FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — On Oct. 1, a Fort Wayne organization will host an event that looks to remember a forgotten Fort Wayne neighborhood with history “too rich and too vibrant to lose.”
ARCH, a historic preservation organization in Fort Wayne, will host the Irishtown Trolley Tour and Festival, which will offer trolley rides and self-guided neighborhood walks that teach guests about the history of Irishtown.
Irishtown used to roughly make up the land south of downtown from Baker Street to Pontiac Street and from Fairfield Avenue to Calhoun Street, said ARCH Executive Director Connie Haas Zuber.
Haas Zuber said many Irish immigrants helped construct the Wabash & Erie Canal, and those immigrants mostly settled down in what became Irishtown.
“It just so happened, though, that the Irish families tended to clump — as immigrant groups do — in this area just immediately south of what was then a tiny Fort Wayne,” Haas Zuber said.
As Irish immigrants continued to settle into Irishtown, Haas Zuber said the Irish community also had a hand in Fort Wayne’s locomotive industry.
Haas Zuber said by the 1880s, there were 1,100 Irish immigrants living in Irishtown in addition to descendants of Irish immigrants who were born in America.
“[Fort Wayne] continued being a good place to get a good job and to bring your family, and Irish people kept coming here,” Haas Zuber said.
However, by around the 1920s, Haas Zuber said Irishtown was starting to be rebuilt and the Irish community started dispersing to other parts of Fort Wayne, which caused the memory and Irishtown to fade away over time.
Some of the Irishtown staples Haas Zuber said have been lost to time include Irish-based fraternal organizations, a grocery store and an ice cream factory.
Even the name itself is no longer used, as the area considered to be Irishtown is now divided into two neighborhoods: Hoagland Masterson and Williams-Woodland Park.
However, she also pointed out that some remnants of Irishtown still remain including St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and some houses that are either documented by the National Register of Historic Places or have been around since the 1860s.
Haas Zuber said guests will be able to learn about both the past and present representations of Irishtown during the Irishtown Trolley Tour and Festival.
“It shouldn’t be lost,” Haas Zuber said. “It should be celebrated.”
Between the festival and separate plans to add streetscape improvements to Irishtown Plaza, located at the intersection of Fairfield Avenue and Taylor Street, Haas Zuber said she is looking forward to the future of Irishtown.
“I think the future of Irishtown has a lot of bright edges to it right now,” Haas Zuber said.
She hopes the festival will not only teach guests about the history of Irishtown, but also provide a new perspective and understanding for the neighborhood.
“When people know the story of a place, it makes it much more attractive,” Haas Zuber said.
Tickets for the Irishtown Trolley Tour and Festival are available on ARCH’s website for a $5 discount, and tickets bought the day of the event will cost $30 for adults and $25 for children 12 and under.
The festival’s headquarters will be located at Irishtown Plaza and will take place from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.