The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, June 15, 2016 11:01 pm

Fun facts

Steve Warden

Indiana is turning 200. That’s a lot of history that many residents may not be aware of, even if they took a state civics course in high school.

So we’ve come up with some well-known, and maybe not so well-known, tidbits about Fort Wayne and the surrounding areas.

1. The Miami tribe of Indians established the settlement of Kekionga along the confluence of the Maumee, St. Joseph and St. Marys rivers. It was the capital of the Miami nation.

2. Fort Wayne is named in honor of American Revolutionary War General "Mad" Anthony Wayne (Jan. 1, 1745-Dec. 15, 1796).

3. Anthony Wayne earned the "Mad" nickname for leading a bayonets-only night-time infantry assault against what was believed to be an impregnable British fort on the cliffs at Stony Point, New York, on July 16, 1779. Congress awarded him a medal.

4. After leading his troops at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, now Maumee, Ohio, near Toledo, Anthony Wayne continued to Kekionga in 1794, where he oversaw the construction of Fort Wayne.

5. Fort Wayne was founded on Oct. 22, 1794 by Jean Francois Hamtramck, the settlement’s first appointed commandant. It was incorporated as a city on Feb. 22, 1840.

6. A 1913 flood caused seven deaths, left 15,000 homeless and damaged over 5,500 buildings.

7. Aviation arrived in Fort Wayne in 1919 when Smith Field opened and served as the city’s primary commercial airfield until Baer Field (now Fort Wayne International) was transferred to the city in 1947 after serving as a military base during World War II.

8. The 2010 census reported that Fort Wayne’s population was 253,691, making it the second-largest city in Indiana behind Indianapolis.

9. In 1840, Fort Wayne’s first elected mayor was George W. Wood, a newspaper man with the Fort Wayne Sentinel. Wood resigned the post 16 months later.

10. Fort Wayne’s area in square miles is 110.67.

11. There are 1,301.26 miles of streets in Fort Wayne, 33,879 street lights, 1,380.7 miles of water lines, and 1,944.8 miles of sewer/stormwater mains.

12. Some facts from the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department: There are 86 parks and playgrounds covering 2,805 acres. There are 20 pavilions, 62 tennis courts, three 18-hole and one 9-hole public golf courses, 39 baseball and softball diamonds, 20 soccer fields, three swimming pools, one seasonal ice skating rink, 61 playgrounds and seven spray yards.

13. Fort Wayne has six hospitals with 1,463 beds.

14. Also dubbed "City of Churches," Fort Wayne has 360 churches within its boundaries.

15. In Allen County, there are 146 schools: Fort Wayne Community Schools has 52, parochial and other, 49; East Allen County Schools, 16; Northwest Allen County Schools, 10; Southwest Allen County Schools, nine, and higher education schools, 10.

16. The top five area employers are: 1. Parkview Health Systems, 2. Lutheran Health Network, 3. Fort Wayne Community Schools, 4. General Motors, 5. Lincoln Financial Group.

17. Wabash became the first electrically lighted city in the world when power was turned on at 8 p.m. March 31, 1880.

18. Fort Wayne and famed film actor John Wayne were named after the same person. When young Marion Robert Morrison told his name to Raoul Walsh, the director said that was not a suitable name for a movie star. Since he had been reading a biography about Gen. "Mad" Anthony Wayne, Walsh suggested the name "John Wayne."

19. Founded in 1982 by Patricia R. Miller and Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, the Vera Bradley company known for its quilted luggage, handbags and accessories has its corporate offices in Fort Wayne. The company, now known nationally and internationally, was named after Barbara’s mother.

20. Four-time United States Olympic volleyball star and 2008 gold medalist Lloy Ball is from Woodburn. He attended Woodlan High School and IPFW.

21. Bill Wambsganss, a second baseman with the Cleveland Indians, executed the only unassisted triple play in World Series history in 1920. He attended Concordia College (now Seminary), where the gymnasium is named in his honor. He later managed the Fort Wayne Daisies of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

22. Successful fashion designer Bill Blass was born June 22, 1922, in Fort Wayne. 

23. Television and film actress Shelley Long was born Aug. 23, 1949, in Fort Wayne. Her most notable role was barmaid Diane Chambers in the TV comedy "Cheers."

24. Fictional film and television characters "from" Fort Wayne include Col. George Taylor ("Planet of the Apes," 1968); Fawn Liebowitz ("Animal House," 1978), and Maj. Frank Burns, ("M*A*S*H, 1972-76).

25. Dan Quayle, a former resident of Huntington, served was vice president under George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1993. He was a U.S. representative (1977-81) and U.S. Senator from Indiana (1981-89).

26. On March 16 during the "Flood of ‘82," President Ronald Reagan came to Fort Wayne to assess the damage. Wearing a dark suit, he donned a pair of borrowed boots and joined the line of sandbaggers.

27. Civil rights activist Vernon Jordan was shot May 27, 1980, outside the Marriott Hotel in Fort Wayne. Suspect Joseph Paul Franklin would be acquitted on the charge of attempted murder, but later confessed to the crime.

28. The monument in downtown Angola was built in 1917 to commemorate the Civil War. Plaques with the names of the 1,278 men from Steuben County who fought in the war. Per capita, more men from the county enlisted for the war than any other county in Indiana.

29. The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in Auburn houses over 120 vintage cars and artifacts. The annual ACD Festival and Auction attracts thousands of visitors each year.

30. With the hope of increasing tourism in his North Webster home, banker J. Homer Shoop spearheaded the construction of the "International Palace of Sports." The facility was dedicated June 29, 1974, and the first "King of Sports" was former Southern California Heisman Trophy winner and Buffalo Bills NFL running back O.J. Simpson. Also on hand were Jesse Owens (King of Track and Field), Pancho Gonzalez (King of Tennis), Johnny Weismuller (King of Swimming) and Dick Weber (King of Bowling).

31. Allen County was established April 1, 1824. Its 660 square miles makes it the largest land-area county in Indiana. Allen County is named after Col. John Allen, an attorney and Kentucky state senator who was killed in the War of 1812. Counties in Kentucky and Ohio are also named in his honor.

32. In addition to Philo Farnsworth being credited with being a pioneer of the television, other inventions originated from Fort Wayne: gasoline pump (1885), refrigerator (1913), breathalyzer (1954), and the first video game console (1972).

33. Composed of 14 branches, the Allen County Public Library is among the 20 largest public libraries in the United States. Its Fred J. Reynolds Historical Genealogy Department ranks as the second-largest collection in North America, with an estimated 350,000 printed volumes and 513,000 items of microfilm and microfiche.

34. As a child, best-selling horror author Stephen King lived in Fort Wayne, where his father’s family lived at the time.

35. Inventor Philo T. Farnsworth developed a television system that included a receiver and a camera that he produced commercially under the name of Farnsworth Television and Radio Corp. from 1938 to 1951 while he lived in Fort Wayne.

36. John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, is reportedly buried in Fort Wayne. An annual fall festival that bears his name attracts thousands of visitors.

37. Work on the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum began January 1950 and was completed in September 1952 for $3 million.

38. Among the long list of entertainers who have performed at the Coliseum are Elvis Presley, Elton John, Johnny Cash, the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong, the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, John Denver, Aerosmith, Yes, America, Neil Diamond, Fleetwood Mac and Liberace.

39. Presidents who have spoken at the Coliseum are Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.

40. Embassy Theatre opened on May 14, 1928, as the Emboyd Theatre, a movie palace and vaudeville house.

41. In its early years, entertainers who performed at the Embassy included Bob Hope, who made his master of ceremonies debut, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Doris Day, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Donald O’Conner, Marilyn Maxwell, Red Skelton, Chico Marx and Artie Shaw. Since then it has hosted an array of world-renowned entertainers.

42. The Embassy became perilously close to being torn down in 1972, but a "Save the Embassy" campaign raised $250,000, just two days before its scheduled demolition. It is the home of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

43. Fort Wayne Daisies were members of the All-America Girls Professional Baseball League from 1945 to 1954. They played their games at North Side High School and Memorial Park.

44. Now in its 51st year, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo opened July 3, 1965. TripAdvisor ranks it the seventh-best zoo in the nation.

45. Because of its industrial factories in the 1940s, it was always rumored that Fort Wayne was the seventh most likely American city to be bombed by German dictator Adolf Hitler.

46. In 1986, General Motors moved its assembly plant from Janesville, Wisconsin, to Fort Wayne. More than 3,600 are employed at the truck assembly facility. A $1.2 billion expansion project enabled the plant to increase from nearly 3 million square feet to 4.6 million.

47. Fort Wayne-based Sweetwater Sound was founded in 1979 by Chuck Surack, and with nearly 1,000 employees and an annual revenue of over $400 million, it has become one of the nation’s largest dealers in musical instruments. 

48. Sylvan Lake near Rome City in Noble County was the home of author and photographer Gene Stratton-Porter.

49. Fort Wayne’s History Center is in Fort Wayne’s old City Hall, which includes eight jail cells in the basement.

50. David Anspaugh of Decatur directed the 1986 film "Hoosiers." The movie also featured former Warsaw basketball player Steve Hollar and the late Fort Wayne sports announcer Hilliard Gates.

51. Since its completion in 1930, the 22-story Lincoln Tower on East Berry Street was the tallest building in Indiana until 1962.

52. The downtown Indiana Michigan Power Center building is the city’s tallest at 442 feet and is the tallest building outside of Indianapolis.

53. There are over 100 lakes in Kosciusko County, including the state’s largest natural lake. Lake Wawasee covers 3,200 acres.

54. With orthopedic device manufacturers DePuy, Biomet and Zimmer located there, Warsaw bills itself as the "Orthopedic Capital of the World."

55. Allen County is within a 200-mile radius of Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus (Ohio), Detroit, Indianapolis, Louisville, Milwaukee and Ontario. It is a one-day drive of one-third of the U.S. population.

56. Wabash County, named for the river that flows through it, was established in 1835.

57. Steuben County, founded in 1837, was named after Baron von Steuben, the Prussian military officer who helped train the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

58. Trine University in Angola changed its name from Tri-State University in 2008 in honor of alumnus Dr. Ralph Trine.

59. Noble County was founded in 1836 and is named for former Indiana Gov. Noah Noble.

60. Huntington is the only city in Huntington County, which was founded in 1832 and named after Samuel H. Huntington, who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation.

61. Our Sunday Visitor, a Catholic publishing company, is headquartered in Huntington. Archbishop John F. Noll (1875-1956) founded the publication.

62. Adams County, named after the sixth U.S. president, John Quincy Adams, was founded in 1836.

63. The Barbee Hotel in Kosciusko County was the favorite getaway for movie stars Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, as well as gangsters Al Capone, John Dillinger and "Baby Face" Nelson.

64. Whitley County was founded in 1838 and named after William Whitley, who was killed at the Battle of the Thames in the War of 1812.

65. The Whitley County Historical Museum is in the Columbia City home of Thomas Marshall, former Indiana governor and 28th vice president of the United States under Woodrow Wilson. Marshall was the first vice president to conduct cabinet meetings. He is also considered to be the only sitting vice president who has had an assassination attempt.

66. DeKalb County was founded in 1837 and was named after Gen. Johann de Kalb, a Continental Army officer from Bavaria who died at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina in 1780.

67. Bank robber John Dillinger, with accomplices, raided the Auburn police station on Oct. 14, 1933, stealing a submachine gun, two steel vests, three rifles, six pistols and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

68. Established in 1964, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne is the largest university in northern Indiana, with nearly 13,000 students.

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