International Harvester Engineering Building
2911 Meyer Road, Fort Wayne
In Fort Wayne, few companies loom as large in local memory as International Harvester. From 1923 until 1983, the company manufactured more than 1.5 million heavy-duty trucks and over 500 thousand Scouts (an early sports utility vehicle) from a complex on the city’s east side. Its prolific output earned its Truck Plant 1 the nickname “The Heavy-Duty Truck Capitol of the World.”
The architectural firm of Albert Kahn & Associates designed the 1950-1952 Engineering Building on Meyer Road, taking inspiration from the shape of the International Harvester logo. For decades, every truck International Harvester put on the road was designed, developed, and tested at the building and nearby track. The 140-acre complex included labs where engineers could assess the engines and sound of the trucks, as well as a giant freezer to test how vehicles performed in subzero temperatures. From 1986 to 2012, Navistar International owned the building, continuing its use as an engineering facility. It was later acquired by a local developer.
In 2019, enthusiasts launched Harvester Homecoming at the site, a festival that draws hundreds of vehicles and thousands of attendees, and, in cooperation with the site’s owner, began using the Engineering Building to house 65 International Harvester and Navistar trucks, engines, blueprints, photos, models, toys, and other artifacts. It’s an arrangement Harvester Homecoming hopes to formalize by turning the building into a permanent museum, but earlier this year Allen County Commissioners acquired a parcel along Meyer Road that includes the Engineering Building with intent to build a new jail on the undeveloped land and consider the building for county offices. Another developer has already demolished the nearby former test track, and Harvester Homecoming is concerned for the landmark’s future.
As an important link to Fort Wayne’s automotive heritage, the Engineering Building merits protection and a reuse that celebrates and shares its story.
Saving threatened buildings takes teamwork. You can be a part of that team. Reach out to local leaders. Let them know these buildings are important to you. And support state and local preservation groups.