By Garth Snow
Georgetown Square is dedicating its golden anniversary year to the same public involvement that has made the plaza the downtown of northeast Fort Wayne since 1968.
Even after the 50-year celebration on Saturday, June 22, Georgetown will continue the car show, free concerts, farmers market and trick-or-treating that have become staples of the Georgetown calendar.
Steve Jehl is Georgetown’s managing partner. His sister, Maureen Partee, coordinates Georgetown promotions. Both shared childhood memories of Georgetown’s birth. Their father, Tom Jehl, founded the plaza with his brothers, Leo and Paul. The founding brothers are deceased. Tom’s wife, Margie, died Feb. 3.
“In 1968, Maplecrest Road was a dirt road that ended at two-lane East State Boulevard and the land where Georgetown sits was a cornfield,” Jehl said in an email. “There were very few homes at all east of Reed Road. Today, Maplecrest is extended all the way to New Haven, and Georgetown Square is a thriving shopping center serving several thousand households in the northeast area of Fort Wayne.”
“I remember going to the site … when they had just stakes in the ground and strings and ropes trying to mark the site,” Partee said. “My dad had built Lake Forest Subdivision that’s right behind (the square) and had two Parade of Homes back there.”
The opportunity for an accompanying retail center became apparent, Partee said.
Partee said her father chose the name Lake Forest because he admired her mother’s hometown of Lake Forest, Ill. Then he visited Washington, D.C., and its Georgetown district.
“He had taken some photos and he thought that was a beautiful community, so he tried to make some of the store fronts resemble those,” she said.
“I remember the term ‘rooftops,” Jehl said in an interview. “Rogers Market and Lincoln Bank were the first main tenants here, and then said when there are enough rooftops out in the northeast corner of town that’s when they would sign the lease.”
“The first building that they were doing was Lincoln Bank, which now is Wells Fargo,” Jehl said. “I remember going into that bank when they had set the big vault inside and we could go into that big vault. That was one of my earliest remembrances of the earliest construction.”
“Georgetown started in 1968 with Rogers Market, Lincoln Bank, a Coney restaurant, a Pizza Inn and six retail stores,” Jehl said in a statement. “Today the intersection has a large Kroger grocery, five banks, over a dozen restaurants, and more than a hundred thriving businesses.”
Four of those businesses trace their ownership to Georgetown originals: Riegel’s Pipe and Tobacco, Cap n’ Cork, Telrad Electronics and Appliance and Bandidos — which the Schindler family began as a pizza restaurant.
Georgetown will celebrate its 50th anniversary at 3 p.m. Friday, June 22, by opening a time capsule that was sealed at the 25-year anniversary celebration. Food and entertainment will continue around the time capsule from 4-6 p.m. The Bulldogs will perform the season’s first free summer concert from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
The concerts continue July 27 with the Cash & The King tribute band. Junk Yard Band will offer the season’s third and final fourth-Friday concert on Aug. 24.
Farmers markets will be set up near the Georgetown Branch Library 4-7 p.m. each Thursday, June 7-Sept. 6.
The Georgetown Subway Car Show returns, 5-9 p.m. Friday, July 13.
Finally, when autumn overtakes the 50th-anniversary summer, Georgetown will repeat a tradition that it has celebrated since 1972. Trick or Treat at Georgetown Square will combine costume contests and free music the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 31.
Partee said it is the longest-running trick-or-treat event in the country, and she believes it was the first of its kind.
“It was started as a safe alternative for families that were afraid of razor blades in apples and needles in candy bars,” she said in an email. “It was well lit, and sponsored by Georgetown Square Merchants Association. It is accompanied by a costume contest and live entertainment most years.”