I wish I had started photographing the Michigan Road near my home as soon as I moved to the area in 1995. So much has changed. It would be interesting to have photographs that show the evolution.
But I only started photographing the Michigan Road in 2008 after a lot had already changed. And then I never could have predicted some of the changes that have come.
I live near Michigan Road’s intersection with Kessler Boulevard on Indianapolis’s Northwestside. Michigan Road is the Michigan Road, built in the 1830s to connect the Ohio River to Indianapolis to Lake Michigan. Kessler Boulevard itself has an important place in Indianapolis road history as an early but unfinished attempt at a beltway around the city. In 2013 when the Historic Michigan Road Association erected wayfinding signs along the Michigan Road Historic Byway, I personally donated funds to ensure signs would be placed at Kessler Boulevard.
Over the last 20 years or so, commercial structures have been replaced and some land has been cleared to build new commercial structures. That happens all the time on any major road. But this is the major road I live nearest. These changes affect my everyday life. Here’s a 2017 aerial image of the intersection, courtesy MapIndy. On the northwest corner is Crooked Creek School, which has been there since 1837. On the northeast corner is a Starbucks; behind it is a Walgreens. On the southeast corner is a gas station and a McDonald’s; a Walmart Neighborhood Market is to its south. And on the southwest corner is a building with a fried-fish joint and a physical-therapy office, and a car repair garage.
The first change was on the southwest corner. Crooked Creed flows close to the road here, creating a narrow wedge of a lot. When I moved to the area in 1995, the Gillum family operated a large and popular produce stand on it from spring to autumn. In the late 1990s they built a building on the site and operated their stand all year, adding a deli counter and high-quality and organic grocery items. While I applauded their attempt and stopped in frequently, the store failed within a couple years. I don’t know the real story, but I assume that this middle-class neighborhood couldn’t support Gillum’s quality goods and associated high prices. I wonder also if the lot’s awkward access hurt the business — its’ challenging to turn left off Michigan into the lot, or left out of the lot onto Michigan. The building stood vacant for a long time before it was reconfigured and a Dunkin’ Donuts moved into its south half. Fisher’s Fish and Chicken later moved into the north half. Dunkin’ Donuts didn’t make it (despite my near-daily patronage!) and later a physical-therapy office moved in. Here’s how the site looks in 2017.
Its neighbor to the south, the Michigan Road Auto Center, has been steadily serving customers the whole time I’ve lived here. They’ve had a front-row seat to all of these changes!
The second change was the Amoco/BP station on the northeast corner was razed so that a Starbucks could be built. It’s been there for quite some time now, as my 2008 photo shows.
Little has changed on the northwest corner — Crooked Creek School isn’t going anywhere. The first photo below is from 2008. The second photo, from 2017, shows the 1924 concrete-arch bridge on Kessler Boulevard over Crooked Creek. The third photo shows the new pedestrian trail the city built along Michigan Road where it passes by the school property.
Things have changed the most in this intersection’s southeast quadrant. For years, it was large wooded area next to a large lot with an abandoned-looking one-story brick building. I never photographed the building, but an old house faced the street in the wooded area.
This McDonald’s stands in about this location today.
The McDonald’s came after a Walmart Neighborhood Market was built on part of the wooded lot and where the brick building used to be. While I’m not a giant Walmart fan and would have been happier with a Kroger, having a grocery store here at all has been a giant blessing and has made this part of town a lot more livable.
That great old house wasn’t demolished, thank goodness. It was moved to the end of a dead-end street that borders the Walmart property. Here it is behind Walmart’s fence.
I lifted my camera up over the fence to get this shot of the back of the property. As you can see, even the outbuildings were moved.
Completing this intersection’s transition, a Shell station built in the 80s was razed in favor of a new, larger convenience store and gas station. This was one of the few Shell stations remaining in the area with this style of canopy, and I was sad to see it go. But it really is nice to have a full-scale convenience store here now.
Frankly, the section of Michigan Road from Kessler north a couple miles to just past 71st St. is pretty depressed. When Walmart went in I hoped it would encourage a rebirth north of Kessler, but so far little has changed. I’ll share some photos in an upcoming post.
I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.
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Last updated on 13 March 2020 by Jim Grey