Canal House

Audio: “Canal House” featuring Tom Castaldi. Courtesy of WBNI-Fort Wayne.

Located at 114 E. Superior St. (then known as Water St.), was nothing but marshy, undesired land in 1836 and owned by Samuel Hanna, founder of Fort Wayne and leading backer of the canal. Later, the Townely Family, prominent merchants, came to hold the land and in 1852 sold it to John Brown, a stonemason, who built the 22 by 50 foot Canal House (the canal ran behind the house). In the years after Brown built the Canal House he prospered, using the building as an office and storehouse for materials. Brown was involved in the first Barr Street Market structure, carried out a life of trade on the canal and became the owner of the first steam-powered grits mill in town that was located at the end of Maiden Lane. He was a member of the local militia, the Kekionga Guard, and served as a director of the Hamilton Bank of 1863. The Canal House was later owned by Henry Drover who served as president of the city’s German Fire Company in the 1850s and then, for several years, as a member of Fort Wayne’s City Council. In 1875 he moved to Huntington where he was elected mayor for one term. Drover used the Canal House almost exclusively as a warehouse for his spoke factory and quarry needs.

During the canal’s later years, in the 1870s, the Canal House served as home to some families. On the second floor, once lived the family of Minnie Homeyer, whose family came from the town of Loh, German. Minnie’s father was a canal boatman. Downstairs of the Canal House lived the Borgmans, another German family.  As the canal traffic slowed down, Mr. Borgman gave up boats and changed his trade. He joined a new local trucking company and later became a policeman and then Chief of the department by 1897. In preparation for the U.S Bicentennial, plans began for the restoration of the Canal House in 1974. Restoration was completed on the Canal House in 1976.

Canal House

Canal House

Photo courtesy of ARCH Inc.

Resources:

  • Hawfield, Michael. ” Seeing our past via the Canal House door.” The News-Sentinel. (9/10/1983).

  • The Bicentennial Heritage Trail Group, ARCH Inc., Essex Group, Inc., On The Heritage Trial, Fort Wayne, Indiana: A Walking Guide Book (1994), pp. 79-80.