Life's Better Here: Decatur (VIDEOS)

By Emma Koch
By Jason Meyers

August 1, 2013 Updated Aug 2, 2013 at 11:02 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) -- It stands in the shadow of the Adams County courthouse in downtown Decatur…a war monument, one might think at first glance. But this impressive Indiana limestone creation is anything but a salute to war.

The turn of the last century was an innocent and peaceful period in our country’s history. The Civil War had ended decades earlier and the First World War, the Great War, wasn’t even conceivable. It was during those placid years that a local civic leader named French Quinn decided Adams County needed a monument honoring its Civil War veterans…but also expressing a desire for peace. He wrote a letter published in the Decatur Daily Democrat titled ‘Let’s Build a Soldiers Monument’ and the idea caught on. Local Civil War veterans with the GAR, the American Legion of its day…took up the cause and raised money to pay for the project.

“And they put a referendum out and the county signed it,” says historian Max Miller. “They got enough names it was seven cents on a hundred dollars and the tax money paid it on property taxes, pretty much paid for it.”

Chicago sculptor Charles Mulligan was hired to create the monument. He hired a Chicago model, Margaret McMasters van Slyke, to pose for the central figure. On October 30th, 1913 the Decatur peace monument was dedicated…the very first monument devoted to peace built in the United States. Brass plaques list the county’s 1276 war veterans, but the female figure representing war has her sword sheathed, her shield on the ground…her right arm resting on a furled war flag. The war is over and the time for peace has come. The monument’s undergoing a facelift now, brick sidewalks and a patio will be constructed around it and on August 24th the Decatur peace monument will be rededicated. There are other statues in town, part of Decatur’s summer public arts project. But they’ll be taken down soon and only the peace monument will remain, carrying mankind’s eternal longing for peace and a better life…into a second century.

In Decatur, restaurant owners know it's all about rolling up your sleeves and getting things done. It doesn't matter if you've bought an established restaurant or you're building from the ground up.

The city of Decatur has been around for 177 years. The West End Restaurant has been there for 127. In that time, they've perfected their homemade batter for their fish and their onion rings, two things they're known for.

"I believe there's been 13 owners, and the last thing I have on record is 1886," said Jared Lengerich, current owner.

Lengerich has been the owner for the last three years, learning the restaurant business from the ground up.

"I was 16, working in the kitchen, and one thing just led to another, and one of the managers at the time mentioned, 'You should buy this place.' Suddenly, my wheels just started turning, next thing you know, we got something worked out, and it's worked out ever since," Lengerich said.

Things have been working out, so well that he's spruced up the place. Since taking over, he's done a little remodeling, most noticeably exposing the original natural brick. All in all, it's earned its place as a fixture in Decatur.

Another such place is The Galley. The owner built this restaurant, much like his food, from scratch.

"When we first started out, nobody knew what they was doing, myself included,” said Harry Meyer, owner. “We would go to work every day, and it was just a crapshot. And what we'd try to instill in everybody, 'Let's just try and improve every day. Let's just try and get better every day.'"

Sticking with that mantra has worked. And earlier this year, they celebrated their 35th anniversary, not an easy task for a restaurant, a business where most fail in the first few years. Instead, they thrived by providing fresh fish that left Decatur and the surrounding area wanting more.

"We buy a good, quality product,” Meyer said. “A lot of this type of businesses over the years have gone from a good, quality fish to a cheaper fish, and we refuse to do that."

Hard work along with a good recipe makes dining and life a little better in Decatur.

Both restaurants Jason visited have nightly and daily specials each and every day, so check both of them out. They were both great places to eat.

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