Historic Preservation


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 by John 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. 

 Historic district boundaries map

 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.

  (Source: City of Fort Wayne, West Central Historic District walking tour brochure)


 Tour West Central

Guidelines for Local Historic Districts

In 1984, guidelines to be followed in the preservation of local historic districts were adopted by a city ordinance.  Revised in 2009, the guidelines are meant to serve as a means of directing the aesthetics changes that can be expected to occur in local historic district areas.   Anyone residing within the West Central Local Historic District must follow the guidelines when making any exterior changes to their property.  The guidelines include information relating to such things as paint color, windows, doors, siding, landscaping, roofing materials, and other subjects.  Copies of the guidelines are also available from the City of Fort Wayne Historic Preservation Department located on the Eighth floor, Room 800 of the City-County Building, One Main Street, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802.  Call 427-1140 for additional information.

Brick Street Restoration

In 2004, the WCNA and ARCH held a day-long workshop to detail the process of restoring historic brick streets. From that workshop, a brochure was developed to help other cities and towns manage this process.

Financial Incentives

In order to foster historic preservation, the federal and Indiana state goverments have created financial tools to aid in the financing of rehabilitating an historic structure.  Some tools may be combined with others to increase the incentive.  Anyone who undertakes a rehabilitation project involving a historic, or potentially historic, structure may qualify.  Structures in already designated historic districts automatically qualify as being historic. 

Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit

Indiana Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit

Residential Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (Indiana)

Property Use Variance Procedure

So that the WCNA may ensure that the character of the neighborhood is not harmed by the addition of inappropriate uses, a procedure has been adopted for applying for a variance in property use.  For example, if someone wants to open up a business in their home, the WCNA wants to be informed of the situation prior to the property owner’s appearance for variance approval before the City of Fort Wayne Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA).  The WCNA application will be reviewed and voted upon at a general meeting of the WCNA, and a letter of approval or disapproval will be sent to the BZA.  For more information on applying for a use variance with the City of Fort Wayne, log on to http://www.allencounty.us/dps.

Please read the following WCNA variance procedure, then print and complete the variance application.  Mail the completed application to:

P.O. Box 13151
Fort Wayne IN 46867

Procedure for Variance

Application for Variance


Historic Preservation Organizations

ARCH (Fort Wayne’s Historic Preservation Organization)

Indiana Landmarks

National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP)

Indiana Main Street

Fort Wayne and Indiana Historical Resources

Allen County Public Library (ACPL)

ARCH (Fort Wayne’s Historic Preservation Organization)

Fort Wayne Convention and Visitor’s Bureau


Indiana Historical Society

Historic Preservation Agencies

City of Fort Wayne Historic Preservation Division

Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology (DHPA)

National Park Service (NPS)

Historic Preservation Resources

Ball State University College of Architecture and Planning

Working on the Past in Local Historic Districts (by the National Park Service)

National Register of Historic Places (by the National Park Service)

National Register properties (West Central Neighborhood Association)

National Register of Historic Places (listings)

Old-House Journal

Old-House Interiors

Rejuvenation Lamp and Fixture

Historic House Colors

Crown City Hardware

The Old House Web

National Trust for Historic Preservation publications

Historic Architectural Styles

Architectural Styles of America

The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties

United States Post Office and Court/Federal Bldg. (1300 S. Harrison St.)

Technical Preservation Services for Historic Buildings

Weatherization Guide for Older and Historic Buildings

Lead-safe Practices For Older and Historic Buildings

Caring for Your Historic Building

Preservation Briefs (National Park Service)