A Fort Wayne native is doing his best to promote and publicize one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
About two years ago, Alex Krouse founded a Facebook page to conglomerate all the posts and pictures folks were sharing about the old, storied 46807 ZIP Code area (more popularly known as the ’07) in south-central Fort Wayne.
Located on Facebook, the page, titled “Historic 07 District – Fort Wayne,” Krouse said his mission wasn’t just to categorize the stories and records of the area, but to have a clearinghouse for one of the state’s most storied zones.
“It’s really composed of about 20 different neighborhoods,” Krouse said of the ‘07, “but it has the highest concentration of historic homes and buildings in northern Indiana.”
Krouse noted that the area actually was the first outside of downtown Fort Wayne to be developed, as many of the homes in the neighborhood date all the way back from the 1910s to the 1940s. In fact, South Side High School, built in the 1920s on S. Calhoun Street, was the largest one-story school in the nation at the time it was constructed.
One factor that may have perpetuated the strong historic fabric is the fact that, at one time, the area was incorporated as its own city, known as “South Wayne,” and was home to large populaces of industrial workers from such businesses as General Electric and International Harvester, Krouse said.
The neighborhood was annexed back into Fort Wayne proper in the mid-1890s.
Now a resident of the area himself, Krouse, a 34-year-old attorney, lives in the Harrison Hill neighborhood, a zone he’s also hoping he can help achieve historic designation.
On his Facebook page he regularly shares photos and stories about the older, historic homes, businesses and buildings he lives alongside in the neighborhood. In fact, about once a month, Krouse likes to use the page to shine a spotlight on one historic home or building in need of more urgent help.
“About once a month,” Krouse said, “we like to do a post on an endangered building.”
Examples of such buildings, he noted, are some of the buildings on the campus of the former Taylor University on Rudisill Boulevard, and some of the more picturesque office buildings lining South Calhoun Street.
The page also helps promote and create fundraisers to generate cash for the page and its cause, Krouse said.
Krouse said his group likes to spend much of the money it raises on historical markers it can place in the neighborhood. One such sign has already been erected in the Harrison Hill neighborhood, and another was built near Foster Park to commemorate Old Mill Road.
Old Mill Road – now an enclave of pricey, multi-room homes and mansions wrapping its way around Foster Park – was named after an old grain mill near where Broadway and Bluffton Road now converge, close to the bridge spanning the St. Mary’s River, and next to where Hall’s Drive-In restaurant now stands at 1502 Bluffton Road.
The historical markers aren’t cheap, Krouse said. Depending on the sign, they can cost from $750 to $2,000. Despite the cost, Krouse doesn’t foresee an end to his group’s work anytime soon. “We’ve been doing it about a year and a half,” he said, “and we’ve got enough material to keep doing it for a very long time.”
Since founding the page, Krouse said its admiration has grown steadily. “It’s become very popular,” he said, “We’ve probably got about 1,500 followers, and we’ve had as many as 3,000 clicks on one picture.”
Krouse just hopes his work will keep folks aware of the neighborhood’s historical significance and buoy its resident’s pride in their homes.
“My goal,” said Krouse, who grew up in the Oakdale neighborhood and attended Bishop Luers High School, “is to just raise general awareness, and maybe pay for a few more historical markers.
“There’s a lot of pride in the history of this place,” he said. “And even today, there’s a lot of pride in these historical neighborhoods and there continues to be a lot of pride with all the residents, particularly those who are rejuvenating their homes to their former glory.”
“There are really good stories about this place,” he continued, “and there’s a really good history. And for a city like ours, that’s unique.”