Abandoned department store in Indiana


Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana
Date added: May 09, 2023 Categories: Indiana Retail Department Store
Facade looking northwest (1987)

The Kresge-Groth Building is one of the largest commercial examples of the Spanish Colonial Revival style to be found in Fort Wayne. The original 1926 design, built by the S. S. Kresge Company to house its downtown dimestore, was the work of Harold Holmes, a Detroit architect. Both the Embassy Theater/Indiana Hotel and the Chamber of Commerce Building were built in the same style two years later, and they remain its largest local exemplars. But the majority of the other local commercial structures in this style were on the much smaller scale used for neighborhood stores and service stations.

When the Kresge company sold the property in 1933, the building became the quarters for the Earl Groth Company. This was a local department store originally known as Rurode Dry Goods from the 1860s until its relocation to this site. Earl Groth, who had joined Rurode as general manager in 1920, purchased the firm in 1930, and renamed the company when he moved it out of its former quarters and into this building in 1933. Before moving the store Groth had the new location remodeled by Alvin M. Strauss, one of the most prolific commercial architects then practicing in Fort Wayne. Though the Groth remodeling included store fixtures and a first-floor facade, only the Art Deco ceiling on the second floor remains as tangible evidence of the Groth Company's occupation of the building. The Groth Company remained at this location until its demise in 1961, thus making it one of the most long-lived of downtown Fort Wayne's commercial institutions.

The building's later history was symptomatic of the decline of downtown Fort Wayne as a Shopping district. From 1964 to 1971, Walgreen Drugs used the building, before relocating to a suburban mall. Demolition of its long-time location in a building on the opposite side of Calhoun Street (for the sake of the construction of a bank tower) caused another venerable Fort Wayne retailer, Fishman's, to purchase this building in 1974. Though Fishman's gave the building its present first-floor facade treatment and chemically cleaned the upper facade, they, too, departed for the suburbs in 1979. The Kresge-Groth Building has stood vacant ever since.

Building Description

The Kresge-Groth Building is located between Wayne and Washington Streets on the west side of Calhoun Street in downtown Fort Wayne. Starting in the late nineteenth century and well into this century, Calhoun Street was the principal shopping area in the city's central business district; today Calhoun Street is a transit mall open only to pedestrians and buses, and most retail activity in the area is dependent upon the office workers who have largely replaced shoppers as the area's principal users.

The Kresge-Groth Building is a three-story Spanish Colonial Revival design. The tapestry brick of the upper facade is punctuated by three round-topped wall arches, each of which contains two bays of fenestration. These bays are separated within each arch by smooth limestone-engaged columns that rise two stories to terminate in cushion caps, from which spring the smaller round arches that top the third-floor windows. Diaper panels decorated with rosettes enrich the spandrels above the flat-topped second-floor windows, and all the sash are original one-over-one double-hung elements. The tops of the panels between the wall arches each sport a projecting limestone gargoyle, and the facade is capped by a band of machicolations with stepped stone corbels beneath a pent roof of green Spanish tiles. Comparison of the present building with a period view shows that with the exception of the remodeling on the first floor, which dates from 1974, the facade is intact. The original five bays of the first floor had two pairs of entrance doors separated by display windows; the present facade has three bays and a central entry. The end piers, the former transom area, and the later center piers have all been clad in aggregate-faced concrete. Of the original first-floor facade, only the distilled limestone cornice along the top of the first floor is still visible. The side and rear elevations of the building are made of yellow pressed brick, including a fourth-floor mechanical room at the rear. Large openings with steel sash are used across the back wall on each of the upper floors.

The first floor of the building consists of a single large display room. At the rear (southwest) corner, stairs with a wrought iron handrail and marble treads descends to the basement beneath a large Palladian window. Accounts of the original construction noted that a similar stair was once located near the front of the first floor. Both the basement and the first floor are finished with a ceiling that consists of panels of pressed metal ceiling in bays defined by large paneled beams which open the width of the building. Access to the upper floors is made not only by a modern elevator placed midway down the south side of the building, but by a freight elevator just behind (west of) it, and by an original platform stair located in the northwest rear corner. This stairway has a colonial-style goose-neck rail, plain square balusters, and paneled newels, this stair extends the full height of the building, including the rooftop mechanical penthouse.

The second floor, originally described as a storage area, was remodeled into a display area in 1933 by the addition to it of a coffered plaster ceiling done in the Art Deco style. The coffers are long, narrow rectangles across the front third of the room, square at the midpoint, and a single lozenge-shaped panel is centered on the remaining rear area, in front of the enclosed stairwell and the freight elevator. The rear ceiling beams feature bands of stylized floral ornament; those at the front have lateral bands of parallel half-round moldings. The area across the front of the second floor has been partitioned into offices, and it has a plaster ceiling dropped below the coffering. The offices have colonial-style chair rails, window casing, and picture moldings.

The third floor is a single large room with plain plaster walls. The windows inside the facade have plain sill and apron trim, but no casings. Here and throughout the building, the steel sash in the rear wall are set in plain plaster reveals.

Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana Facade looking northwest (1987)
Facade looking northwest (1987)

Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana Facade as shown in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (1927)
Facade as shown in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (1927)

Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana Original facade on left and 1933 renovation on right (1987)
Original facade on left and 1933 renovation on right (1987)

Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana First floor facade as redesigned for Earl Groth Company (1933)
First floor facade as redesigned for Earl Groth Company (1933)

Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana Historic view of showcase (1933)
Historic view of showcase (1933)

Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana Looking northeast at rear (1987)
Looking northeast at rear (1987)

Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana Looking west in former first floor display area (1987)
Looking west in former first floor display area (1987)

Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana First floor rear stairway (1987)
First floor rear stairway (1987)

Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana Original ceiling above modern one on first floor (1987)
Original ceiling above modern one on first floor (1987)

Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana Looking east in basement (1987)
Looking east in basement (1987)

Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana Looking northwest to rear on second floor landing (1987)
Looking northwest to rear on second floor landing (1987)

Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana Looking east towards front on second floor (1987)
Looking east towards front on second floor (1987)

Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana Second floor office (1987)
Second floor office (1987)

Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana Looking east on third floor (1987)
Looking east on third floor (1987)

Kresge-Groth Building, Fort Wayne Indiana Looking northwest on third floor (1987)
Looking northwest on third floor (1987)