An intimate tour of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and environs by Beth Gay

Did you hear about the family reunion planner, stranded on a desert island, who found a glass bottle on the beach? Removing the cork from the bottle, the planner was amazed to see a turbaned, bejeweled genie escape from the narrow neck of the container.

“Ah, my reunion planner, as a reward for my freedom, you may have anything you wish for. Riches beyond comprehension; a pirate’s hoard of rubies, sapphires, diamonds, gold, pearls and silks; a palace, fine horses…anything is within your grasp. Only wish for it…..”

The reunion planner thought only for a few seconds and said, “Oh, genie, all I wish for is a place for my family to gather. It must be centrally located, have facilities for a group of most any size, have plenty to do for the youngsters, have plenty to do for the adults and restaurants to suit any appetite and budget. I wish for shopping and music and art…and museums…”

The genie, with a frown upon his brow said, “Ah, my reunion planner, you ask a lot…”

The planner interrupted, “Oh, genie, that’s not all! My place must be located so that we may study our genealogy and where we can pursue our own ethnicity.”

The genie, with a deep frown, said, “Wouldn’t you just like a ton of gold?”

“No,” replied our intrepid reunion planner. “I only wish for a family reunion Mecca…a place perfect for my aunts and uncles and sisters and brothers, cousins and children and kissin’ kin to gather for a time they will never forget. I wish for all this and wish the magical place to be safe.”

The genie sat with his eyes closed and thought. He thought some more. He sighed and thought. Finally, with a grin so huge, he said, “I’ve got it. I’ve got it. It’s the perfect place for you to go with your kinfolk many….it’s Fort Wayne, Indiana!”

Fort Wayne began as a crossroads because it is at the confluence of the St. Mary’s, St. Joseph and Maumee Rivers … and continues as a crossroads in the Midwest.

Early on, whomever controlled the land that became Ft. Wayne controlled a key place in the wilderness of North America. Today, Ft. Wayne is still right in the center of things… less than one day’s drive from Chicago, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville and Indianapolis.

Ft. Wayne is a safe city where you may enjoy the big city amenities in an atmosphere of small town friendliness and charm.

The Genealogy Department of the Allen County Public Library is the second largest genealogical library in the US, the largest east of the Mississippi with about half a million books and documents and an equal amount of microfilm and microfiche. No matter your ethnicity, this library will have much to keep you working for as long as you can stay.

Contact the library through their web site: or call 219-421-1225. The library is located at 900 Webster Street. You may write PO Box 2270, Ft. Wayne, IN 46801.

Adults and children alike will enjoy The Lincoln Museum. This site will take you through 11 galleries, 4 theaters and 18 interactive stations, and original Lincoln family documents and personal items. Lincoln researchers can access a library of rare Lincoln books by appointment.

The Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory with three ‘gardens’ under glass is downtown and a great place to start a museum tour. Within easy walking distance to the Cathedral Museum, Firefighters Museum, Old City Hall Museum and the Museum of Art. Plan your reunion around exhibits at the Museum of Art and concerts performed by the Ft. Wayne Philharmonic.

Your family reunion may join the half million people who visit the Ft. Wayne Public Gardens each year. Lakeside Garden is nationally recognized as an All America Rose Display Garden. Glenbrook Square and Glenbrook Commons are the largest shopping destinations in Indiana.

Rivergreenway Consortium, a linear park along the banks of Ft. Wayne’s rivers, extends from county line to county line. There are natural vistas and scenic overlooks…a perfect place for a few quiet hours during the midst of a hectic reunion.

Plan your reunion around The Johnny Appleseed Festival that celebrates the life and times of John Chapman.

Science Central is fun for all ages! You can experiment with the laws of science and technology. Scientific demonstrations show how science affects our every day lives…and how much fun it can be. Ride the indoor high-rail bicycle twenty feet in the air, or defy gravity in the moonwalk exhibit.

The Children’s Zoo is – according to Travel America magazine – “quite simply the nation’s best children’s zoo” where exhibits, contrasting climates and 1,0000 different species with theme rides for an educational…and fun experience.

Ft. Wayne has been also called the City of Restaurants. You’ll find glorious food for every taste and budget. From Cindy’s Diner (where the “Garbage” is great for breakfast), to the most elegant French cuisine. The Window Garden Restaurant on the 13th floor of the NBD Bank Building offers stunning views of Ft. Wayne and Indiana…and delicious food.

Here are some of the out of the ordinary reunion venues! The Old #3 Fire House Cafe built in 1893 is available for parties, buffets and receptions and is a great place for reunions. The chemical engine, one-hose wagon and six firefighters were stationed in what is now a charming Firefighters Museum. Mallory’s, in The Guesthouse Hotel, and the Ft. Wayne Hilton & Convention Center, downtown, will bring your family reunion back again and again.

Ft. Wayne is home to DeBrand Chocolates – enough reason to crawl from Timbuktu to Ft. Wayne. DeBrand Fine Chocolates and Dessert Cafe can accommodate up to 25 people and is the perfect place for small reunions! See their web site for details:

Plan your own reunion around one of Ft. Wayne’s summertime ethnic festivals. Downtown, Headwaters Park houses huge Festival Tents, which, in turn, house celebrations of heritage. Germanfest in June, the Indiana Highland Games about Celtic heritage in July, Berne Swiss Days in July, or Berne Heritage Days in September.

Accommodations? You’ll find memorable places to stay no matter your budget or no matter your needs for one room or hundreds of rooms!

Bed and Breakfasts abound in Indiana! The Carole Lombard House – where the famous movie star was born – is located right on Ft. Wayne’s River Greenway.

The Guesthouse Hotel on West Washington Center Road has conference facilities with all of the “perks” you need. The Signature Inn offers free amenities not found at other mid-priced hotels. There’s a room with an eighty-five-person capacity that might be perfect for your reunion.

The Holiday Inn Northwest has a two-story adventure play area, the indoor recreation center is like nothing this country girl had ever seen before! It surely answers the question, “Where can we stay so that the kids will have plenty to do?” Newly renovated, this hotel has everything you need for a reunion…with room for a gathering of up to 300.

The Ft. Wayne Hilton and Grand Wayne Center offer two of the best reasons to plan your next event in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, with the ultimate surroundings and complete support system for your family reunion. Located in the heart of the downtown area, the hotel can accommodate meetings of up to 100 people. The Grand Wayne Center has banquet space for up to 1,800 people!

The genie made a great choice! Ft. Wayne, Indiana is the answer to any reunion planner’s greatest wish for the perfect reunion city. For details and brochures contact the Convention and Visitors Bureau Ft. Wayne, Allen County at 1-800-767-7752 or write 1021 South Calhoun,

Nearby Ft. Wayne
For the old car buffs in your family, the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum will offer an hour or a day of wonder. It’s just a short drive away in Auburn, Indiana.

Just a short drive will take you to the Hurshtown Reservoir for fishing, picnicking, boating,sailing, and windsurfing.

Grabill, Indiana, fifteen minutes northeast of Ft. Wayne, is nestled in the midst of a large settlement of Old Order Amish. Grabill offers history, culture, wonderful restaurants, and unique shops. It is a glimpse of another way of life. If you are a horse-lover as I am, you will thrill to see the magnificent draft horses at work in the fields and light horses clip-clopping down the roads with their Amish buggies.

Celebrate your Swiss Heritage at Berne, Indiana, settled in 1852 by a group of Mennonite immigrants. You’ll find, in Berne, a Swiss pioneer village and the world’s biggest cider press!

About the author
Beth Gay, DCTJ, FSA Scot is editor of The Family Tree, a wonderful bi-monthly newspaper for genealogists, The Claymore and By Sea By Land. She lives in Moultrie, Georgia, when she’s not leading enchanting tours of Scotland. She was a torch bearer on the way to the opening of the 1996 Olympics.