12 historic Fort Wayne gems to explore on the first virtual Williams Woodland Park Holiday Home Tour

In recent years, the Williams Woodland Park (WWP) neighborhood, just south of downtown Fort Wayne, has grown its social media presence and become a hotspot for young homeowners and transplants alike.

If you live in Fort Wayne, you might know the neighborhood for its rich history or enchanting architecture. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, WWP is a beacon of late-19th/early-20th century residential design, with homes featuring coffered ceilings, warm hearths, and craft woodwork.

Inside the Lipsett House, built in 1895.

But if you ask residents, like Marlene Fenstermacher, what makes WWP special, they’ll tell you it’s more than the historic houses or proximity to downtown. It’s the people who make the houses into homes—coming together to share meals, block parties, and big ideas for their future.

“We’re not just about architecture,” Fenstermacher says. “We’re about community, family, love, and being together.”

WWP neighborhood volunteers working on the first Virtual Holiday Home Tour in 2020.

So when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the city in 2020 and threatened in-person gatherings, Fenstermacher and other WWP residents pulled together to support their neighborhood and city in a new way. For 31 years, WWP has hosted its annual Holiday Home Tour as a means of fundraising for neighborhood projects and sharing its beautiful architecture with the broader community.

In 2020, they decided to use this event as an opportunity to give back to the city in its time of need, offering the first Virtual Holiday Home Tour, free of cost for anyone to peruse online.

“It had been such a crummy year, so we wanted to be able to give a gift to the community,” Fenstermacher says, noting that sponsors helped make the event possible.

Inside the Vail House, built in 1907.

As Chair of the 2020 Virtual Home Tour Committee, she led a team that developed a smorgasbord of activities, including historical facts about WWP, dynamic photos and videos of homes, 360° panoramic images, a neighborhood scavenger hunt, and more (even a Spotify playlist to enjoy while you browse).

The 2020 Virtual Holiday Home Tour will be live on WWP’s website until January 9, so be sure to check it out while you can. After that, stay in touch with WWP on its website and social media accounts for other fun ways to get involved.

“It’s just the best place in the world to live,” Fenstermacher says.

Here are the highlights of 12 historic homes on the 2020 Virtual Holiday Home Tour in Williams Woodland Park.
 

The Lipsett House, 1895

The Lipsett House, 1895This nine-room folk Victorian home was built in 1895, at an estimated cost of $1,650. It was built for William and Georgiana Lipsett, who would have enjoyed a view of William’s Grove, a popular picnicking area that encompassed the land between Webster and Hoagland.

Learn more here.

 

The Barnes House, 1900

The Barnes House, 1900

You’ve heard of the new Electric Works project in Fort Wayne? This Colonial Revival home was built for Edward Alexander Barnes, the Superintendent of the project’s namesake, Fort Wayne Electric Works. Originally from England, Mr. Barnes was considered one of the last members of the Edison Pioneers, associates of Thomas Edison who worked with him in his earlier days.

Learn more here.

 

The Pidgeon House, 1903

Charles T. and Maud Pidgeon House, 1903This classic Queen Anne home with Arts and Crafts details was built for Charles T. and Maud Pidgeon. Mr. Pidgeon was originally president of the James A. Armstrong Company, which specialized in wholesale millinery (ladies’ hats). He later took over the company and changed the name to C.T. Pidgeon Millinery Company, which employed more than 100 seamstresses who added decorative flowers and ribbons to hats and sent buyers to New York and Europe to purchase supplies.

Learn more here.

 

The Gilmartin House, 1905

The Gilmartin House, 1905

This American foursquare was built as a single-family home, and then converted into two apartments, one upstairs and one downstairs. It has since been restored to a single-family home with craftsman details throughout, and rumor has it that the woodwork was fashioned from trees on the property.

Learn more here.

 

The Vail House, 1907

The Vail House, 1907

This prairie eclectic home was built for A.T. Vail and Mabel Vail with stucco construction and a tile roof, reminiscent of mission style, which was uncommon in Fort Wayne at the time. Mr. Vail was a prominent local figure who owned a cooperage, which made barrels, and used his home for entertaining. When one of his daughters married, he hosted a 125-person reception in this spacious home.

Learn more here.

 

The Maxwell House, c. 1912

The Maxwell House, c. 1912

This American Foursquare home was built for George W. and Sarah Maxwell with a unique oriel window on the second floor. Mr. Maxwell had a wide and varied career, teaching school, clerking in a store in Churubusco, and owning a general store. Later, the home was sold to Erve and Lula Throp, Vice President for the family-owned Throp restaurants.

Learn more here.

 

The Mackwitz Home, 1913

The Mackwitz Home, 1913

This early Colonial Revival style home originally belonged to Hermann Mackwitz, the publisher of Fort Wayne’s largest German newspaper.

Learn more here.

 

The Wing House, 1913

The Wing House, 1913This home was built by Fort Wayne architect John Wing as a wedding gift to his daughter. The interior has a terrazzo entryway and an interesting frieze in the main hallway. Mr. Wing lived on Creighton Street around the corner from the couple, and residents remembered him walking up the street, cane in hand, to visit his daughter and son-in-law, who served on several committees aimed at helping others during the influenza pandemic.

Learn more here.

 

The Stillman-Steele House, 1917

The Stillman-Steele House, 1917

The Stillman-Steele house is a craftsman bungalow with a side-gambrel roof and wide, overhanging, flared eaves. All exterior walls of the house, including the porch piers, are covered by stucco with a rough-textured surface of crushed stone.

Learn more here.

 

The Gerke House, c. 1917

The Gerke House, c. 1917This quintessential American foursquare home was built in great numbers through the 1930s and fully revitalized inside by the Hoffman family, who currently owns it.

Learn more here.

 

Fairfield Manor, 1928

Fairfield Manor, 1928

Fairfield Manor is a seven-story, rectangular, Beaux-Arts style brick building with 70 individual apartments in varying floor plans beginning with single studio units, one and two bedrooms, and two large penthouse suites. It was the first high rise apartment building in Fort Wayne, and it was designed by a well-respected Fort Wayne architect, Charles Weatherhogg.

Learn more here.

 

Fairfield Manor Penthouse, 1928

Fairfield Manor Penthouse, 1928Over the years, many prominent Fort Wayne area residents have occupied the two Penthouses at Fairfield Manor, which have their own traditions and unique history. The apartment pictured here is claimed to be haunted by the maid of the first residents, waiting for her lost love to return. This apartment is also responsible for hosting an annual holiday party every December, which the former resident informed the current occupant they must continue to do. If they didn’t, guests would still show up for the party anyway because it’s been going on for the past 40 years.

Learn more here.

 

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

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.
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