Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What Might Have Been

This is a "teaser" post. . .I'll have the rest of the story, and additional photos, later in the week. This particular photo/drawing is from the 1940's - click on it to view in greater detail:

Imagine if local officials automatically discarded public works projects, despite supportive evidence of their positive impact, based solely upon the opinion of a public that may not have enough information to arrive at an informed decision. Harrison Square? No, despite similarities, this was a far greater debacle that occurred over 60 years ago. . .

It may have directly caused the decline of our inner city (Although I think the Eden Green "project" had more of an impact on that), or maybe it prevented a larger negative impact upon the core of Fort Wayne. We'll likely never know. . .but one thing IS sure: The conservative mindset of our fair town HAS held us back in the past. Will we repeat our mistakes or learn from them?

To be continued. . .


de_tokeville said...

I know of the project of which you speak. It didn't happen because all the mom-n-pop motels on the backroads — the ones where the hookers now take their biz, those that remain, anyway — cried bloody murder.

It would've wiped out West Central and even more of Fort Wayne's historic legacy. The tradeoff? More ugly sprawl than we have today, probably. We'd still be a rustbelt booneytown abandoned by its industries with a lot more people adjusting from middle-class blue-collar to convenience store clerking than we have now.

I don't think we missed the boat. And to compare Harrison Square is really ludicrous because it won't generate anything. At least two intersecting interstate highways might have been good for something for a few decades.

Kenny said...

Hey,the rest of the story should include city fathers who held elected positions who also owned much of the property downtown that was to be taken under imminent domain laws of the day. The North South route wasn't in contention as much as the East West. Much of the land would follow the railroad tracks through downtown. The Baker Street Station may or may not have been torn down in this project. In the early 1980's I talked with the owners of a prominent roofing company, real estate company and carwash chain about this very project. Their father along with a few others owned much of the property and also held positions on city council. Their car wash is still there though the car dealership across the tracks on Calhoun traded hands and has since moved out. Fort Wayne would have gotten this for the the cost of the land. Fort Wayne lost the project to a little burgh called Houston, north of Galveston in Texas. I still love this town. I still think Harrison Square is a crap shoot with my tax dollars. If we had this highway, it looks a lot better. C'est la vie

Phil Marx said...

I'm not sure when the idea was first conceptualized, but I believe it was during the early 1950's that it was formally proposed as a project for this area. I believe (not certain) that there was a public referendum on the issue and it failed.

I think this was a missed opportunity. It would have facilitaed traffic flow from outside into the heart of our city, as well as made intra-city travel more efficient.

Tom S said...

The project was proposed following WW2 and as I understand, the state and federal govt would have covered @ 95% of the cost. I was told that Ft. Wayne voted it down for several reasons. The increase in taxes to cover our share, the increase in traffic in some neighborhoods and the fear that it would dislocate many blacks and that they would settle in white neighborhoods. My grandfather worked for the mayor at the time so the info I heard came from family members (my grandfather died shortly after I was born so I never had the chance to talk to him about it).

John B. Kalb said...

This late 40's proposal would probably split our town into impossible-to-integrate sections (NE, NW. SE, & SW), distroyed West Central, eliminated the possibility of building our downtown US post office where it's now located and generaly "screwed our town up" in a way that we could not ever correct. Looking at it after 60 years, it was probably the best referendum outcome that could have happened.
John B. Kalb

Parson said...

I wonder if the pollution from all the cars and trucks passing through downtown at 70mph would be worse then what we have today?

I think I have seen that picture before though.

John Good said...

Well, I am surprised by the amount of knowledge of this project that has been offered up in these comments!

I wonder if I should even pursue this farther? If anyone has any tales that you'd like to share regarding the Anthony Wayne Expressway, please e-mail me at pontio@aol.com and I'll consider using them in a follow-up post on this!

de_tokeville said...

Funny, what prevented it from happening was a conservative backlash -- protect the old mom-n-pop ways. Now when people try to be progressive to attract business it's still the same old shit: Be tolerant of homosexuals and you'll ruin every fake marriage in this damn town. Please don't.

Phil Marx said...

Several years ago, while renovating the interior of my house, I found a small card that said "Vote No on the Referendum" I don't remeber what else was on the card, but something indicated to me that it was referring to the highway project. I still have the card, just can't remember where it's at.

Given the times, I expect that a lot of white people did vote against it because they feared the displaced blacks might end up in their neighborhoods. At the same time, I expect that a lot of the black people feared the destruction of their neighborhood. I expect this, more than finances, was the deciding factor, but that's merely speculation.

My house is near Pontiac and Clinton, and is in a predominantly black neighborhood. However, I have no idea what the demographics were back then. Also, just because I found a "No" card does not mean the people in this neighborhood, or even this house, were opposed to the project.

Good post John. It's nice to have a discussion about something other than the current city elections for a change.

Speakeasyhoosier said...

This is great stuff, keep pursuing it.

Also connect the dots:

Downtown Highway........Gay Marriage

Whooduh Thunk,


Fr. Fozy Bear said...

This picture and story has come up every few years or so and I am surprised that it isn't hanging up at a Meijer Store or Pizza Hut anywhere. In all actuality the way it is designed versus the way the city is laid out now we got the better deal for the most part. I mean seriously it still only takes less than 20 minutes to cruise from Glenbrook Mall to Pettit Avenue except during rush hour.

The ideas presented in the drawing though not in the specific location are worth reviewing

+Underpass or overpass some of the more obsolete intersections (eg: Wallace to Crieghton north on Lafayette and south on Clinton) where this could really prove beneficial is an underpass inerchange system for the intersection of Coldwater Rd.- SR 327@ Coliseum Blvd.- SR 930, one of Fort Wayne's deadliest intersections.

+ The use of service access roads (like Barr Street is now between Main Street and Washington Blvd.)

+There are two major roundabouts in the design of this picture one is south of Pettit at Fairfax and what was supposed to be US 27/33 not to mention the big one in the heart of town at what would have been Clay and Breckenridge. One could surmise even back in the 40's that FW drivers don't like roundies but they work! I have often thought that if we had roundies at some of our less important and secondary intersections we so would be better off and we would have fewer multi car accidents, as long as the roundies stay at no more than two lanes wide, ask any IPFW student about that one.

+ One last comment and I will quit. The idea of cutting off the neighborhood access to major roads is a good idea that really should be reviewed again for possibilities. If neighborhoods had fewer access points to or between major roads it would cut down on people zipping through your neighborhood and possibly hitting your child that just stepped out on to the street to go after a ball. If neighborhoods could only be accessed from secondary streets it would also reduce congestion during rush hour on the major roads.

Thanks for reading. I will be cross posting on my blog.