“We live in a time of renaissance…cities are coming back to life, after a long neglect.”
When he said this, the Polish-American architect, Daniel Libeskind, likely wasn’t referring to the recent trend of industrial chic. Roll through any up-and-coming city, though, and industrial style is everywhere. Even if you don’t know it by name, you know it: minimal furnishings, exposed brick, pipes and ductwork. Sure, it’s in vogue. But it’s also reflective of something bigger and better.
Urban ruins were once a feature of any place with history. Companies go out of business, buildings fall into disrepair. Developers and city officials ask themselves reasonable questions, like why wade through rubble while swatting at cobwebs when you can build anew? Within the last several years, though, urban buildings and complexes that shout post-apocalyptic have become harder to find.
Renaissance (French; meaning “rebirth”) is fitting for what’s happening; cities are finding ways to revive, instead of tearing down and starting over. Industrial style, then, isn’t a result of convenience, but one of convergence: modernist design is more popular than ever, and historic preservation is seeing an explosion in interest, investment, and both commercial and residential appeal.
Developers, designers, and investors in Downtown Fort Wayne, too, have realized what so many others are realizing: restoring an old building is a more sustainable, less invasive way to breathe new life into a space. And the sentiment of rebirth can be felt from the moment you step through the front doors of The Strauss, a “new” commercial and residential space along the southern edge of Downtown Fort Wayne.
Walking through The Strauss, light floods in through a barrage of windows, fills every charming imperfection in the original brick walls, and reflects off of polished concrete floors. The space is relaxing and invigorating all at once—inspiring you to dream of all the ways you’d fill and style it.
Scott Miller, owner of The Strauss, saw ruined beauty in the disused industrial complex, which was once a refrigerated warehouse that served the Pennsylvania Railroad. Scott and his wife made their home in The Strauss’ neighboring warehouse and began an immersive rehabilitation project that’s been years in the making.
Both buildings, in their original form and function, were designed by historic Hoosier architect A.M. (Alvin Max) Strauss. He was the mind behind the treasured Emboyd (now Embassy) Theatre, and the iconic Art Deco Lincoln Tower, finished and started, respectively, at the peak of the Roaring Twenties. In the 1930s, Strauss turned from the classical, Moorish/North African, and Art Deco influences that dominated movie palaces like the Emboyd, to a mixture of mission- and romanesque-revival styles, designing additions to the St. Vincent Villa orphanage on Wells. He shifted again as mid-century modern gained popularity, giving us the original Clyde Theater.
The Strauss is an homage to its namesake—and in its latest evolution, it’s gone from practical warehouse to elegant, live-work oasis. What was once a clamorous, no-frills facility, is now a tranquil hidden gem that’s off the beaten path just enough to keep a peaceful presence. But conveniently, it’s only a short walk or bike ride away from the buzz of central Downtown.
You can add The Strauss’ transformation to the story of Fort Wayne’s ongoing rebirth; Scott Miller to the story of those doing the labor. And labor it is; rebirth is no small feat. It’s people working together. It’s a concerted effort to take what’s old, and make something new. After years of labor, the metamorphosis at 420 E. Brackenridge is complete, and The Strauss is experiencing the renaissance it deserves.
To see The Strauss in person or inquire about its commercial or residential spaces, contact Scott Miller at email@example.com or 260-494-8025.
Molly Conner is a Fort Wayne native and freelance writer. Having lived in Downtown Fort Wayne throughout her twenties, she loves watching her stomping grounds grow. With her love of storytelling and community in tow, she’s eager to tell Downtown Fort Wayne’s story piece-by-piece—exploring the people, spaces, and organizations that make it thrive.