Moving to Fort Wayne
March 1, 2009 4:59 PM   Subscribe

So I've potentially got a job offer in Fort Wayne, IN. Job is great. But is Fort Wayne?

First off, I know the region is economically depressed; I live in South Bend right now. But the job I'd be getting is with a firm almost completely disconnected from the manufacturing sector (insurance company with policies in 30+ states), so though they may be affected by the banking crisis, they won't be affected by the impending implosion of the Detroit automakers. But as there really isn't anywhere you can go to escape the banking crisis, I figure I just can't worry about that. So advice that jobs are at risk in that part of the country isn't immediately helpful.

What I am worried about is if Fort Wayne is the potential black-hole-of-culture that I'm afraid it might be. I'm a late-20s single male, finishing a law degree in May, and the prospect of moving to what looks like the back end of nowhere does not excite me as much as moving to, say, Chicago would.

As such, anyone who knows of cool places to live/things to do/places to eat/people to meet in the Fort Wayne area, please share your wisdom! I'm not hoping for some undiscovered cultural Mecca, but anything which would break up acute Midwestern third-tier city monotony would be greatly appreciated. Athletic activities (other than cycling) are of less interest than cultural ones, FWIW. Music, film, art, food, where-the-cool-kids-hang-out, whatever you got would be welcome.

Oh, and if anyone knows of neighborhoods not to go/live, I'd love to hear that too. Thanks!
posted by valkyryn to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm from Ft. Wayne, lived there from age 3-18 and I've got mixed feelings about that place. A few things we're known for

-Dumbest city in America according to Men's Health (kinda biased article, all the "smart" cities were Democrat and all the "dumb" cities were Republican
-We (not I) vote Republican
-More Bling Bling rims per capita in the country (my own independent research)
-We're known as the city of churches, we've got a lot of them
-We have either the largest or second largest geneology library in the country, if you're into that sort of thing
-The Rave movie theater is awesome. The Cinemat downtown shows nice independent smaller films, that's about it.
-Food is alright, just like any city it depends where you go. The Rib Room has awesome ribs, best I've had anywhere, hands down.
-We've got tons of golf courses, some pretty good, some not so good
-We probably have the worst downtown in the history of cities over 200,000, seriously it's horrible.

That's about all I got. Ft. Wayne would be an ok place to raise a family, it's got a lot of schools and such but as far as being a guy in your late 20's I can't really say much. There are bars yea, Pierre's is the largest night club in the Midwest but it's pretty much a super loud dance club, if you're into that sort of thing. There's also a few bars downtown but we don't really have the type of downtown that's very walking friendly, other than having about 4-5 bars and a few restaurants there's pretty much nothing to do there.

Having lived there for my entire childhood I don't really want to go back anytime soon but I think a lot of people can say that about their hometown, regardless of where you're from. If you're looking for where not to live, don't live downtown. It's really weird, most large cities have nice downtowns, ours is complete crap. Ft. Wayne is definetely no Chicago but I could think of worse places to live (like Rwanda maybe, or Gary.)
posted by BrnP84 at 5:17 PM on March 1, 2009

Best answer: I take it you're from out of state, and have been getting your degree at Notre Dame? Because this is like someone from Toledo, Ohio asking about Dayton. I mean, can't you just drive the hour and a half and see what it's like? My impressions of growing up about 40 minutes outside of Ft. Wayne and having friends who lived/live there is this: very conservative, very Christian, very bland, but safe and clean and semi-prosperous in a way that South Bend isn't. If you're goal is ending up in Chicago, and you like big cities, then I'm guessing you will not like Ft. Wayne very much. Then again, every place has its charms, and if you fall in with the right group of people then maybe you'll love it.
posted by billysumday at 5:20 PM on March 1, 2009

Response by poster: billysumday, I'll be spending a few days there myself this week and next, but I was hoping for input from someone who had spent more than the 24 hours I'm likely to be able to spend there before I need to make a decision.
posted by valkyryn at 5:35 PM on March 1, 2009

Billy's description is pretty good, it's very bland but if you like plain vanilla than Ft. Wayne is your place.
posted by BrnP84 at 5:35 PM on March 1, 2009

One more thing

When I saw your post I was really excited, holy crap someone is actually moving to Fort Wayne?!! Here's my chance to give my expert opinion! I'm from there so I'll always have this weird love for that place but I don't think my first comment above gave off the right message. If I wasn't from Ft. Wayne I would never dream of living there, get out now while you can.
posted by BrnP84 at 5:40 PM on March 1, 2009

My impression of Fort Wayne from driving through it tons of times is that it has some fairly cute areas, and that it's a long drive to everywhere. 3.5-4 hours to Chicago or Cleveland, 2.5 to Ann Arbor or Dayton (another :45 from Dayton to Cinci), 2 to Indianapolis or Toledo. As a single person, I would hesitate.

The other random fact I happen to have remembered is that there's a Superfund site in Fort Wayne, on the east side of town in the floodplain of the river. (Here's a map of state sites.)
posted by salvia at 5:43 PM on March 1, 2009

Best answer: I bring up the proximity between the two towns because though South Bend is a bit more post-industrial, a bit more depressed, the two towns exist in a very similar plane: small to medium sized cities in Northern Indiana. The difference between the two is probably the presence of Notre Dame in South Bend. South Bend also has the feel of a town that once was quite nice, but has slowly declined - older buildings, abandoned manufacturing sites, a "lived-in" feel. Ft. Wayne has the feel of a town that peaked in 1992 - new construction, suburbs, malls, big box stores. But the kind of people, the flat landscape, the rural surroundings - those are all going to be similar.
posted by billysumday at 6:19 PM on March 1, 2009

I've got about a dozen cousins living in Ft. Wayne and the nearby community of Churubusco. I've spent quite a bit of time there and really liked it each time. It's not "hip" by any stretch of the imagination but there's plenty to do. BTW, if I was going to live there, Churubusco or New Haven would be the places I'd pick but those are the only neighborhoods/towns I really know. It is really just another midwestern city.

Side note: I recently moved to Wichita Falls, TX for a great job. The job itself more than makes up for the lack of things to do and the flat, dusty landscape and the god awful wind. Having a great job is pretty important, especially nowadays.
posted by justlisa at 6:44 PM on March 1, 2009

I have to say that were I a recent law grad, even from a top tier school, I'd take a job in Buttfuck, Indiana if it was my only job offer, never mind the metropolis that is Ft. Wayne. (I'm not impinging your credentials; it's tough out there in Hiring Land.) No job is forever and wait, aren't you supposed to be working 80 hours a week anyway?

I've lived in loads of places, including the armpit of the ass end of England, and in my experience, anywhere is fine if you go in with a good attitude and make some local connections so you feel like you're grounded there - know your baker, your butcher and your dry cleaner.

Looking through Flickr photos tagged with Ft Wayne, there appears to be a zoo, a coliseum with a hockey team, a train museum(?), an annual festival, some roller skating roller girls(?), a famous hotdog purveyor, some attractive architecture, some damn cute indie chicks, some interesting historical sites including a very odd tower, and Jesus God, there's even an H&M!

Plus, poking around on the web shows there are 5,000+ members of Ft Wayne Freecycle, so it can't be entirely filled with evil Republicans.

How bad can it be?
posted by DarlingBri at 10:01 PM on March 1, 2009

DarlingBri is totally right, I feel like I've been raining on your parade with my anti Ft. Wayne sentiments, at this point in your life your top priority should be job offers. Any place can be liveable, it's what you make of it. But at the same time don't let DarlingBri's flickr research fool you

-Our Zoo is nice but you'll be over it after one trip
-Our hockey team is actually decent but they're not NHL
-Who goes to train museums
-Our annual festival consists of carnie rides and junk food stands
-I love Coney Island, nothing bad to say about that place
-Professional photography can be very misleading, that photo actually made our downtown look respectable but a quick 5 min drive will show you the truth
-Every city has hot chicks

There are worse places for sure, Ft. Wayne isn't all that bad but like I said it's a very plain vanilla type of city. Hell meet a nice girl and settle down and it wouldn't be all that bad.
posted by BrnP84 at 11:20 PM on March 1, 2009

Grew up in the Fort with a love/hate relationship with it. By the time I was 31, I was living in Australia - it felt good to be as far away as I could get without leaving the planet. Maybe that will give you an idea. Of course, ymmv.

But, as fate would have it, I'm possibly moving back there soon, after living on 4 continents and in some damn great cities. Why, you ask? Because there may be a job for me there. Never underestimate the power of a taste of homelessness. From that perspective, I'm glad I can go back, and I'm curious if a pragmatic non-christian liberal has a chance of remaining sane and sociable there.

It's not "hip" by any stretch of the imagination but there's plenty to do.

Such as? Can you fill us in? (not sarcasm. If I'm headed back, I'd really love to know.)
posted by buzzv at 1:32 AM on March 2, 2009

Plus, poking around on the web shows there are 5,000+ members of Ft Wayne Freecycle, so it can't be entirely filled with evil Republicans.

Based on my experiences in Toledo, there may be 4500 members noting their large family size and staunch faith while asking for free stuff for their kids, but never actually posting anything going in the other direction.
posted by pullayup at 7:13 AM on March 2, 2009

Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne has a campus there. Maybe you will find some like-minded younger folks.

Trips to Franke Park (the zoo) are some of my best summer memories from childhood, but yeah, you'd have to be about 9 to really dig it more than once.

The drive between Fort Wayne and Chicago via US-30 is quite painful. If you stick it out through Merrillville, you can reward yourself with a tour of the Albanese Candy Factory.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:53 AM on March 2, 2009

I lived there when I was a tiny kid, and visit family there fairly often. Every time we visit my wife and I do some of that "Yeah, I could totally live here. You wanto to move to Ft. Wayne? We could sell our house in Austin and buy three houses here. Three! Or, no. Let's just buy one little one and work part time at Kmart. Yeah. Kmart!" thing.

Bottom line, without too much research or seriousness it passes our "I could live there!" criteria. Whatever the hey that is. Lots of places don't.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:45 AM on March 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks all! I'll try to make a drive through downtown when I'm there this week, just to confirm everyone's impression that it sucks. I'll also try poking around the IUFW campus to see if there's anything interesting that direction.
posted by valkyryn at 12:51 PM on March 2, 2009

Kinda late on the follow up but one question, how did a guy who doesn't even live in Ft. Wayne get marked for best answer on a question about living in Ft. Wayne?
posted by BrnP84 at 2:27 AM on April 30, 2009

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