Identity mistaken

from the archives of The News-Sentinel

For most of its 150 years, the house at 226 W. Main St. has been the victim of mistaken identity.

The federal-style home, built between 1846 and 1853 by obscure Fort Wayne gunsmith Moses Yerian, is well known these days as the site of the bar, Up The Street. Until recently, though the old building's origins were thought to be completely different.

A story about the house in The News-Sentinel on May 11, 1959, linked it with the pioneering Nirdlinger family. The house was reportedly the first meeting place of the city's Jewish congregation and also supposedly served as a station in the famous Underground Railway during the Civil War.

That particular story, while colorful, is apparently erroneous. According to the historic preservation group, Arch, available records show Yerian to be the house's builder.

More recent investigations, in part conducted by the Indiana Jewish Historical Society, indicated the Nirdlingers were never connected with this particular house. He probably lived a block east on Main Street.

Yerian's connection is now accepted. Little is known of him, except that he showed up in county records as early as 1833 and was probably born in Ohio. More is known of the house he built. It was purchased in 1887 by the Weber family. The Weber sisters lived there after the death of their parents, and the last Weber sister lived there until she died in 1965. After that, the house was turned into a restaurant called, appropriately enough, ``This Old House.''

Since 1959, the face of West Main Street - and the building itself - has been altered considerably. The old stables to the rear have since been occupied by an X-rated theater and bookstore. The ornate, if dilapidated, porch visible in this photo has long since vanished.

Despite the longstanding historical confusion, one fact has always remained: As at least 150 years old, the house is probably one of the five oldest buildings still standing in Fort Wayne.

--Oct. 24, 1981

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