a 1982 flood that drew national attention to Fort Wayne, the Coliseum served as a shelter and command center for relief efforts. 

Embassy Theatre

Completed in 1928 as the Emboyd Theater to provide a movie and vaudeville house, today's Embassy is the Grand Duchess of downtown Fort Wayne, playing host to the Philharmonic orchestra, visiting performers, and even festivals and weddings. Here are some other facts about the Embassy:

• It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

• Scheduled to be demolished in 1972, a citywide “Save the Embassy” campaign raised the $250,000 necessary to rescue the building, with just two days to spare.

• While Tony Bennett, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Perry Como, Doris Day and Marilyn Maxwell performed within the theater, comedian Bob Hope's first master of ceremonies job was at the Emboyd.

• The first Festival of Trees, held in 1985, raised $46,000, which was used to restore and renovate the front lobby entrance. Nearly 15,000 still attend the annual Christmastime festival. 

• The theater, with a seating capacity of 2,471, also houses the Grande Page Pipe Organ. Installed in 1928 to accompany silent films of the day, the organ is one of three of its size built with more than 1,000 pipes, and one of two still in its original home.

Grand Wayne Convention Center

Grand Wayne Center is a popular destination for conventions, corporate gatherings and large trade shows. Here are some other facts about Grand Wayne Center:

• Grand Wayne Center was constructed between 1983 and 1985, then underwent a $42 million renovation and expansion from 2003 to 2005.

• With four exhibition halls and 18 meeting rooms, Grand Wayne Center encompasses 225,000 square feet, making it the second-largest convention center in Indiana.

• The center is wired for success. It boasts 12,000 electrical outlets and nearly four miles of data cable.

• The facility averages 50 conventions and an additional 320 events per year.

• Recent notable attendees at Grand Wayne Center have included the North American Scrabble Players Association, Indiana Music Educators Association, National Fishing Lure Collectors Club and Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference.

History Center

The History Center is that stately sandstone building that was once City Hall, and that still includes eight jail cells in the museum's basement. With its Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, it was constructed in 1893 for $69,000. Here are some other facts about the history museum:

• When the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society was formed in 1921, the museum had few assets, most of which were historical relics preserved by the Mary Penrose Wayne Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

• The History Center maintains a collection of more than 26,000 artifacts, photographs and documents representing the history of Fort Wayne and Allen County. Its variety includes a camp bed used by Gen. Mad Anthony Wayne, displays from the city's early industrial years, and a tribute to former resident Philo T. Farnsworth, who was a major contributor to the invention of television.

• Separated from the downtown building, the Chief Richardville House is under the center's care. The 1827 home at 5705 Bluffton Road was built for Miami Chief Jean Baptiste de Richardville.

• The largest room in the History Center is the 2,700-square-foot Shields Room on the second floor. Named in honor of Jim and Margaret Shields, who were major contributors in its renovation, the room was once the meeting area of the City Council.

• Not all of the History Center's possessions are on display. Some are stored on site, and others kept at an off-site facility. Only 12 percent of the center's collection is on display.

Parkview Field

The downtown home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the single-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, is considered a must-see summertime visit. The stadium, which opened April 16, 2009, has won numerous national awards for its facility and staff. Here are some other facts about Parkview Field:

• Seating capacity for the stadium is listed at 8,100-plus, but that has been surpassed several times. The stadium boasts a 58-foot wide, 26-foot high video board and 16 luxury suites. Last season's total attendance was 413,701. 

• Leaders from more than 30 other cities and teams have visited Parkview Field to study the facility as a model venue and a catalyst for downtown revitalization.

• The field was designed by Populous, the same architectural firm that designed the new Yankee Stadium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Wembley Stadium in London and Wimbledon's Centre Court.

• Despite serving 14.6 miles' worth of hot dogs in 2014, Parkview Field has been ranked No. 4 of 160 on the list of Most Vegetarian Friendly Minor League Ballparks.

• The same indoor batting cage at Parkview Field used by the TinCaps players is also available to fans during TinCaps games and for local teams to rent for practice.

Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory

Even in the cold winter months, the Conservatory offers warmth, greenery and colorful flowers for the visitor. “Always in Season” is its marketing slogan. Here are some other facts about the Conservatory:

• The Conservatory, opened in 1983, is named in honor of former News-Sentinel publisher Helene Foellinger and Frank Freimann, former president of Magnavox. 

• The 25,000-square-foot conservatory houses three indoor gardens: the Showcase Garden, which has four seasonal exhibits; Tropical Garden, which includes a waterfall, a goldfish pond and 13 types of palms; and the Desert Garden that has various cacti. There are also outdoor gardens.

• The gardens display over 1,200 plants of 502 different species and 72 types of cactus.

• The conservatory's butterfly exhibit is an annual favorite, drawing an estimated 25,000 visitors who stroll through the Showcase Garden as butterflies fly about. 

• The facility is a favorite setting for wedding, anniversary and family photographs. The facility also can be rented for weddings, proms and parties. 

stwarden@jg.net