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Citizens Square Block – 1957

By Randy Harter

Fort Wayne Reader


Two years after this image was captured, 95% of the entire block had been razed and the new Wolf & Dessauer department store building, now called Citizens Square, had taken its place.

Just to orient you, we are looking northeast at the block at the intersection of S. Clinton and E. Wayne. A few buildings not on this block, but in the view, are still with us: A) The limestone Neo-Classical Revival Elektron Building (1895) on Berry Street designed by Wing & Mahurin and now the law offices of Barrett McNagny; B) The Home Telephone building (1924) at the corner of Berry and Barr Streets which has since had its windows blocked up, the building reskinned in red brick and is now a Verizon facility; and C) across the street, another Wing & Mahurin creation, the sandstone Richardsonian Romanesque City Building (1893) that is now home to the History Center.

As shown here on the Citizens Square block on Clinton Street is: 1) The Salem Evangelical Reformed Church (1870) and 2) Millers Cafeteria “Good Food for Good Health.” Around the corner on Wayne Street: 3) Loos Insurance Agency, 4) Kindler Hotel and Baths “With All Innerspring Mattresses”, and 5) Pape Brothers Paints. On Berry Street is 6) the 1,500 seat, “L” shaped, Majestic Theater with its entrance on Berry, but backing onto Barr Street. The Majestic opened on October 24, 1904, was razed by fire on December 27, and rebuild and reopened for the second time on April 13, 1905. This wonderful theater included a second and third balcony and eventually became the home to the Old Fort Players, the precursor group to the Civic Theater.

As for the Citizens Square building, in 1959 the Latz family closed the old W & D’s at Calhoun and Washington (the store’s home since 1919) and moved to their new store that had effectively eliminated the structures on this block bounded by Clinton, Wayne, Barr and Berry Streets.

In 1966 they sold the company to City Stores who then resold it in 1969 to L. S. Ayres, under whose name it was then rebranded. Ayres closed the store in 1979 and the building then sat vacant for nearly 10 years until Richard Waterfield purchased the property and after extensive reconstruction reopened it as Renaissance Square. He later leased part and then all of it to Lincoln National Corp. for their executive headquarters, which after longtime CEO Ian Rolland retired moved to Philadelphia in 1999. The building then became the temporary home to the main Allen County Public Library during its expansion on Webster Street completed in 2007. The City of Fort Wayne purchased the again empty building in 2009 and after renovation dedicated it in 2011 as Citizens Square.

A tip of the hat to automotive historian Creager Smith for dating this image and to theater historian, G. Stanley Hood for sharing the Majestic information.

Randy Harter is a Fort Wayne historian and the author along with photographer Daniel Baker of the newly released book, Fort Wayne Through Time. The book is now available at the Coney Island gift shop, Hyde Brothers Books, The History Center, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.com

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