After exploring the Midwest’s old highways for the past seven years, this is the most important thing I’ve learned: See it now.

The roadway’s built environment changes with time, and artifacts of the past disappear. It’s the natural order of things.

These buildings in Crawfordsville houses Cornett’s Furniture. When I made my Dixie Highway trips last year, I looked forward to reaching Crawfordsville so I could finally photograph the great neon sign on the building on the left. “Wait,” I hear you say, “what neon sign?” Exactly. It’s gone, and I was very disappointed.

Crawfordsville

Not long ago while looking for a photo in my archive, I was excited to find I had photographed the sign a couple years before. I’d simply forgotten about it.

Schloot Furniture Co.

While driving the old National Road in western Indiana in 2009, I finally photographed the Kleptz Bar neon sign in Seelyville, just east of Terre Haute. It’s on the left in the photo below; the sign on the right is relatively recent. During the years I lived in this area, the Kleptz Bar sign was a beacon in the night. About a month after I photographed it, it was taken down and has not returned. Every time I drive through the area after twilight, I miss seeing it glow.

Kleptz Bar

Finally, recently I found an old map from the early days of the national route system that showed an older US 40 alignment through West Terre Haute. It’s outlined in blue below; the road labeled National Ave. was the first realignment. (US 40 now follows I-70, which is south of town.) I’ve always wondered if this might be an older alignment; finding that old map confirmed it for me. When I lived in Terre Haute in the 1980s, part of this alignment was paved in concrete. Because it was once part of US 40, that concrete was probably poured in the 1920s. I really wanted to get out there and see it again!

Imagery ©2013 DigitalGlobe, IndianaMap Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency, Map data ©2013 Google
Imagery ©2013 DigitalGlobe, IndianaMap Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency, Map data ©2013 Google

But first I looked at it in Google Street View — and found that the old concrete had been covered with asphalt. That’s a real shame, because any concrete road from the 1920s is historic and needs to be considered for preservation.

US40WestT_StreetView

This has me thinking of several other places I need to visit before they’re gone, too.

I’ve found 1910s-1920s concrete on the National Road in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.


Comments

12 responses to “See it now”

  1. Tori Nelson Avatar

    See it now. A great philosophy!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Hm, I never fancied myself a philosopher, but hey, sure, why not?

  2. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    Schloot? Kleptz? Wasn’t this supposed to be how things were gonna look if we LOST the war? :)

    I wonder why they took the sign down anyway. It certainly looks just fine. Maybe they’re planning something a little more modern that will look dated by 2025.

    But to your point… yes, it’s sometimes astonishing, and the point’s well-taken. One of the last wooden bridges over a rail line in southern Ontario, a little one-lane squeezer, was just northeast of Toronto, and last I checked you could still glimpse it on GoogleMaps’ street view, already surrounded by new suburbia. I went out there to find they’d put up a modern steel and concrete two-laner in the meantime. I was really disappointed. No solace of an older shot in MY archive. :(

    1. Jim Avatar

      It’s too bad you missed photographing that wooden bridge. But you made my point perfectly!

  3. pesoto74 Avatar

    What you say if very true. I don’t consider myself to be all that old, however I can’t count the number of once familiar sights for me that have now vanished.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I see the same every time I visit my hometown. Fixtures of my childhood keep vanishing.

  4. davidvanilla Avatar

    I enjoy your thoughts and pictures very much. I applaud your preservationist views for the most part. But on the issue of 1920s concrete lying in a currently traveled roadway, well, let’s just say we will cheerfully and respectfully disagree. Now, neon…

    1. Jim Avatar

      You would be amazed by how well concrete can last. I just drove over 20 miles of concrete Route 66 yesterday and it was 90% smooth sailing!

  5. ryoko861 Avatar

    Was an ordinance past or something requiring those places to remove their neon signs? They really add to that old timey feeling. Signs like that are historic in themselves. That’s a real shame.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I don’t know. The Schloot sign might have come down because the company no longer exists. I can’t figure out why the Kleptz sign disappeared as the restaurant is very much a going concern.

  6. Mark Avatar
    Mark

    Can’t disagree here, though I had an interesting thing happen just yesterday……I saw a 1649 map of Delft, Holland, and a later map of the town from 1946 in which very little had changed. I couldn’t believe it !! The canals, the road alignments, and many streets were easily identifiable. I even google-mapped the current street layout and was shocked at how similar the versions were. If someone was transported 400 yrs ahead, its concievable they would not be lost as they walked around the town.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Mark, how interesting that Delft’s layout has hardly changed in all those years! I suppose when a community reaches some level of maturity, alignment changes are less needed — and less possible.

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