Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Fort Wayne

Fort Wayne, Detroit’s third fort, is named after General Anthony Wayne, whose defeat of the British at the Fallen Timbers in 1796 resulted in the United States occupation of the Northwest Territories. In 1840, the land at the point of the Detroit River closest to British Canada was being surveyed by the United States Army for a new artillery post.  A five point star fort was planned in order to achieve the capability of firing their most advanced cannon onto the Canadian shore, as well as targeting ships sailing the Detroit River.

Finished in 1849, the fort has served the city of Detroit through many eras, yet has never seen a shot fired in combat. The peaceful location became a primary induction center for Michigan troops entering battle in every U. S. conflicts from the Civil War to Vietnam.  During the Civil War, Fort Wayne served as a mustering post for Michigan’s volunteer regiments. During World War I, the fort housed troops, including construction battalions and an aero-squadron. During World War II, Fort Wayne became the Motor Supply Depot, a primary procurement location for the vehicles and weapons manufactured in Detroit during the war. The fort also housed prisoners of war from Italy as a temporary internment center. During the 1950s and the 1960s, Fort Wayne was one of the largest induction centers in the Midwest during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Among other duties over the course of its 125 year use as an Army base, it housed the Chaplin school for a few years. During the 1967 Riot/Rebellion in Detroit, the fort became a haven for many families whose homes were burned; many lived at the fort until 1971.

Beginning in 1948, the Fort was given to the City of Detroit in parcels. Over the next 28 years, the City would come to own the entire complex with the exception of nine acres still occupied by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Detroit Historical Museums oversaw the Fort’s operation until 2006, when responsibility was transferred to the City of Detroit’s Recreation Department.

Today, primarily on weekends during the summer, visitors can visit the original 1848 limestone barracks building, which have been partially restored, as well as the 1845 Star Fort which was renovated in 1861, the restored Commanding Officers house, Spanish American War guard house and the Tuskegee Airmen Museum.

Written by Stacy Newman

 


RELATED ITEMS IN THE COLLECTION

Sketch of the original layout of Fort Wayne, 1951

Union Army reenactors at Fort Wayne, 1988

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