At the request of the McMillen Foundation, a City of Fort Wayne contractor today will begin work to take down the obsolete Bowser buildings located at 1302 E. Creighton Ave. After the work is completed, the McMillen Foundation, which owns the buildings, will donate the property to the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne. The adjacent Renaissance Pointe YMCA will use it for recreational activities.
The history of the Bowser buildings and the Bowser Company will be memorialized with two historical markers placed in Bowser Park, located at the corner of Reed and Fisher streets. Residents are invited to provide input about the design and content of the markers at an upcoming public meeting.
Beginning today, Martin Enterprises will place barriers around the Bowser buildings and begin working on the interior of the buildings. Martin will salvage everything from office furniture to building materials, including all the exterior bricks. The salvage work will save on demolition costs, as well as allow the majority of the material to be reused instead of being sent to a landfill. Since the work will be done gradually, it will take six months to a year. The property will be secured and fenced but there will be no need to block off any portion of Creighton Avenue to traffic.
Once Martin has cleared the site, the land will be planted with grass seed. Afterward, the McMillen Foundation will transfer ownership of the property to the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne, which will use it for outdoor recreation activities. This will allow a property that was vacant and obsolete to become an asset for the neighborhood.
After several years of gathering information from area residents and possible developers, the McMillen Foundation requested assistance from the City to remove the buildings because developers found them too costly to rehabilitate. In order to be functional, the primary Bowser building would need completely new heating, cooling, and electrical systems, new plumbing, asbestos abatement, adaptations for ADA compliance and more.
“The City and McMillen Foundation talked with several developers who toured the main building and found it too costly to renovate,” said Greg Leatherman, City of Fort Wayne Community Development division director. “Instead of allowing the buildings to further deteriorate, we want to ensure that the property is an asset to the neighborhood and can be used for recreation.”
“This property will allow the Renaissance Pointe YMCA to expand outdoor activities and can be used for our summer day camp recreation as well as other YMCA programs,” said Marty Pastura, YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne President and CEO.”
The City of Fort Wayne is working with Green 3 Consulting to document and memorialize the Bower buildings and their history. A document filled with photos and historical architectural renderings is expected to be completed within several months and will be available online at www.fwcommunitydevelopment.org/bowser.
The 60,000 square foot office building located at 1302 E. Creighton Ave. was built in 1917 and was the corporate headquarters of the S.F. Bowser Company, which manufactured gas pumps. Sylvanus Freelove Bowser invented the first self-measuring pump and founded his company in 1885. The manufacturing plant to the south of the headquarters closed in 1961 and was destroyed by fire in 1997.
Dale W. McMillen, Sr. purchased the Bowser buildings in 1965 and the McMillen Foundation leased them to the Phelps Dodge Company for approximately 30 years. The City of Fort Wayne’s Police Department then operated out of the Bowser headquarters until 2012.