FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – International Harvester has a long-standing history in the city of Fort Wayne, producing the first trucks at the local plant in 1923 and going on to roll more than a million off the assembly line.

The goal of local non-profit Harvester Homecoming is to preserve the company’s legacy. After all, it was one of the city’s top employers during its glory days in the 1970s.

In late January of 2023, Harvester Homecoming welcomed a volunteer crew of International enthusiasts for a “wrenching weekend” to help tune up and restore dozens of trucks in the organization’s collection. Volunteers, who ranged in age from 15 to 81, came from all over including Illinois, Massachusetts, and Kansas City.

Executive Director of Harvester Homecoming Ryan DuVall says the collection includes more than 40 historic International vehicles, as well as historical items from the company’s facilities in Chicago.

Along with the help of the volunteers, Harvester Homecoming hopes to see its Fort Wayne Truck Works and Industry Museum get off the ground.

DuVall believes the museum would be a big boost for the city and is already proving to be an international draw. DuVall tells WANE 15 a couple from Austria came to Fort Wayne over the holiday season to see the “in-the-works” museum.

“It just goes to show you how big of a draw this museum could be for the area and how many visitors it would bring here; visitors who will give their business to not just us, but to hotels, restaurants and other entertainment venues here,” said DuVall.

Austrian couple visits the “in-the-works” museum. Credit: Ryan DuVall

Harvester Homecoming holds an annual festival to celebrate the company’s legacy. DuVall says the festival has become “the largest single-brand festival in the world” with tens of thousands of people who love International trucks coming from all over to tour the old facilities, check out the collection, and share memories of working for the company.

The 5th annual festival will be held Aug. 4 and 5 at 2911 Meyer Road.

WANE 15 has reported that Allen County Commissioners chose 2911 Meyer Road, which was International Harvester’s Navistar campus, as the site for a new Allen County jail, complicating Harvester Homecoming’s plans for a museum in that location.

“We are optimistic that the sale to the county will benefit us in getting our Fort Wayne Truck Works and Industry Museum off the ground and we look forward to discussing options with them once the main objective of getting the jail site approved is complete,” said DuVall. “We had hoped, and asked a year ago, to buy the property ourselves with the help of many of our supporters but were never given the chance to do so. We know that our non-profit, which has grown to become the Super Bowl — if you will — for International Truck enthusiasts, and we believe the museum would be a very positive addition to the transformation of this industrial area that would turn it into something very special.”

In the meantime, DuVall says, Harvester Homecoming is planning a host of of special events this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first trucks being built in Fort Wayne. You can follow Harvester Homecoming’s website, Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates.

Credit: Ryan DuVall