by Tom Castaldi
Designed by Fort Wayne architects John Wing and Marshall Mahurin, the Elektron Building at 215 East Berry Street was erected in 1895. Many John F. Wing and Marshall S. Mahurin buildings stand today as landmark structures throughout Indiana and Ohio. Specializing in the popular Richardsonian Romanesque, Queen Anne and neoclassical styles of architecture, they designed many public and private buildings in Indiana and Ohio. Locally some of their more important buildings include: Allen County City Hall now the home of the Allen County Fort Wayne History Center; John H. Bass’ “Brookside” Mansion in the heart of the University of Saint Francis campus, as well as several houses in the West Central Historic District.
|The Elektron Building on the right as seen from the History Center. Also in the photo are the Lincoln Tower, PNC Buidling and the Anthony Wayne Building. The Allen County Court House is slightly visible through the tree.|
The name "Elektron" inscribed on the cornice at the top of the building reflected the business interests in early electrical engineering of the principal owner of the building, Ronald T. McDonald, a founder of the Fort Wayne Jenney Electric Light Co.
McDonald, born in 1849 in his native state of Pennsylvania, moved to Fort Wayne in 1860. As a lad he served as a drummer boy in the Civil War before returning to Fort Wayne to work in a retail dry goods store. Later he met James Jenney, who had invented an arc light, and although a pioneer in the technology, was having trouble attracting buyers. McDonald arranged for a demonstration for public officials and the arc light caught on elsewhere and Jenney Electric Light Company was formed with McDonald as its president.
From 1898 to 1902 the Elektron Building served as the Allen County Courthouse during construction of the present courthouse. In 1904, a grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation made possible the community’s first public library and the Elektron served as the home of the Allen Country Public Library while the permanent facility was being built. In 1912, the seven year-old Lincoln National Life Insurance Company purchased the building, which it occupied until 1923 when a new Lincoln National Life building was completed on Harrison Street. The interior of the Elektron building was remodeled into law offices in 1986.
Originally published in Fort Wayne Magazine
“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – August 2007 No. 35
Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast at 6:35 a.m., 8:35 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Mondays on WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on WLYV-1450 AM and WRRO 89.9 FM. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog, “Our Stories,” at history centerfw.blogspot.com.