It’s been almost seven years since I drove the Michigan Road from end to end. Much has happened since then: my buddy Kurt and I built a grassroots organization in all 14 counties along the route that got the road named a historic byway, and then we formed a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission of promoting heritage tourism along the route and of preserving the route and the built environment along it.
That built environment needs preserving: time has changed and even erased some of it.
I live just off the Michigan Road in Indianapolis. This 1840s farmhouse is more or less around the corner. In 2008, it had been vacant for a long time. Indiana Landmarks bought it, stabilized it, and listed it for sale. It finally sold to a young couple who has been slowly restoring it. They turned part of their grounds into a you-pick berry patch — blueberries, I think.
The 1832 Boardman House stands a couple miles to the north. Here it’s covered in ivy.
Its owner cleared the ivy away a few months later, so I stopped to photograph it again. He listed the house for sale in 2013, but after almost two years it remains on the market. (While it lasts: see the listing, with interior photos, here.) I’m sure owning one of the oldest houses in the city comes with challenges, and it will take the right buyer to sign up for them.
This house is a mile or so south of the white farmhouse. Rather, it was until a developer razed it to make way for a gas station in 2010.
The demolition crew discovered that the house’s central portion was a log cabin. The developer agreed to have the cabin dismantled and removed, rather than destroyed. Preservationists reached out to the Historic Michigan Road Association for help, and we put them in contact with someone experienced in dismantling log cabins so that they can be reassembled, but the developer didn’t use the fellow we recommended. The cabin was said to be dismantled and stored at Fort Benjamin Harrison. Meanwhile, a Phillips 66 station stands here now.
Another log cabin on the road in 2008 stood just south of Napoleon in Ripley County. It, too, is gone now. I know of two other Michigan Road houses that are probably log cabins under their vinyl or aluminum skin. One stands across from the Boardman House here in Indianapolis, and the other is in Lakeville.
In Plymouth, the First Assembly of God met in this house until several years ago when it was demolished so that the school behind it could expand its playground.
Fortunately, just up the road in Plymouth, the Corbin House still stands. It was built by Plymouth’s first mayor.
North of Greensburg, this home has received excellent care. The couple that owns it runs an orchard and banquet/event center on their property. When the Michigan Road won byway status, they held a celebration dinner for us there.
Another house that looks much the same today as it did when I photographed it several years ago is the Mathews House, near Middlefork. The Mathews property was named a Hoosier Homestead Farm as it has been in continuous operation and owned by the same family for more than 100 years.
Many of the Michigan Road’s old houses are like this one near Middlefork: still standing, still serving as residences, but not receiving the best of care. I love the arches over the porch and balcony.
I used to drive by it several times a year on my way to visit family in South Bend. The last time I saw it, some of the arches had been broken. It’s a shame.
I’ve thought many times about re-touring the Michigan Road from end to end, taking updated photographs of the same sights I photographed in 2008. Maybe this should be the year.
Last updated on 8 April 2020 by Jim Grey