‘Hill training’ in a skyscraper


Fort Wayne’s skyline is dominated by, from left: The 27-story Indiana Michigan Power Center, the 22-story Lincoln Tower and the 25-story PNC Center.

Googling new workouts to try recently, I came across one that purported to deliver a “Kilimanjaro-ready body” in just six weeks.

It was intriguing to see how many components of this mountain-training regimen could be incorporated into a fitness walking program here in the Hoosier flatlands. That became the topic of this week’s newspaper column, which is what led me to do last week’s hill workout inside a skyscraper.

Fort Wayne has three of ‘em, one of which – the 22-story Lincoln Tower, built in 1930 – was Indiana’s tallest building until 1969.

The king of the hill these days is the 27-story Indiana Michigan Power Center. But when I contacted a former co-worker who’s now the company spokesman, he said the building’s stairs are off-limits for public fitness use. Though an area climber told me he does it all the time, accessing the stairs via the parking garage, I felt too weirded out about trying it after I’d been officially told no.

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The door to the 25th floor of the PNC Center.

That took me to the second-tallest building, the 339-foot PNC Center. I furtively followed a sketchy-looking cyclist and his pedestrian sidekick into the parking garage – there was no one at the entry booth – then found the elevators. A sign invited guests to take the elevator to the 25th floor to Empyrean, the swanky reception site that’s replaced the longtime poshest private restaurant in the city, the Summit Club.

I decided if anybody asked, I’d say I was here to inquire about rates at Empyrean, only decided to take the stairs instead to burn off a few calories.

I passed one guy early on, but after that I met no resistance other than gravity all the way up to the 25th floor. I was breathing hard and my legs were shaky, but I never had to stop and catch my breath.


The rear door to the former Summit Club, now Empyrean Events and Catering.

There was no scenic view to reward my efforts, other than the open rear door to the former Summit Club, which still bore the old sign though it’s been out of business for a few years now. I could hear a couple of employees talking inside. Though there was one more flight of stairs, I knew if I took it they’d see me. This was also about the time I noticed the security camera I’d just stepped in front of. I decided to head back down before I got into some kind of hassle.

My next stop was the Lincoln Tower, but I didn’t get far.  In this ornate, art decco building the stairs are wide, open and visible from the opulent and voluminous bank lobby. A stern-looking sign on the second floor warned visitors to return to the main level and check in.

I picked up a card from a friendly receptionist who said I could book a tour that would take me to the observation deck at the top, where “on a clear day you can see all the way to Ohio.” I might do that sometime, but I doubt that this will be a regular fitness destination.

Unfortunately, in the course of reporting this column I also discovered that a rustic high rise I’ve climbed many times since childhood – the eight-story, 100-foot-tall fire tower at Ouabache State Park – is closed for repairs. The person I spoke with said the estimate is around $100,000, and it’s unclear where the funding will come from. It almost certainly won’t open this season, and obviously the question will be raised about whether it’s worth fixing.

I hope so. There aren’t many of these fire towers left around the state, and though it’s no longer used for that purpose it’s a cool historical landmark.


The 100-foot-tall fire tower at Ouabache State Park is closed for repairs. When I mentioned this to my dad over the weekend, he said when he was a boy they used to climb up the tower on the OUTSIDE rather than take the stairs. (Sometimes I wonder how my dad and his brothers ever managed to survive into adulthood.)

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3 Responses to ‘Hill training’ in a skyscraper

  1. Somehow I now am glad that I only have hills nearby! Great read!

  2. bgddyjim says:

    Dude, Tisch, you’re such a REBEL! We need to get you one of those lower jaw skull bandanas to run the stairs so you don’t get nicked by security cameras! Now that would be kinda cool, though I could see one getting hassled for it.

    • tischcaylor says:

      Yeah, I’m such a rebel. I kept thinking, what if I got arrested for trespassing or something and they’re thinking, what is this 51yo woman doing, anyway? (Still, it was kinda fun.)

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