Witness to History Bites the Dust

By WISE Web News

June 18, 2010 Updated Feb 27, 2009 at 2:15 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (Indiana's NewsCenter)--They’re tearing down the old wheel factory building on Murray Street and that’s a shame. For nearly a century this once grand structure was an industrial powerhouse, where hundreds of workers turned out steel rimmed wooden spoked wagon wheels, the tires of the 19TH century, the wheels that hauled hay on the farm, produce on city streets and everything in between.

The wheel factory never made history but it certainly witnessed it. In 1915 the great Panama Exposition in San Francisco celebrated completion of the Panama Canal, and the Bay Area’s recovery from the devastating 1906 earthquake. It was a West Coast show but the star was an easterner, the Liberty Bell, packed on to a special rail car in Philadelphia and sent to California on a route that took it through 17 states and hundreds of small towns. On July 6th freedom’s 1915 freedom’s greatest symbol pulled into Fort Wayne.

"There was a great outpouring of unabated patriotism," says historian Skip Sassmanshausen. "There were bands, there were choruses, there were readings of patriotic poems, it was a very great day. It was formally known as July 6th 1915 ‘Liberty Bell Day’ in Fort Wayne Indiana."

Just after noon the special car carrying the bell was detached from its Pennsy train near the old Bass Foundry and switched to an industrial track on Lafayette Street. Here it turns from Lafayette on to Murray Street as sixty thousand people, dressed in their Sunday best, cheer it on. People rushed up to touch it, kiss it or have their babies photographed with it. And in the background, witnessing this joyful celebration stood the old wheel factory building.

The Liberty Bell pulled out of town that night. There may be some still alive who were there that day, but the one eyewitness we’re sure of is being leveled. To make way for progress, no doubt. But we should all feel a little poorer for the loss, because every historic building has a story, part of OUR story. And this one has just disappeared forever. Eric Olson out in ‘Your Country’.

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