Taking Stock of Our Treasures, One Historic Building at a Time

By Eric Olson

January 2, 2014 Updated Jan 2, 2014 at 12:31 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, in (21Alive)--A chilly recent weekday and historian Jill Van Gessel is trolling the streets of Fort Wayne, looking for gems.

“We’re keeping track of historic resources,” Van Gessel says, “and we’re calling attention to them through this survey.”

Van Gessel is a surveyor for ARCH, the local preservation group, seeking out and documenting all historic structures and sites in Allen County and Fort Wayne. On this day she strikes pay dirt…a dilapidated mansion on Creighton Avenue once owned by Asa Fairfield, a boat captain on the Wabash Erie Canal and the man for whom Fairfield Avenue is named. This home was once part of a 240 acre farm. Van Gessel photographs the structure and notes important details.

“Things like wall materials, window materials, style, roof type, roof play, site plan,” she says. “I would still consider that notable because it’s a reminder of the agricultural beginnings of Fort Wayne even though it’s not in the greatest condition.”

This effort is being repeated throughout every county in the state, a historic sites and structures inventory to be used in planning future development, making sure that nothing historic is destroyed while building something new. Van Gessel’s next stop, Fort Wayne’s historic Kennsington neighborhood, full of colonial and Tudor revival homes, bungalows…Van Gessel pays special attention to this gorgeous Tudor revival.

“I would consider that a notable example of the style,” she says. “It had the steep pitch roof, the slate roof, the interesting brick work it had all the header brick were protruding from the façade and had all the intact windows.”

All those details duly noted and recorded, to be included in the final survey when it’s published in a couple of years…listing every historic building in our community…every wood, brick or stone structure with a chapter to add in the story of our town. Eric Olson reporting, out in 21 Country.

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