Road Trips

Historic architecture in Shelbyville on the Michigan Road

1876 map, Michigan Road highlighted in magenta

1876 map, Michigan Road highlighted in magenta, Shelbyville in the center

Driving the Michigan Road, Shelbyville is the first town you encounter southeast of Indianapolis. Even though the town wasn’t incorporated until 1850, it existed before the Michigan Road was built.

If the road had run straight, it would have bypassed Shelbyville. But Shelbyville would not be denied. The road was curved to enter Shelbyville, and then curved again as it exited to resume its original trajectory.

Shelbyville has some interesting architecture, and that’s what I plan to share here. Right after crossing the Big Blue River heading south into town, this great building is on the right. It’s currently home to the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce and the Shelby County Tourism and Visitor’s Bureau. Known now as the Porter Center, it was built as the Porter Pool Bath House. I guess the pool is still in there!

The Porter Center

The Coca-Cola Bottling Co. stands next door. I love the neon sign over the door. One day I might even get to see it lit at night.

Coca-Cola plant

The Cow Palace is across the street. I’d bet a dollar that this used to be a Red Barn restaurant. Red Barn was a fast-food chain in the 1960s and 1970s. The stores all looked like barns, with roofs of this shape.

Cow Palace

As the Michigan Road enters Shelbyville from the north, it’s Harrison St. and State Road 9. Just before the road reaches Shelbyville’s Public Square, it passes this building with its great old sign advertising both cigars and drugs. I’m glad the current occupant has kept the old sign.

Fleming's

Here’s a rarity in Indiana: a county seat’s square without a courthouse on it. Instead, there’s parking, and this statue that commemorates the book The Bears of Blue River, written in 1901 by Charles Major. The story is set in 19th-century rural Indiana — specifically, this part of Indiana. It’s hard to imagine bears anywhere in Indiana today.

The Bears of Blue River

Around the Public Square itself, I like several of the buildings. This narrow, ornate building is my favorite.

Sheldon Building

This is the Methodist Building. I guess it’s been in redevelopment but the project has stalled.

The Methodist Building

I read somewhere that this building was once an opera house. What I know for sure about it is that trees planted in front of it make it very difficult to get a clear shot. Hence, this wacky angle.

Former opera house

When I surveyed the Michigan Road in 2008, the block just south of the Public Square was in pretty sad shape. But things have improved some on this block, notably the building right next to Linnes Pastries, the new Linnes Bakery and Cafe. This photo shows what this looked like before.

Linnes Pastries

The Michigan Road turns left at Broadway St., which is also State Road 44, and heads east briefly. A slight right turn, leaving State Road 44, keeps you on the Michigan Road. Almost immediately, this little Dairy Queen is on the left. Dig its great old neon sign.

Shelbyville Dairy Queen

I can hardly pass a Dairy Queen when I’m on a road trip. Margaret and I had hot-fudge sundaes.

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11 thoughts on “Historic architecture in Shelbyville on the Michigan Road

  1. This must be a fairly prosperous little town to have been able to keep things up so well. I wonder if anyone has ever done a photo series about old coke plants. It seems like all the ones that I have seen have interesting designs.

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