📷 I adore my Yashica-12, a twin-lens reflex camera for 120 film. It is not very well known, however, as it was made for only a short time before being superseded by the much better-known Yashica-Mat 124. Alex Luyckx reviews this terrific camera. ReadBonus Camera Review Blog – Yashica 12
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In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report. While this article refers exclusively to the Michigan Road, another historic highway, the Dixie Highway, was routed along this portion of the Michigan Road.
The first white settler in what is now Fulton County was William Polke, who came in 1830 to survey what would become the Michigan Road. He was appointed one of the road’s three commissioners in 1831. Fulton County itself was formed in 1836, named for steamboat inventor Robert Fulton. Upon entering Fulton County, the Michigan Road first comes upon the little town of Fulton. This was once a railroad town, but the tracks that bisected it have long since been removed.
There are only a few blocks to Fulton.
This is probably not a historic, or even very interesting, building in Fulton, but I notice it every time I pass through town.
I began exploring Indiana’s state highways in 1988 when I first had a car and routinely drove it from my South Bend home to Terre Haute, where I went to school. Using a state map, I plotted a course that left US 31 at Rochester, following State Road 25 to Lafayette and then a series of other roads to Terre Haute. I was not yet in touch with my inner road geek and I had never heard of the Michigan Road or the Dixie Highway, both old names for this stretch of highway between Rochester and Logansport. I was only trying to find a more interesting route than boring old US 31.
Fulton is the first town south of US 31 on State Road 25. One of the first times I entered Fulton southbound, a light rain had just started to fall. I had just passed the Speed Limit 35 sign on the edge of town, but had not yet slowed down, when a little old lady stepped into the road in front of me. I jerked the wheel to the left to avoid killing her, but found myself in the path of oncoming traffic. So I jerked the wheel to the right to avoid killing myself – and started to spin. My car spun around and around, Fulton passing nauseatingly by in my windshield, until I came to rest about three blocks later, my car’s nose pointing toward this building. A brand new Thunderbird was parked before that window, my front bumper about six inches from its door.
Feeling very embarrassed, I immediately righted my car in its lane and zipped out of town, hoping nobody had seen me. The gravity of what had just happened didn’t hit me until I reached the Cass County line, where I started to shake. I pulled over in front of a school and sat there for a good twenty minutes until I calmed down and could drive again.
That day Fulton’s speed limit earned my tremendous respect, and since then I am always sure to have slowed down before entering town. But in the hundred times I’ve driven through Fulton since, that little old lady is the only person I’ve ever seen on the street.
The 1941 United Brethren Church building is the nicest building on the road in Fulton. The congregation has been here since 1877.
This building’s double doors suggest that it may have once been an automobile repair garage.
This building’s twin-post awning suggests that it may have at one time been a gas station.
The white building has seen happier days.
North of Fulton, the land quickly reverts to fields of corn and soybeans. This combine on a pole is a fixture along this section of the road.
Then the Michigan Road passes under US 31 and enters Rochester, which was made the Fulton county seat in 1836 in large part because it was on the Michigan Road and near the Tippecanoe River. Rochester was incorporated as a town in 1853 and as a city in 1909.
This southbound photo shows where US 31’s original alignment merges in with the Michigan Road. If you squint, you can make out the US 31 overpass in the distance on the right.
The Michigan Road in Rochester is lined with lovely older homes. This one’s probably from the 1850s.
It is likely that the rectangular portion of this building, with the pitched roof, was built in the 1860s, and the rest was added later.
This is the 1930 St. Joseph Catholic Church. I’ve otherwise limited my photos of churches to those built in the 1800s, but photographed this youngster because it was so unusual to see a Spanish revival building along the Michigan Road.
This home with Queen Anne touches was probably built in the 1880s.
This paving-brick sidewalk appears from time to time along Main St. It has been torn out in most places and replaced with concrete.
Limestone houses don’t normally trip my trigger, but this one sure offers a lot to look at.
So does this house, with its large tower and its little spikes on the roof.
The 1895 Fulton County Courthouse is built of limestone in the Romanesque Revival style.
This postcard image is from a card postmarked 1911. The courthouse is just out of the photo on the right.
Here’s downtown Rochester from about the same spot today. I am able to find only one building from the postcard photo in this scene, the one on the northwest corner of the intersection ahead.
This building was once a doctor’s office. If you click through this photo and see it larger on Flickr, you can see that the insignia at the top of the building is of a torch and snakes. Notice how the Orthopedics sign continues to the building at right. There’s a fair amount of this kind of thing in Rochester, where modern signage, awnings, and even entire first-floor facades stretch from one building to part of another. It suggests that walls were sometimes knocked out between buildings to create larger spaces. I noticed this in Rochester much more than in any other Michigan Road town that has so many of its older buildings still intact. Rochester thrived longer than many other Michigan Road towns, and instead of tearing down and building new, Rochester adapted.
The northwest corner of Main and 8th Streets. Notice how the building on the corner has boarded-up windows in about the first half, but not the second, and how the ledge around the top has had some of its detail removed on the portions above the boarded-up windows. It suggests that this one building has two owners.
This is the northeast corner of 8th St.
Bailey’s Hardware and Sporting Goods is an echo from hardware stores of days gone by with its tin ceiling and little bins full of parts. I sure wish I took some photos of the interior!
The Times Theater’s sign has seen better days. I’ll bet this used to be a one-screen theatre, but was “twinned” somewhere along the way. I once worked in a “twinned” theater, and the seats in each half were left in their original positions, angled toward the center of the original screen. If you looked in the direction the seats pointed, you looked at the wall built to split the theater in two. I’ll bet you’ll find the same arrangement in this theater.
The American Legion building was formerly the First Baptist Church. The portion with the pitched roof is the old church, built in about the 1850s. The stone-front portion of the building was added later. The church has been sided; it’s probably brick underneath.
These two buildings were built in the 1870s or 1880s and look ripe for restoration. These are in about the least altered condition of all the old buildings along Main St. downtown.
An advertisement for Henry George cigars was painted on the side of this building first, followed by a Mail Pouch advertisement. The Henry George ad has bled through over the years, leading to the first line appearing to say, “I chew men.”
Soon enough we met Rochester’s northern limit. On the outskirts of town, this little building was once a gas station.
From in front of the gas station, this is the northbound Michigan Road. For many years, this was also US 31.
The unremarkable 1982 bridge over the Tippecanoe River is typical of modern Indiana bridges. It was certainly opened to the great relief of travelers, however, because for many years – including the entire time this road was US 31 – the bridge here had but one lane, and a light at either end controlled traffic.
That bridge stood in about the same place as the current bridge. But this southbound photo shows an abutment and approach to a bridge; Check that stone foundation. A Michigan Road historical marker and a marker remembering a Potawatomi village that used to be here were placed on the old approach. I took the above photo from about where the Michigan Road marker stands.
That approach and abutment were from an even older bridge, this one, which was built in about 1880. By 1916 it had fallen into poor repair, and was replaced.
William Polke built this, the first frame house north of the Wabash River, in 1832. While Polke and his wife lived here, the house served as an inn along the Michigan Road and as the local land office. The house was moved from the Michigan Road to the Fulton County Museum on modern US 31 and is now part of the “Loyal, Indiana” living history village there.
The house is sometimes open for tours, but I was not so lucky this day. I did get one usable photograph of the interior through the back door window.
Back along the Michigan Road, this old church is now somebody’s home.
The road makes few curves in northern Fulton County.
The tree blocked all decent views of this 1840s farmhouse. Now I know why most old-house photos are taken in the winter.
This barn is part of this farm. I realized as I took this photo that I had not photographed any other barns along the route. I just don’t see barns as I go; I guess I’m too much of a city boy.
Next: The Michigan Road in Marshall County.
I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.
The curator of the Vigo County Historical Museum in Terre Haute, Suzy Quick, contacted me recently. The museum had been given three photographs showing construction of US 41 near Terre Haute, and Suzy wondered if I could help her date the photos. I said I’d give it a try! Here are the photos, used with permission:
I’m making a couple assumptions: first, that the person who donated the photos is correct, that these depict construction of US 41; and second, that they depict scenes in roughly the same area.
I hoped there would be identifiable elements in these photos — signs, cars, landmarks. The first and second photos definitely have cars from the 1920s in them. In the third photo, the road looks to me to be paved in concrete. I’ve encountered a lot of old concrete on former and abandoned alignments of Indiana highways, and when I’ve been able to find when one of those roads was built, it was always during the 1920s. So I’m confident that these photos are from the 1920s.
Unfortunately, there are no signs or clearly recognizable landmarks in these photos to help me narrow it down any more than that. The railroad tracks in the second photo are a landmark, but this road crosses several sets of tracks on its way through Terre Haute, and another set a few miles south of Terre Haute. Only one of those crossings currently involves two tracks, one on Terre Haute’s near north side. But it’s possible that tracks could have been removed at one or more of the other crossings since these photos were made.
I turned to my small collection of maps and road guides for further clues. They gave me some solid evidence that leads me to the hypothesis that these photos are from 1924 or 1925, and that the location they represent might be somewhere south of Terre Haute. The rest of this post explains.
I own a number of old Automobile Blue Books, which are road guides updated and published annually from 1900 to 1929. They give comprehensive turn-by-turn directions from place to place. Finding one’s way as a motorist was a significant challenge in the early automobile days, as outside of cities many roads weren’t marked. The ABB was a terrific resource then.
In Indiana, the first five marked, numbered state highways were routed in 1917. The state added more and more numbered highways in subsequent years. Those highways were routed over existing roads and frequently involved lots of left and right turns. In the 1920s and 1930s, Indiana improved most of those highways to be much more direct and to eliminate most turns.
I own 1924 and 1925 ABBs that cover Midwestern states. In both ABBs, Route 300 is Terre Haute south to Vincennes, and eventually Nashville, TN. Both guides route the driver south from Terre Haute over State Road 10. This road would become US 41 in 1926, when the US highway system was established.
Here the relevant section of Route 300 from the 1924 ABB. Notice how it says to follow State Road 10 south from 7th St. and Wabash Ave, which was then the main intersection of downtown Terre Haute. Then 5.7 miles later at a fork in the road, the ABB directs drivers to bear left with the trolley. That means that trolley tracks were running in or alongside the road. Notice that in the third photo above, railroad tracks hug the road. They are likely trolley tracks and might be the tracks the ABB describes. Notice also how directions tell drivers to do an awful lot of left and right turns, and bearing left or right at forks.
In the 1925 ABB, just one year later, notice how the directions are far simpler. If it were necessary to tell drivers “end of road, turn left” and such, this ABB would certainly do that, as it does so on other routes. What this says to me is that State Road 10 (US 41) was significantly improved in 1924-25 and had become a very direct route. This article lays the 1926 route of US 41 onto modern maps, and shows that from Terre Haute to Vincennes, there was only one hard turn, in Shelburn.
So: I think, but am not certain, that these photos are from south of Terre Haute. Because my ABBs suggest that SR 10 was rebuilt south from Terre Haute sometime after the 1924 ABB was published, but before the 1925 ABB was published, I think these photos are from 1924 or 1925.
Margaret and I drove up to Lake Michigan at Michigan City a few weeks ago. It was about 50 degrees out, but as usual the wind was quite strong off the lake. We both had only medium jackets on, and they weren’t quite warm enough. But we pressed on for some photography anyway.
This closed lifeguard stand on the deserted beach was interesting to me, so I photographed it a number of times in its context.
I made these photos in my Olympus XA on Kodak Plus-X (expired 2/2000 but stored frozen). I developed the film in Rodinal 1+50.
I also shot about half a roll of Kodak Tri-X at this location, including a bunch of photos of the lighthouse here. I’ll share those images soon.
After being sure that my Olympus XA’s meter was performing well enough, I shot more film in this delightful little camera. I’ve been itching to shoot some of the Kodak Plus-X I bought not long ago. This stock expired in February of 2000, but was stored frozen. I shot it at box speed, ISO 125.
I had reason to be at the grand, enormous Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis recently. I went early and brought the XA along to photograph this favorite subject.
Usually I stop here, make one straight-on shot of either the whole church or its massive front, and move on. Only one other time have I walked the grounds looking for details to photograph.
Second Presbyterian is perhaps best known for hosting the 1990 funeral of Ryan White, a boy who contracted AIDS via blood transfusion at a time when this disease was ill-understood and greatly feared. His fight to attend school in his hometown of Russiaville, about 45 minutes north of here, made the national news and was instrumental in helping our nation understand that AIDS was not just a “gay disease.”
Over 1,500 people attended White’s funeral, including then-First Lady Barbara Bush, Michael Jackson, and Elton John, who performed two songs. Elton stopped in Indianapolis last month on his farewell tour. During his show, he said that Indianapolis is a “preeminent feature of my life,” because the Ryan White funeral marked a turning point in his life that led to his sobriety.
Second Presbyterian might look very old, but the main part of the building was completed in 1960. There have been subsequent additions; I’m aware of one cornerstone that says 1967 and another with a date in the 2000s sometime.
I made these photographs in about the middle of April, before most of the trees were budding. One advantage of early-spring photography is that trees don’t obscure my architectural subjects.
You’ll find this church on the far Northside of Indianapolis, on the city’s main north-south street, Meridian Street. It’s just north of 75th Street. It is a commanding presence as you travel north on Meridian.
I developed this film in Rodinal 1+50. My first scans of these negatives on my Plustek Opticfilm 8200i SE scanner were low in contrast and coarsely grained. I explored VueScan’s settings to see if I could improve the scans. I discovered that reducing the brightness a little, and setting VueScan’s grain-reduction setting to Medium, helped me achieve “that Plus-X look.”