2015 Birthday Road Trip Photos, Part 3 of 4: American History FW

Jailhouse Mannequin!

Indiana comes alive through all the exhibits at Fort Wayne’s History Center, except for this surly mannequin serving consecutive sentences for crimes of fashion.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

For the last few years, my wife and I have spent our respective birthdays together finding some new place or attraction to visit as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on this most wondrous day, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. My 2015 birthday destination of choice: the city of Fort Wayne, some 100+ miles northeast of here. It’s home to several manufacturing concerns, one major insurance company, a selection of buildings with historical importance to the locals, and a small comic book convention I’d never heard of before this year. We checked out the area, we found ways to enjoy ourselves, we got some much-needed exercise, and we took photos.

Fort Wayne’s tourism documents pitch a number of downtown leisure options for curious visitors — an art museum, an arboretum, their minor-league baseball stadium (home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps), a museum of religious artifacts dating back to the 13th century (closed weekends, alas), courthouse tours, and so on. After much consideration and random wandering, we settled for a post-lunch tour of their History Center. My wife is a history buff. I like places made of exhibits. Best of all, it was just three blocks east of where we had lunch. Who could deny so many converging criteria?

The History Center of Fort Wayne is housed in their former City Hall, which dates back to 1893 and was once nicknamed “the Hapsburg Horror”. Back then everyone knew what a Hapsburg was and they didn’t have to explain the joke.

Fort Wayne History Center!

The original construction project cost an alarming $69,000 in 1893 dollars, which is roughly $1,790,515.56 in 2014 dollars. That’s still a bargain compared to some Indianapolis north-side mansions.

Your first sight inside the front door: WAR CANNON. Because every museum needs a welcome weapon.


It’s even more fun if you pretend this once launched Sideshow Bob to stardom and pain.

The exhibits are one part educational Indiana stories, one part artifacts of yore, one part tribute to local manufacturing concerns. Fort Wayne is quite the blue-collar area serving many a large corporation. Our local Amazon warehouse is up there and makes super-speed delivery a convenient, disconcerting reality.

Also among those companies: Vera Bradley, famous for their upscale purses and purse accessories. Not my thing, but this might mean more to some of you.

Vera Bradley!

Sorry, shoppers, these are merely display items.

The second floor features the former City Council Chambers, now rechristened the Shields Room and available for social gathering rentals. In between events it houses temporary exhibits such as this weekend’s “Indiana Disasters” montage.

History Chandelier!

Another Fort Wayne business, another nifty chandelier.

Down in the basement is the old city jail, left largely untouched to show what living environments were like for Fort Wayne malcontents until 1971, when those services were relocated elsewhere in town.


Elvis Presley and HBO’s Oz made jail seem so glamorous.


Ask your local docent if you and your friends can stage their own “Scared Straight” overnighter!

Jailhouse Wife!

Sometimes even cute, uppity dames got sent to the “big house”. Or whatever term Fort Wayne felons preferred. “The seedy cellar”, maybe.

Jailhouse Llama!

Scout troops and other organizations can arrange for personal tours, but mostly it’s self-guided. Thus there was no one nearby to explain to us why this stuffed llama was behind bars. I’m sure there’s a good reason and he has a harsh lesson to learn.

One of the History Center’s most prized possessions is this actual cot used by famous Revolution officer “Mad Anthony” Wayne, who established the original Fort Wayne — the actual fort that begat the city — which was dedicated on October 22, 1794.

Stately Wayne Cot!

We found so many places and things around town named after the good general, it’s a wonder they didn’t trademark the nickname “Wayne’s World”.

We saw several notable summations and items around the History Center, but I failed to take notes for any of them, and the memories are already fading because I’m old now. Please enjoy this parade of random History Center displays that will totally make more sense in context when you plan your own visit. Enjoy!

Episcopal throne!

An Episcopal throne standing guard on the second floor. We didn’t dare sit on it, but I’ll confess I had thoughts.

Eagle Gargoyle!

It’s an eagle! It’s a gargoyle! It’s Eagoyle, coming soon to Syfy!

Police Motorcycle!

Parked downstairs by the basement jail is a vintage Harley-Davidson police motorcycle. Definitely no sitting allowed here.

Flying Jeep!


Top 40 45s!

The music of my childhood is now old enough to belong in a museum. When you’ve just turned 43 and are trying not to dwell on your dwindling mortality, this is the kind of reminder that does not help. I felt slightly better when I remembered Procol Harum were before my time, but not by much.

To be concluded!

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