Writing yesterday about the changes to my childhood neighborhood before I was born made me think about how much an intersection near my northwest Indianapolis home has changed in the 20 years I’ve lived near it.
The area surrounding 56th Street and Georgetown Road is filled today with shopping centers, gas stations, and modern suburban neighborhoods. But when I moved here in 1994, the area was mostly farmland with one area of concentrated shopping. In the years since, the farms sold out and everything else was built. To accommodate the extra traffic that followed, 56th Street was widened to four lanes and extra turn lanes were added on Georgetown Road. And then some of the original commercial buildings were razed and new ones were built. Three of the four corners feature different buildings from what was there when I moved here. Clearly, this intersection has got it going on. Further proof: It has become one of the most accident-prone intersections in the city.
I looked at the historic aerial images available at MapIndy to see how the area developed before I arrived. I was surprised to find that the biggest boom happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s, just before I arrived. I was even more surprised to find that Georgetown Road has existed only since the 1960s! I compiled some of the aerial photos into a short video that shows the dramatic changes. Take a look:
This exercise started me thinking about doing more documentary photography of the built environment. It can change so rapidly! It struck me that I can’t remember what the buildings on the northeast and southeast corners looked like before the current ones were built. They were both gas stations; I filled up my car at both of them. I remember only that they had just a couple of pumps apiece and cars always had to wait in line to fill up.
I’ve spent some time around this intersection when looking for subjects for my vintage cameras. This Marathon station stands on the northeast corner. I shot it in late 2013 with my Olympus Stylus.
A CVS stands right next door to the Marathon station. I shot its sign in 2008 with my Argus C3.
I shot some of the fast-food joints north of the CVS on the same trip. I was really shooting the cop cars, but because I hadn’t learned to move in close to my subject yet I got a lot of the surrounding context.
I had my Argus A2B in 2011 in my hand when I shot this Wendy’s sign. You can see the Boston Market’s sign, the CVS, and the Marathon station in the background of this southbound shot.
While these aren’t strictly documentary photographs, they do help put together what Georgetown Road looks like. This strip hasn’t changed much since 2008. But it almost certainly will change, and then these could perhaps be a rare record of what the area once looked like. I wish I had been out here with my cameras before all this was built!
It’s not like anything along these roads is special – it’s just typical suburban architecture, common as pennies. But who knows what will happen here in 20 years? Will decay set in, making these photos a startling look at these buildings when they were sparkling new? Or will the area continue to prosper, driving redevelopment, making these photos a record of what used to be here? Either way, common architecture has a way of evolving. If my blog is still here in 20 years, someone might just stumble upon this page and exclaim with nostalgia, “I remember when Marathon stations all used to look like that!”
See also how the intersection of 86th St. and Michigan Road has changed. Go here.
Last updated on 4 March 2020 by Jim Grey