In January of 2005, USA Today sent a reporter to Fort Wayne to find out why Men’s Health had designated Fort Wayne, Indiana Dumbest City in the United States. The reporter seemed to enjoy supporting that claim although he did find a few seemingly intelligent people at Cindy’s Diner, and Coney Island Restaurant. The reporter ended his article, with a quote from the, then owner of Coney Island Hot Dogs, Russ Choka, ” What do you expect me to say?” he asks. “I’ve traveled all around the world, and nothing tops (Fort Wayne). They may be bigger but not better. Why do people always come back here to die if it’s so bad, if we’re so dumb?”
He pauses, and then wonders: “I don’t sound stupid, do I?” After this quote, Wilson pretty much left it to the readers to make up their own minds about the amount of intelligence in the Fort Wayne community.
It’s been close to 6 years since this article was written, and today I would like to designate Fort Wayne as one of the most historic cities in the United States. What criteria am I using? None!
Criteria did not seem too important when Fort Wayne was chosen as Dumb – so why now, when I am choosing it as historic. What are my credentials? Why do I think I have the right to choose Fort Wayne as one of the most historic cities in the U.S.? None to the first question, unless living in Fort Wayne for 57 years makes me historic, in itself. Why do I have the right? Well, I think if someone can say a city of a quarter of a million people who have reinvented themselves time and again are a bunch of idiots- I guess I have the right to say otherwise. To those who still think Fort Wayne is full of dumbbells- here are five historic, beautiful and kind of fun places to visit to change your mind.
1) The Statue of General “Mad” Anthony Wayne- This revered statue sits blackened at Freinman Square in honor of the Revolutionary War hero who built the original Fort Wayne while bringing peace to the region. General “Mad” Anthony Wayne was shot in the head during the Revolutionary War and many people of the time thought he was a little reckless- but he fought the good fight with the area Indians and a city was named!
2) The Gravesite of Johnny Appleseed – Johnny Appleseed, true name, John Chapman was a real conservationist, and nurseryman who introduced apple trees to the region of
Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. Each year, the city of Fort Wayne celebrates with a Johnny Appleseed Festival in the fall. His gravesite is located just off of Parnell Avenue within Johnny Appleseed Park.
3) The Allen County Public Library Genealogy Department- Second only to the Mormon Salt Lake City Archives, the genealogy department at the Allen County Library, located at 900 Library Plaza in downtown Fort Wayne brings visitors from far and wide to find out the roots of their ancestors.
4) The Embassy Theatre ‘” located at 125 Jefferson Boulevard in downtown Fort Wayne, the Embassy Theatre was first opened in 1928 under the name of the Emboyd Theatre. Bob Hope played his first professional emcee gig there! The Embassy Theatre has a long and storied history and is named on the National Registry of Historic Places. Each holiday season, the Embassy Theatre hosts the Festival of the Trees, a holiday favorite for city residents and tourists.
And last, but not least!
5) Coney Island Hot Dog Restaurant- Opened in 1916, Coney Island hasn’t really changed much in all that time. If you have ever lived in Fort Wayne, you will surely make it a point to visit this mainstay upon returning- and you might just take the back door entrance. Residents of Fort Wayne love the casual time-warp atmosphere of the place. Located at 131 E. Main Street in downtown Fort Wayne, it is easy to walk in, order a couple hot dogs and a coke- and just hang loose.
So, there you have it, five great places to visit or go on a staycation while visiting the Fort, historic or dumb- it’s really all up to you.
Wilson, Craig, “Looking for Signs of Intelligent Life in Fort Wayne”, USA Today, 19 January 2005 Retrieved November 1, 2010 http://www.usatoday.com/life/2005-01-19-dumb-cities_x.htm
“About Us”, Historic Embassy Theatre, Retrieved November 2, 2010 http://www.fwembassytheatre.org/aboutus.htm