I read of a campaign to try to save the “Cornucopia” sign on Facebook this week so thought I would snap a few pics. Since living in Fort Wayne beginning 1984-85 I had seen the iconic sign on when driving on South Clinton just south of Pettit Avenue. What I didn’t know was that the store was once featured in 1957 in “Life” magazine and known as the “World’s Largest Grocery” – by today’s standard with SuperCenters like Meijer and Walmart, it pales by comparison.
When I shopped there when it was open years ago there was a liquor store to the right when you entered…think it was Belmont Liquors?m To the right was large area with carts and a bench near the entrance to the left along with a few kiddie vending machine.
Things I remember are once when cashing a check, there was a fundraiser to feed a child in a foreign country for 50 cents a day at the Customer Service Desk and he made the comment that they must not shop at this store and the clerk didn’t know what to say but was trying not to laugh and ended up ignoring the comment and asked him to take a step back to take his picture, is that is what happened if your wrote a check (and in case it bounced, the picture would be used in prosecuting someone).
We would also occasionally rent VHS tapes there.
The other thing I remember is reading an article in our local paper where one horrid Dad had left two children under 5 there at a bench near the entrance and abandoned them there to go to the “Boom Boom Room” which had been a strip club that was South of downtown. Thankfully the astute, caring staff, noticed the children were unattended for awhile and questioned the kids then called the police when the children advised their Dad had left the store. It was before I became a Mom, but still made me sick to my stomach to hear…how could anyone, let alone a parent, do that to small children?
Anyway…one of the ideas on the quest to save the sign was to perhaps take it down and have it put up on the back of PNC around Thanksgiving like the Santa display is at Christmas. However, for the time being it still sits atop of the abandoned store.
Article from 2009 on Forwayne.com
“In 1957, Life magazine considered the then-new Eavey’s supermarket on Decatur Road so spectacular, it showcased the “world’s largest grocery” to a national audience.
Now the fate of the neon cornucopia that has towered over the store for more than 50 years is in doubt, after this week’s announcement that the Kroger Co. intends to close the store, now a Scott’s, as part of a $75 million local restructuring.
Can the cornucopia be preserved? That apparently depends on the building’s next owner, and whether the sign – despite its iconic status – is truly “historic.”
And that is by no means clear, according to the executive director of local historic preservation group ARCH.
After author Kristina Frazier-Henry advocated preservation of the cornucopia on her “Child of the Fort” blog, the executive director of ARCH responded that the historic preservation group is interested, but may be hindered by the fact that the sign is not really as historic as many people believe.
“Since the Eavey’s grocery opened, the sign has been a beloved and familiar landmark,” Quinn wrote. “(But the current sign) is not the original – the sign and lighting were completely replaced in 1992, but the support structure is original – the sign is a significant local landmark. As one of the grand ‘spectacular’ signs of the 1950s, the cornucopia stands 70 feet tall … As a community landmark, however, the changes are almost imperceptible, and the sign is every bit as loved now as it was in 1992.”
That love, however, may not make the sign “historic,” at least not under federal preservation guidelines. Since the materials are not original or at least 50 years old, the sign may not qualify for the National Register of Historic Places – and the funding that may go with it.
The sign could be placed under the protection of local preservation laws, Quinn wrote, but that would require the owner’s approval and would require designating the entire site as “historic” – possibly making its future use more cumbersome by requiring city approval for any external changes made to the property.
“Unfortunately, the store itself has been ‘remuddled’ so many times, it’s not architecturally significant,” Quinn wrote.
Kroger spokesman John Elliott said Friday the company is not unsympathetic to preservationists’ concerns, but added that the sign’s fate is probably up to the new owner, since its removal would be both costly and difficult. If the sign were removed, Quinn suggested, it could be donated to a museum, such as the sign museum in Cincinnati.
Frazier-Henry said she and “Around Fort Wayne” blogger Stephen Parker intend to fight for the sign, despite the obstacles.
“I grew up on the south side. We will not let another piece of Fort Wayne/south side history be destroyed,” she vowed. “Wake up, Fort Wayne leadership.”