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Central High School circa 1912
By Randy Harter
Fort Wayne Reader
Central High School opened in 1904 at 1200 S. Barr between Lewis and Montgomery (now Douglas) Streets.
The new school was referred to as Fort Wayne High & Manual Training School (manual today is vocational), or simply as the Public High School. The munificent limestone Beaux-Arts building designed by local architect Charles R. Weatherhogg was constructed on part of the old Allen Hamilton homestead property.
The school opened the doors with 480 students and 17 teachers. When in 1917 the Indiana University Extension Center was established in Fort Wayne, the college’s classes were also held at the Public High School. By the time the city’s second high school, South Side, opened in 1922, enrollment downtown had grown to over 1200 students. It was then decided that the name Public High School no longer made sense, as it was no longer the city’s only high school. Thus, in 1922 the school’s name was changed to Central High School, the name for whom the blue and white Central Tigers are associated with today.
In 1930 the boys and girls gymnasiums were built, however they were not large enough, so basketball games were played at North Side High School which had opened in 1927. Central’s requirements continued to grow, necessitating a large addition to the building on the Clinton Street side, which was completed in 1939 and requiring the razing of the adjacent large historic Hamilton family home.
Sports were huge at Central, as were its rivalries with South Side and North Side. Likely, the Tigers crowning moment came when in 1943 Central won the Indiana State boys basketball title and featured a 27-1 record, the only loss being to Fort Wayne’s South Side. As a method to aid in desegregating the city’s high schools and gaining a vocational school at the same time, Central closed in 1971. District lines were redrawn, thus dispersing students living in the downtown area to the various other high schools including the new Northrop and Wayne High Schools, which were both dedicated in the spring of 1972. The former Central High School building was renamed the Fort Wayne Regional Vocational High School. Then in 1990 it became the Anthis Career Center, modified to Anthis Career Academy in 2015. While the building no longer has the roar of the Tigers, it does have a Tiger Den, a room filled with Central High School image boards by school year and display cases filled with memorabilia that has been collected and is maintained by the Central High School Alumni Association. Illustrating the importance Central High School and its leaders once had to the community, a number of its principals throughout the years have since been honored with other schools being named after them including Fred Croninger (Central’s first principal), Chester Lane, Louis Ward, and J. Wilbur Haley.