Friday, April 11, 2014

Canal House

by Tom Castaldi

In 1852, John Brown, a stonemason, built this rare remaining vestige of an early era in Fort Wayne.  Brown, a native of Glascow, Scotland, came to Allen County by canal in 1847 with his wife Mary.  He and his Scottish business partner, James Humphrey, were contractors for such area projects as canal locks, the county jail and the Barr Street Market.

You can see this structure at 114 East Superior Street

Fort Wayne was called the “Summit City” in those days because it marked the highest elevation on the Wabash & Erie Canal, and was a major town that attracted many immigrants. In 1862, Brown sold the “Canal House” to Heinrich Drover, a German immigrant and canal boat captain who in later years served on the Fort Wayne City Council.  Drover used the facility to warehouse spokes he manufactured.  As the canal’s operations came to a close, the upstairs of the building was used as an apartment.

It became the home of Minnie Homeyer whose father William Homeyer worked on the canal boat captained by his Uncle Fred Brase.  Minnie Homeyer married and became Minnie Stemmler. Relating her experiences while riding the boat with her father between Fort Wayne and Huntington, Homeyer said that mules walked along the towpath beside the canal pulling the boat and that an extra mule was always carried aboard the boat in case one got tired.  Her father, who served as town marshal, had a famous friend and she remembered clearly the evening Wild Bill Hickock visited their home on Superior Street.

During the 1870s, in the last years of the canal, the Canal House was home to several successive German families, all of whom also worked on the canal. Later, the Nickel Plate Railroad used the house for storage.

As a project of the national Bicentennial of 1976, this interesting nineteenth century limestone building at114 East Superior Street most recently served as the central offices of Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne.

This article originally appeared in

Fort Wayne Magazine “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Dec 2007 No. 38

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

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