Fort Wayne is known by several nicknames, at least two of which have origins deep in the city’s past. Perhaps the most popular nickname is the “Summit City.” Those who have visited northern Indiana may wonder why a city in such an area of flatland would have a nickname that implies it is situated on a mountaintop. Fort Wayne was first called the Summit City because it occupies high ground compared with the farmland that surrounds it. In 1843, at the opening of the Wabash & Erie Canal – a man-made waterway linking the Great Lakes with the Ohio River – Fort Wayne was the highest geographical point on the line. Several locks were needed to elevate boats and barges as they made their way along the canal route.
An early newspaper editor coined the term, “Summit City,” and the public responded by adopting it as the city’s official nickname. The Wabash & Erie Canal was the longest canal in America at that time and second only to the Grand Canal of China. In Allen County, the path of the canal ran parallel to the Maumee River and what is now U.S. 24, and traces of it still can be seen today in ditches near the roadway. An original wooden lock, known as the Gronauer Lock, was discovered in the 1990s during highway construction and is preserved in the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis. Fort Wayne’s nickname of the Summit City survives today in the names of many local businesses, recreational league sports teams, and other entities connected with Fort Wayne. More information about the Wabash & Erie Canal is available at http://www.indcanal.org/canals-wabash-erie.html. Next: Read about Fort Wayne as the “City of Churches.”