Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Snow-covered Caddy

Snow-covered Caddy
Palm Pre

The last department store?


I was looking through my photographs from my 2008 tour of the Michigan Road when I came upon photos of Minear’s Department Store on the square in Greensburg. I was surprised to find an old-style department store still operating anywhere, let alone in small-town Indiana. It had been in business since 1865.

My favorite detail was the store name painted inside the plate-glass windows.

Greensburg square

I would have loved to see their neon lit at dusk.

Greensburg square

The store sat across the street to the west from the Decatur County Courthouse, which is best known for the tree growing out of the clock tower.

Decatur County Courthouse

I poked around the Internet a little to see if Minear’s is still in business; sadly, it closed in 2012. Was it the last old-style department store? Do you know of any others still operating? What was the department store in your hometown when you were young? (In my hometown of South Bend, it was Robertson’s.)

The Delta Queen

The Delta Queen
Kodak EasyShare Z730

The Central State Hospital for the Insane


For nearly 150 years, those thought to be intractably mentally ill in Indiana were housed there. It opened in 1848 as The Indiana State Hospital for the Insane, on more than 100 acres facing the fledgling National Road just west of Indianapolis.


Central State Hospital and environs in 1876. A. T. Andreas, Plan of Indianapolis. From the David Rumsey Map Collection.

In 1889, as other asylums opened around the state, its name changed to Central State Hospital for the Insane. In 1926, the name was shortened to just Central State Hospital. By this time, the grounds were well within the city and were bordered by rows of tidy middle-class homes.

The facility grew steadily until just after World War II. Enormous, imposing, ornate wards were built to house the patients, one for the men and another for the women. This map from the Central State Reuse Commission shows most of the buildings currently and formerly known to be on the site. Just check out the size and scale of the Women’s Wards. Photos of the Men’s Wards do survive; this map shows only their location but not their outline. The wards and some other buildings were condemned and razed in the 1970s, and modern, institutional buildings were built to replace them.


Central State Reuse Commission map. Building labels and dates added by Wikipedia user Mlzoiss.

Along the way, some real efforts were made to care for and treat patients using methods that changed as knowledge of mental illness evolved. The state shares some fascinating information about the hospital and its treatment methods here. (The state has an annoying habit of redesigning its Web site every few years, which hopelessly scrambles its page locations. So if link rot sets in, this Google search should find that page.)

However, allegations of patient abuse dogged Central State for decades. Such allegations were common to such institutions, leading to searches for alternative ways to treat the mentally ill. At the same time, Central State’s funding began to shrink. All of this led to the hospital’s closure in 1994.

The site found some uses in the years since. The Indiana Medical History Museum makes its home in the former Pathology Building, and the horses of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Mounted Patrol are kept and cared for on the grounds. You can see them out during the day when you drive by on Tibbs Avenue, the western border. But it’s a curious sight today, because this is a very inner-city neighborhood that knows the problems of poverty.

This 2014 aerial image gives you an idea of the site’s scale — just look at all those houses in the neighborhood to the east. Compare it to the map section I shared earlier.

Imagery ©2014 DigitalGlobe, IndianaMap Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency, Map data ©2014 Google, Indiana University

Imagery ©2014 DigitalGlobe, IndianaMap Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency, Map data ©2014 Google, Indiana University

In 2007, the city funded a reuse plan that recommended retail, commercial, educational, and recreational use of the site. Work to realize that vision has been underway for a few years now. On the Google map above, you can see the first results: apartments in the southeast corner, and a new charter school just west of them. Also, the former Administration Building has been renovated into furnished dormitory-style rental housing aimed at students at nearby Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Central State Hospital

1938 Administration Building, now apartments

Other buildings on the site are being renovated, too, although I don’t know what their uses will be. I’m pretty sure this was the Men’s Recreation building during the site’s asylum days.

Central State Hospital

1899 men’s recreation building, I think

In the background, you can see the former power plant building. In the foreground stands the carpentry building.

Central State Hospital

1886 power plant background left. 1937 carpentry building foreground.

I drive by here at least once a week, as I go to church in the neighborhood to the east. It’s exciting to watch renovations continue. Just recently, a football field in bright green artificial turf appeared just northwest of the charter school. All of this renewal is a bright spot in a blighted neighborhood.

Recommended reading


Every week I round up my favorite posts from the blogs I follow.

Simon Kidd, who also collects and uses old cameras, made a book out of family photos for his parents 50th anniversary. He walks us through it in a video, in which you get to hear his great Scottish accent (as he lives in Edinburgh). Read A Brief History of a Family

Fellow roadie Denny Gibson remembers a 1965 Barracuda he owned. It burned oil; he kept a crate of 30-weight in the boot and sometimes had to pull over to add oil. Ah, the old days. Read My Wheels — Chapter 14: 1965 Barracuda

Matt Lambros takes beautiful photos of abandoned and decaying, but formerly grand, old theaters. This week, he showcased Loew’s Canal Theatre in New York City. Read Loew’s Canal Theatre

It seems inevitable that most brick-and-mortar camera stores will eventually close, squeezed out by the vast selection online. It’s no fun when the only one near you closes, as Mark O’Brien recently experienced. Read The Last One Standing…Closes. Huron Camera, RIP Dec. 2014


My watchwords for 2015


I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but I do like to have a set of words that represent the growth I want to experience in each new year. My 2014 words were anger, serenity, and faith. 

Share the roadThis is normally where I tell you how I did with all of my words. Unfortunately, the only word that really played was the first: anger. Hoo boy.

Not only do I not like to be angry, I’m not keen on any strong emotions. I find them to be overwhelming. I prefer an even keel.

But in 2014 I had plenty of reason to be angry. I’ll skip the frustrating details. But some things went on early in the year that had me beside myself with anger. Those challenges lasted into the summer and had residual effects the rest of the year.

Through this experience, I came to realize that I’ve spent my life trying to protect myself against strong feelings — ducking them, denying them, driving them away. Moreover, this has been a major source of my stress. Rather than feeling my feelings, making any changes necessary, and getting on with it, I just internalize and try to adjust my life and actions around the problem. I take on too much responsibility for others in exchange for not having to feel so angry. I am not processing unwelcome events in real-time and taking available appropriate steps to correct them.

I see this as a source of why I tend to focus on what’s wrong rather than what’s right in my life. I’m living in the wrong, rather than handling it so that I can enjoy the right.

It’s time to change all of that. Here are my 2015 watchwords:

  • Gratitude. The “attitude of gratitude” platitude makes me retch, and so I use this word with some trepidation. But I want to deliberately cultivate a focus on what is good in my life. There’s plenty. My cup overflows. It’s ridiculous. In 2015, I will pray gratitude to God for at least three good things that happened each day, and not pray anything else for myself. God knows my problems, knows what I need, and I will trust that. I will only thank him.
  • Power. I think I simply give up my personal power too much in the interest of keeping peace and not having to address what I feel. It’s time to step up, accept strong feelings, think through facts, and take concrete steps to address what I can.
  • Realism. There’s good and bad in life, and I want to take it as it comes — enjoy the good, do what I can to improve the bad, but accept it all.

2014 showed me I could feel strongly, set appropriate boundaries, and survive to tell about it. I’m doubling down in 2015 so I can access the good and the joy that abounds.

What might your 2015 watchwords be?

Here were my watchwords in 2012, 2013, and 2014.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,608 other followers

%d bloggers like this: