Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Update On The Cornucopia (New Information - 4:30 est)

Wanted to add another shot of Eavey's from the Life Magazine Image Collection.

Also, I spoke with John Elliott - the media spokesperson from Kroger. If any of you would like to contact him, he is open to it - his email address is John.Elliott@kroger.com and the number he can be reached is 317-538-1495.

This appeared in today's Journal Gazette:

Scott’s cornucopia unlikely to be saved

"A local landmark is expected to be lost when the Scott’s Food & Pharmacy at 5300 Decatur Road closes Feb. 14.

The large cornucopia adorning the front of the building is anchored with steel that extends from the top of the horn into the foundation, Kroger Co. spokesman John Elliott said.

Elliott didn’t know of any plans to preserve the sign. And he expressed doubts it could be saved without destroying part of the building."

So here's the good news. The Journal Gazette took some liberties with its reporting and certainly, with its headline.

I spoke to John Elliott for approximately 15 minutes. He was very open, polite, and gracious. The question he was asked by the Journal Gazette was - would Kroger pay to move the cornucopia to another place.

Kind of a different question than what I was asking.

I asked him - is there any possible way - we can save the cornucopia? I explained to John (me - a complete stranger) that this cornucopia was an iconic symbol to the citizens of Fort Wayne. I probably blathered on for a good 5 minutes, explaining the emotional attachment to it and my gosh - the man listened to me.

He not only listened - he gave me feedback that he - and Kroger - were certainly open to a dialog with us (us being those emotionally attached to our cornucopia).

He did go into some explanation regarding why they were closing the Decatur Road store versus the Kroger located across the way.

A couple of items (and I am paraphrasing)

1) That area of the city has not been generally supportive of the store. Sales are very poor.

2) The Kroger across the way is located in a shopping center which gives the place more foot traffic.

3) The closest Kroger had been recently remodeled and one of the deciding factors in closing Decatur Road, was a combination of its declining sales and the price to have to remodel.

John said he was going to check in to see what the status was of the real estate situation. He was optimistic and said someone from Fort Wayne could always come along and purchase the place. And you know - he's completely right. He also said that a new owner wouldn't necessarily NOT preserve it. I wanted to bring up Southtown Mall to him but then I didn't want to burden him with Fort Wayne's issues.

SO - I'm passing this all off to my buddy Stephen Parker - and between the two of us - and anyone that is willing to jump in and help - we want to figure out how to save a piece of Fort Wayne history. By the way, ARCH remains silent and passive on the situation which pisses me off. Send them some of your love, k?

The elected representative for the district where the Decatur Road Scott's is located is Councilman Glynn A. Hines. He can be reached here - 260-447-7144 or glynnhines@aol.com

WE WILL NOT LET ANOTHER PIECE OF FORT WAYNE / SOUTH SIDE HISTORY BE DESTROYED. WAKE UP FORT WAYNE LEADERSHIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Update (4:31 p.m. est)

I would like to formally apologize to Angie Quinn from ARCH. After I emailed her my blog posting, she responded very quickly. She indicated that Stephen Parker and I were the only ones to reach out to ARCH - there was no contact from the local, traditional media outlets.

Here's her response.
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Here is ARCH's response:

Since the Eavey's grocery store opening on July, 31, 1956, the Eavey/Scotts Cornucopia sign has been a beloved and familiar landmark on Fort Wayne's south side. Although it is not the original sign—the sign and lighting were completely replaced in 1992, but the support structure is original—the sign is a significant local landmark. As one of the last of the grand "spectacular" signs of the 1950s, the cornucopia stands 70 feet tall, and formerly was made of porcelain coated steel, with neon lights outlining each fruit and vegetable. In 1992, the sign was replaced with a new metal sign, which did not include new neon outlining the produce. As a community landmark, however, the changes are almost imperceptible, and the sign is every bit as loved now as it was loved in 1992.

However, the removal of the original materials may make preservation efforts difficult. Most funding sources for historic preservation projects require that the building/site/structure be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We're in the process now of getting a determination of whether the sign is eligible, since the sign materials are not original, and are not yet 50 years old—the usual criteria for inclusion on the register.

We've also begun investigating whether the sign could be protected through the Fort Wayne Local Historic Preservation Ordinance, which allows property owners to have a special designation—much like a special zoning—that will require that the city's Historic Preservation Commission review all visible changes to the exterior of a protected resource. As a sign, all of the cornucopia would be subject to review. The main problems with this avenue are that, 1) the owner needs to initiate the designation; and 2) the ordinance marks a specific piece of real estate, and not the historic resource itself. So, in this case, it would involve making the entire Scotts parcel a local historic district. Unfortunately, the store itself has been remodeled so many times it is not architecturally significant at all.

IF the owner would donate the sign, and IF a location for the sign were located, and IF funds were found to pay for its removal and replacement, then it is possible to have the sign protected. As a piece of public art [which it most definitely is] it might then be eligible for Local Historic District protection. Otherwise, we will need to hope that the next owner of the store chooses to keep the sign, as Eavey's, Scotts, Super Value, and Kroger did while running their grocery store operations in the building.

One other option to consider, should the above fail, is donating the sign to one of the national sign museums (there's one in Cincinnati) or to a local entity like NATMUS in Auburn, which has collected other local retail signs of the 1950s (though I do not think they have the space).

The ARCH Preservation Committee will discuss the sign, and may propose further action at its meeting later this month. I'll be happy to keep you up to date, and I would be happy to speak to a group of concerned citizens about the sign, if there is interest.

I'll also upload this to our blog: www.archfw.wordpress.com, to see if other interested folks contact ARCH about the sign.

On a personal note: as a child of the south side, myself, the cornucopia has been a most important landmark my entire life. I was in the marching band at Bishop Luers (when they still had one) from 1978-1982, and every practice was timed to the big neon clock on the west side of the store, easily seen from Luer's football field across the highway. The clock is gone now, too.

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YES! A South Sider! Yay for us. Please - everyone - pass the word - tell your friends - your relatives - have them make noise - have them contact ARCH, Glynn Hines, and the local media. We actually have a chance here to make a difference!

14 comments:

Sheila said...

My family use to shop this store all the time, so I have lots of memories of it. I use to have wicked nightmares about walking under that sign and it falling on me though. I hope they find a way to save it.

Bob G. said...

Kristina:
I heard from my wife that a local radio station would put up the cornucopia...don't recall which station that was.

Also, my wife said that the sign USED to have CHIMES installed that played.
That must have been pretty cool.
Anyone else know anything about that?
I'd wager that was the ORIGINAL sign, and not the one we currently can view.

As to John's "reasoning"...I take exception to a few things:

-Sure, Southgate DOES have more foot traffic...but it ALSO has more CRIME like vehicle break-ins. You want your CAR missing when you wheel those groceries out to where it USED to be?

-How about robbery?
Got that too there.
The proximity of the liquor store makes it possible for that "liquid courage".

-"That area" of the city is not really "supportive" of ANYTHING except low-income housing...and crime.
Make yourself a list of S/E side businesses that have CLOSED in JUST the last TEN years ALONE.
Lemme know when you pass FIFTY (as I already have).
Where were Hines & Pape then?

-Sales are poor because most of the clientele use FOOD STAMPS.
The people that use actual "coin of the realm" are few in number (like us), but we have something I blogged about the other day called SOUTH SIDE PRIDE...we shop (where we still can) down here (aside from the scary Wal-mart that opened...a real study in societal dregs)
Menards was a good deal, but it comes NOWHERE close to reprising ALL the businesses we've lost on the south side.
Until we can get taxpaying home-OWNERS back into this area (like military personnel, vets, fire and police personnel for starters), not much will change ("that we can believe in").
But the city leaders MUST like it THIS WAY.

I hope they CAN preserve the sign.

Great post, Kris.

B.G.
(the last outpost)

Kristina said...

Bob,

After speaking with John Elliott (Kroger)- I really can't be too angry at them for their business decisions.

But I'll tell you what. I am damn angry at the leaders of Fort Wayne. They are so fixated on their imaginary downtown utopia (which by the way - since the late early 70's they've recycled the same ideas over and over and over again and still - they can't magically bring the business down there).

If the South Side of Fort Wayne, is no longer important to the leaders of the city, then lets just wipe it out - or sell it to like - oh Ossian or something ;). And by the way, I'm excluding the far South West from this statement - it's not really "Fort Wayne" - it's like the Geist of Indianapolis.

Truth be told Bob - I want that entire property saved - not just the cornucopia. In talking with some of my other Fort Wayne buddies, we're scratching our heads as to what could possibly go into that building.

We couldn't come up with ANYTHING.

The layout of the building and the whole property is such that you would need a Walmart, a Menards, a Target, or a Marsh to take it on. And we all know that's not going to happen.

So you know what WILL happen. Someone - maybe - will buy the place - and they'll bulldoze the entire area. It will be another hole on the South Side of town. It will be another South Side memory - GONE.

What I'd like to see happen?

Since Kroger is bringing more jobs to the Fort, I'd like to see the leaders of Fort Wayne step it up and say - what would it TAKE to keep you in the Decatur Road location??? I don't think Kroger needs the money to incent them - I think that they need the SUPPORT from the City to invest in the South Side.

Bob - is there a "plan" for the South Side - much like there is for some of the other areas of the city? Maybe I need to check the city's website to see if one exists....

Cathy said...

Times change, stores come and go -- that building is old, and must be horrific to heat, cool, digitize, etc. And with a Kroger so close, it's amazing that both stores stayed open as long as they did.
But neighborhood landmarks--those are a different story--worth caring about, worth saving. I put a poll up on my blog to see how much folks might really care.

SecondAnonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob G. said...

Cathy:
You make some good points, but down HERE, it's a whole other ballgame.
(shoulda put the new stadium HERE)

Neighbors go...and NEVER return.
Stores close...and NEVER reopen.

What fills their respective voids are not what YOU would want living near you, TRUST ME on this one.

I could provide a HUGE list of places that have closed in just TEN short years down here...and we've only got a Menards and Wally-World to take their place.
That was after several LONG years of the city doing absolutely NOTHING with SOUTHTOWN.
That's pathetic.

I wish to God the city would raze this whole area and start over..as long as they BUY US OUT and relocate us to a more "normal" area...like Leo-Cedarville!

Kristina:
Yes, the city DOES NOT CARE about this area.
-That's why a mere handful of FWPD officers LIVE down here (but not in MY area)...further south.

-That's why TENS OF THOUSANDS in CEDIT money goes to the URBAN LEAGUE instead of going to help keep businesses like TASTY PIZZA on Fairfield from being robbed more than 4 times a year.

The city does itself GOOD to create this ghettoesque environment...federal money loves to pour into places like this.

It's good "business".

Then again, if MY area of the city were to see a REAL rebirth with TAXPAYING citizens who OWN a house, and are not prone to violent crime, the city would have a MUCH BETTER TAX BASE with which to work with.

And we'd ALL be smiling a lot more.

And Scotts propbably wouldn't be closing.

And we'd probably STILL have the mall down here.

The citizens will NEVER be told the REAL story...it's BAD for "business".

Good luck with the sign, Kris!

B.G.

Anonymous said...

I just had a very nice 25 minutes chat with John Elliott from Kroger. He also explained Kroger's business reasoning for closing the Scott's, but he also seems very concerned about making sure we have good quality, clean and safe stores for everyone on the south side. I was impressed with his concern, and yes, he did a lot of listening to me blowing off frustration and steam. I appreciate his time and attention. I find that rare coming from corporate America.

I still am very sad to see yet another large empty building on the landscape - a new "Southtown" type eye sore. I do worry about the existing small businesses on that side of Lafayette.

colz said...

I gotta give public props to Angie at ARCH. No one loves the south side like she does, and no one knows her stuff like she does.

Kevin Knuth said...

Just a question- IF you are successful, what are you going to do with it?

HARDING HAWK said...

So is Mr. Elliott saying the sign is free for the taking?

Anonymous said...

as for the chimes, eavey's had a corrillion. we(scott's) had it repaired, someone from a company in north carolina came to repair it. it chimed on the quarter hour i believe.it played from a selection of music. a neighbor complained to the city about the "noise" & we shut it down. It may still be in the basement of the store.

Atrueoriginall said...

I've since moved from Fort Wayne but I will never, ever forget those great shreaded bbq beef sandwiches that they sold outside of Eavey's (around 56/59). That's one of those childhood foods (a real event for us kids) that I'll never, ever forget.

That's too bad about the sign, it most certainly was an icon for the whole city and not just the store.

I certainly hope people come together to save it.

Leah said...

Eavey's was the coolest grocery store ever! Such great memories! My mother used to take us 5 kids there and would leave us to play in the (unsupervised) "Kiddie Corral" in the front of the store with other children while she shopped in peace. Anyone else remember that?

Atrueoriginall said...

Wow Leah! I forgot all about the kiddie corral until you mentioned it.

Yes, same thing. We would play and mom would shop.

Of course the times changed all that. I wouldn't even think about doing such in this day and age.

My older sister informed me that the sandwiches weren't bbq beef but rather pulled pork. Now I know why they tasted so darn good.

Eileen (Atrueoriginall)