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Designing woman

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They call it the City of Churches but Fort Wayne could also be called the city of neighborhoods and one of the most attractive has this at the center, Wildwood Avenue, a historic street with an unlikely hero..or heroine.

'She had in mind a home of convenience,” says Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi. “Probably that notion of being user friendly that we'd call today.”

'She' was Joel Roberts Ninde, born in 1874, moved to the Summit City and thought new homes of the day were wasteful and user un-friendly. So she designed her own home, built it and impressed her neighbors.

“Friends said 'gee that's a really nice house I think I'd like to have one myself and this thing caught on,” says Castaldi.

Joel Ninde designed Arts and Crafts homes, simple, elegant...shunning the fancy and ostentatious Victorian homes of the day. This is a Victorian kitchen...this is a Joel Ninde kitchen, simple, charming and user friendly. A Ninde home was down to earth with attractive family features, front and side porches, pergola's and interesting geometric lines. Wildwood Avenue sports several Ninde homes including this one Joel Ninde and husband Lee actually lived in. Ninde's designs proved so popular she formed the Wildwood Construction Company and before she was done she had designed and built 400 homes in Fort Wayne alone and dozens others elsewhere. Today Wildwood Avenue stands out among Fort Wayne's pleasing, homey, comfy places to live thanks in large part to a women who ignored social norms of the day, struck out on her own in a male dominated world and showed them all what talent and taste can accomplish in the form of a very determined woman. Eric Olson reporting out in 21 Country.

Eric Olson

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