Saving on the light bill.

We kick off our End of the Year Foto-Festivities 2006 with this bang-up two-parter by Bob Pence, talented amateur photog and all-around good guy. He’s been at it awhile, as this pair will attest. First, Christmas in Fort Wayne, 1962:


This was taken at the corner of Calhoun and Berry Streets, the heart of downtown. Old-timers get tears in their eyes talking about Christmas shopping downtown, back in the day. Fort Wayne was never Chicago, but once upon a time it had a certain Bedford Falls-like feel to its downtown, and you get a sense of it here — a few blocks dense with stores, activity and holiday lights. You can almost see Uncle Billy, about to come toddling into view with a snootful.

Ah, but then Pottersville Mall opened out by the bypass. The same corner today:


Notes Bob: “Notice how much more tidy downtown looks, now that we’ve gotten rid of all those retail stores with their glaring signs.” Yes indeedy.

(By the way, thanks to all who’ve sent photos already. We’ll get to them soon enough.)

Posted at 10:45 am in Holiday photos |

13 responses to “Saving on the light bill.”

  1. colleen said on December 16, 2006 at 11:13 am

    LOVE the two pics, so we can play compare and contrast.

    Husband and I have invented a drinking game to play while watching TV 39s “jump into the wayback machine and remember old fort wayne” programs.

    Mention of “Gardiner’s Drive in”—drink
    Mention of “Halls” —drink
    Mention of “Wolf and Dessaur” —Drink
    Mention of “W & D at Christmas” CHUG

    362 chars

  2. alex said on December 16, 2006 at 11:28 am

    My office is on that very corner. Hate to tell you, but that street’s about to get tidier still. Those mature trees covered in light strands are being taken out to make room for parking spaces, as if deserted downtown Fort Wayne doesn’t have enough parking already. The idea is that more parking spaces will make it less desolate somehow, but I’m not convinced.

    361 chars

  3. Barb said on December 16, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    I had totally forgotten that tree over the street near Murphys. Thanks for the memory jog on the seasonal displays. Unfortunately, I’m also now getting more Murphys flashbacks. During high school I worked downtown and passed through that corner daily.

    254 chars

  4. brian stouder said on December 16, 2006 at 6:14 pm

    They still put the big tree up – now atop the pedestrian walkway between the Wells Fargo Building and wahtever is across the street there…plus Summit Square is quite pretty, as is the approach to downtown when you’re southbound on Clinton and crossing the bridge (headed for Headwaters park on the right, and Frieman Square on the left).

    And of course, W&D’s Santa is on the side of whatever they call the Fort Wayne National Bank building nowadays. It ain’t Christmas season until you park the car on Main street, and oooohh and aaaaahh at Santa, and then grab a few weenies at Coney Island

    600 chars

  5. brian stouder said on December 16, 2006 at 7:14 pm

    I blame Madam TellingTales for getting me hooked on wesmirch…and it was THERE that I read a funny article about Miss USA, who is about to be fired by The Donald. This excerpt made me laugh out loud –

    Conner was named Miss USA just eight months ago, but quickly started blazing a trail through New York’s late-night club world, scenesters told The News. “She really is a small-town girl. She just went wild when she came to the city,” one nightlife veteran said. “Tara just couldn’t handle herself. They were sneaking those [nightclub] guys in and out of the apartment.”


    “nightlife veteran”???


    648 chars

  6. Mark said on December 17, 2006 at 1:15 pm

    The decade I lived in Fort Wayne was after the glory days like that in the older photo. But seeing the more recent picture still makes me sad. If a city of 210,000 people can’t have a nicely lit up downtown, what hope is there for even smaller places? All the “nice” stuff shouldn’t be just the exclusive province of the Big City folk or the Extremely Wealthy Suburbs of Big Cities, it seems to me. Not a lot I can do about it, though.

    435 chars

  7. Bob said on December 17, 2006 at 5:53 pm

    Brian, the tree atop the Wells Fargo walkway barely makes half the one that used to stand atop the arches over Wayne & Calhoun. And it’s way up in the air where it’s relatively inconspicuous, not right down where it dominates the area. No matter, though; except for the night before Thanksgiving, there’s hardly anyone around to see it.

    340 chars

  8. danno said on December 17, 2006 at 6:01 pm

    As a former bartender (and longtime patron) I always loved the holiday decorations at Henry’s (along with Chris’ mothers homemade tamales!).
    As an urban planner I could never fathom the exodus of retail out of downtowns. Then to hear the politicians and the public clamor that their downtown is dead irks me even more. Don’t even get me started on the ‘lifestyle centers’. Recreating a pedestrian feel while shopping…um, wasn’t that what the downtowns were for?
    Loved the old pic.
    Oh, and thanks alot Brian, now I can’t stop thinking about coney’s (and for that matter, some Powers too!) so I’m going to have to make that 2 hour drive and get me some of that good Fort comfort food!!

    691 chars

  9. Bob said on December 17, 2006 at 6:52 pm

    Danno, are you familiar with [url][/url] and [url][/url]? In addition to laypersons who love cities, quite a few professional planners, architects and students in those fields frequent the forums on those sites, and there’s a lot of good photography and informed discussion (and admittedly some uninformed bickering) about urban planning and design posted there.

    393 chars

  10. basset said on December 18, 2006 at 1:14 am

    hell, at least Fort Wayne is still there… about half of the town where I spent my formative years (Crane, Ind. – in Martin County SW of Bloomington) is just gone, bulldozed flat over the past year or so.

    not that it wasn’t deserted and falling down or anything, but still.

    and I don’t remember any municipal Christmas lights there, ever.

    only been to Ft. Wayne once as far as I can recall, driving from Detroit down to Bloomington in maybe 1978 or 79 and pulled the VW Bug off the interstate looking for fast food. got turned around and landed at the front gate of what looked like an abandoned factory with “Zollner” on the street side of the building, guess it was the remains of the old piston works or something.

    728 chars

  11. brian stouder said on December 18, 2006 at 8:34 am

    You might have been on East Pontiac, or South Coliseum, which is the same roadway before the 90 degree turn that the whole road makes – right at the gates of the old International Harvester plant…which in 1979 employed about 11,000 souls – and would have been turning out more than 100 semi truck tractors a day, plus ahead-of-their-time SUVs – the IH Scout – and which is now almost entirely empty (other than a sex club or two over there, as we learned on NN.c!)….but I digress!

    484 chars

  12. basset said on December 18, 2006 at 10:10 am

    The Scout almost lived past IHC’s demise – some investors wanted to buy the assembly line and reopen it in Texas, didn’t happen though. don’t think you could really call the Scout an SUV, it wasn’t cushy enough, but that was part of its appeal, particularly the early, smaller models. very basic, very plain.

    I’d buy one today, no way you could build ’em in this regulatory environment though.

    398 chars

  13. Mitch Harper said on December 19, 2006 at 11:15 pm

    My guess is that bassett was nowhere near South Coliseum Boulevard (Bueter Road to old FW natives.) There was never a big Zollner on the side of the Zollner Pistons plant.

    No, I surmise – given that bassett had pulled off the interstate looking for fast food and given that he was looking at big Zollner letters – was that a turn was made onto North Anthony and bassett saw the side of Zollner Stadium across from Concordia Lutheran High School.

    The big representation of a piston over the entrance to the stadium might make a casual observed think they were looking at a factory.

    588 chars