100 years ago today, the great Carole Lombard, the queen of screwball comedy was born. She ruled the comedies of the 1930s with her wonderful, unique comedic talent. She wasn’t just one of the funniest actresses working at the time. She was one of the funniest star, peiod, of either gender. She only recieved one Oscar nomination, for her performance in the 1936 film My Man Godfrey. But who knows what other awards and accolades she might have received had she not died in a plane crash in 1942.
As I’ve mentioned before on this site, I have a very special love for Carole Lombard because she was born in my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I drive past the house she was born in almost every day. I spend a huge amount of time in the neighboorhood where she spent her childhood. Lombard was born in 1908, the same year as on of Ft. Wayne’s great floods. The same year as the massive fire at the Aveline Hotel.
The Peters home (Lombard was born Jane Alice Peters) was at the end of Rockhill street in the West Central neighborhood of Downtown Fort Wayne, right in the heart of the city, just a few miles away from most of the city’s major landmarks (including the historic courthouse, which was built in 1902, just a few years before Lombard was born). The house overlooks the St. Mary’s river. It sets on a high point above the rive, and the Peters family used their home to house refugees during the flood of 1913.
The Peters were a relatively wealthy, well to do family, very prominent in Fort Wayne society, and their house was one of the biggest in the neighborhood. Lombard’s grandfather, John, was a respected businessman who started and ran several companies in town, including washing machine company that supplied half the machines in the country.
West Central really is a beautiful place. In the mid-1900s, when people were moving away from the city, the beautiful houses were neglected. But in recent decades, the neighboorhood has been fixed up and is once again one of the most beautiful places in the city. Now the large houses are mostly divided into apartments. It’s really one of the nicest places in the city to live. The rent of most of the apartments is also really cheap. Which is a plus.
The Carole Lombard house was declared a historical landmark in the 1930s and is now a bed and breakfast. If you’re ever around Ft. Wayne, you should really come downtown and take a look around the neighborhood.
The plaque on the front of the house reads:
In this house on October 6, 1908 was born Jane Alice Peters. Daughter of Fredrick C. and Elizabeth Knight Peters. She took the professional name of Carole Lombard and became one of the most important figures in the motion picture industry. Erected by the city of Fort Wayne, IN under the direction of Mayor Harry. W. Baals, Jan 1, 1938 on the occasion of her appearance in David O. Selznick’s technicolor production “Nothing Sacred”
Yes. Our mayor’s name was Harry Baals.