Typical Indiana towns on US 50 in southern Indiana

The second leg of my trip down Indiana’s US 50 got off to a bumpy start. As I parked in Seymour, where this trip began, I accidentally locked my keys in my car.

US 50 in Seymour, Indiana

Fortunately, I had a friend along, and he noticed a hardware store across the street. “Let’s go buy a wood dowel there,” he said. “You can use it to press the lock button.” (I had left the driver’s window open about an inch.) 58 cents later I was working the dowel against the door lock, which wouldn’t play ball. My keys were lying in the seat, the fob face down, so I used the dowel to turn the fob over and press its Unlock button. Success!

I’ve had more daunting adventures on road trips, such as being chased off by the police and backing my car off a road, beaching it. Oh, and wrecking my car. Shudder. So this wasn’t all that bad in comparison. But without my friend’s quick thinking, I would have ended up calling a locksmith and paying way more than 58 cents to get into my car.

My 1924 Automobile Blue Book directed the driver to enter Seymour on Tipton St., which is modern US 50, but turn north on Chestnut St. and then west on 2nd St. We walked a few of the downtown blocks along this route. The most interesting and surprising find was this sign just off Chestnut St. at St. Louis Ave.

Paris Style

Apparently, Paris Style was a chain of dress shops with locations in several small Indiana cities. I wonder if the other cities had signs like this one, which clearly once sported neon. The Prius on blocks was a real headscratcher.

I was taken by the chimney on this house at 2nd and Walnut. My guess is that the rest of the house hasn’t always been covered in stucco.

Eye Care for All Ages

My ABB had us follow 2nd St. to the edge of town, where it makes a sharp left and crosses a railroad track, crosses US 50, and follows a couple county roads briefly before rejoining US 50.

The next town is Brownstown, which is full of great neon.

US 50 in Brownstown

If you’re surprised that Brownstown Flowers and Gifts has been around since 1890, you may be even more surprised to learn that Zabel’s Furniture has been around since 1879.

US 50 in Brownstown

Brock’s is a real Johnny-come-lately to Brownstown, having come along in 1952.

US 50 in Brownstown

The Knights of Pythias building stands in the next block, right across from the Jackson County Courthouse. The building itself isn’t remarkable, but this weathered neon sign sure caught my attention.

Knights of Pythias building

Remarkably, the Knights of Pythias still meet here. I’m used to seeing fraternal-order buildings used for other things or standing vacant.

US 50 in Brownstown

There seems to be an idiom of Indiana county seats – a courthouse stands at the center and brick buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s face it on at least one side. Brownstown is no exception.

My travel companion wondered why Brownstown became the county seat when Seymour is so much bigger; I guessed that Seymour outgrew Brownstown long after the county seat was named. I’ve since learned that Brownstown is Jackson County’s second county seat. The first was Vallonia (the next stop on our trip). The county seat moved to Brownstown shortly after it was founded in 1816. Upstart Seymour didn’t come into being until 1852.

Regardless, I was taken with the Jackson County Courthouse. It’s not that it is unusually beautiful, but that the many trees surrounding it made for excellent shooting. I took a lot of photos from the grounds.

Jackson County Courthouse

Where modern US 50 turns left a block past the courthouse, old US 50 continues straight and shortly merges with State Road 135. The original alignment follows SR 135 through Vallonia to SR 235, then SR 235 to Medora, then a series of delightful country roads. We wouldn’t see modern US 50 again for 21 miles.

I’ve seen a lot of courthouses on the old roads. Here are two: the one in Richmond and the one in Brazil.

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10 responses to “Typical Indiana towns on US 50 in southern Indiana”

  1. vanilla Avatar

    More interesting than the Prius is the “trip” to the sixties in front of it. The buildings, though do take us back a lot farther than that.

    The neon is great.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I’m quite a student of American cars from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and I am embarrassed to admit that I knew only that it was an early-60s Mercury. I looked it up and found that it’s a 1962 Meteor.

  2. Lone Primate Avatar

    A Prius on blocks! Nice catch, however incidentally… that has to be a Western world first. :) You’re sure you didn’t lose your way and wind up in Arkansas or something, right? :) The car facing it, oddly enough, is more eye-catching.

    In my experience, big towns don’t always get the prize as county seats. There seem to be two factors at work… big cities tend to be on rivers (or sometimes railways), and rivers tend to be used to form country boundaries, so it’s not unusual for them to be on the periphery. But a county seat is typically central, because in the 1800s, who wanted to spend any more time than they had to getting to it (for whatever reason)? Very often you wind up with a town that exists for little else than to tell everyone else what to do, surrounded by larger places actually DOING it. :)

    1. Jim Avatar

      Oh, believe me, cars on blocks are very much an Indiana thing. But yes, seeing a Prius on blocks is a bit of a surprise!

      I don’t know about Ontario, but in Indiana county seats are chosen for a bunch of reasons — and then time happens. So in this case, Brownstown was probably the right choice at the time, but nobody could have foreseen how Seymour would come on the scene and become the larger town.

  3. Steve Avatar

    Isn’t Seymour John Mellencamp’s hometown?

    1. Jim Avatar

      Yup. And he once had an apartment in Vallonia — the town in my next post.

      1. Lone Primate Avatar

        An apartment? Not a little pink house? :)

        1. Jim Avatar

          Shocking, I know.

  4. Cheryl Ison Avatar
    Cheryl Ison

    I happen to be from Seymour and lived at one point in time in Brownstown and Vallonia. I enjoyed the point of view on these pics. The Mercury by the Paris Style sign is one of my favorites to go out and shoot in different light. In fact I didn’t even realize the Prius on blocks until I kept reading. I had to research and talk with a bunch of gear heads to find the scoop on the mercury. It now has a For Sale sign and I have been itching to call to get some insight on this beauty.
    On another note you missed one of the biggest landmarks in Seymour…the Grain Mill on Tipton. I have a few shots on my flickr photostream. cheryl.ison
    Also not only is John Mellencamp from Seymour he also founded Southern Indiana Center for the Arts. Located on Hwy 11N. It is in a renovated farm house and barn. Very cool.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Cheryl, while Meteors are kind of a forgotten Mercury, this one is worth saving as it is a top-line S-33. I’m pretty sure it’s a ’62, as I understand that in’ 63 the S-33 was a hardtop coupe, not a pillared coupe as this one is.

      I don’t know how I missed the grain mill! Is it visible from 2nd St? That’s US 50’s original path, and the road I followed west from downtown. We did take current 50 in from the east, to Chestnut St.

      Of course, we didn’t follow SR 11 — but maybe another day.

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