It’s the only town square I know of in all of Indiana that doesn’t have a courthouse on it. Rather, the centerpiece of Shelbyville’s Public Square is…a parking lot.

Public Square, Shelbyville

I was in Shelbyville for a board meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association. Turnout was disappointing. Three of our four core officers made it, plus one of our board members from Shelbyville and, at her invitation, one of the Shelby County Commissioners. That was it. Our board numbers about 30.

Several of our founding board members have retired or have experienced career changes that made them step down. And, truth be told, we’re just not moving our heritage-tourism agenda forward very powerfully. We suffer from the common nonprofit board syndrome of a small handful of people doing everything, and there just aren’t enough hands. I think many of our board members are allocating their time to other initiatives.

But also, last year a lot of our limited time and attention was diverted to a matter involving a billboard. United States Code, Title 23, ยง 131, paragraphs (c) and (s), prohibits new outdoor advertising within 650 feet of any byway. A billboard company and an industrial park spent considerable money on lawyers trying to find a way to get a billboard erected in our corridor. These lawyers want to exploit a possible loophole in the law, and doing so apparently requires approval and action from our board. This is still not resolved, so I’ll say no more beyond that this enormously frustrating matter consumed our limited time and resources last year and is fixing to drain more of the same this year.

Knowing we’d have to discuss this matter again at our board meeting, I wanted to enter in a pleasant mood. So arrived in Shelbyville early with a couple cameras loaded with film and made some photographs. This is the Methodist Building on the west side of the Public Square.

Methodist Building, Shelbyville

Just north of the Methodist Building is my favorite building in the Public Square: the ornate Sheldon Building.

On the Public Square, Shelbyville

I shot the two photos above with my Pentax ME and a 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens on Kentmere 100. I made the rest of the photos in this post with my Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 on Kodak Tri-X 400. The Stylus’s zoom let me move in on the Sheldon Building’s cornice.

Sheldon Building detail, Shelbyville

It also let me move in on the square’s clock. I just noticed as I wrote this that it shows two different times.

Shelbyville clock

When I made my 2008 photographic survey of the Michigan Road, this building on the square’s northeast corner housed a physical therapy business. I didn’t know then that it was once an opera house, but that most Shelbyvillians remember it as an old-fashioned hardware store. Today the first floor is a restaurant, where we held our meeting. But the upper floors remain vacant.

Former opera house, Shelbyville

I walked south along the Michigan Road, which is State Road 9. At the corner where you have to turn east along State Road 44 to stay on the Michigan Road stands this building, which was originally the Alhambra Theater.

Former Alhambra Theater, Shelbyville

On my 2008 visit to Shelbyville I found the downtown to be in sorry condition. But in the nine years since, many facades have been restored. The town is shaping up!


And then I walked back to the Public Square for my board meeting. The discussion about that infernal billboard wasn’t too painful.

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

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15 responses to “Shelbyville’s Public Square on the Michigan Road”

  1. dan james Avatar

    Jim, I share your love of old buildings, and it’s extra interesting to me to see them in a different country.

    I hope you popped into Linnes Pastries for a treat! : )

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh! The Director of Tourism for Shelby County gave us all certificates for a free pastry and coffee at Linnes! But I have a bunch of irritating dietary restrictions, and wheat is on the list, so no pastries for me. :-(

      1. Photobooth Journal Avatar

        I have the same irritating dietary restrictions, Jim. Fructans, mannitol and lactose are my enemies. Makes eating out tough, but I sure have lost a lot of weight!

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I eat a low FODMAP diet. Oligosaccharides have the worst effect on me. I can get away with low amounts of lactose and fructose.

          1. Photobooth Journal Avatar

            I did the diet to work out what my sensitivities were. I’m really proud of the fact that the Low FODMAP diet was developed at Monash University here in Melbourne and that it has now gone global! The dietitian who I worked through the challenges with, was at the international conference where the findings of the research was first presented. He said that the presenters were given a standing ovation. Apparently that doesn’t normally happen at conferences. ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

        2. Jim Grey Avatar

          I’d been aware of this diet for a few years but it seemed so complicated I didn’t try it. My wife finally urged me to, and I did, and it truly is complicated and difficult. However, the results are indisputable. When I avoid galacto-oligosaccharides and strictly limit fructose and fructans, I feel best. I find that I can eat lactose and polyols in moderation. It’s not a cure but it keeps my symptoms at bay, keeps me off some medications that had worrisome long-term side effects, and keeps me able to work. That’s a win!

          1. Photobooth Journal Avatar

            It sure is Jim! Good on your wife!

  2. Michael Avatar

    Where did they stick the courthouse?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Four blocks south.

  3. Photobooth Journal Avatar

    I loved the photos and the board meeting story was very interesting. Sorry it is coming down to so few people actually working to get the heritage tourism up and running.

    Shelbyville should consider their poor use of their municipal land. That car park is a disgrace.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Well, with any nonprofit or church, it’s always a core group that do all the work.

      I was very surprised to find that parking lot there the first time I visited Shelbyville. It seems like there should be a more noble use of the space! But now I’m used to it.

  4. Sam Avatar

    What a place! I love the look of these shots, they look like they could’ve been taken decades ago, only given away by the cars.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s the magic of Tri-X!

  5. Anjana Avatar

    Great picture, and I loved the way you explained each of them :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Why thank you!

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