Wolf & Dessauer 1953
The Wolf & Dessauer Department Store was first opened in the spring of 1896 by Sam Wolf and Myron E. Dessauer. It was a two-story, 12,000 square foot building on 70-72 Calhoun Street in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1908, W & D's moved to the Barnes Building. The store occupied four stories and covered 54,000 square feet. In 1918, Wolf & Dessauer moved to it's next location, a newly constructed building on the northeast corner of South Calhoun Street and East Washington Boulevard (See picture on left - printed with permission from Jim & Kathie Barron).

During the early 1920's, Mr. Wolf and Mr. Dessauer sold their interest to a Mr. G. Irving Latz. Mr. Latz had formally joined Wolf & Dessauer's in 1917 and in 1919 was appointed general manager. Wolf & Dessauer thrived under the leadership of Mr. Latz. The store expanded and was soon a major downtown destination. W & D was known for its customer service, employee & customer satisfaction, fair prices, and beautiful Christmas displays and lights. Mr. G. Irving Latz was the person that sketched the first drawings of the now famous wreath and Santa displays. In 1952, a second location was opened in Huntington, Indiana. The store was run by William Latz, the son of G. Irving Latz.

In 1957, W & D announced that that a new location would be built. W & D decided to go against the trend of the time of building outside of the city and decided to construct another building downtown. The new site was four stories and was located on Clinton Street, bounded by Wayne and Barr streets. The new site was was finished in 1959. According to Wolf & Dessauer: An Album of Memories, Volume II by Jim & Kathie Barron, "On a winter's weekend in 1959, 1,000 workers and 100 professional movers began the walk from the Washington Street store to the new main building - 240 vanloads in all. In three around-the-clock shifts, 100,000 pieces of china and glassware and two million dollars worth of merchandise (adding up to 750,000 pounds) made a three block caravan that took four months to plan and 73 hours to complete!" (p. 36)

Wolf & Dessauer Fire of 1962

Some of the old building was used for office space, service, and appliances. Sadly in February of 1962, the Washington Street building caught fire. The fire has come to be known by residents of Fort Wayne as the "Great W&D Fire." Firefighters had a hard time getting the fire under control as there were huge crowds to contend with and the cold weather caused the water to turn to ice. Loss was estimated to be in the millions.

Wolf & Dessauer was eventually sold to City Stores and was then sold to L.S. Ayres in December of 1969.

W&D Boxes from Kathleen B., Decatur, IN

Resources Used:
~ Barron, Jim & Kathie. Wolf & Dessauer: An Album of Memories. Fort Wayne, IN: 2003.
~ Barron, Jim & Kathie. Wolf & Dessauer: An Album of Memories, Volume II. Fort Wayne, IN: 2004.

Contact Jim or Kathie Barron at majicjim@aol.com

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