Fort Wayne business had a start on Duck Street, named for the 19th century Duck Creek that drained the area from the higher ground near Superior Street into the St. Mary's River. Along Duck Creek in the 1840s and 50s stood the City Mills, one of the largest mills in early Fort Wayne. Like other streams in the area, Duck Creek afforded an ideal opportunity for the beginnings of industry in the frontier community. The first industrial businesses in the city - blacksmithing, brick and tile making, and spoke making - were primitive and depended only upon human power. Large-scale enterprises, such as sawing lumber and milling grain, however, could be done efficiently and profitably by harnessing the abundant local waterpower. Later, entertainment enterprises, such as the circus, found the area a good place to draw a crowd. A local population could provide a profitable audience for a few days' run. At the same time, it could pull up on short notice to avoid the devastation of a flood. Even Art Smith, the "Bird Boy of Fort Wayne" who was acclaimed by many as the "world's greatest stunt flyer," drew a huge crowd here in 1911. Smith was to take off for a flight from Fort Wayne to New Haven, Connecticut, a major cross-country trip for that time. The trip was jinxed because Smith forgot to buy gasoline. He had to pass the hat for the $2.50 it took to fill up his gas tank. Shortly after takeoff near this spot, the plane's engine ceased running, and Smith had to land in a nearby farm field, ending the trip. Eventually, businesses were established in the area, along with the National Guard Armory. Even though the swamp had been filled in, the "Thumb" became dotted with buildings and parking lots that suffered the wrath of the river during times of flooding.
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