Old Historical Marker Text:

Carole Lombard

In this house on October 6, 1908 was born Jane Alice Peters, daughter of Frederick C. and Elizabeth Knight Peters. She took the professional name of Carole Lombard and became one of the most important figures in the motion picture industry.

Erected by the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana, under direction of Mayor Harry W. Baals, January 1, 1938 on the occasion of her appearance in David O. Selznick’s technicolor production, “Nothing Sacred.”

Jane Alice Peters (Carole Lombard)

Jane Alice Peters became one of America’s favorite movie stars in the 1930s as Carole Lombard. She was born in Fort Wayne in 1908 and spent the first six years of her life in this shingle style house on Rockhill Street (built in c. 1905). The house features a complex shape within a uniform, shingled surface. Decorative details are few, yet refined on the house, like the low-relief carving on the turret frieze.

Jane Alice’s grandfather was John Clouse Peters, one of the founders of the Horton Washing Machine Company. Her father, Fred, was an executive with the Horton Company and her mother, “Bess” Knight, was a vivacious and strong actress descended from “Gentleman Jim” Chaney, an associate of the notorious robber baron of the 1880s, Jay Gould. Jane Alice fondly remembered her young days in Fort Wayne, attending the Washington Elementary School a few blocks to the south and playing rough games with her brothers, ‘Fritz” and “Tootie.” She remembered most vividly, however, the great flood of 1913, when under the direction of her mother, her house became a rescue center for flood victims, among other reasons, because the family had one of the only telephones in the area. Jane Alice remembered helping her mother collect supplies, run errands, and help care for those displaced by the rising waters.

Jane Alice and her mother left Fort Wayne in 1914, eventually settling in Hollywood. At age 12, she made her film debut and by 1924 was a glamourous actress for Fox Studios. She changed her name to Carole Lombard, in recollection of an old family friend, Harry Lombard, a one-legged relative from Fort Wayne living in California. Carole appeared in 66 films in the 20s and 30s, becoming the highest paid actress of her time. Her co-stars included her first husband William Powell, as well as, Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Fred MacMurray, John Barrymore and George Raft. In 1939, Carole married screen idol Clark Gable, to whom she stayed married to until her death. She was one of the first movie stars to help the nation respond to the outbreak of World War II. In January 1942, Carole travelled to Indianapolis for a War Bond rally. At the event Carole told reporters, “Some of my happiest memories of my family revolve around Indiana and Fort Wayne.”[1] During the rally, Carole told the crowd that she was proud to be an American, and grateful that Indiana had bred her. Carole set a record during the rally by selling over $2,000,000.00 of defense bonds in a single day.[2]  Carole Lombard died in a plane crash on January 16, 1942, while on her way back to California from the Indianapolis War Bond rally.[3]

[1] “Information Pamphlet for the Carole Lombard House Bed & Breakfast,” 704 Rockhill Street File, Street Archive, ARCH, Inc.

[2] “Happy Birthday Carole Lombard! Fort Wayne native and queen of the Silver Screen,” Unidentified article dated October 6, 1998, 704 Rockhill Street File, Street Archive, ARCH, Inc.

[3] The Bicentennial Heritage Trail Committee, On the Heritage Trail: A Walking Guidebook to the Fort Wayne Heritage Trail (Fort Wayne: ARCH, Inc., 1994):124-126.