Fort Wayne is a city in the U.S. state of Indiana and the county seat of Allen County. The population was 254,555 as of the 2012 Census estimate making it the 74th largest city in the United States and the second largest in Indiana after Indianapolis. The municipality is located in northeastern Indiana, approximately west of the Ohio border and south of the Michigan border. Fort Wayne is the principal city of the Fort Wayne metropolitan area, consisting of Allen, Wells, and Whitley counties, for an estimated population of 419,453. In addition to those three core counties, the combined statistical area includes Adams, DeKalb, Huntington, Noble, and Steuben counties, for a population of about 615,077.
Under the direction of American Revolutionary War statesman Anthony Wayne, the United States Army built Fort Wayne last in a series of forts near the Miami tribe village of Kekionga in 1794. Named in Wayne's honor, the settlement established itself at the confluence of the St. Joseph River, St. Marys River, and Maumee River as a trading post for European pioneers. The village was platted in 1823 and experienced tremendous growth after completion of the Wabash and Erie Canal and advent of the railroad. Once a booming industrial town located in the Rust Belt, Fort Wayne's economy has diversified in recent times, now relying on distribution, transportation, and logistics, health care, manufacturing, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and financial services. The city is also a center for the defense contractor industry which employs thousands in the city.
As northeastern Indiana's cultural hub, Fort Wayne is home to 15 museums and art galleries, two daily newspapers, philharmonic orchestra, botanical conservatory, zoo, convention center, three minor league sports franchises and an NCAA Division I member school, and 86 public parks. The city is home to the fifth-largest public university in Indiana, Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), and the private universities of Concordia Theological Seminary, Indiana Institute of Technology, and University of Saint Francis. The city is also recognized as the final resting place of American folklore legend Johnny Appleseed.
The city has been an All-America City Award recipient in 1982, 1998, and 2009.
The Miami people first established a settlement at the Maumee, St. Joseph, and St. Marys rivers in the mid-17th century called Kekionga, capital of the Miami nation and related Algonquian tribes. In the 1680s, the first Europeans in the area (French traders) established a post near Kekionga because of its location on a portage between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. In 1696, Comte de Frontenac appointed Jean Baptiste Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes, as commander of this French outpost. The French built the first fort on the site, Fort Miami, in 1697 as part of a group of forts built between Quebec, Canada, and St. Louis. In 1721, a few years after Bissot's death, Fort Miami was replaced by Fort St. Philippe des Miamis. The first census, performed in 1744 on the order by the governor of Louisiana, revealed a population of approximately 40 Frenchmen and 1,000 Miami.
Increasing tension between France and the United Kingdom developed over the territory, and in 1760, the area was ceded to the British Empire after French forces surrendered during the French and Indian War. In 1763, various Native American nations rebelled against British rule and retook the fort as part of Pontiac's Rebellion. The Miami regained control of Kekionga, a rule that lasted for more than 30 years. In 1790, President George Washington ordered the United States Army to secure Indiana. Three battles were fought at Kekionga against Little Turtle and the Miami Confederacy. Miami warriors defeated the U.S. forces in the first two battles. Anthony Wayne led a third expedition resulting in the destruction of Kekionga and the start of peace negotiations between Little Turtle and the U.S. After General Wayne refusal to negotiate, the tribe was advanced to Fallen Timbers where they were defeated on August 20, 1794. On October 22, 1794, U.S. forces captured the Wabash–Erie portage from the Miami Confederacy and built a new fort at the three rivers, Fort Wayne, in honor of the general.
In 1819, three years after Indiana's statehood, the military garrison was discontinued and a federal land office opened to sell land ceded by local Native Americans by the Treaty of St. Mary's. Platted in 1823, the village became an important frontier outpost, and was incorporated as the Town of Fort Wayne in 1829, with a population of 300. The arrival of the Wabash and Erie Canal eased travel to the Great Lakes and Mississippi River, opening Fort Wayne to expanded economic opportunities. The population topped 2,000 when the town was incorporated as the City of Fort Wayne on February 22, 1840. Fort Wayne's nickname as "The Summit City" came from its position at the highest elevation along the canal's route. As influential as the Wabash and Erie Canal was to the city's earliest development, it quickly became obsolete after briefly competing with the city's first railroad, the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway, completed in 1854.
At the turn of the 20th century, the city's population had reached nearly 50,000, attributed to a large influx of German and Irish immigrants. Fort Wayne's "urban working class" thrived in industrial and railroad-related jobs. Fort Wayne's economy was based substantially on manufacturing which ushered in an era of innovation with several notable inventions coming out of the city over the years; baking powder, gasoline pumps, the country's first municipal lighting system, first high fidelity phonograph, refrigerator, breathalyzer, garbage disposal, transistor radio, jukebox, calculator, and in 1972, the first home video game console, were developed in Fort Wayne. In 1913, the three rivers flooded, causing seven deaths, leaving 15,000 homeless, and damaging over 5,500 buildings in the worst natural disaster in the city's history.
As the automobile's prevalence grew, Fort Wayne became a fixture on the Lincoln Highway, the country's first coast-to-coast highway. Aviation arrived in 1919 with the opening of the city's first airport, Smith Field. The airport served as Fort Wayne's primary commercial airfield until Fort Wayne International Airport was transferred to the city in 1947 after use as a military base during World War II. Fort Wayne was hit by the Great Depression beginning in 1929, with most factories cutting their workforce. The stock market crash did not discourage plans to build the city's first skyscraper and Indiana's tallest building at the time, the Lincoln Bank Tower. By 1935, the New Deal's WPA put over 7,000 residents back to work through local infrastructure improvements, including the construction of new parks, bridges, viaducts, and a $5.2 million sewage treatment facility.
The helped the city prosper once again, but began a slow trend shifting business from downtown to the suburbs. Between 1950 and 1955, more than 5,000 homes were built, many in large subdivisions in rural Allen County. Suburban strip malls followed, with the city's first, Anthony Wayne Village, opening in 1947. In 1950, Fort Wayne's first bypass (Coliseum Boulevard) opened on the north side of the city, followed by the city's first arena (War Memorial Coliseum), bringing new opportunities for suburban expansion. The Coliseum was home to the NBA's from 1952 to 1957. Fort Wayne's first enclosed shopping malls, Glenbrook Square (1966) and Southtown Mall (1969), along with the completion of I-69 in rural areas north and west of the city proper, further drove the exodus of retail from downtown through the 1960s. According to Fort Wayne Home Builders Association estimates, more than 80 percent of new home construction occurred outside the city proper in the 1970s.
Like many cities in the Rust Belt, the 1980s brought urban blight, increased crime, and a decrease in blue-collar manufacturing jobs. Downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods continued declining as more residents and businesses sprawled further into rural Allen County. A 1982 flood forced 9,000 residents to evacuate, damaging 2,000 buildings, costing $56.1 million, and prompting a visit from President Ronald Reagan. The 1990s marked a turnaround for the area, as officials focused on crime reduction, economic diversification, and downtown redevelopment. By 1999, Fort Wayne's crime rate decreased to levels not seen since 1974, and the city's economy recovered, with the unemployment rate hovering at 2.4 percent in 1998. Clearing blighted buildings downtown was a focus, with the openings of a plaza at One Summit Square (1991), the Courthouse Green (1999), and Headwaters Park, built at a cost of $16.9 million between 1995 and 1999. Headwaters has since become the premier community gathering space and centerpiece in the city's $50 million flood control project. Fort Wayne celebrated its bicentennial in 1994.
Fort Wayne continued concentrating on downtown redevelopment and investment in the 2000s. The decade saw the beginnings of a transformation, with the renovations and expansions of the Main Library Branch, Grand Wayne Convention Center, and Fort Wayne Museum of Art. In 2007, the $130 million Harrison Square development was launched, which included a new baseball stadium, parking garage, apartments, retail, and hotel. Parkview Field opened in 2009 and Courtyard by Marriott in 2010. In 2011, the underused Anthony Wayne Building began its conversion into 50 condominiums and retail space, costing $15 million. Suburban growth continued, with the opening of Fort Wayne's first lifestyle center, Jefferson Pointe, in 2001 and the $536 million Parkview Regional Medical Center in 2012.
Visit the Allen County Public Library's Genealogy Center web page. You will find a link to Allen County Resources under Databases, Free Databases.
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