The Wabash Cultural District features 2.5 miles of walkable terrain. The boundaries are Hill Street along the influential railway tracks on the north, Carroll Street on the west, Paradise Spring Park on the east, and the Wabash River on the south. A unique characteristic is the community's hilly topography. Standing at the District’s entrance, you can see the entire District unfolding before your eyes!
The District is filled with cultural assets such as a world-class performing arts center, miles of community bike trails, numerous public art pieces, new housing developments, and boutiques. The preservation of the buildings in the District is extraordinary, too. The National Register of Historic Places designated Downtown Wabash in 1986 because of its architectural significance. It is a treat for your visual and cultural palette!
Creative jobs in the zip codes surrounding the Wabash Cultural District in 2019. (Source)
Creative industry earnings in the zip codes surrounding the Wabash Cultural District in 2019. (Source)
Cultural nonprofit revenues in the zip codes surrounding the Wabash Cultural District in 2019. (Source)
The historical thread that stitches the District together is the vaudeville era. Since the early 1900s, the community has flocked to the District to enjoy the performing arts. The magic of attending a live show gives meaning to life and adds richness to citizen's daily lives. The world literally comes to your front door and invites you into a new experience. The appeal of experiencing a live performance has only grown with every decade. The vaudeville movement resulted in the development of Eagles Theatre in 1906 in downtown Wabash, as well as two other theaters. Chicago’s Miss Bertha Gallant was the first act in the new theatre. While vaudeville is no longer the country’s premier form of entertainment, Wabash stills nods to this era with performers that travel on a circuit much like original vaudeville performers.
The collection of artists referred to as “Touring Artists” is inspired by the vaudeville roots. The District is home to many venues and is continually hosting artists from across the nation. The largest groups visit the Ford Theater stage at the Honeywell Center. At any given time, the District could be hosting a week-run technical rehearsal for a massive Broadway cast or the ensemble from the Moscow Ballet. There is a constant buzz of artists arriving by tour bus and leaving their marks on the District. Other venues host intimate events, such as watercolor workshops with regional artists and book signings with national authors. Regardless of the type of artistry, the District is influenced by Touring Artists and their presence in the community
The District has seen an incredible transformation in the last decade. Institutions like the Honeywell Center and Wabash County Museum were original anchors. Each year a new project created more momentum:
- The construction of a brand-new YMCA
- Restoration of Charley Creek Inn
- Installation of district-wide public art
- Facade improvements
- New skate park
- Riverfront Plaza
- Re-development of landmark buildings
- And an all inclusive playground
The tipping point was in 2012 with the city-wide adoption of “Public Art Master Plan: A Roadmap for Creative Placemaking” with an emphasis on Downtown District Development. The District was beautified by a strategic plan to revitalize Downtown as the “hub” of the community. Benches lined the streets to encourage pedestrians. A neglected alley was transformed into a gorgeous art walk. First Fridays became a monthly street festival with thousands in attendance.
The renaissance of the District has resulted in doubling downtown occupancy and reducing storefront vacancy rates. Just 10 years ago, storefront vacancy rates were 80% and today rates are 5%.