Doomed Building Played Major Role in City History

By Eric Olson

March 28, 2014 Updated Mar 28, 2014 at 9:51 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, In (21Alive) -- It will be fantastic..the new multimillion dollar Ash Brokerage world headquarters along with apartments and condominiums, rising 15 stories into the Fort Wayne skyline. The site on Harrison and Berry Streets is mostly parking lots now, but not all of it. And not everyone is happy about that.

This is the old Anthony Wayne Institute building on West Wayne Street, one of the structures to be demolished to make way for Ash Brokerage. From 1917 to 1933 it housed the Anthony Wayne Institute, a co-ed business school like others around the country, teaching young entrepreneurs who would become the backbone of Fort Wayne banking and commerce. During the Great Depression it served as local headquarters of the WPA, the Works Progress Administration, which provided jobs to depression era unemployed who would build the runways at Fort Wayne’s Smith Field, and the pavilions at Foster Park. Fort Wayne has a regrettable history of bulldozing its heritage to make way for less charming structures…this is the view looking east at Calhoun and Clinton in the 1890’s. This is the view today. This is Calhoun and Main…and this is how it appears today. No one is saying the Ash Brokerage complex shouldn’t be built, it will be a great addition to downtown. Even ARCH, the city’s historic preservation group applauds it.

“ARCH thinks it’s great that there is going to be something there,” says spokesperson Jill Van Gessel, “but it’d been nice if there could have been a way to incorporate existing structures into the development rather than just tearing them down. You’re losing a lot of context you’re losing small commercial architecture that once was all over Fort Wayne we’re slowly losing more and more of that so eventually these small commercial buildings will just be gone.”

Few will mourn the day the Anthony Wayne Institute building comes down, and maybe that’s as it should be. But we shouldn’t forget what this place did for our city. Without little brick buildings like this one, today’s marvelous new high rise developments, wouldn’t be possible. This is Eric Olson reporting.

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