by Tom Castaldi
The Archbishop Noll House at 1415 West Washington Boulevard has been a landmark home for many in our community at large. In 1994 it was included on the "Fort Wayne Bicentennial Heritage Trail" as one of the outstanding homes in the celebrated West Central Neighborhood
(Editor's note: You can find copies of this book in the History Center's gift shop.)
"The Heritage Trail," a Lasting Legacy developed as part of the 1994 Fort Wayne Bicentennial Celebration, is a walking trail supported by a map and a guidebook. Intended to serve as a core guide to historical places in Fort Wayne, it assembles significant historical sites important in the understanding of the region's history and patterned somewhat after Boston's Freedom Trail.
The Craftsman-style house with the white stucco exterior, later known as the Archbishop Noll House, was built in 1910 by Robert Millard, a prominent wholesale grocer who left Fort Wayne in 1920. Designed by architect Harry W. Wachter, it was purchased by the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne in 1923 to serve as a residence for Bishop Herman Joseph Alerding, who served as bishop from 1900 to 1925. In his will, Bishop Alerding left the house to his successor. In 1925, Reverend John Francis Noll, a Fort Wayne native, was elevated to be the fifth bishop of Fort Wayne, and moved into the home which eventually took his name.
(Editor’s note: you can find a photo of the house at http://www.westcentralneighborhood.org/BldgHistories.htm)
This was home for an extraordinarily accomplished man who directed such efforts as establishing Our Sunday Visitor that became the largest circulated Catholic newspaper in the world and continues today to be the largest Catholic weekly newspaper. Under Noll’s guidance, Central Catholic High School and St. Vincent’s Orphans’ Home – present-day campus of Horizon Christian Academy – were rebuilt and expanded. He also served significant roles in such national organizations as the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the Catholic Youth Organization, and the National Council of Catholic Women, and from here raised the funds that made possible the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. Today, visitors to the National Shrine can view a bust of Fort Wayne-native Bishop Noll placed there in his honor for the contributions he made to the completion of the project.
In 1935, in appreciation of the bishop’s tenure, members of the diocese built a wing complete with a chapel in the residence. The stained glass windows carried portraits of the bishops who had served the diocese, and since have been removed to the Cathedral Museum in the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center on Calhoun Street. Also found inside are rose marble pillars, ornately carved plaster ceilings, stained-glass windows imported from Germany and Italian murals. As the bishop moved into greater prominence, the home was a most appropriate meeting place for the everyday layman as well as the most distinguished guest seeking his council and/or assistance.
In 1953, he was named Archbishop by Pope Pius XII in recognition of his many accomplishments, which was an elevation and a sign of esteem since Noll’s See was not an archdiocese. Since his death in 1956, the structure has served as a home for Augustinian monks, and later a center for drug abuse victims. Eventually, it was sold to a succession of private owners some of whom allowed it to fall into a state of disrepair. The Archbishop’s home has finally been purchased by private individuals; conserved for use as a family home and returned to a state of grandeur.
Originally published in Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – May 2010 No 66
Other sites you may enjoy about Archbishop Noll: