Art “Birdboy” Smith
Excerpts from “The Smash-Up Kid”, Traces, a publication of the Indiana Historical Society, Fall, 1998. Article written by Rachel Sherwood Roberts.
“In 1910, only six and a half years since Orville and Wilbur Wright had first flown their machine, American aviation was still mostly a matter of experimentation by single individuals. No one knew about airports, control towers, or radar. But Art Smith was fascinated with flight and determined to figure out how to make a machine and fly in it.
At his home in Fort Wayne, he collected all the books and magazine articles on aeronautics that he could find. From the resources he could gather, Art learned about aircraft construction, designs, and patents. At night he’d pour over his books and study how to build a flying machine. He believed he could build a plane that would fly better than the Wright brothers’ airplane, and as he worked on his design, he was careful to avoid infringing on their patents.
He built models of airplanes using sticks and rubber bands. When asked, he said he figured he would need $1,756.60 for materials – if he did the work himself. With his parents’ financial backing, 20 year old Art quit his job and devoted himself to pursuing his dream.
It took Art and a friend 6 months to build the plane and the night they finished they moved the plane through the streets of Fort Wayne to a field in what is now Memorial Park. The next morning Art tested the flying machine. The plane reached almost fifty miles per hour before leaving the ground. Suddenly it rose alarmingly, dipped, rose again and crashed. Art was thrown onto the frozen ground and badly injured. The plane was ruined, except for the engine.”
On October 22, 1911 Art Smith attempted to fly from Fort Wayne to New Haven. After that flight and exhibitions later, that month he was nicknamed “Bird Boy.”
“Bird Boy” served in the military as a flight instructor teaching others about flying machines and contributing greatly to the war effort. He died at the age of 32 while operating his mail plane. Smith Field Airport in Fort Wayne bears his name.
The Spirit of Flight, James Novelli, 1928, Memorial Park, Bronze, Sculpture was created within memorial park to commemorate Art “Bird Boy” Smith’s contributions to flight and the war effort.
This statue is slated to be moved to make way for a softball stadium.
Photo by DA Baker
Moving historic sculptures places them at risk for damage. According to Joesph Sambrat Owner of Conservation Solutions “Regarding the moving of these monuments, you are correct in being concerned. We have disassembled and moved several monuments and there is always an inherent risk in the process. In order to reduce risks, the project requires a team of knowledgeable individuals with experience in this area. We typically work with structural engineers with experience in heritage preservation, riggers who have done this work before, and our staff of conservators. The monument needs to be studied to determine how it was erected initially and to understand the current condition on the materials because they now may not possess the same qualities as when they were new. This information is then compiled into a plan which would synthesize the information gathered by the various team members. If the work is being performed by the team, then it could be handled as a design-build contract and biddable specifications would not be needed. If it has to be competitively bid, then specifications would have to be written detailing the methods and materials to be used for the move and a set of qualifications for awardee to ensure that it is only awarded to a qualified firm.”
The other concern is with the institution attempting to develop the land. Indiana Tech community college recently completed another project in Fort Wayne. They built a law school in 2013 and closed that school just 4 years later: http://wane.com/2016/10/31/indiana-tech-to-shutter-its-law-school/
Will Indiana Tech once again develop land unnecessarily endangering historic monuments in the process only to abandon it later?
Please call prior to May 4th 2017 if you can’t attend the meeting.
Park Board Commissioners :
Richard Samek, President (260) 423-9411
Pamela Kelly, M.D., Vice President, Unlisted
William Zielke (260) 203-5744
Justin Shurley (260) 407-2808
Additional information can be found here https://www.yeaparks.com/memorialparkproposal