Wildwood Park Historic District
Wildwood Park is an outstanding example of a residential suburban development that introduced important trends and design principles regionally and locally, and was particularly influential as a prototype for subsequent design in Northeastern Indiana, as it introduced curvilinear design, deed restrictions, and an architectural control committee. The District is an intact example of an early Automobile Suburb, with interrelated and associated residential subdivision and parkway.
The district was platted and organized in several sections beginning in 1914 and completed in 1940. The Wildwood Park plat was designed by Arthur Shurcliff during the period of 1914-1916. Shurcliffs plat for Wildwood Park included lots 1-99, with several of the largest lots planned for further subdivision as needed. Wildwood Park 2nd Addition was added in 1920, north and west of the original plat, and Wildwood Park 2nd Addition Extended was platted in 1938 to the north and east of the original plat. These additions were formed from the large lots reserved in Shurcliff's initial design. Wildwood Park Addition Amended was added in 1940, filling the southern and southeastern parts of the district. Gypsy Knoll was platted separately in 1938, and filled a rectangular space on the western edge of the original Wildwood Park plat. The district features large, detached single-family homes in a variety of popular styles from the 'teens to the 1960s.
The Wildwood Park subdivision is located on the former Hoffman farm; an area of rolling hills associated with the glacial Little River and its banks. The subdivision slopes toward a former wetland area located along the south edge of the boundary at Portage Boulevard. Portage Boulevard was named for its use as the portage between the Wabash and Maumee River systems. The Wabash and Erie Canal (1834-1880) was constructed along the line now occupied by Portage Boulevard, which is situated on the location of the old canal towpath. The Wildwood Builders Company organized the Wildwood Park Company in December, 1913, to purchase and develop the Wildwood Park subdivision. The historic relationship of Wildwood Park to the growth and development of Fort Wayne is evident through its placement along the western boulevard proposed by George Kessler in his 1912 plan for Parks and Boulevards; it also adjoined the older Upper Huntington Road and Illinois Road, which were the primary routes to Fort Wayne from the southwest and west. In addition, the Hoffman's farming operation had not significantly altered the forested areas of the parcel, which consisted of rolling hills; remnants of glaciation and the Little River Valley (part of the Wabash River system).
The primary entrance to the subdivision is located on the east side of the subdivision, where North Washington Road intersects Freeman Street. Additional entrances to the subdivision are located on the north side of the district off of West Jefferson Boulevard at Willowdale Road and on the south side of the district off of Portage Boulevard at Hawthorn Road. The entrance to the subdivision from the west along Ardmore Avenue is at North Washington Road. Other entrances on Ardmore Avenue at South Washington Road and Mulberry Road have been closed to vehicular traffic, as has the western Willowdale Road entrance. A sound-barrier wall has been constructed between Ardmore Avenue, West Jefferson Boulevard and the subdivision.
The Wildwood Park Historic District includes a range of high-style homes with a high-degree of architectural detail. These homes are high quality; most of them are unique, architect-designed homes. The subdivision was the first planned community in northeastern Indiana to include deed restrictions that gave Wildwood Company the exclusive right to approve the architectural worthiness of the proposed residence. After the Wildwood Park Company was dissolved in the 1940s, the Wildwood Park Neighborhood Association took over many of its functions, including the continuation of an Architectural Review committee. Houses of the same high architectural caliber, and approved by the Wildwood Architectural Review committee, continued to be built in Wildwood Park after 1960.
The houses in Wildwood Park are single-family detached homes on large lots, with a variety of massing types. Principal architectural styles are Craftsman, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, American Small House, and Ranch. Unusual examples of French Eclectic, Art Moderne, Wrightian, and American International are found as well. Materials include wood, stucco, and brick, and many of the houses were architect designed. Principal architects and homebuilders included Joel Roberts Ninde and Grace E. Crosby, A.M. Strauss, Guy Mahurin, Pohlmeyer and Pohlmeyer, John Worthman, and Edwin Gibson.
The Wildwood Park subdivision area is lighted by a system of public street lamps on all interior roads. Exterior roads are lighted by standard primary roadway traffic lights not included as part of the residential street lamp system. There are a total of 35 historic residential street lamps remaining in the subdivision. Seventeen of these match a 1917 advertisement illustration showing a close up of the original street lamp design, consisting of a mission-style faceted lamp globe with multiple (perhaps 6-8) panes of glass between cap and base, on a fluted post that flares near the ground. Although the lamp globes were subsequently changed to a common shape used throughout the city of Fort Wayne, 17 of the original flared posts still exist in the original plat area. As additional areas were platted and improved, a variety of bases were used during the period of historic significance. Today, the 35 historic bases of various designs, with a standard lamp globe are found throughout the residential area, and are counted as one contributing structure/system in the historic district. The larger street lights on Freeman, Portage, Ardmore, and West Jefferson are modern, and are not included in the contributing structure/system.