Road Trips

Are all Dixie Highway small towns in Indiana alike?

When I get home from a road trip, as soon as I can I transfer the photos from my camera to my computer and geotag them. If I wait too long, I’m likely to forget where I took some of the shots.

It’s a darn good thing I didn’t delay after this trip, or I would never have sorted out the photos from all the small towns. They all looked too much alike! Here’s downtown Hillsboro.


Down the road a bit is Waynetown.


Farther along comes Pittsboro.


And finally, there’s Brownsburg.


I’m sure I’ll rankle the preservationists in my audience when I say that buildings like these were sort of the strip malls of their day – utilitarian facilities for a town’s commerce. To mollify the preservationists, I’ll say that these buildings were designed to last where strip malls aren’t, and are ripe for adaptive reuse in ways strip malls never will be.

While Hillsboro, Waynetown, and Pittsboro are all sleepy little Indiana towns, what you can’t see in the photo from Brownsburg is that it is a giant bedroom community for Indianapolis, which is close by. This photo is of Brownsburg’s main intersection, where the Dixie Highway (US 136) intersects State Road 267. The other three corners probably once had buildings just like these, but they’ve been torn down in favor of a bank, a Walgreens, and a CVS. Ah, progress. I think I’d rather have the old buildings, as plain as they probably were.

The old buildings in Old Washington, Ohio, on the National Road, have tons of character. Check them out!

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18 thoughts on “Are all Dixie Highway small towns in Indiana alike?

    • It’s probably because I haven’t had enough coffee yet, but the first thing I thought was, “But wait, you’re not on the Dixie Highway.” But perhaps your town really is, in spirit.

  1. Jim-Any one of these towns photographs could pass for my own hometown, which is truly Southern, being in Georgia. Four sides of a square with brick fronted row buildings either one or two stories high and a big courthouse in the middle of it all. Many of our towns were destroyed during the war between the states and rebuilding didn’t really get started until Reconstruction was over. The buildings such as those you show here replaced what I think of as “temporary” wooden stores that were built in those post war years and generally used until they either wore out, burned down or prosperity finally returned, allowing the store owners to construct fancy, “modern” stores between the years of about 1890 to 1920. A few of the stores are still original brick but most of them have been painted in a variety of colors many times. The corner stores are always the most desirable location and it is becoming popular to paint vintage style murals on the sides of these, a great way to display art. I see pictures like yours and think “home”, regardless of their geographic location. Thanks for posting them-Michael

    • Indiana is a square-rich environment as well, though most squares are in county seats. These views are all in non-seat towns; the DH merely passes through. I’m not sure what came before these brick buildings. Obviously, we lack reconstruction this far north so I don’t have a preconceived notion of “what came before” in these towns.

      I grew up in an Indiana city and hardly got out of it until I went to college. So I didn’t become acquainted with small-town Indiana until I was in my early 20s. I’ve still never lived there; I’ve always lived in cities.

  2. Lone Primate says:

    and are ripe for adaptive reuse in ways strip malls never will be

    What a poetic way to say “loft condos”. :) Don’t count out the old strip malls, though! You never know what they’ll use! The old high school on Hwy 5 in Waterdown a little west of Toronto got turned into condos a few years ago. That blew my mind.

    Jim, you might consider getting a little Geoteq Phototrackr. They’re really inexpensive now… about fifty bucks, I think, and the one I have’s been a real help. Anyway, here’s where you can look ’em over. :)

  3. I was thinking the same thing as J.M.. Your pictures reminded me of at least two small towns (and their sweet, nostalgic town squares) that I’ve lived near.

  4. Your mention of CVS reminded me of why I won’t shop in that store. Around here they have torn down two nice old brick buildings to make a store. I would love to see some of these big national chains try to use an older building instead of always having to put up one of their cookie-cutter stores. I have read that the strip mall type buildings are made to last around twenty years.

    • Ted, Walgreens does the same stuff, tearing down older buildings to make way for their cookie-cutter stores. Cities and towns with good zoning and historic preservation moxie can cause these stores to adapt existing buildings or go elsewhere. Unfortunately, few towns have those things.

      • Unfortunately, most of these towns are so desperate to get a short-term boost in sales taxes that they can’t see that they are making their towns poorer in the long-run.

  5. The similarities don’t bother me, though I can see how it would be a problem keeping the photos straight.

    Regardless of their architectural merits (or otherwise), those buildings were part of the life of the towns and reflected the plain, common-sense character of the inhabitants. They were not merely a vehicle for some far-away corporation to make money by selling cheap junk made with slave labor in poor countries.

      • Jim, it’s not lack of desire. In addition to my job, I’m taking classes to get another degree: this summer, it’s “International Criminal Justice Systems” and “The Internet and American Society.” I need 13 “engaged citizenship and global awareness credits,” of which I’ll get seven from those classes. I was also studying for my intermediate certification in software testing, but I took and passed the exam a couple of weeks ago, so that’s out of my hair. :-)

        In any event, I’m spread pretty thin. I always enjoy *your* blogs, though!

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