Thieme Drive and Overlook

Fort Wayne, IN
United States
Thieme Drive and Overlook

Landscape Information

Thieme Drive Park

Early in the 20th century, the eastern bank of the St. Mary’s River below the West Main Street bridge was a swampy, blighted area prone to flooding and used as a garbage dump. The city purchased the riverfront property to spare it further degradation, but it lay fallow until local entrepreneur Theodore F. Thieme proposed a beautification scheme and secured landscape architect George E. Kessler to design a very small park there. Featuring a curved, white-painted concrete retaining wall and balustrade, the overlook provides views of the river and bridge, with concrete terraces that step down to the river. Large deciduous trees shade the sidewalk and a swathe of lawn. Upon the park’s dedication in 1911, a bronze, bas-relief plaque honoring Thieme and designed by Josef Korbel was centered on the balustrade.

Concurrently, Kessler proposed a ½-mile riverfront parkway linking triangular Orff Park in the northeast with East Swinney Park, both founded in 1896-1897. Completed in 1913, Thieme Drive required 25 feet of fill to elevate it above the marshy river edge. The southeastern side of the paved and curbed roadway was lined with a single row of 37 London plane trees (16 of which survive today) and a sidewalk with ornamental lampposts. The steep northwestern slope was left bare to accommodate unimpeded views - an original design intent that has been diminished by unbridled plant growth. Thieme Drive and Overlook were included in the West End Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.