Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Kodak T-Max 400
In the 1850s, commerce and prosperity arrived by rail across the United States. Railroads boomed in these years, with thousands upon thousands of track miles being built. Wherever rails were laid, towns inevitably popped up.
A rail line was built between Indianapolis and Lafayette in about 1850. It passed within a mile and a half of Augusta, a town founded in about 1832 on the Michigan Road northwest of Indianapolis. In 1852 the railroad placed a station on the rail line west of Augusta and named it for the nearby town. This snippet from an 1854 plat map shows both Augusta (far right) and Augusta Station (lower left).
A town was platted at Augusta Station that same year. Locals called it both Augusta Station and Hosbrook. The post office eventually said no to both names, and so in 1878 the town was officially named New Augusta. This map, which dates to about the mid 1920s, shows that the town had grown in size to rival nearby Augusta.
I’ve heard, but can’t confirm, that many in Augusta simply pulled up stakes and moved to the new town. It’s not a far-fetched story. Augusta had been built in about 1832 to capitalize on the brand new Michigan Road, an important north-south corridor connecting the Ohio River to Lake Michigan. But railroads were such a compelling way to move people and goods that when they arrived, road traffic fell away. (Often, so did funds to maintain roads, which led to some roads being sold to private companies that charged tolls for their use. The Michigan Road was one such road. I assume the “New Agusta [sic] Free Gravel Road” shown on the map was “free” in that it wasn’t a toll road.)
New Augusta never exactly boomed, growing to 200-300 residents at its peak. At its centennial in 1955, the town boasted three grocery stores, a feed store, some specialty stores, and one small manufacturer. The town was fully absorbed into Indianapolis when the city and the county merged in 1970. Through the 1980s and 1990s, this once rural township filled in rapidly with housing subdivisions and an enormous industrial park. You can see both in the Google Earth image below.
I drive by New Augusta every day as I go to work, along both major roads that border it. If you didn’t know the town was there, you might never know of it. The only clues are a short row of late-1800s homes that front 71st Street.
I might never have known of New Augusta were it not for an old friend who attended a church there a long time ago. I lived in Terre Haute then, but attended church with her when I was in town.
And then several years later I wound up living just three miles away. New Augusta became a convenient venue for my hobby of taking pictures with old film cameras. Let me show you New Augusta as I’ve seen it through various camera lenses over the years.
Augusta Station fronts the railroad tracks a short walk north of 71st Street. This depot was built in the early 1890s to replace an earlier one that burned down. It has been owned by the Purdy family and its descendants all these years. Purdy Street runs behind the station.
I don’t know what became of the Indianapolis and Lafayette Railroad, but these tracks remain and do get a little use. I hear engine whistles once in a while when I’m at home. Even though these tracks intersect several roads I use all the time, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been stopped by trains on these tracks over the past 20 years.
New Augusta’s business district lies just two blocks away, where 72nd Street intersects Dobson Street. All of New Augusta’s north-south streets are named for original residents. The east-west streets used to be, too. I assume they got their Indianapolis-style numbers when the city and county merged.
The brick building is an Odd Fellows building. It’s held all manner of businesses over the years, but currently houses a small Web/software company and offices for an attorney and an accountant. Every time I visit New Augusta, the cheerful red building seems to contain a different business.
I’m pretty sure the church I used to attend with my friend was in this building, which I believe once contained the New Augusta State Bank.
The peace and quiet along New Augusta’s streets belie the busy suburban and industrial area that surrounds it.
Many houses from the late 1800s survive and have been well cared for.
This L-plan Queen Anne is one of the houses that fronts 71st Street.
As you can see, all kinds of common Indiana architectural styles are represented in New Augusta.
This is my favorite house in town. It stands on New Augusta Road across from the train station. I photograph it pretty much every time I visit, and I’ve never seen signs that anybody lives here. But it does appear that work is being done on the house. Perhaps it’s undergoing a long restoration.
The centerpiece of New Augusta is the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church. It’s been part of this township since 1836, but moved to New Augusta in 1858.
This building was completed in 1880. Bells still ring on the hour, filling New Augusta with their gentle, sweet notes.
Several additions have been made to the building over the years.
New Augusta is on the short list of places around Indianapolis where I’d like to live. I enjoy its peaceful, historic character. I can imagine taking evening strolls along its streets and saying hello to the neighbors as I pass by. It’s close to where I work and it’s close to good shopping, yet it’s miles away from anywhere.
Many of nearby Augusta’s buildings remain. One is among the oldest houses in Indianapolis: the Boardman House. See it here.
The dumbest thing happened to my Pentax ME. The cap that holds the winding lever on unscrewed itself and disappeared.
That part turned out to be impossible to find, so I bought a battered body for parts. But then I couldn’t get that cap off it. The body seemed to work okay, so I just started using it.
But after shooting a few rolls I began to doubt the meter’s accuracy. So I started prowling eBay for another body, and soon enough I found a good one for just $16 shipped. Woot!
Unlike my first ME, this one is stamped Asahi Opt. Co. Japan, meaning it was made in the land of the rising sun. I’m guessing that later MEs were made in China, and my first ME was among them. Pentax was known to sometimes shift production to China late in a camera’s run; it did that most famously with the seminal K1000.
The ME is an aperture-priority camera: you set the aperture, and the ME chooses a shutter speed for right exposure. It has no manual mode, except for a 1/100 sec shutter setting meant to be used with a flash. I favor aperture-priority shooting, and I love the ME’s small size and relative light weight (for being a mostly metal camera). And with bodies being available for a pittance, I hardly worry about theft or damage. And so the Pentax ME has been my go-to camera for years.
I hadn’t shot my 28mm f/2.8 Pentax-M lens in ages, so I clipped it to this ME and loaded a roll of Fujicolor 200. As the sun set one unusually warm evening as winter faded, I walked along the main road outside my subdivision with this ME in my hands. I just love the rich tones the low sun created in this photograph.
Whatever this is sits on the corner at the nearest crossroads. This property is a large, lush cemetery. The setting sun really warmed up the stone of which this is made.
I faced the setting sun for this photo. One minute earlier and I could have captured the sun peeking through those trees; timing is everything. But doesn’t that 28mm lens deliver wonderful sharpness? I cropped this square to get rid of a bunch of church parking lot at the bottom of this shot.
I spent an hour one Sunday afternoon walking with this ME through New Augusta, a mostly hidden, nearly forgotten former town in northwest Indianapolis. It lurks behind two very busy roads, 71st Street and Georgetown Road. A few houses from the 1800s front 71st Street, this Queen Anne the most conspicuous of them, but that’s the only clue anything is here. I’ll bet New Augusta’s residents think their town is Indy’s best-kept secret.
I’ve shot New Augusta’s Salem Lutheran Church a number of times, but never before with a lens wide enough to get it all in. Still, I had to lie on my side in the road to make it work. I’m sure I was quite a sight.
Here’s a closeup of the church’s red-orange doors.
New Augusta was built in the 1850s to take advantage of this rail line. Somebody keeps its unused little depot fixed up and fresh.
To see more photos from my various Pentax MEs, see my Pentax ME gallery.
A Pentax ME was among the first cameras I shot after ending my Year of the Nikon F2 last year. I’d never had any complaints about the ME’s handling before, but compared to the F2 everything about the ME feels a little looser and rougher. There’s nothing wrong with the ME’s feel and handling; it’s just not as refined as a pro camera. And so whenever anybody asks me about getting started with film SLRs I direct them to the Pentax ME and the wonderful 50mm f/2 Pentax-M lens. You can buy them on eBay any day of the week for under $50. Just try that with any classic Nikon SLR body and lens.
Do you like old cameras? Then check out all of my old-camera reviews!
Here are the best blog posts I read this week.
Curbside Classic, the old-car site for which I write, featured station wagons all this week. We kicked it all off with Paul Niedermeyer telling the history of the modern station wagon. Read CC Wagon Week Kickoff: A Brief Illustrated History of the Station Wagon
Longtime readers will remember that I was in leadership in a church that teetered on the brink of dying. Preacher K. Rex Butts went farther: he closed his last church for good. He writes about discerning God’s will when your church is struggling. Read Closing A Church: A Necessary Conversation
Suzanne Lucas, writing as Evil HR Lady, shares a letter she received that illustrates why vastly unequal pay within the same work team for the same work is a bad idea. Read The Consequences of Unfair Pay
My anxiety around street photography is being noticed — and accosted — by my subjects. A Sydney street photographer who writes as Lignum Draco shares some photos where he was very clearly noticed. But he hasn’t been accosted. Yet. Read The dangers of street photography
Jeff Atwood tells you exactly why your passwords need to be at least twelve characters long. Hint: It’s because automated password crackers can figure them out too fast otherwise. Read Your Password is Too Damn Short
My second-favorite facade on Indy’s Monument Circle is the Lacy Building. (My favorite is the art-deco Circle Tower.)
Even though it says LACY prominently over the arch, a lot of sources call this the Test Building. It was named for, and built by the heirs of, Charles Edward Test, who had led the National Motor Vehicle Company. Historic photos of this building show a TEST plaque up there. I wonder when the building changed its name.
Completed in 1927, the Lacy, nee Test, building featured one of the city’s first parking garages, right inside the building. The entrance was (is?) on the north side next to the alley. Two hundred cars could be parked here, on six of the building’s upper stories. I’ve read that some parking is still available inside, I presume for the building’s tenants.
Placing a parking garage on the Circle was controversial in the 1920s. To pave the way, the builders designed a detailed, conservative neoclassical revival exterior
Of course it’s faced in limestone, a material quarried abundantly in our state.