The LaSalle Inn Downtown Fort Wayne: Preservation in Progress
You've probably driven past them, two buildings sitting on the corner of Washington Boulevard and Fairfield Avenue. A large elevated deck behind the LaSalle Bed & Breakfast Inn sits directly behind the downtown Starbucks, the Salvation Army is across Fairfield. Sitting at a red light, you may have looked over, contemplated the deck, or noticed the scrolling LED sign advertising jazz cabaret at the boutique hotel.
Other than intrigue concerning the downtown deck, our previous knowledge about the LaSalle Inn was superfluous at best. After contact via Instagram, DasFort was invited to the Inn to take some photos, and learn about Fort Wayne's only downtown bed and breakfast inn.
It was exciting to park, get out, and experience the buildings with a pair of fresh eyes. The entrance involves walking under a red canopy, and up a set of wooden stairs to the upstairs reception area. As we ascended, it became clear that this was no ordinary bed and breakfast. Carefully curated European decor adds ambiance to the historic setting, making it almost like an overnight stay at a boutique museum.
We were greeted by our Instagram contact, a friendly IPFW student completing her internship at the LaSalle. She gave us some preliminary details and information, and led us on a tour. Along the way, the owner, Clack Butler joined us and filled in the rest of the details.
Clark and his wife, French born Rose-Aimée, bought the main house (517 W Washington) in 1990. Originally intended for use as a dance studio, after Rose-Aimée became Youth Director of the Fort Wayne Ballet, they opened the LaSalle Inn in 2003 "as a way to share the history of the home as well as pay for some of its restoration." Clark, who was a professor of philosophy at IPFW up until last year, is an accomplished author with ten published books. Rose-Aimée is currently in Strasbourg, France where the couple have a second residence. Together they've lived and traveled around the world, read their full bio here.
The LaSalle Bed & Breakfast Inn includes the Sion Bass House and the Thomas Snook House, which sit beside each other at 509 and 517 West Washington Boulevard in downtown Fort Wayne.
The Butlers also rent out a studio in the Montparnasse District of Paris. Clark plans on heading back to France to join Rose-Aimée and continue his human rights ethics research once business arrangements with the LaSalle Inn are in order. To read about future plans for the inn from Clark himself, scroll to (almost) the bottom of the page.
Opt for the finest amenities of any downtown hotel when you stay at the 1842 built Sion Bass House—a stand-alone historically protected building, home to Fort Wayne’s most celebrated Civil War hero.
For more details on the Sion Bass House, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Our room for the night was the Eliza George Suite. The bed was particularly cozy, and in combination with the decor, it brought to mind memories of overnights at my grandmother's.
This first floor room is named for Eliza “Mother” George, mother-in-law of Sion Bass and famous Civil War nurse. You’ll rest on the comforting queen bed with a high, golden oak Victorian headboard. Your bathroom features a double jacuzzi with spa shower. Room are located in the Sion Bass House.
(You can take a virtual tour and hear Clark and Rose-Aimée describe the history and decorations right here.)
Each of the Sion Bass House suites are named after a historic figure, each with their description outlined along with photos on the website. The rooms in the Thomas Snook house (built in 1901) have names as well, but are mostly location based, like the African and Hollywood Suites.
The fireplace in the photo above is a pre Civil War fireplace, of the same make, model, and vintage as the fireplace that was in the room Abraham Lincoln died in. Only slightly macabre for an overnight stay! The desk clerk joked with us that her mother would not stay in the LaSalle because she was afraid it was haunted. When I asked Clark about ghosts, we happened to be in the basement, checking out the winter kitchen from the 19th century original inhabitants. Although he does not believe in them, he mentioned that they'd had a guest who claimed to be able to talk to a ghost in the Sion Bass House. I've never met a ghost personally, so I can't say I believe or not, but either way, our stay was blissfully ghost free.
The whole experience was very special, educational, and just so cozy. We shared a bottle of champagne and a riveting conversation with Clark before we retired to our room, walking next door to the Sion Bass House. Every corner contains an intricate detail with a story behind it, and the LaSalle Bed & Breakfast Inn is all about the people, and the details.
10/10 would stay again.
A few words from the owner of the LaSalle Bed & Breakfast Inn, Clark Butler:
"The LaSalle resulted from the 1990 purchase of the neo-classical 517 West Washington Blvd. in Fort Wayne by Clark and Rose-Aimée Butler for her ballet school. When Rose-Aimée was hired in 1991 by the Fort Wayne Ballet full-time, they continued to restore the house and became accidental innkeepers with the LaSalle BB in 2003.
When Clark became a Purdue University Philosophy Emeritus in 2015 and moved to Rose-Aimée's native France as promised when they married, a business model change began for the LaSalle—the only BB in the city among four to have survived the Great Recession. It became a historical boutique hotel.
Rose-Aimée had been hostess, but Clark used his administrative experience at the IPFW campus to professionalize the inn as an independent hotel capable of creating a full livelihood. The LaSalle solo jazz cabaret venue was added in 2014, which now operates with the IPFW Music Department.
The plan is to establish solo jazz performance downtown, open a traditional restaurant with a reduced beverage license in the new Riverfront/Downtown Dining District, develop use of 517 West Washington's basement to its full legal use for the inn, and research doubling the number of units by contemporary shipping container construction of hotel rooms through a Dutch company.
To do this, Clark is recruiting an onsite partner as he remakes his life in human rights research and philosophy in the university city of Montpellier, France, on the Mediterranean. The couple is collaborating with Parisian jazz vocalist Guylenn Delassus and with French chef Nicolas Demidorff to open a jazz cabaret venue there, the LaSalle East."
Colonel Sion Bass House: 509 W Washington Blvd.
"Built c.1855, this brick Italianate house was owned by Colonel Sion Bass and his wife Eliza from c.1855 to 1878. Over the years, the house endured the addition and demolition of wings and porches, but the present appearance is very close to that when originally built. A wide cornice with bands of decorative moldingssurround the house, and a band of dentils is punctuated by decorative scroll brackets that also surround the house. The bay window on the east side has a flat roof along with a cornice consisting of dentils and brackets. Shaped and carved limestone is used for some lintels and window sills, particularly on the front, while other window and door openings have brick segmental arches. Rubble stone makes up some portions of the foundation. The one-over-one double hung windows on the front, sides and in the east bay window are likely early replacement windows, but many of the original four-over-four double hung windows on the sides and back of the house remain. The front door is surrounded by decorative moldings and is topped by a transom while the two rear doors have segmental arches and transoms.
Sion S. Bass was born in 1827 near Salem, Kentucky. He came to Fort Wayne in 1848 or 1849, and first worked as a clerk for fur traders Ewing, Chute and Company. In 1853, he formed a successful iron works firm called Jones, Bass and Company with W.H. Jones and John Hough, Jr. The foundry and machine shops were located near the new Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad line. The manufacturing facility, which later would become the Pennsylvania Railroad Shops, was sold to the railroad in 1857. Sion and Jones then formed Jones and Bass and developed a new foundry and machine shop on the south side of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago line with access to the new Wabash Railroad line. In 1859, the new plant was purchased by the Fort Wayne Machine Works. In 1862, Sion’s brother, John H. Bass, became sole owner of the plant which eventually became the Bass Foundry and Machine Works, Fort Wayne’s largest factory and employer.
As the Civil War loomed, Sion became interested in politics. He helped to organize the 30th Regiment of Indiana Volunteers (“The Bloody Thirtieth”) at Camp Allen in Fort Wayne. He was elected Colonel and commanding officer in September of 1861, and by October of the same year, was in training in Indianapolis. His regiment marched through Kentucky and Tennessee until 1862. Sion was wounded while leading a charge at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. He was taken to Paducah, Kentucky for care, but died April 14, 1862. He is buried in Lindenwood Cemetery in Fort Wayne.
National Register (West Central Historic District) - 1984
Local Historic District (Individual) - 2001" — Via westcentralneighborhood.org
We also attended the live Jazz Cabaret the following Friday evening. Video coming soon!
Photos by Tony Frantz