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Fort Wayne’s Pioneer African American Home Builder Honored

The Fort Wayne Committee of the Indiana Landmarks Black Heritage Preservation Program will honor Fort Wayne’s pioneer African American Home Builder, Roosevelt Barnes Sr., the evening of Tuesday, September 26, at Destiny Life Center, 3601 Warsaw Street. The celebration will highlight the lifework and heritage of Barnes as well as ongoing efforts to preserve the architectural history of African Americans in Fort Wayne.

Director of Indiana Landmarks’ Black Heritage Preservation Program, Eunice Trotter.

Roosevelt Barnes Sr. designed and built upscale homes for black families in Fort Wayne’s southside from 1957-1970’s in the area now known as the Southern Heights subdivision. “This was no small feat for a black businessman in the 1950’s,” said Roberta Ridley, chairwoman of the African American Genealogical Society of Fort Wayne (AAGSFW). “Many people don’t know this important history, and we want to preserve and recognize him and his contributions to Fort Wayne.” The celebration will include an overview of the more than two dozen homes and churches built by Barnes, plus stories of past and current homeowners and updates on historic designations for the homes.

“The Fort Wayne committee is beginning its local work with the Barnes heritage project, and we are eager to continue with our agenda which is filling up with other exciting examples of Fort Wayne’s black architectural heritage,” said Connie Haas Zuber, executive director of ARCH Inc., the local historic preservation non-profit. Several upcoming heritage projects will be introduced by the committee at the event, including the house known as Barnes’s masterpiece, a home designed for a local doctor by a nationally famous architect (both of whom were black) and a historic designation for the city’s oldest building built by a black congregation.

This local project is part of the statewide effort by the Indiana Landmarks Black Heritage Preservation Program to help preserve the architectural history of African Americans in Indiana. The Fort Wayne Committee includes the African American Genealogical Society of Fort Wayne (AAGSFW), the African/African American Historical Society and Museum (AAAHSM), Fort Wayne’s ARCH Inc., and other local historians, genealogists, and historic preservationists. Their goal is to raise awareness, preserve and protect local black heritage sites.

For details on the Indiana Landmarks Black Heritage Preservation Program, visit: indianalandmarks.org/about/black-heritage-preservation-program/

The Waynedale News Staff
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