FROM THE DESK OF SENATOR DAVID LONG
This article will focus upon two subjects: the first, a source of pride that I am sure is shared by most of us; the second, a pet peeve of mine that I hope is shared by others.
First, the issue of pride. This week, the Allen County Courthouse is being rededicated after a major renovation that has spanned a number of years and no small amount of frustration. What we have, in the end, is an historic treasure of national significance, a courthouse that may be one of the two or three most important and historically significant in the entire country. The project was painstakingly conducted to ensure that the priceless murals on the walls and ceilings of the building were preserved. It included having to remove years of cheap repaint jobs which had removed the original subtle beauty of the colors on the walls. It also included finding someone in the world who knew how to work with scagliola, which is a polished plaster which has the look of marble, but is much more beautiful. The renovation committee found its man in Europe, and he has done a fabulous job.
The crown jewels of this building are the courtrooms, which have to be among the most beautiful in the entire United States. They have to be seen to be appreciated, which is what I’m getting at. It isn’t surprising that many people in our community have never been inside the Courthouse. It is usually only when they have business there that they have occasion to go inside, and even then, it is just coming and going to their destination.
Well, there are regular tours of the Courthouse scheduled, and I really encourage each of you readers who have either never been in there or haven’t seen the renovations to take the time to visit. This building, once visited, is guaranteed to swell your chest with pride. It is amazing that such a structure was ever conceived, let alone constructed, in a community our size. This is a building you might expect to see in Washington D.C., or New York City. It is a structure that will, ultimately, bring many people from outside our community and state to visit it and admire it. It is, unquestionably, one of Ft. Wayne’s greatest achievements; a treasure that can now be admired and preserved for many generations to come.
On the other side of the spectrum, Ft. Wayne has one of the most famous children’s heroes anywhere buried in our community, yet his gravesite is a true disappointment and letdown for all who visit its location. I am speaking, of course, of John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed. The gravesite of this children’s favorite should draw people from all over the country. It should be a major destination for families. It should be a tourist bonanza for our community. Instead, it is hardly promoted; the gravesite is a huge disappointment for those who take the time to find it, if they can; and the gravesite adds nothing to our community or our economy.
I think of all the effort that went into keeping the Old Fort alive, including the great work of the Historical Society in having re-enactors work and sweat in the summer heat as the pioneers did. Why couldn’t we have such an effort centered around the Johnny Appleseed burial site? Why not try to re-enact the life and times of our country during his lifetime, so that families around the US could come here and have a genuinely enjoyable learning experience?
When you look at what Connor Prairie has done with a lot less to promote, you can see what could be accomplished at this location.
I’m just spouting off a little, but it seems to me that we here in Ft. Wayne have been missing a rare opportunity to not only create a wonderful learning environment for our kids and children everywhere, but also a great opportunity to create a superb tourist attraction for our area. After seeing what has been done at our Courthouse because a few people dared to dream, I have little doubt that a Johnny Appleseed Historical Center could happen, and be very successful.