Road trips

By the roadside on the Lafayette Road

Our trip along the Lafayette Road was spontaneous and brief. We started at about 3 in the afternoon and raced against the setting January sun. Normally, I would have started no later than 10 AM to give myself time to stop anywhere I wanted along the way. But I did manage to squeeze in some photographs of interesting vintage roadside attractions.

The first was this great sign. I drive by it all the time, actually. It’s on the road in southern Boone County, just south of the giant Traders Point Christian Church.

Wrecks, Inc.

Margaret Rawson photo

This junkyard has been closed for years. Which is a shame, really, because this sign was just wonderful when it used to light up at night.

Drive Carefully

Wrecked cars always used to be perched beneath this sign. While the junkyard was in operation, those cars changed from time to time. Afterward, the two cars pictured below lingered for years until finally being removed in 2015. I took this shot five years ago with my old Palm Pre.

We Meet by Accident

After the Lafayette Road leaves Indianapolis, Lebanon is the only town it goes through before it reaches Lafayette. (Though its original alignment probably went through Thorntown, as I explained in this post.) Lebanon is the seat of justice in Boone County; here’s the courthouse on the obligatory town square.

Boone County Courthouse

Margaret Rawson photo

The Lebanon square is typical, with plenty of older buildings and a few new ones. Lebanon’s done a reasonable job of keeping its facades up.

Lebanon, IN

Just after we entered Tippecanoe County, we came upon this beauty standing there doing nothing. The stainless steel front portion was manufactured by the Mountain View Diners Co. of Singac, NJ, in about 1952. I’m pretty sure these were shipped whole from the factory.

Flo's

This one appears to have been closed for some time, which is a shame. But this location isn’t near enough to any town to get local business, and few travelers would stop in as the vast majority of traffic is over on nearby I-65. The Lafayette Road is US 52 here, a four-lane divided highway — and it’s almost always empty of cars. Apparently, the motel behind this diner still operates. I managed not to notice the motel while I was here, or I would have photographed it, too! I saw it on Google Maps while researching this post.

Flo's

The Lafayette Road becomes Main Street when it enters Lafayette. Shortly we came upon this great frozen custard stand, which was closed for the season.

Frozen custard

Margaret Rawson photo

This is a fairly elaborate little building for a fairly elaborate frozen dairy product. Frozen custard must be at least 10 percent butterfat and contain egg yolk.

Frozen Custard

Margaret Rawson photo

Some sources call this the oldest continuously operating frozen custard stand in the nation, having opened in 1932. Others say that this stand opened in 1949, but this company had operated at a different location from 1932-49. Whatever; this is a stunning little building. I would have loved to see the neon lit!

Frozen Custard

Margaret Rawson photo

Remember when signs of this type were common as pennies?

Frozen Custard

Margaret Rawson photo

Finally, we followed Main Street all the way into downtown Lafayette, which is where we presume the old Lafayette Road ends. This building with its great sign aren’t right on Main Street, but you can see it from there, as it’s just two blocks north on Ninth Street.

O'Rear's

By this time, we were starting to run out of light. Perhaps we’ll make this trip again another day and photograph more things: the very old homes we saw along the rural portions of the route, more of Lebanon, and shots of Lafayette’s charming Main Street.

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9 thoughts on “By the roadside on the Lafayette Road

  1. A fun trip that covered a lot of familiar territory. That Frozen Custard stand was featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal back in the 80s. The article was about how few of these places still existed selling a dessert that had been so common in the 1930s. This was long before frozen custard saw a resurgence starting maybe 15 or 20 years ago.

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    • US 52 to Lafayette is kind of a new road to me. I’ve had little reason to be in Lafayette until now, as my son is at Purdue. So it’s cool to experience this old road essentially for the first times.

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  2. stormmaster83 says:

    Frozen Custard is a few blocks from my house, so we like to walk down there for dessert with the kids in the summer. I’d love to buy you a cone and talk road geekery if you’re ever bored when passing through.

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    • The section in southeastern Indiana is winding and beautiful. I’ve driven 52 from Cincy to Lafayette, but have not yet chronicled the part in eastern Indiana. Good luck clinching this road!

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  3. I’ve found that Mountain View diner open twice. Both were long ago. In May 2005 it was the Sit-N-Bull Cafe. (Great name, eh?) In June 2010 it had recently reopened as Flo’s. It was closed and deserted in June 2014 but the custard place was open so I survived.

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