Houses on the western side of the 3300 block of Eastbrook Drive, Fort Wayne. The historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Photographed by User:Nyttend (own work) 2014 [public domain], accessed August, 2022.
The Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District is located north of the central business district in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana, in an area shaped by glacial moraines and prehistoric rivers, rising dramatically from south to north. Three historic residential suburban developments make up the district, each maximizing vistas and topography along the Spy Run (a tributary of the St. Mary's River) and the St. Joseph River. The district covers approximately 140 acres. Oak Knoll Place was platted in 1906. Irvington Park was platted soon after, designed in part by landscape architect Walter Hoxie Hillary. In 1911 George E. Kessler proposed a system of parks, parkways, and boulevards for the city, and in 1917 landscape architect Arthur A. Shurcliff (with engineering assistance from Metcalfe & Eddy) utilized Kessler's proposal to design Brookview for his client, the Wildwood Builders. In addition to the historic suburban plats, the district has 314 homes (many with detached garages), built for a range of owners with incomes ranging from middle-class to wealthy, and reflecting this diversity in size and scale. Architectural styles include Craftsman, American Foursquare, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Minimal Traditional and Ranch.
Located in an area shaped by glacial moraines and prehistoric rivers, the Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District is located less than half a mile north of the central business district of downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana, a city of 250,000. The district follows two natural waterways. Spy Run (a tributary of the St. Marys River) and the St. Joseph River. North Clinton Street spans much of the eastern border of the district from north to south. North Clinton also carries US 27 and serves as the primary south-bound arterial roadway of the city. The district is divided from east to west by State Boulevard, an important roadway first envisioned by landscape architect George E. Kessler in a proposed park and boulevard system for the city. This section was realized in its present form by landscape architect Arthur A. Shurcliff within a few years of Kessler's proposal.
The district's southern boundary is Jacobs Avenue adjoining the St. Vincent Villa Historic District (listed June 10, 1994). From Jacobs Avenue, the district extends north along North Clinton Street to a point just north of the intersection with Spy Run Avenue Extended. The eastern boundary of the Historic District roughly parallels the route of the historic Wabash and Erie Feeder Canal, and includes the historic Oak Knoll residential subdivision, before returning to north North Clinton Street, to the north boundary of the Irvington Park residential subdivision along Norfolk Avenue. Irvington Park extends west to the Spy Run and Vesey Park. The district continues to follow Spy Run as it flows downstream into the Brookview residential subdivision. The Brookview subdivision follows Spy Run south to Jacobs Avenue, with the railroad right-of-way as its western boundary. The district also includes the older, grid-style John Jacobs S"* Addition which includes lots on the west side of North Clinton Street from Eastbrook almost to Terrace. The district also includes a small residential area with eight house lots—Centlivre Park Addition—which connects the Brookview and Irvington Park plats.
North and west of the district are retail and industrial businesses, while east of the district, across the St. Joseph River, are residential areas. To the south, the St. Vincent Villa Historic District, originally built as an orphanage, is used as an elementary school campus and there are several light industrial businesses. To the southeast is located a main campus of Indiana Michigan Power, an electric utility continuing to use a historic interurban railroad electricity generating site. An interurban line—the Toledo and Chicago—ran along the entire western edge of the district, as did tracks for the Lakeshore and Michigan Southern Railroad. On the east side of the district, an excursion trolley line that served a rural amusement park north of town ran along the west and north side of the Oak Knoll Addition.
During the period of 1906-1965, the district was primarily developed as three residential suburbs adjoining each other, each a representative example of the emerging field of community planning. Two of the developments were designed, at least in part, by landscape architects working with the developer, while the third—Oak Knoll—followed a railroad era suburban model, with upper class homes overlooking the St. Joseph River, The Oak Knoll subdivision was platted in 1906 on a wooded former country estate, with several grand homes built on large lots with views of the river and smaller lots along the north edge of the development with more modest homes. In 1910 the hilly, wooded area to the northwest of Oak Knoll was designed as Irvington Park Addition and platted by John H. Vesey and Tri-State Loan and Trust with Vesey serving as the real estate agent. Irvington Park included a private park along its southern edge. This park area was donated to the city by the widow of John Vesey after his death in 1912, and named Vesey Park. At some point during the period 1910 to 1925 the landscape architect Walter Hoxie Hillary was hired to develop a landscape plan for the park, and further refine the roadway plan for the Irvington Park addition. Vesey Park adjoined Centlivre Park a twenty-eight acre beer garden and amusement park owned and operated by a local brewing company. In 1917 the Wildwood Builders development company hired landscape architect Arthur A. Shurcliff to design a residential suburb on the south side of Centlivre Park, along Spy Run, on the former Jacobs estate.
The three suburban tracts are similar in character-defining features and present a cohesive and attractive residential district. Dominant features include the preservation of tall oak and hickory trees, orientation to the Spy Run or the St. Joseph River, and wide areas of park spaces between creek and roadway and areas between residences and roadways. While the earliest parts of the district follow more traditional grid-style circulation patterns, the area south of the former Centlivre Park displays a curvilinear pattern, particularly the large, nearly semi-circular loop of State Boulevard, repeated at the north end of Terrace Road. Both curves are accentuated by wedge shaped lots that conform to the shape of the roadways. These curves echo the semi-circle parking along North Clinton separating four of the earliest houses in the district (2704, 2714, 2724, and 2734 North Clinton) from the roadway. Other park areas are triangular and are found at the intersections of Edgehill and Westbrook and at the intersection of Northway and Westbrook. The largest park in the district is Vesey Park, 15 acres, and designed by Hillary. The longest park area in the district is the narrow public park found on both sides of Spy Run as it travels through the district, called Brookview Parkway. Throughout the district the plats were designed with pedestrian sidewalks and paved streets. Public alleys are present in approximately 40% of the district.
The private Centlivre Park continued to operate during almost the entire period of significance, providing forested vistas and recreation opportunities to the neighboring residents. Horse riding, horse and automobile races, baseball diamonds, and use as the community circus grounds all were available to the public. After the park's closure in 1961 much of the acreage was used for a large apartment complex with sixteen buildings and 636 units. A small portion of the park between Eastbrook and Clinton had been divided into residential lots in 1917, and included homes for officers and family members of the Centlivre Brewery, who owned the park. These homes are included in the district, while the apartment complex and grounds are not included due to their construction and occupation after the period of significance.
Together, the connected suburban plats have good integrity. Little or no changes to the plat have been made to the Oak Knoll area. The area of Irvington Park developed more slowly than other portions of the district, and the planned sidewalks along Norfolk were not completely installed. Some of the Irvington Park streets were renamed shortly after the platting of Brookview to its south, reflecting the connection of the streets through both areas. Maplewood Avenue became Garland, Sycamore Avenue became Eastbrook Drive. Park Way was renamed as a continuation of Irvington Avenue to the east as was Oakwood Avenue on the west. Because of their development history and in large part the work of known landscape architects, the Brookview plat. Oak Knoll plat and Irvington Park plat are together counted as one contributing site in the district, and are further described below. A recent alteration occurred when the southernmost portion of Westbrook Drive was removed as part of a flood-control project, and the right of way was redesigned to hold a series of rain gardens. Although this project affected several homes (all homes located on the west side of Westbrook between Edgehill and North Clinton were demolished), and removed the road pavement, but have retained the curb, sidewalk and streetlight portions of the historic circulation system, efforts have been made to mitigate the adverse affect of the project on the historic district. As such, the cumulative effect of the project has not substantially affected the overall integrity of the district. During the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration completed several bridge and retaining wall installations in Vesey Park and along the Spy Run.
The district developed between 1906-1965 as a middle and upper-middle class neighborhood with a variety of architectural styles. Larger, architect designed homes are concentrated in the center of the district, primarily along North Clinton, Field,Terrace, and Eastbrook Drive, Architectural styles include 19th and early 20th Century American Movement styles such as Prairie and Craftsman and late 19th and 20th Century Revivals including Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival. Modern Movement styles are also found, including Ranch, and Contemporary. A Lustron house with a Lustron garage is also located in the district.
The building resources in the Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District retain a high level of integrity for the most part. Many houses have been sided with aluminum or vinyl. A number of houses have had windows replaced, while others have had enclosed or modified front porches or entrance areas that have altered the overall rhythm or massing of the building. In determining whether buildings were contributing resources in the district, siding, windows and entrance porches were reviewed. Buildings which have been altered with one or two of these items were considered contributing, while buildings with all three alterations were determined to be non-contributing. As an example, a Craftsman house with replacement windows and vinyl siding was counted as contributing if it retained its original open porch, as long as other alterations had not changed the character of the structure. Photo 20 shows (from the right, and moving left) 2402 Terrace Road, a contributing house with few alterations other than the application of metal awnings. To its left, 2406 Terrace has vinyl siding and some replacement windows, and its porch has been enclosed. It is counted as non-contributing. To its left, the home at 2414 Terrace Road is also non-contributing, due to the installation of vinyl siding and replacement windows, and the enclosure of the open porch that has damaged the rhythm of the facade, particularly with the installation of a three part casement window.
Garages were also reviewed for integrity. Those determined to be contributing in the district were evaluated as to whether they were built during the period of significance and had their original number of openings, original siding, and original doors or windows. Garages with original openings and doors were considered to be contributing, even if siding was not original. Garages with aluminum or vinyl siding, and/or replacement doors, were considered to be contributing if they retained their original configuration of openings, and had no other alterations.
The Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District has an outstanding collection of residential architecture from the early to mid 20th century, with a wide variety of styles, sizes, and building costs as it developed between 1906-1965. Large homes and architect designed homes are concentrated in the center of the district, primarily along North Clinton, Field,Terrace, and Eastbrook Drive. Women architects Joel Roberts Ninde and Grace E. Crosby—perhaps the earliest to work professionally in Indiana—designed four of these large homes. Architectural styles in the district include 19th and Early 20th Century American Movement styles such as Prairie and Craftsman and Late 19th and 20th Century Revivals including Colonial Revival, and Tudor Revival. Modern Movement styles are also found, including Ranch. A Lustron house with a Lustron garage is also located in the district.
The earliest homes in the district were built along Clinton Street primarily in the Oak Knoll Addition. By 1914, four homes had been built on the four largest lots, and were identified as having been designed and built by Wildwood Builders in a full-page advertisement in the News Sentinel, implying their design by Joel Roberts Ninde and Grace Crosby.
Joel Roberts Ninde and Grace E. Crosby were the architecture department of the Wildwood Builders Company and almost three hundred homes designed by them were built prior to 1916. Ninde and Crosby were among the earliest women to work as architects in Indiana, beginning their careers at a time when few women in the United States had entered the field.
The apprentice or atelier system for training architects was still common during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and many architects in the United States entered the profession by training in the firm of established architects, and not through a college program. Grace E. Crosby, a native of Fort Wayne and an 1891 graduate of Fort Wayne High School, received her training as an architect by apprenticing with several firms in Fort Wayne. As early as 1894 she was listed in city directories as a "tracer" of architectural plans, and by 1900 she was associated with the architectural firm of Alfred Grindle, serving as a "draughtswoman." Alfred Grindle had himself been trained through the apprentice system, learning his profession as a draftsman in the offices of Wing and Mahurin. Grace Crosby worked for Grindle's firm until 1910.
Joel (pronounced Jo-ELL, and called "Jo" by her husband) Roberts Ninde, a native of Alabama, moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1900 after her marriage to city native Lee J. Ninde. Shortly after her arrival she designed a home for herself and her husband in the Craftsman style. Joel did not have formal training in architecture through apprenticeship or schooling, but carefully studied the popular styles of the day as she developed her own unique perspective. Her first design was widely admired, and the home was purchased, prompting her to design another house for herself and her husband. By 1909 she had designed several homes, and the Nindes formally organized the Wildwood Builders Company to design and build houses and residential developments. Grace E. Crosby joined the company, and worked in partnership with Joel Roberts Ninde as the architecture department for the firm. A third local woman, Louise Josephine Pellens, joined the team briefly in 1911-1912, following her graduation from University of Illinois at Urbana‑Champaign, with a degree in architecture. Several of the house designs of Ninde and Crosby were published in the nationally distributed Wildwood Magazine. Wildwood Builders published a book of house plans by Ninde and Crosby, Wildwood Homes: Being a Collection of Houses and Details with Suggestions for the Home Builder, in 1912.
By 1914 the success of Wildwood Builders was due, in large part, to the designs by the pair. A newspaper article in August, 1914 noted that Ninde and Crosby were opening their own firm, which would include architecture and interior design, in addition to their continuing work at Wildwood Builders. The Indianapolis Sfar reported on the success of Joel Roberts Ninde's designs later that year.
During this period Marion Mahony Griffin and Isabel Roberts worked in the offices of Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago. During their time with Wright they worked on many projects in Chicago and several in northwestern Indiana, and may have assisted with the designs for the Gerald Mahony House in Elkhart, 1907 (for Griffin's brother), and the DeRhodes House, 1906, in South Bend( for Roberts' friend Laura DeRhodes). No other women architects are known in Indiana during the era.
Ninde and Crosby may have been among the earliest women architects in partnership in the country. The firm of Mary Gannon and Alice Hands organized a partnerhship in New York City 1894, and has been documented to be the country's first partnership of women architects. A New York City firm was highlighted (incorrectly) as the first woman-owned architectural firm on the eastern seaboard when in March 1914, the New York Times reported that "Enthusiasm for the rights of women had led two young feminists to establish the first firm of its kind in existence. Anna Pendleton Schenck and Marcia Mead established Schenck & Mead in New York City. Schenck died unexpectedly in 1915, and the firm closed.
In Indiana, the partnership of Grace Crosby and Joel Roberts Ninde also ended abruptly when Joel Roberts Ninde died from a stroke in 1916 at age 42. Grace Crosby continued to work as the architect for Wildwood Builders, and then briefly had her own firm in 1917. During the next decade she continued to work as a designer in Fort Wayne, including brief stints as a draftswoman for the S.F. Bowser Company designing gasoline pumps and filling stations, and as an architect for Griffith and Goodrich. Her final employer was Leroy Bradley, and the firm Bradley and Babcock, where she worked as an architect until her retirement in 1930. Crosby lived until 1962, and her obituary noted that she had worked over 35 years in the architectural field.Indiana began to license architects following enactment of legislation in 1929, just as Grace Crosby was retiring from her 35-year career. It would be a decade before Juliet Peddle became the first woman in Indiana to be licensed as an architect in 1939.
In the Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District, Ninde and Crosby designed four houses on North Clinton Street in Colonial and Georgian Colonial Revival style: 2704 North Clinton Street—the Herbert and Daisy Lang House; 2714 North Clinton Street—the Fred B. and Alice D. Shoaff House; 2724 North Clinton Street—the Walter Seavey House; and 2734 North Clinton Street—the Charles Lang House.
Thomas Richard Shoaff was the son of Frederick B. and Alice D. Shoaff and grew up in Oak Knoll. He attended Williams College, and Princeton's school of Architecture, graduating in 1934. Shoaff s practice included residential dwellings and public buildings. One of his earliest projects was the John D. and Agnes Shoaff House at 2551 Westbrook Drive. He also designed 3322 North Washington Road in Wildwood Park, built in 1950. Shoaff designed the Park Rustic/Contemporary style Conklin Pavilion at Shoaff Park in Fort Wayne in 1958, working with the Shurcliffs firm who designed the park. Shoaff served as associate architect for the Performing Arts Building in Fort Wayne with Louis A. Kahn, and the First Presbyterian Church in Fort Wayne with Alpha Hensel Fink.
Alvin M. Strauss—This prominent Indiana architect, originally from Kendallville, established his own practice in Fort Wayne in 1918. He was one of Indiana's leading architects of the twentieth century, working in many popular styles. Many of his works are major commercial or public works, such as the Lincoln Bank Tower and Embassy Theater in Fort Wayne, and several campus buildings at Indiana University in Bloomington. Strauss designed the Tudor Revival style News- Sentinel Model Home at 2602 Terrace Road, which was purchased by Howard and Gladys Rohrbach.
In addition to the homes designed by Ninde and Crosby, Shoaff and Strauss, there are a wide variety of 19th and 20th century Period Revival style homes, including Colonial Revival—the most frequent in the district. Many of these were built utilizing the house plan books that had become popular by the early 1920s. Character-defining features of the style include multi-pane, double-hung windows, front or side gable massing, and porches with columns or without porches and with pedimented hoods. 2324 Eastbrook Drive is an example of the Garrison Colonial Revival style popular in the 1930s, with overhanging jetty and a front entrance without a sheltering porch roof or hood. Next door, 2326 Eastbrook has a flush facade, with a centered front porch with a front gable roof, supported by round columns, while both homes share a side gable shape and orientation. In the same block, 2320 Eastbrook has a front gable roof, and a metal awning sheltering the entrance. The style became more restrained in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Examples of the Cape Cod type are found as well, primarily from the 1930s and 1940s, such as the example at 2330 Terrace Road, with its side-gable 1 14 stories, front gable dormers, and entrance centered on the facade, sheltered by a metal awning. Dutch Colonial Revival homes are not as common in the district as Colonial Revival, and include 145 East State Boulevard, 2335 Oakridge and 2221 North Clinton. The first two of these have c. 1920s side-gable gambrel roofs, and centered entrances. The home at 2221 North Clinton is c.1915, and has a front gable gambrel roof, and an entrance located off center.
Tudor Revival homes are located in the Brookview and Irvington Park portions of the district. Tudor Revival is distinct from Colonial Revival style with generally steeply pitched roofs, cross-gables, groups of multi-pane windows, and often has decorative half-timbering. A Tudor Revival home with front-gable configuration is at 2334 Eastbrook and a hipped-roof version of the style with prominent front gable projection is found at 2342 Eastbrook. While Tudor Revival homes are common in the district, there are only a handful of examples of French Eclectic style. These are concentrated on Terrace Road near Brook Street. French Eclectic style also includes steeply pitched roofs, towers, and occasionally decorative half timbering, but not the dominant front-facing cross gable of Tudor Revival. The Roethle House, described in section 7., is a large-scale example of French Eclectic style, while its neighnor, the Rohrbach House, at 2602 Terrace, is a more modest example. Interestingly, the Rohrbachs soon moved from their new home, into another French Eclectic house at 3322 Irvington Drive.
Styles of the 19*'' and Early 20**' Century American Movement such as American Foursquare, Prairie and Craftsman are also very common in the district, particularly in the Brookview portion. American Foursquare is as much a massing type as a style, and many homes with the Foursquare massing have sufficient additional detail to identify them as Prairie or Colonial Revival. Prairie style, with its hipped roof, wide overhanging eaves and porches with square pillars lends itself well to the Foursquare shape. Examples of Prairie are found throughout the district. A distinct example of American Foursquare is located at 342 Field Street. A one-story Prairie/Neoclassical cottage has similar features, without the massing, next door at 344 Field Street. Both have a square shape, with wide eaves, and shallow porch roof. Unusual features for both are the Neoclassical columns on piers that support the roofs. The Korn house on Garland shares the Foursquare shape, with Prairie, Craftsman and Shingle details, with its stucco and wood shingles, overhanging second floor with flared corners, and its square wood pilaster on a pier that supports the porch roof.
Modern Movement styles are also found throughout the district, scattered on lots still available after World War II. Ranch and Contemporary style homes are primarily located in Irvington Park, and in the Centlivre Park transition between Irvington Park and Brookview. There are several Minimal Traditional homes, with lower-pitched roofs and less elaborate details than the Tudor and Colonial Revival homes they succeeded. In the Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District most have Colonial Revival details, which blend well with the older Colonial style homes in the district. A Lustron house with an attached Lustron garage is also located in the district.
The Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District is distinct from Fort Wayne's Southwood Park Historic District (listed December 22, 2009) in its distinct orientation toward the Spy Run and Saint Joseph Rivers. While both districts are early automobile era suburban developments on hilly terrain, Southwood Park does not have a water-orientation. The Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District includes two curving parkways, as well as smaller, curvilinear drives. The Southwood Park District featured boulevard style large roadways, with smaller,curvilinear drives, and also a larger area of grid-type straight roads and lots. Southwood Park has a larger concentration of architect-designed homes, and larger, upper-class residences, while the Brookview-Irvington Park District has predominantly smaller, middle class homes, built from catalog plans.
The Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District is also distinct from Fort Wayne's Indian Village Historic District (listed December 22, 2009) in its concentration of pre-1945 homes. While both districts suffered from the housing construction slow-down of the 1930s, Brookview continued to be a popular building location, and many homes were built during the period from 1930-1945. The Indian Village Historic District has a smaller proportion of pre-1945 homes, and a larger number of Contemporary and Ranch homes. Indian Village Historic District was designed around a grand boulevard with roads radiating from a central point.
The Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District is also distinct from Fort Wayne's Wildwood Park Historic District in several important ways. Also designed by Arthur Shurcliff, Wildwood Park represents a more truly suburban automobile development, and is important for its immediate and direct connection to the collaboration that local community builder Lee Ninde and Arthur Shurcliff had embarked on as leaders of the nascent City Planning movement. The plat is the distinct design of Arthur Shurciff. With Brookview-Irvington Park, Shurcliff used his earlier experience with the Wildwood plat to inform his design decisions, while at the same time working to integrate his Brookview plat with other existing developments, while working with a difficult terrain and existing transportation routes. Shurcliff s treatment of Willowdale Creek in the Wildwood Park Historic District is similar to the Brookview Parkway, but it is not a primary circulation route in the way that the Brookview Parkway is. The Brookview Parkway is the spine of the Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District.
Irvington Park Addition April, 1910: John H. Vesey, the son of prominent local attorney Allen Vesey, entered the real estate profession. He worked with The Tri-State Loan and Trust Company to plat and sell the Irvington Park Addition. Vesey marketed the development, while Tri-State served as the "Trustee" and owned and sold the lots in the district. Sales were slow initially. John H. Vesey died before 1912, and his widow donated the large park area that was part of the addition to the city of Fort Wayne. It was named John H. Vesey Park. At some point between 1910 and about 1925 landscape architect Walter Hoxie Hillary designed improvements for Vesey Park and the Irvington Park Addition.
Brookview Addition 1917: Prior to the platting of any part of the district, John H. Jacobs had a large landholding along the Spy Run in the late 19th Century. Jacobs began dividing and platting portions of his land, beginning in 1901 with a small grid addition along Jacobs Avenue, extending from the Interurban tracks at the west boundary of the Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District to Wells Street to the west. In 1905 Jacobs platted the east side of North Clinton Street, from the Spy Run (creek), north to Spy Run Avenue, and east to the Wabash and Erie Feeder Canal. In 1906, Jacobs platted the west side of North Clinton—as Jacobs 3rd Addition†from the Spy Run (creek) north to what is now an alley between Neva and Terrace Road. On June 6, 1917, John H. and Sarah E. Jacobs sold their remaining farm land along the Spy Run to the Brookview Improvement Company. The Brookview Improvement Company was organized in May, 1917, as a subsidiary of the Wildwood Builders. Company directors included Fred B. Shoaff, Lee J. Ninde, Frank K. Safford, Ralph Magee, E.J. Little, Abe Ackerman,and Nathan Rothschild. Lee Ninde was contracted by the Brookview Improvement Company to develop and sell the lots in the addition, and hired Arthur Shurcliff to design and layout the suburban development. Ninde and the Wildwood Builders had worked with Shurcliff previously on the Lafayette Place and Wildwood Park additions in Fort Wayne."
† Adapted from: Angie Quinn, ARCH Inc. for City of Fort Wayne Community Development, Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District, nomination document, 2010, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Clinton Street North • Eastbrook Drive • Edgehill Avenue • Field Street • Garland Avenue • Greenway Road • Grove Street • Irvington Drive • Norfolk Avenue • Northway Avenue • Oakridge Road • State Boulevard East • Terrace Road • Westbrook Drive