Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Fort Wayne Architectural Landmark

by Tom Castaldi

The E. Ross Adair Federal Building became a reality when the Indiana Legislature appealed to Congress in 1873 for the establishment of a federal courthouse and post office to be located in Fort Wayne. Walpole Colerick, Congressman from Fort Wayne, championed the request and at first could only secure an approval for the U.S. District Court to hold two terms here. Court business was held in existing city and county facilities. Finally, in 1882, Colerick  succeeded in securing the funds to purchase land and a year after the southeast corner of Berry and Clinton was purchased as a building site.

Lawyer and judge Robert Lowry next entered Congress and was finally able to obtain approval for the funds to construct a federal building in Fort Wayne. William Moellering, general contractor for the federal courthouse and post office, brought the project in for $6000 under the original estimate of $221,000.
c. early 1950s

It was a noble looking structure made of Michigan bluff sandstone and included a bastion tower with a turret that soared 115 feet above the street. The Postal Service occupied the 1st floor, since there was but one U.S. District Court for all of Indiana and that was located in Indianapolis, a court room with its solid cherry benches and tables occupied the 2nd floor along with other federal agencies. The first federal court proceeding was held in Fort Wayne in 1903.

The federal court in Fort Wayne conducted business in two terms during 1922. By 1928 the federal court in Indiana was divided into two districts. The Northern District was divided into three divisions with courts sitting in Fort Wayne, South Bend and Hammond, with Lafayette becoming a sub division in 1954.

United States Courthouse

A U.S. Courthouse came about as population grew and Fort Wayne needed a new space. During the Hoover presidency, Congress passed the Public Buildings Act of 1926, which made possible the purchase of land. Architect Guy Mahurin was selected to design the building and was aided by Benjamin Morris of New York on the plans for the new federal building. Morris previously had designed the Lincoln Life Building located immediately across the street. Ralph Sollitt & Sons, a South Bend, Indiana firm, was named General Contractor in 1931.

Guy Mahurin, mindful of cost concerns, found that the project came in lower than expected. He upgraded his design to include the plaza that graces the front of the building and added marble floors. The exterior features quarried Bedford stone while the interior of the three-story structure is a celebration of art in stone and aluminum. The lobby walls are St. Venetian Golden Vein marble with molded door and window surrounds and fluted pilasters. Mahurin designed the 2nd floor courtroom to be luxurious yet deliberately lacking in extravagant ornamentation. He meant it to impress one with its apparent dignity and reflect the majesty of the law. Over the years, the interior space has been renovated to accommodate different needs. On the third floor were the offices of the IRS, the weather bureau and the petit jury room with its access from the 2nd floor courtroom.

In 1980 the post office moved into new quarters on South Clinton and in 1980 the General Services Administration acquired the building and re-designated it in 1985 as “Federal Building, United States Courthouse.” Remodeling was necessary to serve the requirements of a federal court, with an eye on maintaining its architectural grandeur and integrity. A two year long, $7 million renovation took place in the mid 1980s. The architectural firm of SchenkelShultz took on the imposing project with Hagerman Construction as the general contractor. On October 28, 1988, a renovated structure was rededicated to the public.

On June 30, 1999, the Fort Wayne Federal Building was renamed to honor E. Ross Adair who served twenty years as Indiana’s Fourth District Congressman and Ambassador to Ethiopia. The name was officially changed to the E. Ross Adair Federal Building and United States Courthouse. A ceremony was held on October 27, 2000 to commemorate the renaming of the Fort Wayne Federal Building .

As a part of a 75 year celebration, the Honorable William C. Lee authored a well illustrated and informative book to commemorate the occasion titled, Fort Wayne Architectural Landmark.

Originally published in Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail” – January 2009  No. 51
Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi and retired Essex Vice President, hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast at 6:35 a.m. and 8:35 a.m. Mondays on WBOI, 89.1 FM, and “Historia Nostra” heard on WLYV-1450 AM.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hugh McCulloch: Lincoln’s Choice

by Tom Castal

When traveling west on Superior Street toward Van Buren, notice the large structure at 616 West Superior that seems to intrude upon the roadway. It’s the home of Hugh and Susan McCulloch, which was built in 1843 based on the design of Henry Williams, who was known as the “southern architect” of Fort Wayne.
The McCulloch House on Superior Street as it looks today.

Originally, the house was perfectly balanced, with a porch on the left, a greenhouse on the right, and four stately square columns in front. A cupola graced the center roof. The grounds, which encompassed all the area between the Saint Mary’s River and the Wabash & Erie Canal, west to Van Buren Street, were surrounded by a tall white picket fence and filled with fruit trees and grape arbors.

Beginning in the 1870s, when the estate was the boyhood home of J. Ross McCulloch, the area was popular with children who swam in the shallow, sandy bend in the Saint Mary’s River behind the house. After the McCulloch family moved, the building housed the Fort Wayne College of Medicine between 1892 and 1905.

In 1906, the structure was purchased by the Fort Wayne Turnverein or “The Turners,” a popular German athletic club. The Turners extensively altered the old building to accommodate their activities, raising the roof, removing the cupola, enclosing the wings, replacing the square columns with round ones, and turning the top-floor ballroom into a gymnasium. In later years, it became the offices of a realty company. However, in 1978 the building was given to ARCH, Fort Wayne-area’s historic preservation organization, which preserved the old mansion.

Its original owner Hugh McCulloch was one of the nation’s leading financial figures in the mid-nineteenth century. A native of Kennebunk, Maine, and a Boston-trained lawyer, Hugh McCulloch came to the pioneer village of Fort Wayne in 1833 with a letter of recommendation from Daniel Webster. He became a Judge of the Probate Court in 1834, and in 1835 he was named Cashier and Branch Manager of the newly formed State Bank of Indiana.
Hugh McCulloch
The McCulloch Family

McCulloch married Susan Man in 1838. A native of Plattsburg, New York, Susan Man was one of the first schoolteachers in Fort Wayne, having arrived by pirogue boat in 1836 at age eighteen to conduct a school. Always a community leader, Susan hosted in the McCulloch home the meeting of the great abolitionist pastors of the Beecher family, which included Lyman and sons Henry Ward and Charles, where they planned the future of the Second Presbyterian Church, the present-day Westminster Presbyterian Church. Lyman’s daughter, Harriett, also an abolitionist and later author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, did not attend.

In 1863, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase called on Hugh McCulloch to accept the new position of Comptroller of the Currency, a position from which he launched the national banking system. Two years later, in 1865, President Lincoln chose McCulloch to be Secretary of the Treasury, a position he continued to hold in the administrations of Presidents Johnson and Arthur. McCulloch is said to have been the last person to whom Lincoln wrote before the assassination and was at the President’s bedside when he died. This celebrated banker from Fort Wayne later served as the United States Ambassador to Great Britain before he died in 1895.

McCulloch’s successful approach in organizing the newly created banking system that was designed to supersede the state banks throughout the Union earned him the name, “Father of the national banking system.

Originally published in Fort Wayne Magazine “Along the Heritage Trial with Tom Castaldi” – Nov. 2008 No 48

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

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fort Wayne’s Old City Hall

by Tom Castaldi

The Fort Wayne City Building, later to be known as "The Old City Hall," and still later as “The History Center” was designed by local architects John Wing and Marshall Mahurin and was dedicated on April 20, 1893, by Mayor Charles Zollinger.

          At first, some referred to the building as, "The Hapsburg Horror" as a jest about the German ancestry of the mayor.  Before the City Building was opened, Fort Wayne had no city hall.  In the years after 1840, when Fort Wayne was incorporated as a city, official business was conducted in scattered locations throughout the Court Street area.  Only the plot of land donated by Samuel Hanna at Barr and Berry Streets had been set aside for the town's public business.

An early photo of the "Old City Hall"

Here, in 1855, a simple market place was built. Because of the great inconvenience and disorderly organization of the young city bureaucracy, the Council ordered in 1869 that a new market building be built to replace the old structures.  Further, offices in this building were to be provided for the City Clerk and the City Treasurer. The mayor still had to find his own office elsewhere.

          Despite all the improvements to the market building, by the 1880s the great increase in population and the expansion of developed land in the city made it clear that more suitable municipal facilities would be required.  Plans for a new building began during the 1885 to 1889 administration of Mayor Charles F. Muhler, but it was in the administration of Charles Zolinger that the project was finally realized, at a cost of almost $70,000 or in today’s currency more than $1,500,000.

Note the carvings on the stonework

          The new building offices were provided for the mayor, treasurer, engineer, clerk, and Common Council, as well as the municipal court and police department.  The northern end of the building was designed for general public business, with a fine marble floor on the first level.  The City Court and the City Council Chambers graced the same room on the second level.  At the south end of the building were both the police department and the jail, most often referred to as the "calaboose."  A hidden stairway allowed officers to escort offenders to the second-floor courtroom without having to go up the public stairways.  At the turn of the century the garage housed the city paddy wagon and rescue boat, and there was a hayloft for the horses, which were stabled nearby.

Our newest gallery--Allen County Innovation

First floor hallway outside the new gallery

          In 1971, the city had outgrown the Old City Hall, and it was abandoned as city offices moved into the new City-County Building on Main Street. In 1979, the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society rehabilitated the Old City Hall to create the History Center, which was opened to the public in October 1980. Currently, the building is undergoing its largest renovation in a generation to stabilize and enhance the museum that continues to serve our community celebrating our county’s collective memory.

View from the parking lot

Stonework was cleaned and refurbished last fall

Originally published in Fort Wayne Magazine “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Oct. 2008 No. 47

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