Edsall House 2017-04-17T15:08:41+00:00

Edsall House

The Edsall house, the oldest structure in downtown Fort Wayne and the city’s second oldest hospital, was built by William S. Edsall in 1839.

William S. Edsall was a leading citizen in Fort Wayne’s early development. He was a fur trader, sawyer, merchant and he was prominent in Fort Wayne civic affairs during the canal era. His first job was with the U.S. Engineers, surveying a route for the Wabash and Erie Canal. In 1840, he became a member of Fort Wayne’s first common council and head of the U.S. Land Office in 1843. Edsall, along with his brother Samuel and Judge Hanna, formed a company building the Fort Wayne- Bluffton plank road.[1] The Edsall house is a two-story Federal style brick home that is balanced with two downstairs parlors and two upstairs bedrooms, separated by a central hall and a broad stairway. There are no windows in the ends of the house, but the proportioned windows, give the front and back of the house a very open appearance. At each end and on each floor there are fireplaces with double chimneys rising out of the roof.[2]

As he prospered, Edsall built additions to the house in 1857 and in 1870. The home was frequently the site of grand “Pioneer Balls” held to honor and reunite the founders of the city.  In 1865, Edsall experience a financial downfall which forced him to sell the home. When he bought back the house in 1874, he celebrated his “homecoming” with an immense party of “old settlers” he had known in the early days.[3]

After Edsall died in 1876, the house was converted into Fort Wayne’s second hospital in 1878 by a group led by Samuel Foster and one of Edsall’s sisters, Mrs. W.C. Coombs. The opening ceremonies, organized by Mrs. Coombs, included “oyster suppers, ice cream, music, flowers, art and ‘Miss Jarley’s Great Moral Show and Waxworks.’” On the day after the grand opening, Samuel Foster recalled that “before any arrangements could be made for their reception, Dr. Myers ushered in five surgical cases from out of the city. He seems to have been saving them up somewhere so as to make the opening a truly grand success.” Although the beginnings were successful, the mortgage company would not allow the place to be developed as a hospital and, two days after it opened, the hospital closed. Still, this hospital effort grew into the Parkview Medical Center.

The structure became a private home again in 1887; apartments from 1907 to 1916, and after 1916, Jesse Hamlet built the popular corner store known as the Doswell Flower Shop. In 1976 it became the pilot restoration project for ARCH, and in 1986 the Homebuilders Association of Fort Wayne renovated the interior for its offices.[4]

[1] Arthur M. Paulison, Pioneers Resting in Historic Lindenwood (Fort Wayne: Lindenwood Historical Foundation, 1989), 40.

[2] Michael Hawfield, “Edsall House Endures Many Changes,” News-Sentinel, November 2, 1993, accessed 3/27/2016, http://egen.fortwayne.com/ns/projects/history/haw19.php.

[3] Edsall House Committee, “William E. Edsall House,” National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, http://focus.nps.gov/nrhp/AssetDetail?assetID=0870358a-e05c-467e-bb3d-5a1ce6b6b22a.

[4] The Bicentennial Heritage Trail Committee, On the Heritage Trail: A Walking Guidebook to the Fort Wayne Heritage Trail (Fort Wayne: ARCH, Inc., 1994), 98-99.

 

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