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What’s in a (street) name?
By Randy Harter
Fort Wayne Reader
While the origins of some Fort Wayne street names have been lost to history, others have been recorded and passed down. We’ll take a little hike through the city center, north from Main, south from Main, west from Calhoun and finishing up east from Calhoun to find out what’s in a name.
Heading north from Main is Columbia Street, named not for Christopher Columbus, but rather for canal boat captain and Columbia Street hotelier, Dana Columbia. Next is Superior (formally called Water), named for Lake Superior.
Moving south from Main, Berry Street is first and named for Indian Sub-Agent Benjamin Berry Kercheval. Next, well this one is about as easy as it gets: Wayne is named for Isaac and Elizabeth’s son Anthony whose bronze likeness sits astride its steed in Freimann Square. Moving on south we have streets named for the first, third and fourth presidents,
Washington, Jefferson and Madison. Next, Lewis Street was named for the Commissioner of the local Land Office, Major Samuel Lewis, who was appointed by President John Quincy Adams in 1827. Moving further south, we come to Douglas, so named for Stephen Douglas who stumped here for President in 1860 but ultimately lost to Abraham Lincoln.
Heading back to Main, Calhoun Street is the east-west dividing point in Fort Wayne and named for John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, the Vice President under President’s John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Harrison is next to the west and commemorates William Henry Harrison, the Governor of the pre-statehood Indiana Territory (1801-1812) and the country’s ninth President. Maiden Lane (like Pearl Street) is a nod to New York City’s Wall Street financial district. Like our Maiden Lane, New York’s also “T’s” into its Pearl.
Next, Webster honors Senator Daniel Webster from New
Hampshire. After Webster is Ewing Street named for the Ewing family, the patriarch of which was Colonel Alexander Ewing. We’ll finish going west with Fairfield Avenue, named for sea captain Asa Fairfield from Maine who arrived here in 1833 and operated the first canal boat on the Wabash & Erie Canal.
Back to Calhoun and Main, the first street to the east was Court. This one-block long street running on the east side of the courthouse was eliminated in the late 1990’s with the creation of the Courthouse Green. Next is Clinton Street named for DeWitt Clinton, governor of New York, who was largely responsible for the construction of the 363 mile long Erie Canal connecting the Hudson River with Lake Erie.
Barr is next in line and was named for John T. Barr of Baltimore who along with John McCorkle of Piqua, Ohio purchased all of the original downtown plat for$2,838.43 when it was put up for sale by the Federal Government in 1823. This land ran from today’s Superior Street, south to Washington and from roughly Barr Street west to Calhoun, about 14 square blocks of woods, dirt paths, stumps and swampland.
On to Lafayette Street named for French general, Marquis de Lafayette who had assisted George Washington during the Revolutionary War. We’ll finish with one more block and so include Clay Street (named for Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky), which is really the beginnings of Fort Wayne as it was at the northwest corner of Clay and Berry that Anthony Wayne built his fort over a five week period during September and
October of 1794.
The panoramic map was drawn by a group of German artists in 1880 the last year there was still water in the canal through downtown. By the end of 1881 this portion of the canal had been filled in and railroad tracks (now Norfolk Southern’s) laid atop it.
A tip of the hat each to the late James M. Schaab, and Angus C. McCoy for their individual
research and writings regarding our streets.
Randy Harter is a Fort Wayne historian, author and the history/architecture guide for FortWayneFoodTours.com