History, Road Trips

Strolling through Vallonia

Most old road alignments I’ve found have been brief, lasting less than a mile. I’ve encountered a handful that have lasted a few miles, such as the 5-mile old alignment I missed between Aurora and Dillsboro earlier on US 50. But just check out this old alignment of Indiana’s US 50!

That’s almost 21 miles of old-alignmenty goodness! Old US 50 follows Main St. and Vallonia Rd. out of Brownstown, then State Road 135 through Vallonia, then State Road 235 to Medora, and finally a series of county roads back to US 50.

We hit the mother lode!

And so off we went. Our first stop along the Mother of All Old Alignments was Vallonia. The French settled this land in the late 1700s. The settlers and area Indians didn’t get on too well, and by 1810 hostilities had broken out. Governor William Henry Harrison ordered a fort be built at Vallonia to protect the settlers. He sent two companies of Indiana Rangers here during the War of 1812; several skirmishes happened here during the war.

Not that you could tell it today. This is one seriously sleepy town. We saw not a soul as we walked its main street.

People still live in Vallonia, of course. Some of them go to church here, at the Vallonia United Methodist Church. It was founded in 1858; this building was completed in 1906.

Vallonia United Methodist Church

We thought the church might be the only non-residential building in Vallonia until we rounded the curve and found its faded business district. This is the only building that looked like it might still contain a business.

Vallonia, Indiana

This simple building is more typical; it appears to be used only for storage. The triple doors on the right suggest that this might have been an automobile repair garage early in its life.

Vallonia, Indiana

Next door stands the Joe Jackson Hotel, built in 1914. I haven’t been able to find out anything about Joe Jackson, but his hotel was apparently the finest in Jackson County (which is named for President Andrew Jackson, not old Joe). Check out this photo of the hotel shortly after it opened. Also check out this photo of the barber shop it once contained.

Joe Jackson Hotel

The hotel doesn’t contain much of anything today, as this photo shows. But it is being restored. It was the first sign of life we saw in Vallonia.

Joe Jackson Hotel

Another sign of life is Fort Vallonia. It’s not the original fort; that’s long gone. This one was built in 1969. Ever since, the fort has hosted Fort Vallonia Days, a festival every October that attracts 30,000 people.

Fort Vallonia

I guess maybe Vallonia isn’t so sleepy after all!

If you dig small towns, then check out Stilesville, Marshall, and rivals Monrovia and Eminence.

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8 thoughts on “Strolling through Vallonia

    • Thanks, Todd! I think what keeps Vallonia hanging on is that it’s not far to Brownstown or Seymour or Bedford from here — towns where there are jobs — and this is a nice, quiet, out-of-the-way place to call home.

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  1. Fort Vallonia. 1969. Incursions by the hippies were just getting worse and worse. Oh, yes… they SAID they were just on their way to San Francisco… there wasn’t a flower left in the whole town. What was left for good folks to do but circle the (station) wagons and wait till these wild ones had moved on to become Peoria’s problem…? :)

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    • Ha! Right! It was all downhill in Vallonia after the Summer of Love!

      Well, except that John Mellencamp had an apartment here in the 70s.

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      • “It was all downhill in Vallonia after the Summer of Love!”

        Oh, we always thought that was a little unseemly in Vallonia… most folks just spoke of it as “The Summer of Neighbourly Regard”, if we spoke of it at all.

        And of course, we didn’t. :)

        (And whoops, I meant “neighborly”, didn’t I?) ;)

        So I didn’t know till recently that John Cougar Awfullastname was from Indiana. But it stands to reason he’d be from the Midwest. That fits; that seems right. :)

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  2. Now you put the name Joe Jackson out there, by the way, and oddly enough the first thing that comes to mind for me is New Wave/fusion jazz musician from England. But I doubt they were naming things after him 40 years before he was born. :) What do you think about the possibility it has something to do with the “Shoeless” Black Sox player? It’s a long shot, given the county already has the name, but it sure would be intriguing.

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  3. Mark Spurgeon 812-358-6863 says:

    INFORMATION ABOUT THE HOTEL AND RESTORATION PROJECT

    Listed below is information about the hotel and the project.
    * The Joe Jackson Hotel was constructed in 1914 at the request of 20 citizens of Vallonia. At the time, it was considered the most modern hotel in the county.
    * Through the years, in addition to being a hotel, it has housed a restaurant, pool hall and barbershop and been used for apartments.
    * The hotel is now owned by the Ft. Vallonia Days Association Inc. A subcommittee of that group, the restoration committee, is working to come up with funds to restore it.
    * The committee envisions the building’s future use as a place for groups to meet, for social gatherings to take place and possibly for additional space for the town’s museum, which is located across the street. It would serve as a community center.
    * The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Indiana Register of Historic Buildings and Structures.
    * The committee believes that the restored hotel would be an asset to the community and that it would complement the replica of the fort that is located across the road next to the museum. It would add to a complex of structures recognizing the community’s past and help create a “timeline” of the community’s history. The fort was important during the community’s initial development in the early 1800s; the hotel signifies a later point in the development, about 100 years later, 1914.
    * The committee recognizes the important role the hotel played in the town’s past and believes it can be restored for a viable use and play an important role in the community’s future.
    * The committee has already received one grant, from the Efroymson Fund, a fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation. The committee regularly conducts fund-raisers including fish fries and a fruit sale in November.
    * Sally Waldkoetter is chairman of the restoration committee. Further information may be obtained by contacting Joe Jacjson Hotel, PO Box 5, Vallonia, In. 47281; phone: 812-358-5081 .
    * If you would be interested in contributing physically or financially please contact Sally Waldkoetter; phone: 812-358-5081 .

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