Preservation, Road Trips

Kirklin, revitalized

When I surveyed the Michigan Road in 2008, I felt bad for little Kirklin, a town about 45 minutes north of Indianapolis. Except for its lovely Carnegie library, it was all but dead. Its run-down buildings, mostly vacant, said that Kirklin’s best days were long past.

A page on my old site shows Kirklin as it was in 2008, plus some postcard images of it during its early-20th-century heyday. Click here to see.

A couple antiques dealers operated out of dilapidated storefronts. As I walked up and down Kirklin’s portion of the Michigan Road, my camera in one hand and my two dogs attached via leash to the other, they came out and accosted me. “Why are you photographing our town?”

When I explained about the Michigan Road and my quest to photograph it end to end, their tones softened. “We sure wish we could get more people to make the short drive up here from Indy to visit our shops,” they lamented. “It would make all the difference to our little town.”

Kirklin was in a catch-22: there wasn’t enough to do there to make the drive worth it, but without people willing to make the drive it wasn’t worth adding anything more to do.

And so I’m puzzled, as Kirklin has renovated most of its buildings and added a number of shops. Most of those shops deal in antiques and knick-knacks, but it’s absolutely enough to make it worth the drive from Indy. My wife and I spent a couple pleasant hours browsing here. We met several of the shop owners, who engaged us in very pleasant conversation. We even bought a few things.

Here, have a look at Kirklin today.

Kirklin
Kirklin
Kirklin
Kirklin

It would be lovely if Michigantown and Burlington, two neighboring Michigan Road towns directly north, could find this same level of revitalization. It would make a lovely “antique alley,” a one-tank trip and a very pleasant day. Travelers could start in Logansport and end for dinner in northwest Indianapolis, or start in Indianapolis and take their meal in Logansport. 

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6 thoughts on “Kirklin, revitalized

  1. It seems to me that the Mrs and I drove through Kirklin at least once during one of our experimental routes to Lafayette. Although it would have been within the last two years, I have no memory of the place.

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  2. I grew up in one of those “7 mile towns” (so named because these towns were established because of the need of commercial centers within daylight walking/horse distance (round trip) of farms where most people lived and worked). The commercial need for those towns faded in the 50s/60s as farms and their suppliers (equipment, grain/seed/elevators) consolodated, cars and capacious equipment became available, all with the encouragement of relatively cheap fuel. Now so many of them have become husks of their former glory. Hard to see them ever making a comeback unless as a bedroom suburb of an expanding metropolis… 50 years ago my little town still provided a “Mayberry”-like existance for a boy – and now looks very much like Kirkland and so many others across Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and into the Dakotas (ever get off of I-80 and drive the backroads in South Dakota?)

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  3. Marcus Peddle says:

    High Street in my home town looks something like this, though many of the buildings are made of brown brick and the others are painted in bright colours. It was dead for a while, and the Co-op and the video shop disappeared. Even the cinema shut down for a while. Now it seems to have come back to life a bit. The cinema is open, there’s a coffee shop with an art gallery in the back, the pharmacy is now old enough to have some ‘history-cred’ (that’s what people say these days, right?), and there’s a market on Saturday mornings.
    These photos look like they are from a digital camera. How do you decide if you are going to use a film or a digital camera for a trip? Is it just a whim, or does it depend on something like light conditions? I usually pick up a film camera when I feel sick of computers. Or just for the simple desire to see a film photograph.
    (I still have to log in using Facebook instead of my name, email, and website . . . :( )

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    • Most Indiana small towns are dead or nearly dead. If you don’t live in one of the major cities, or near one, you’re on life support at best.

      You can always tell what camera(s) I used in a post by looking at the post tags. This is something I’ve recently started doing. I’m slowly going back and adding camera tags to old posts too. I want readers to be able to click the camera tag and see everything I’ve posted from that camera.

      When I take a road trip my main camera is always digital, because I want to take lots of photos and digital is the economical way to do that. Also, my Canon S95 is a super easy travel companion.

      I choose digital otherwise when I just want easy shooting and no waiting for my images to come back from the processor.

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