21Country: Photographing the past

Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 12:20 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Fort Wayne’s Calhoun Street is a quiet thoroughfare, but once upon a time, this was a swinging hotspot with taverns, shops, movie theatres, and dance halls, and there are still signs of its not-so-distant past.

Roger Bireley spends his free time photographing the remains of Fort Wayne’s past: old buildings, abandoned tracks, and rusting signs, and he posts them on a Facebook page, ‘True Fort Wayne Indiana History,’ dedicated to just what it says, Fort Wayne history, and viewers, then, fill out the story.

Today, Bireley’s documenting signs south of downtown. The oldest are ghost signs from the 19th century, faded lettering on building walls…E. A. Reim Plumbing and Heating, cloth gloves, and mittens were once made here…and off Broadway, a coca cola ad just above ‘otto peters drug store.’

Some Fort Wayne signs are iconic: the Sunbeam Bread sign downtown, and Scotts Grocery’s cornucopia sign on the southside, but the small ones have stories too, like the Humpty Dumpty sign at Packard Park, or what’s left of it, marking a popular burger joint spectators flocked to after games at Packard Ballpark. Only the frame survives of this sign at Calhoun and Creighton, but we know what time the clock stopped. This sign is a complete mystery, and this one on an old storefront just reads ‘orrt.’

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