What is Fort Wayne’s iconic landmark?
At ARCH Inc.’s year-ending gathering of its members and friends, we played a party game with a purpose. It was rooted in research that traced the success of city branding to iconic landmarks that people worldwide immediately associate with beloved cities such as New York (the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge), London (Big Ben) and Paris (the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and L’Arc de Triomphe).
Our immediate reaction : as a group of people well aware of Fort Wayne’s wonderful wealth of historic structures from its 200-plus years of life as a city : was “What’s our iconic landmark?”
And that was the name of our party game.
We present these results to the community in the hope that they will trigger a wider conversation and lead to a stronger city brand, a visual one in addition to the tagline-style brand we have already been pursuing.
When we tallied the votes near the end of the evening, no one was surprised that the Lincoln Tower had come out the clear front runner. The Indiana Architectural Foundation has recognized the building’s importance by listing it as one of 50 Significant Sites in its state architectural design database featured recently in The Journal Gazette.
This Art Deco beauty embodies so much of how we want the world to see Fort Wayne. It is gorgeous inside and out. Its construction incorporated new technology, and it was built with what we like to call swagger, despite the sad reality of the 1929 stock market crash and the early hits of what was going to be a long and awful Depression. For years, it was the tallest building in all of Indiana. It’s still a dominant feature of our skyline.
Our next-in-line candidate has great branding credentials, too: the Allen County Courthouse. It is credited as one of the best Beaux Arts courthouses in the nation, and the Courthouse Green shows it off to perfection. The Allen County Courthouse Trust maintains and makes available via tours its sumptuous interior. The Courthouse also shows Allen County and Fort Wayne at our best, with references everywhere a visitor looks to the high ideals and strong work ethic on which this community’s growth is based.
Coming up next in line is a candidate that gets us talking about our landscape and natural history: the Wells Street Bridge. It’s a treasure, a Whipple truss bridge and one of the most ornate ones of its kind remaining nationwide. Our rivers are why Fort Wayne exists, so a bridge, especially this one, could be an excellent brand image. And, as a side note, because it’s about water and travel, it relates to the Canal House, also a contender in the party game.
The other iconic landmarks that ARCH’s members and friends celebrated on our night together, in descending order, were: The History Center (old City Hall), the Embassy Theatre, Baker Street Station, Arts United Center and the Three Rivers Filtration Plant : all important buildings that contribute meaning and identity to the city and region.
We did have a write-in campaign that generated a small vote swell for the Powers Hamburgers stand. This is Fort Wayne, after all!
Connie Haas Zuber is executive director of ARCH Inc., an organization dedicated to preserving Fort Wayne’s architecture and community heritage.