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Indian Village circa 1950
By Randy Harter
Fort Wayne Reader
In 1925 the City And Suburban Building Company purchased 180 acres of what had been the Allen County Farm for the Poor and the County Orphanage since 1864. They then traded the former Orphanage grounds, across Bluffton Road from today’s Quimby Village, to the Fort Wayne Board of Parks Commissioners in exchange for the city building the “swinging” suspension footbridge, completed about 1930 across the St. Mary’s River into Foster Park. This 10.5 acre area is now called Indian Village Park and includes the Sears Pavilion.
In the meantime, the developer hired the noted Harvard educated Indiana-native landscape architect and planner Lawrence V. Sheridan to design the housing addition on the grounds of the former Poor Farm in keeping with the “City Beautiful” movement popularized in the early 1900’s. Elements incorporated from the movement included wide streets, deep and consistent set back of homes, fenceless front yards, a strip of lawn between the street and sidewalks, curving streets, a wide entrance esplanade and use of the natural terracing and rolling elevations to create variety and interest in the landscape in which 1,700 trees were planted.
As with many developers during the depression, the City And Suburban Building Company did not survive the economy’s collapse and failed in 1930. While the addition had been largely laid out, fewer than 20 homes had been built. In the mid-1940’s local homebuilder Jack R. Worthman gained control of the remaining subdivision, and along with other builders completed the development which was finally built-out about 1960, 35 years after the first lots were sold.
Today the completed Indian Village Historic District, roughly bounded by Engle Road, Bluffton Road, Nuttman Avenue, and the Norfolk Southern right-of-way includes over 375 homes, Psi Ote Park (1953), Indian Village Elementary School (1954) and the Pocahontas Swim Club (1959).
Many of us are familiar with the four cement tepees in the main entrance parkway. It’s interesting to note that those are likely the only tepees ever built in Fort Wayne as the areas First Nations “woodland” tribes lived in wigwams: domed-shaped bent wood frameworks covered with mats of rushes, sheets of bark and/or animal hides. It’s the western plains tribes that lived in tepees, constructed with straight poles and traditionally covered with animal skins, especially those of bison. (Image courtesy ACPL)
Randy Harter is a local historian, author and tour guide for Fort Wayne Food Tours.