CITYSCAPES


It took years to break the 'Berry blockade'


By KEVIN LEININGER
from the archives of The News-Sentinel

Today East Berry Street is an unobstructed, one-way traffic artery providing easy access to downtown Fort Wayne from Anthony Boulevard.

But until the early 1950s, East Berry Street was almost considered a nuisance, what with its two-block gap between Monroe and Francis streets. That's right - the section of today's East Berry Street between Monroe and Francis used to be nothing but a dirt-covered field, with the Moran Ice Co. plant stuck right in the middle of it.

Motorists long complained of having to detour around the blockade, but decades came and went in Fort Wayne without any action being taken. The idea of opening East Berry Street as a thoroughfare, in fact, surfaced as early as 1911, but the machinery which finally did the job was not put in motion until 1948.

The East Berry project was considered one of the great civic improvements in Fort Wayne, ranking right up there with the elevation of the Nickel Plate Railroad tracks north of town. The Nickel Plate, in fact, also played a large role in the opening of East Berry Street - the railroad owned much of the right-of-way the city had to acquire before undertaking the project.

The Berry Street project was endorsed by the Berry Street neighborhood association and the Citizens Advisory Council, a coalition of 16 neighborhood and civic groups. Elimination of the ``Berry Blockade'' was touted as a means of relieving the traffic congestion which was a major problem in the bustling downtown are of those days.

Finally, the city took action. In July 1950, the city council annexed 40 acres necessary for the project. The annexation included the purchase of two parcels by the city which had been owned by Clara Rupel and Mr. and Mrs. Harley Somers.

Paving began in September 1950, at a cost of about $61,000. An additional $11,000 was spent to build a retaining wall and guard rail just east of Monroe.

The resulting ``new'' East Berry Street - the one we have today - followed the curve of the Nickel Plate tracks and replaced a dirt alley through the vacant area.

The ``Berry Blockade'' finally broken, Berry Street was made a one-way thoroughfare west and Wayne Street made one-way heading east, solving some of Fort Wayne's downtown traffic problems.

--Feb. 13, 1982


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