West Central putting homes, arts on display
Home & Garden Tour, ArtsFest sure to bring folks to neighborhood
Situated just west of downtown Fort Wayne, the West Central Neighborhood is once again hosting its annual Home & Garden Tour.
While tickets are required for the Home & Garden Tour, there will also be a free ArtsFest with food trucks, a cash bar, artwork to view and buy, as well as live music on Saturday.
Join thousands of tourgoers on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 10 and 11, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the tour.
Saturday’s live music begins at 1 p.m. and plays late into the night.
“West Central was Fort Wayne’s first neighborhood that really developed off the downtown central square when we became a registered city back in the 1840s,” said Tyler Bowers, president of the West Central Neighborhood Association.
According to Bowers, the association started hosting the tour in 1983, showcasing the historic and beautiful architecture of 19th and 20th century homes, buildings, and gardens.
“I think the neighborhood association was like two or three years old at that point (in 1983), and they wanted to put together a home and garden tour to help to raise funds for the neighborhood operations,” Bowers said.
These funds, collected over a two- to three-decade timespan, would allow the association to maintain and preserve the historic homes from neglect and demolition, he said. The association would fix the houses up a bit, and from there, place them back on the market to ensure occupancy, and thus, constant structural care.
Today, these funds assist homeowners with beautification programs for their properties. Funds are also allocated toward the planting of trees throughout West Central.
The tour is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Even the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t squash the unbroken record; 2020’s tour was presented via virtual app.
WHAT TO SEE
As previously mentioned, the tour features the extraordinary style and architecture of these historic Summit City places.
“In other historic neighborhoods in the country, a lot of times, the neighborhoods developed all at once, so there’s a lot of one-style homes,” Bowers said.
West Central stands apart from these other precincts. Some homes in particular were constructed in the 1840s and 1850s. Other areas of the neighborhood continued to develop through time, all the way up until the 1920s and ’30s.
“You’ve got almost every major American architectural home style represented for almost a hundred years in that time frame,” Bowers said. Italianate, Queen Anne, and American Foursquare are just a few of these styles.
The tour aims to exhibit a combination of roughly a dozen locations every year. The gardens, usually backyards to homes or stand-alone points to visit themselves, play an equal part in the antiquity and uniqueness of the area.
Guests will have the opportunity to walk the nearly 2-mile journey or hop aboard a free trolley that will follow the tour path as well.
And there’s plenty to see.
A highlight of this year’s tour will display Swinney Homestead’s 1849 Log House.
“We probably have had 180 to 200 different homes that have been on the tour at some point, so we try not to have the same house on the tour within a seven-year time frame,” Bowers said.
That being said, it’s safe to say that the Log House may not be available on the tour for almost another decade. So, grab your tickets while you still can!
Originating from a plywood stage in someone’s backyard, along with the desire of locals and vendors to sell knitted blankets and beaded jewelry, a new part of the Home & Garden Tour emerged around its silver jubilee, Bowers said.
“Over the last 10 or 15 years, that’s evolved into having between 30 to 50 art exhibitors coming in and having their art on display,” he said.
While the ArtsFest does not place geographical restrictions on where art entries originate, many of its artists do hail from Fort Wayne and the Michiana area.
This year’s fest includes open art studios for folks to enter and observe the creations produced by residential West Central artists.
Live music will also be held from 1-9 p.m. Saturday, beginning with Strange Waters, followed by Jess Thrower, Dead Pickers Society, Unlikely Alibi, and Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra.
Around 20,000 cars travel along Washington and Jefferson Boulevard each day, Bowers said, “So, people are used to driving through West Central, but to stop and be able to get a chance to walk through the homes that you see every day that are pretty historic … you get to get out and enjoy the culture and art of a really special place in Fort Wayne.”
Last year, about 2,500 to 3,000 people bought tickets, so don’t miss out on this great opportunity to witness some of the city’s finest landmarks and creatives.