Road Trips

Small-town signs of life

Monrovia and Eminence are two very small central-Indiana towns separated by 13 miles of State Road 42. They’re actually only 9½ miles apart as the crow flies, but rural Indiana roads provide everything but a direct route, especially between two towns that have but one four-way stop apiece. Yet a fair amount of Hoosier life happens in and near little towns like these.

I drove through Monrovia one early-autumn Saturday morning. A modern school stands on the town’s eastern edge, surprising because so many rural Indiana school systems consolidated in the second half of the last century. Old, abandoned school buildings seem more typical of Indiana’s small towns. I was surprised to find a football game in progress; I stopped to watch for a few minutes.

Saturday morning football

The commercial buildings in Monrovia were all built in the early 20th century. This one was once a bank (notice the depository drawer on the building’s sunny side), and a somewhat unusual one in that its door doesn’t face the corner.

Monrovia, IN

It is probably statutory that every small Indiana town have an Odd Fellows hall. If you click this photo and see it larger in Flickr, you’ll see the telltale “I.O.O.F.” (International Order of Odd Fellows) plaque on the facade’s top center. Hard telling what this building is used for now; it’s sad to see the second-floor windows boarded up.

Monrovia, IN

While the Odd Fellows hall needed a little TLC, the rest of Monrovia’s commercial buildings looked pretty solid, and every one of them was in use.

Monrovia, IN

There isn’t much more to Monrovia – a few homes, a convenience store, and the road out of town.

Now leaving Monrovia

A school is the first thing you see when you enter Eminence, too. This old high school building is still in service, and appears to be well cared for. A more modern building sprawls behind it. There was no football game in Eminence; perhaps their team was in Monrovia this day.

Eminence High School

There’s less to Eminence than Monrovia, although Eminence boasts one of the little white churches so common on the rural landscape. It is said that you can’t throw a rock in a small Indiana town without hitting one of these.

Church in Eminence

Of course, Eminence has its obligatory Odd Fellows hall. This one has been made into a bank and is probably the only Odd Fellows hall in Indiana with a drive-through.

Odd Fellows Building, Eminence

The only other building at Eminence’s most prominent intersection once housed Gash & Co., but today stands in decay.

Gash & Co.

I liked the rustic look of the chipping and peeling whitewash around this building’s entrance. This is also the photo in which I make my cameo appearance.

Gash & Co. entrance

Nobody was on the street in either Monrovia or Eminence on this morning, although I did encounter a few people when I stopped for a soda at a convenience store next to the church. But really, the best proof of life in these small towns is the graffitti sprayed on Gash & Company’s wall. Where there’s rivalry, there’s life!

Monrovia Sucks!

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9 thoughts on “Small-town signs of life

  1. Great stuff! My favorite is probably the school. A lot of older schools in Wheeling have done this too, for instance the windows…when they put in new windows they made them much smaller than the original. It’s probably cheaper, or maybe saves on heating.

    But it’s hard to find an old building with the original window size, which is quite sad.

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  2. Thanks, Ryan! I know what you mean about the windows. I’ll be the original windows had bright frames. That’s another trend in replacement windows — the brown painted metal frames. It’s a more modern look and while it never looks flat wrong, it never looks quite right, either.

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  3. Lone Primate says:

    The Oddfellows, hey, that’s cool… my great grandfather was in the Oddfellows. I didn’t even know they were still around. :)

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  4. LP, most small-town Indiana Odd Fellows buildings are repurposed (banks and restaurants or whatever) or are even abandoned. If you just go by their old buildings, you wouldn’t think they are doing much in Indiana anymore!

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  5. Lucy says:

    Hi, I am from monrovia. I love my little farm town, and our football team went to state last year (09). And eminence don’t even have a football team… so who sucks now? lol. I was really surprised to find anything about monrovia on here. When people ask me where I’m from and I tell ’em, the reaction is usually, “Where’s that?” I was even more surprised to see that someone else from my town had found this article… (my boyfriend) :) <3

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