Waynedale Cemetery, Kensington Boulevard area seeking ‘historic’ designations

The Prairie Grove Cemetery in Waynedale could soon officially be "historic." (Courtesy photo)

A local cemetery and neighborhood are seeking designations as historic districts — one at the local level, the other national.

The city’s Historic Preservation Commission on Monday is expected to consider designating the Prairie Grove chapel and cemetery on Old Trail Road in Waynedale as local historic district, which according to the city’s historic preservation staff is “significant for its association with the settlement history of rural Wayne Township and the area that would later become Waynedale.”.

In the 1850s the United Brethren in Christ was expanding its missionary efforts to the west from Ohio into Indiana and bought land at the future site of the chapel and cemetery on April 21, 1855. At the time, what is today Old Trail Road was the Fort Wayne-Bluffton Plank Road — a major highway. According to the staff report, it is unknown when the Brethren Church built the chapel. An 1858 shows a simple chapel, but it is also possible an earlier chapel was replaced by the current building, which “is typical of simple church structures that were built in the period of c.1865 to c.1885.”

The chapel is considered “an outstanding example of a simple, rural church building of the 19th Century. Despite its wood-frame construction, and the undocumented date of actual construction, the chapel is among the oldest church buildings in Fort Wayne (and) has exceptional historic integrity.”

In addition, the cemetery’s outhouse “also retains excellent historic integrity. Historic Preservation staff is not aware of another example within Fort Wayne or Allen County,” the report states, adding that the “Cemetery is a typical example of a rural cemetery that shows the changing population and the changing styles of grave markers from the mid-19th Century to the present. Cemeteries such as Prairie Grove are common, yet very few have retained a historic church or chapel in association with the cemetery use . . . and it is certainly the best example of a rural chapel and cemetery within the city of Fort Wayne.”

Designation as a local historic district protects properties by requiring city approval before making significant exterior changes.

The Kensington Boulevard neighborhood, meanwhile, is seeking placement on the National Register of Historic Places. Generally bounded by East State Boulevard on the north, North Anthony Boulevard on the west, Niagara Drive on the south and Pemberton Drive on the east, the area contains 167 structures of various designs built from the 1920s to the 1950s.

According to the application, the area is eligible for the register for several reasons, including its association ” with events that made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of Fort Wayne’s history; i.e., the importance of transportation infrastructure to the development of Fort Wayne’s suburbs . . . It is not happenstance that (the developer) developed this small suburb near or on major transportation assets like North Anthony Boulevard and Lake Avenue.

“Today the Kensington Boulevard Historic District contains an inventory of home style examples from the early decades of the 20th Century with a degree of integrity not found in many subdivisions from the period.”