Does your neighborhood need a flag? Southwood Park fills us in on placemaking efforts

As one of Fort Wayne’s most-desired near Downtown neighborhoods, Historic Southwood Park has long had a strong sense of community spirit in the 46807. Now, thanks to its neighborhood association, residents and businesses have a new way to share that pride in an official neighborhood flag.

In 2020, artist and Southwood Park Board Beautification Chair Sierah Barnhart designed Southwood Park’s first flag, paying homage to its beloved tree canopy, its welcoming community, and its connection to the St. Marys River at Foster Park.

The Historic Southwood Park flag features an acorn, a circle, and a bold diagonal stripe, which represents the St. Marys river, just as it does on Fort Wayne’s flag.

Barnhart and fellow board members drew inspiration for their flag from a program called CincyFlags, led by the City of Cincinnati, Ohio. It is a grant-funded project that has created a custom flag for each of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods, capturing and sharing their distinct identities through research and community input.

“A neighborhood flag can be a powerful placemaking tool to boost local pride about where you live,” Barnhart says. “I wish more neighborhoods in Fort Wayne could do it.”

Sierah Barnhart, right, and her family in Historic Southwood Park.

CincyFlags is funded in partnership with Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation and The National Flag Co. Barnhart says Southwood Park’s flags are funded through its neighborhood association, which essentially breaks even on the project thanks to flag purchases by residents. Flags currently cost $20 and can be purchased on Historic Southwood Park’s website. They should last about one year if flown daily, Barnhart says. 

So far, about 100 flags have been sold. To help more neighborhoods design and sell flags of their own, Barnhart created a guide (below) walking them through the steps she took. 

Input Fort Wayne sat down with Barnhart to learn more about her passion for Southwood Park and how its flag calls attention to what neighbors love about where they live.

The Historic Southwood Park flag hangs proudly on neighbors' homes. Flags can be ordered online for $20.

IFW: Tell us more about yourself. How long have you lived in Southwood Park and what do you love about living there?

SB: I’ve lived in the neighborhood for almost 10 years. I bought my home as a single woman, but have since gotten married and had children. Now my husband and I are raising two girls here, and we don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. 

We really appreciate our neighbors and the diverse community we have here. On our block alone, we have several families with children, so our kids are always playing together. We also recently hosted our second annual Fall Block Party, where we close down Arlington Avenue to traffic and offer fun activities like face painting, pumpkin carving, chalk art, basketball, and games in the street. 

The annual Historic Southwood Park Fall Block Party.

There’s a strong sense of community here, and when you’re raising a family, that really comes in handy because it takes a village. Many of the families here have children who go to Whitney Weisser Park, so our proximity allows us to deepen our connections with one another. Another neighbor on our block is an elderly couple who are retired military transplants from Washington, D.C. They’ve helped me with projects before while I was at work, like getting petition signatures for the block party. Whenever we need to get things done, people come together and make it happen.

The annual Historic Southwood Park Fall Block Party.

IFW: Tell us about your role on the Southwood Park board and how the flag came about.

SB: I joined the Historic Southwood Park board in 2019, but I was initially a pocket gardener for the neighborhood, so I maintained the garden at the Old Mill roundabout and several others throughout the neighborhood for a couple of years. But over the years, I became more involved with neighborhood projects and started volunteering for the Packard Area Planning Alliance (PAPA). So I gave up my gardening role to make space for others. I eventually became President of PAPA in 2021, and I’m currently serving as the Beautification Chair on the Southwood Park Board of Directors.

As a pocket gardener for Historic Southwood Park's Board, Sierah Barnhart maintained a garden at the Old Mill roundabout and several others throughout the neighborhood for a couple of years.

The idea for creating the first Southwood Park flag came up in a board discussion about a variety of proposed beautification efforts. Myself and another board member, Christopher Cooper (“Coop”), really wanted to make it happen. We went back and forth on probably 50 different designs for the flag. But Coop brought to the forefront some essential flag design principles from the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA), written by Ted Kaye that really helped hone in our vision.

IFW: Tell us more about the flag creation process. 

SB: When you’re designing a flag, you want to make it simple. That means: No words, limiting the number of colors, and keeping it easy to recognize. We ended up choosing the simplest design I created for these very reasons.

I have a background in photography, and I’ve run my own photo business for multiple years. Outside of a South Side High School photoshop class (what’s up Mr. Woehnker?!), I'm self-taught when it comes to designing and using programs, like Photoshop and Illustrator (where I designed our flag). 

The Historic Southwood Park flag hangs proudly on neighbors' homes. Flags can be ordered online for $20.

IFW: Tell us about the different elements of the flag.

SB: The blue background pays homage to the Fort Wayne flag and the Indiana State flag. In the center of the flag, you’ll see an acorn, which represents the sheltering white oaks under which our neighborhood was built and our commitment to keeping our tree canopy alive and well. The acorn is enveloped in a yellow circle to represent our community and the friendliness of our neighbors and friends who reside here.

Behind the acorn, there’s a bold diagonal stripe, which represents the St. Marys river, just as it does on Fort Wayne’s flag. The St. Marys carves out the shape of our beloved Foster Park. So it’s only right to honor its importance to us on our neighborhood flag.

IFW: Tell us more about the programs and values of your neighborhood that inspired this design.

SB: The “welcoming” and “friendly” elements of the flag pay homage to the atmosphere in our neighborhood. Board President Steve McCord and Board Member Kimberly Fenoglio maintain our neighborhood’s Welcome Wagon program. We provide all new residents with gift cards to local businesses Antonnuccio’s Italian Market and the Friendly Fox just after they move in. We also give them information on how to reach out to the board of directors with any concerns or if they are interested in getting involved. We want everyone to feel at home here. 

The acorn speaks to the ways we’ve worked together as a neighborhood association over the years to protect and expand our tree canopy. As you may remember, the invasive Emerald Ash Borer decimated tree populations across our city in the late-2000s and early-2010s. The City of Fort Wayne has been providing treatments to the cities remaining Ash trees. However, neighborhood volunteers, led by Board Member Christine Baron, apply additional treatments, paid for by the association, to our neighborhood’s remaining Ash trees. As a result, we’ve saved at least 50 percent more trees in Southwood Park compared to the rest of the city. That’s been going on well before I joined the board. We’ve always loved our tree canopy. 

The Southwood Park Beautification Committee orders tree seedlings from an Indiana DNR program, which allows the neighborhood to give away free native tree seedlings to neighbors who want to plant trees in their yards.

As a part of the Beautification Committee, another thing I’ve started doing is ordering tree seedlings from an Indiana DNR program, which allows us to give away free native tree seedlings to neighbors who want to plant trees in their yards. The City of Fort Wayne also provides a street tree program where residents can get a street tree for $50. But if you live in Southwood Park, our association will cover the cost for you, so your tree is free! 

No matter what we do as a neighborhood association, we’re always thinking about replenishing and maintaining our tree canopy, and I love that. 

The Southwood Park Beautification Committee orders tree seedlings from an Indiana DNR program, which allows the neighborhood to give away free native tree seedlings to neighbors who want to plant trees in their yards.

IFW: Logistically speaking, how much did your flags cost to make upfront, and any helpful tips for other neighborhoods considering flags of their own?

SB: Because Coop and I volunteered our time and talents to design the flag, the only upfront cost was our bulk shipment of fifty double-sided flags, which was approximately $800. There is the option of ordering single-sided flags, which for the same amount would be about $500; but we’ve found they don't last as long.

A flag can be a great way to share your community pride. I would say try to draw inspiration for your flag from what your neighborhood means to you and your neighbors, and go for it! 

Historic Southwood Park Neighborhood Flag Creation & Sales Guide
By Sierah Barnhart

First, we discussed design elements that would represent our neighborhood. We created dozens of possible flags based on those elements, narrowed them down and conducted an internal vote on which design was most liked. We looked at CincyFlags for inspiration throughout this process. The design was created in Adobe Photoshop and exported as a high-quality jpeg.

We followed these design principles:
  • Keep It Simple. The flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory.
  • Use Meaningful Symbolism. The flag’s images, colors, or patterns should relate to what it symbolizes.
  • Use 2 or 3 Basic Colors. Limit the number of colors on the flag to three which contrast well and come from the
  • standard color set.
  • No Lettering or Seals. Never use writing of any kind or an organization’s seal.
  • Be Distinctive or Be Related. Avoid duplicating other flags, but use similarities to show connections.

We used to order a test flag. We chose a 3x5 ft single sided custom flag. The test flag was presented to our Board of Directors for approval. Once the flag was approved we ordered a batch of 50 flags.

Flags cost $10.37 each and we retailed them for $20. We posted some pre-sale promotional materials on our website and Facebook page. 

Our initial flag sales were hosted at a neighborhood park strip. Board members signed up for two-hour shifts using This allowed us to sell the bulk of our flags without shipping costs or having to coordinate porch drops.

We created a Google Form to collect remaining flag orders and instructed residents to send or deliver payment to a common address. Once payment was received, we coordinated a porch drop of the flag to avoid shipping costs.

We delivered the flags in U-Line Kraft Bakery bags S-9801. We adorned these bags with yellow acorn stickers created with Avery 22830 Glossy Circle Labels.

The author, Kara Hackett, is a resident of Southwood Park.
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Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.