Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, May 5, 2017

Endangered: Fort Wayne Memorial Park—A Call for Support from Our Readers

By Mark Levitch, Founder and President
World War I Memorial Inventory Project

Fort Wayne Memorial Park's World War I memorial arch with two figures
by sculptor EM. Viquesney (dedicated 1928)

A recent proposal by the Indiana Institute of Technology (Indiana Tech) to build extensive athletic facilities at Fort Wayne Memorial Park threatens the integrity of a World War I memorial of national significance. Fort Wayne Memorial Park is one of only six examples of an entirely new commemorative form that emerged in the U.S. in the wake of the war—a multi-acre municipal park designed specifically, and in its entirety, as a World War I memorial. 

While hundreds of small existing parks were renamed memorial parks in the aftermath of the war, only Fort Wayne, El Paso, Houston, Jacksonville (FL), Muskegon, and Salt Lake City elected to pay tribute to their World War I veterans by designing from scratch large landscaped parks intended from the outset to serve as Great War memorials.  Of these, only the memorial parks at Fort Wayne, Jacksonville, Muskegon, and Salt Lake City contain additional World War I memorial elements, such as memorial groves and monuments, that are integral to the park’s design and purpose.  

The Art Smith monument in Memorial Grove
(sculptor James Novelli, dedicated 1930)

Fort Wayne Memorial Park stands out among these for having three memorials dedicated to the memory of World War I servicemen and women. These include Memorial Grove; a large memorial arch at the front of which stand E.M. Viquesney’s “Spirit of the American Doughboy” alongside his less common “Spirit of the American Navy”; and an allegorical sculpture, “Memory,” dedicated to Olen J. Pond and other Fort Wayne World War I veterans (a statue that has been headless since vandals damaged it in the 1980s). A fourth memorial, the Art Smith monument, honors a local aviator who, among other deeds, trained combat pilots in World War I.

The most insensitive and injurious aspect of Indiana Tech’s proposal is the leveling of Memorial Grove for the construction of a new track facility. Memorial Grove—the park’s oldest memorial and topographically most significant element—embodies the park’s memorial function. The grove, set on a hill and demarcated by an elliptical drive, originally contained a tree for each of the 125 Fort Wayne men and women who lost their lives while in military service during the war—including Kurt Jaenicke, the son of the park’s designer. 

Indiana Tech’s plans for Memorial Park
(Click on Image to enlarge)

Adolph Jaenicke’s original plan called for an obelisk at the center of the grove.  The Art Smith monument, by sculptor James Novelli, fulfills that role spectacularly (and appropriately, given Smith’s ties to the park and his World War I service).  The grove and memorial were conceived together as the park’s hallowed focal point; destroying the site of the grove and moving the Smith memorial (as Indiana Tech has proposed) will effectively destroy the park’s uniquely powerful memorial character.  

While Fort Wayne Memorial Park’s historic character has been eroded over the years, the bones of the original memorial are still in place.  Rehabilitating the park, including replanting trees in Memorial Grove and conserving the park’s other World War I memorials (especially the long-headless Pond memorial), would be a fitting tribute to those from Fort Wayne who sacrificed their lives a century ago.  Transforming the park created in their honor into an athletic facility—on the centennial of U.S. entry into the war, no less—would not. 

Olen J. Pond memorial featuring the sculpture “Memory”
(now headless) by Frank Hibbard (1930)

Taking Action

Fort Wayne’s mayor and Parks Department director support the plan and aim to break ground in June. The city’s Planning Commission is holding a critical hearing on Monday 8 May to discuss the proposal, which is opposed by several preservation groups. The best way to voice opposition to the proposed changes at short notice is to email the interested parties:

Al Moll, Parks Director:
Richard Samek, President, Parks Board of Commissioners:
Dr. Arthur Tyner, President, Indiana Institute of Technology:
Tom Henry, Mayor of Fort Wayne:


  1. I am happy to report that an overflow crowd attended a public hearing last night on the proposed changes, and that the vast majority of speakers--many of them veterans-- decried Indiana Tech's plans. The opposition was so significant that the Planning Commission has postponed its Monday meeting and another public hearing has been set for June 1 (when Indiana Tech had hoped to break ground). An official vote on the plan is now not likely to take place until August. I will post updates on the WWI Memorial Inventory Project's Facebook page.

  2. Just sent the following:
    Shame on all of you for so thoroughly dishonoring and denigrating the valiant service of the Ft. Wayne men and women who served and made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives, to secure our freedom!
    Regardless what you claim your motive to be, it is nothing but bloody-mindedness! For the sake of the money that would change hands, you would destroy one of the few remaining monuments of its type, a place in the middle of the city where people may go to honor their ancestral dead, reflect on the lessons of history or just be QUIET.
    Rosemary Teetor
    Daughter of a WW1 vet from Indiana and former Indiana Tech student
    Executive Director, Unsung Heros WW1
    Thanks for the head up! What sadness that those whose prosperity and wealth derive DIRECTLY from the freedoms won by the WW1 vets are so short-sighted and insensitive as to wish to profit from the destruction of a memorial dedicated to their ancestors who won those freedoms for them.
    Rosemary Teetor

  3. Such a desecration of memory of the bravery of our young sons who fought to preserve the rights of generations to come, generations now who have no moral compass or any sense of respect whatsoever. An old Marine once said "No man is dead until he is forgotten". Shame Shame shame on you all. Bow your heads in prayer for forgiveness for what you are about to do.
    Michael E. O'Hara, USMC 1967-70

  4. I can only wonder if any member voting to threaten the integrity of the Fort Wayne WWI Memorial has a son or daughter serving in the military, and if something happened to his son or daughter in service, if the member would want memories obliterated by an athletic field. No more American military will be buried in foreign countries. It is up to us Americans to honor those who have given their lives that we may be free. It is up to us to decide how we want to honor their memory. Threatening the integrity of the Fort Wayne WWI Memorial does not honor the memory of those who gave their lives for us.