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If you go
What: West Central Neighborhood Association's 31st annual Home & Garden Tour & ArtsFest
Where: Generally, neighborhood west of Van Buren Street between West Main Street and West Jefferson Boulevard; ArtsFest is at Wayne and Union streets
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today
Cost: $15 for a ticket, children 12 and younger free; ArtsFest is free
Ticket booths: St. Joseph Hospital parking lot at Wayne Street and Broadway; ArtsFest area; and Swinney Homestead parking lot in 1400 block of West Jefferson Boulevard
For more information:
Source: West Central Neighborhood Association
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
The Greater House at 902 W. Washington Blvd. is on the West Central Neighborhood's 31st annual Home & Garden Tour.

Visitors take time to take in historic West Central homes

Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
The back view of a restored home at 1121 W. Jefferson Blvd. is open for visitors.

Carolyn Pendrick knows you can't learn about historic homes from a car seat window.

The 19-year-old Purdue University student says too often her peers zip along streets in Fort Wayne's west-central area without taking the time to park – and walk.

"There are so many beautiful houses down here, but you'll never get to know that from passing by in a car," said Pendrick, who participated in the West Central Neighborhood Association's 31st annual Home & Garden Tour & ArtsFest on Saturday.

"There's a lot of rich history, and you won't see or appreciate it unless you take the time."

Many did.

The two-day event ends today and features eight historic homes, an apartment, two gardens and St. John Lutheran Church on West Washington Boulevard. The tour highlights buildings from the 19th and early-20th centuries. (Photo gallery)

The "showcase home" is an 1893 Queen Anne-style dwelling at 1110 W. Washington Blvd. that was erected in a cross-gabled form with an asymmetrical placement of the main entrance and bay windows on the east and west sides of the house.

That's the kind of craftsmanship Pendrick's mother, Laura, came to see.

"It's part of our history, and the houses are just gorgeous," said Laura Pendrick, a Fort Wayne pharmacist. "I think the lure is generational. Every generation will see something different."

Laura Pendrick's mother, Elaine Kircher, visited from Kansas City, Mo., and was filled with nostalgia and a bit of regret.

"There's a reason homes aren't built like this anymore," adding that modern houses aren't made to last. "They were real homes back then."

Devin and Brenda Willis have lived in their multistory, restored 1906 home on Grove Street near North Clinton Street for 25 years. The home is not on the tour.

"We raised our children in it," she said. "We chose not to move into a newer home and restore the house because that's something we love."

Devin Willis declined to tell how much the couple spent in repairs and updates, "but let's just say more than we'll ever get out of it," he laughed, as a horse-drawn carriage clip-clopped nearby on West Jefferson Boulevard near Nelson Street.

"You don't do this because you're trying to get rich. You do it because you care about restoration and history."

Brenda Willis said homes from the bygone area were built on principles, not profits.

"When someone constructed a house, they weren't thinking of it as an investment. They were thinking of it as their home," she said. "That's the big difference you see today and why these houses are still standing."

Chris Ruckman, a member of the Home & Garden Tour committee, agrees.

"Buildings used to be made to stand the test of time," he said. "You don't see any of those fantastic courthouses being built anymore or corporate headquarters that knock your socks off. In business, you're thinking about next quarter's earnings report."

Still, there is a bit of capitalism during the tour.

"It is an excellent time to put your home up for sale and some do that," Ruckman said. "With all of the people coming through, it makes sense."

Event organizers estimate 1,600 to 2,000 visitors will take part in the tour this year.