Saturday, May 10, 2008

Name that Ft.Wayne Landmark

The above photo is of a local Fort Wayne legend at the height of it's glory. Like many local teenagers in the 1970's, I spent a fair number of hours there. Of course it didn't look near this grandiose at that late date, but it was a very solid structure and we never worried much about getting hurt there. This fine example of art-deco architecture was destroyed some 20 years ago. Can you tell me the real name of the property? Can you tell me the wrong name it was known as by the local kids? The location?

28 comments:

Cathy said...

It's the Snyderman house, designed by Michael Graves. And it burned down just six years ago. It even rates an entry in Wikipedia:

"The Snyderman House was a single family residence in Fort Wayne, Indiana designed and built for Sanford and Joy Snyderman in 1972 by architect Michael Graves. It was celebrated among architects as a seminal example of Grave's early work. The house burned to the ground on July 30, 2002 as the result of suspected arson.

"After living in the home for 25 years, the Snydermans sold the house in 1999 to local developers Joseph Sullivan and William Swift, who planned to tear it down as part of a large housing development.

"Fort Wayne government officials blocked the development under pressure from local preservation groups. One non-profit organizations attempted to raise money to buy the house and surrounding land from the developers, who had let the abandoned building fall into disrepair.

"In its final days, the Snyderman House had been overrun by street gangs, whose members were squatting in the home and using it as a place to sell and use illegal drugs."

Colleen said...

Hmm. Don't think it's the Snyderman house. I grew up near the S house, and it was still standing 8 or so years ago, and I think the S house was smaller. But I can't for the life of me identify this place....

John Good said...

Sorry ladies, it's not the Snyderman house. I'll give it a day or so to give others a shot before I reveal it.

J Q Taxpayer said...

If it the house I am thinking about it was out southeast Fort Wayne. Out by Highway 27 and maybe Hanna street. It was all cement/block. The photo you have must have been from the 50's.

Gosh I wish I could remember the names of it. I believe it had ramps and elevators in it. No steps.

When I went out there on a bike we had to cross a small private bridge (only the beams where left).

Colleen said...

oh shoot...I think I've heard about this...like "the concrete house" or something?

John Good said...

JQ and Colleen - You're getting warmer!

J Q Taxpayer said...

I should be. I messed around the building a few times way back before I could drive a car. I am just not deadnuts sure of the location or the names. One name I think it was referred to was the "WHITE HOUSE". I also believe it was designed and built for a handicap person. If my memory serves me right the owner lived there a very short period of time.

Now I will set back and see if someone knows the REAL INFORMATION.

Pete said...

You provided an additional clue in your post... The style is International/Art Moderne, according to historians, rather than Art Deco. I wasn't in Fort Wayne as a teenager to share in the memories & misnaming of the property, so I'll step away politely from naming it!

John Good said...

The house WAS located near US 27 south and Hanna. It's real name was the Knee House.

We always referred to it as White's Mansion and also believed that it was built by a man for his wheelchair-bound wife, thus the ramps and elevators.

In actuality, work ceased on the house when the owners two sons went off to WW2. He then died in 1951, and the family lacked the funds and desire to finish it. It said empty until around 1988, when it was razed to build a new housing addition.

John Good said...

It didn't actually SAY anything. . .it SET empty. . =) My wired putes are all down this eve and this laptop is no friend of mine!!

J Q Taxpayer said...

Myself and a bunch of buddies packed a brown bag lunch when we decided to venture the five miles to get there. There was spray painting but nothing like you see today. There was no drug stuff around. There was a fair number of PBR beer cans. A few places where camp fires where burned. All the glass had been broken out.

It reminded me a "Califronia" style home. The view from the upper levels would have been great when it was built.

Thanks for posting it John

Scott Greider said...

Sadly, I never knew of the house. My question is: could this progressive a house be built in FW today?!?!

John Good said...

Scott - I doubt it. The sort of work ethic and personal drive are rare today. That family worked to build the place in their spare time, carrying water from a stream to mix concrete for the 12" walls. The world has moved on. . .

Scott Greider said...

John, I was really wondering not so much about FW being technologically savvy, as much as whether anybody here has the desire and will to be truly progressive?!?! The history of FW was ripe with progressive and innovative ideas and implementations. Lately, however, it seems we've lost all that entirely. FW seems incredibly timid, scared, reactionary, conventional, and therefore, increasingly irrelevant. Architecturally and otherwise. Sad...

Again, my question is: can FW ever regain a position of progressiveness? Can it ever embrace the future, rather than timidly clinging to the past? This question applies architecturally, as well as socially and culturally.

John Good said...

Scott - I get you now. That permeating conservative fear of change and anything new or daring. Or which requires investment. Can that change? Ask Geoff Paddock or Graham Richard. It's a tough fight, but most things worth doing usually are. . .

Surely the city that saw the birth of television and night baseball cannot stay mired in the muck of status quo.

JJ said...

I just stumbled onto this blog through a Google search. You see, myself and my friends used to hang out at this house in the late 1970's. Today, I was thinking about it and decided to try and find out some information about it. Let me see if I can enlighten you few interested parties with my memories of Whitie's Mansion.

I grew up on the south side of Ft. Wayne and graduated from Southside HS in 1978. Back in those days, times were more innocent. Yes, groups of young people went there to drink beer and smoke pot, but (generally speaking) caused no real harm to anyone or any property.

The house, which we affecrtionatley referred to as Whitie's Mansion, was located just off of US 27 behind what was the Mr. Wiggs store (that later became a Heck's Drug Store - I think). Anyway, I got on Google and believe that the exact location was a small field bounded by Hanna St. on the west, Warfield St. on the north, John St. on the east and US 27 on the south. The Latitude is 41 Deg. 01'22.80"North and 85 Deg. 07'26.98"West. I believe you can even see an outline of the house perimeter on the aerial photo.

Now to the loar:

We had always heard that a man the had built the house for his wife - who was wheelchair-bound. That explained the two ramps leading to the second floor on the outside of the structure, and the (what we thought was an) elevator shaft on the inside of the structure. The story continued to say that the wife died before the house was finished and the husband, heartbroken, ceased work on the structure.

We also heard that the house was designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright.

We originally called it White's Mansion and later converted that to Whitie's or Whitie's mansion.

One thing is for certain - the design was ahead of it's time, but not really. I am not an architect, but the 1950's saw an explosion of "futuristic" designs if my memory serves me correctly. I even once saw a Walt Disney cartoon in which Pluto (or maybe Goofy) had drawn up plans for a futuristic dog house! It reminds me to this day of Whitie's.

OK. That's about it. I imagine that my comments are way too late for this blog, but for what they are worth - here they are.

JJ said...

OOPS! Just read what I typed. Looks like I misspelled LORE. Oh well.

John Good said...

JJ - You're spot on, man! And I think we must be about the same age - I was an '82 Harding grad.

JJ said...

John. I'm surprised anyone is actually checking back on this blog since it was started in May and looks like it has run its course. Anyway, we loved going to Whitie's and I have many fond memories of going there, We went there year round.

Had I written more (my comments were already pretty lengthy), I would have said that Whitie's was probably a favorite haunt for people from at least 4 highschools: Southside, Luers, Harding and Wayne. So, it doesn't surprise me that you went to Harding.

My friends and I always talked about measuring Whitie's and drawing up a set of floorplans. Too bad we never did. I would have least built a model of it just to have as a reminder. Do you remember how the window panes would have wrapped around the corners of the structure? That place was cool.

So, do you know if there is anywhere that has more information or additional photographs of Whitie's? I would still like to find out more about it.

John Good said...

JJ - I get email notification anytime a comment is posted. I remember every corner of that place like it was yesterday. I tried to find info on it to no avail when I posted this. Fortunately enough, I had saved an old newspaper clipping about it.

I'm not very active on this site anymore - I do most of my writing at Left in Aboite.

JohnnyB said...

I grew up with the "white" mansion in full view from my bedroom window , I grew up on the corner of winter st and gable rd, and during the fall when the leaves fell you could see it glowing white in the moonlight.
Saw many party bon-fires and several times red flashing police lights raiding those parties.
My friends and I spent many hours goofing around back there , we even climbed onto the roof..it really had a great view of the woods and the roof of Mr wiggs..lol
I really wanted to say thank you for posting a picture of the mansion.
Now I can show my friends down here in Indy it really did exsist !!!!...lol
Long live the memories of a real childhood , playing outside ,building forts , riding bikes , wiffle ball and football games.
You know things that make you use your imagination :)

John Good said...

Johnny B - Glad it brought back some fond memories for ya!

Jessica said...

Is the house still there or was it torn down about 10 years ago? I remember touring the house when I was much younger (the historical society was trying to save it). Whatever happened?

steve said...

well I was googleing the white mansion and came across this blog
I rememmber rideing our bikes with my brother and other friends.it was scarry i think I was 14 and it seemed like a big house I lived in eastland gardens and we would go to mr wiggs on the weekends with our friends.there was alot of trash laying around old beer cans matress and other things i remmeber
my brother and friends smokeing pot
i would always get told by my bother if i told mom he'd beat me up. those were the days

milf said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Drawings and Documents Archive said...

Ball State University's Drawings and Documents Archive has items in its collection relating to the Knee House, including the HABS (Historic American Building Survey) drawings of the house that were made in 1979. If you are interested in contacting the Archive, please email ddarchive@bsu.edu. Our website is http://www.bsu.edu/libraries/archives/drawings/ and our blog is at http://ddarchive.blogspot.com/

Patrick said...

This house has a life of its own. I just read an article in the Heritage HS Newspaper about haunted sites to visit in the area. I also found several web sites devoted to haunted houses/sites that list this house as a place to visit. Why is it listed twenty years after its destruction? Anyway, I drove down to Ball State and looked in the Archives. They have around 70 photos of the house, building survey (plans), history, etc. It brought back many memories and the staff at BS was great and happy to share the material. Thanks!

Jane B said...

It was known as "Whitey's" in the late 60's and supposedly haunted. Bikers used to party back there around that time.