Located directly west of downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana, the West Central neighborhood developed as a residential area during the city’s canal era in the 1830s. Early on, the neighborhood was inhabited primarily by the working class who could walk to their nearby workplaces. As Fort Wayne grew through the nineteenth century and transportation systems improved, the West Central neighborhood became favored as a residential area for the middle and upper class. Small, vernacular homes were replaced by larger homes that displayed the fashionable architectural styles of the time, eventually representing virtually all the styles that were popular between 1830 and 1950. The area is home to early Greek Revival-style homes and arare Gothic Revival residence. The district also contains the largest collection of homes designed byJohn F. Wing and Marshall Mahurin who formed one of the most successful architectural firms in Indiana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
On the north side of the neighborhood, along fashionable Berry, Wayne, and Washington streets, was where many of the city’s prominent families built large, stylish homes. Early industrialists such as H.G. Olds, owner of wagon and railroad car works; Ronald T. McDonald, whose Jenney Electric plant developed into the present General Electric plant on Broadway; William Page Yarnelle, heavy hardware wholesaler; and Theodore Thieme, owner of the Wayne Knitting Mills, all resided in West Central. Prominent downtown retailers Myron Dessauer, L.O.Hull, and Horatio Ward, state senator and attorney Robert Bell, and John Claus Peters, owner of the Wayne Hotel and grandfather of actress Carole Lombard, were other notable neighborhood residents.
On the south side of the neighborhood, situated between Jefferson Boulevard and a set of railroad tracks, exists a collection of modest, small-scale cottages arranged along narrow, tree-lined, brick streets. The workers for the business owners and the various industries stretching along the south side of the railroad corridor resided here.
In the mid-1980s, a portion of the West Central neighborhood was designated as a national and local historic district. This was in recognition of the collection of architecturally significant and intact buildings representing this early residential neighborhood that was important in the development of the city of Fort Wayne.
The boundaries of the West Central Neighborhood Association (WCNA) encompass a larger part of Fort Wayne than just the West Central Historic District (formally known as the West End Historic District). Portions of downtown are included as are additional residential areas. The Landing and several other individual properties and structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places or are local historic districts. The works of many well-known architects, other than Wing and Mahurin, are located in the area as well. While historic designations puts greater attention on the identified buildings, the WCNA continues to maintain an interest in preserving all the homes and buildings within its boundaries.