Fort Wayne, Indiana Nearly Named Government Building after ‘Harry Baals’
It's a big honor to have your name placed on a building. I for one would be ecstatic to see the "Meatball" Memorial Library one day. But despite your accomplishments in life, sometimes, it literally comes down to what's in a name.
Yes, it's pronounced exactly how you think, despite being only one letter away from a college fraternity prank. But Mr. Baals was actually a VERY well respected public figure in Fort Wayne in his hayday.
Mayor Harry Baals
He was the longest-serving mayor of the city, and is seen as a man who helped revolutionize Fort Wayne, and bolster it to a profitable, and successful community in the region. He lowered city tax rates, launched construction projects for the city's underground sewage system, AND had the current sewage treatment plant built.
He was also a massive supporter of the troops, serving as Mayor from 1935 until his death in 1948. During the Great Depression, he organized war materials drives, upgraded city equipment and services, and broke ground on what is now Fort Wayne International Airport.
But his biggest accomplishment came when he elevated the Nickel Plate Railroad through downtown, which opened the north side of town for growth and development.
But even in the early 20th Century, his name was a bit comical, and even radio hosts would slightly change it. One newscaster, Bob Chase" would pronounce it more like "Bells" on air, but following one broadcast, Harry called in to correct Mr. Chase.
"Son, this is your Mayor. I pronounce my name 'Balls.'"
The Harry Baals Government Center
So given his legendary resume in the community, Mayor Baals definitely earned the right to have his name solidified in history, and an opportunity came when Fort Wayne was nearly finished with their new Government Center in 2011.
The city opened a voting poll for the community to help pick the name for their new government center. They asked for suggestions, and one of them was for former mayor, Harry Baals. As you can imagine, it took off, because who wouldn't want to honor one of the city's greatest mayors, right?
Well, some of them did at least. The voting went viral, and Mayor Baals received more than 23,000 votes, CLEARLY winning the top spot to name the building. But city officials weren't having it.
In fact, in one news story, the mayor at that time even admitted they never intended on picking the new name from whoever won the poll.
Despite people fighting tooth and nail to honor Mr. Baals' name on their new government building, the city got final say, and christened their new Government Center... "Citizens Square." Because, naming the government building after the people who chose a different name, and were told "no" is, of course, the logical choice.
For those that know, though, the TRUE Citizens' choice will always be the "Harry Baals Government Center."
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