Seeing Things, Saying Things

Musings About Writing, Photography and Teaching

Old, New and Classic in the Fort Wayne Skyline

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When I was a kid I remember reading a book about a catcher who knocks around in semi-pro baseball, never staying with one team for long. One of the teams he played for was described as being located in a Midwest city with a few modest skyscrapers.

The author could well have been describing Fort Wayne, Indiana. Like other cities of its size, Fort Wayne lacks the jaw-dropping mega skyscrapers that define places such as Chicago or New York. But it has some tall buildings that are remarkable in their own right.

One of those is the Lincoln Bank Tower on the far left. This pleasing art-deco structure opened in 1930 and is 312 feet in height with 22 floors. It was the tallest building in Indiana until 1962 and tallest in Fort Wayne until the 1970 opening of what is now PNC Center, which is shown to the immediate right of the Lincoln Bank Tower.

PNBC Center is a 339-foot modern design structure of 26 floors that is the 11th tallest building in Indiana. It was Fort Wayne’s tallest building until the 1982 opening of the Indiana Michigan Power Center building, which is not shown. The latter structure stands 442 feet high and has 27 floors, making it the fourth tallest building in Indiana and the tallest outside of Indianapolis.

I find it notable that in this image are varying philosophies of building design that reflect the purpose for which the building was designed and the era in which it was built.

Lincoln Bank Tower reflects a time when a great deal of thought and effort was put into how a building appeared. Originally the home of Lincoln National Bank and Trust, it is now the home of Old National Bank.

The PNC Center, by contrast, has a pleasing but more restrained look. The black and white structure is described as being in the international style.

In the middle foreground is the Anthony Wayne Building, a mixed-use structure designed for housing and commercial businesses and having a more functional appearance that contrasts with the classic-looking building in the immediate foreground.

Built in 1962 to house financial firm offices, the Anthony Wayne Building was converted starting in 2011 to high-end condominiums, which was a new concept for Fort Wayne at the time. Downtown Fort Wayne had some apartment housing, but no housing for sale.

Developer Todd Ramsey and his four partners in RCI Development stripped the building to its concrete shell and devoted 10 of the 15 floors to condos and five floors to parking. The ground-level floor contains commercial space.

Now occupied by the law firm of Barrett McNagny, the Ekectron Building in the immediate foreground was constructed in 1895. The History Center blog of the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society notes that the name reflects the interest in electrical engineering of the building’s first owner, Ronald T. McDonald, who founded the Fort Wayne Jenney Electric Light Company.

The Jenney company was named for James Jenney, who had invented an arch light, but had difficulty selling it until McDonald arranged for a demonstration with public officials.

The Electron Building would later serve as the temporary  home of the Allen County Courthouse and the
Allen County Public Library while permanent facilities were built for both. It also housed Lincoln National Life Insurance Company until it completed its permanent headquarters on Harrison Street.

It is notable that the law firm is actually older than the building in which it is now housed, dating its roots to 1876. The firm moved into the Electron Building in 1986 after the building was remodeled.


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