The sounds of the hustle of a busy afternoon in downtown Fort Wayne grow slightly more faint with every step westward along Wayne Street through lines of trees and homes that have weathered the test of time.
The red brick and white trim manor home at 1337 W. Wayne Street that was once owned by Howell and Vallette Rockhill sits behind a small wrought-iron gate and walkway that leads to a large, covered, front porch.
The 5,300-square-foot Colonial Revival home was designed by English-born Fort Wayne architect Charles Weatherhogg and built in 1910 for the son and daughter-in-law of William Rockhill, a member of the first Fort Wayne City Council who would later serve in the U.S. Congress from 1847 to 1849. The house was later converted into a series of apartments known as “The Wingspread” until it was converted back to single-family use after a previous owner purchased it in 2015.
For two days, anyone wondering what the interior of the home looks like will have a chance to see. The home will open its doors for this weekend’s West Central Home and Garden Tour – a first for the 113-year-old house.
The West Central Neigh- borhood Association is ecstatic that the Arthurs decided to participate in this year’s tour, said Tour Board Member Ellen Sauer. The house has been a point of interest on the tour in the past, but the interior has never been open to guests.
“We’re really excited about it,” Sauer said. “It’s one of the pride pieces of the neighborhood.”
Hannah and Philip Arthur bought the home in August 2022. The couple have an affinity, the Arthurs said, for historical homes and architecture, having lived in West Central’s Jackson Manor apartment building before moving away for nine years. Hannah, an architect, and Philip, a podiatrist, are now the parents of two children and returned to the neighborhood three years ago at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. When they came back, they bought a small pink house on Nelson Street, Philip Arthur said.
Much of the house is like stepping back in time. The front door opens into an elegant foyer that leads to the living room, dining room, kitchen and solarium – a small room of windows toward the rear of the house that provides ample sunlight for house plants. A widened main stairway gives the feel of a manor house’s grand staircase. The hardwood floors, restored using as much of the original material as possible, work to retain much of their original charm and design.
“I’ve always loved old (buildings),” Hannah said. “I think it’s really solid. There is a history and a story, there’s a lot of craftsmanship, the attention to detail is just so rich.”
The Arthurs hadn’t planned on buying The Wingspread but were instead thinking about eventually moving to a larger home to accommodate Philip’s mother, who now lives with the family on West Wayne Street. But one day while Philip was on a run that took him past the property, he noticed a local real estate agent walking around the house, preparing to put it on the market. He contacted the agent and wrote the owners a letter explaining how much his family loved the house and the neighborhood.
“At some point we wound up going in and seeing the house, and when we saw it, it was perfect,” Philip said.
The family purchased the home before it ever hit the market. The couple says the home has worked out well, especially for the kids and Philip’s mother, who enjoys a private entrance to the house’s third floor, a suite with its own kitchen, laundry and bathroom.
Although an older house, the Arthurs have found ways to allow their modern tastes to accentuate the traditional, historical architecture. Many of the walls feature Hannah’s artwork, as well as the couple’s love of boats and sailing.
Hannah and Philip Arthur said they’re excited to showcase their home this year and highlight a little more of the history of the West Central neighborhood. They love how closely knit the neighbors are.
“We walked down to the ice cream shop, and it took us half an hour to get there because we had to stop and talk to all the neighbors outside,” Philip said. “That’s what we love about it.”
The home at 1337 West Wayne is one of 10 tour stops featured this year.
Of those 10, eight are single-family homes, and one is an apartment. One resident will welcome guests into the garden but not the house itself.
“We have a mix of properties that capture the total feel of the neighborhood,” Sauer said. “For example, one is a brand new building. The lot has a ton of history, but the house was torn down and there’s a new build there that tries to capture the essence of the old building.”
The tour isn’t just about exploring and viewing restored old homes, but celebrating the neighborhood as a whole, she said.
“When we have empty lots and then a new house, it’s the next generation, the new iteration of our neighborhood,” Sauer said.