Film Photography

Storefronts on Mass Ave

I had an errand to run Downtown along Massachusetts Avenue, or “Mass Ave,” as everybody here calls it. This diagonal Downtown street is loaded with hip restaurants, bars, and shops. I loaded some Ilford FP4 Plus into my Yashica-12 and brought it along. I walked up and down Mass Ave photographing storefronts.

I developed the roll in L110, Dilution B, and scanned the negatives on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II. These are easily the best results I’ve ever gotten from home developing and scanning. I got exposure right in the camera, developing led to negatives of good density, and repeated practice with the VueScan scanner software is starting to pay off. I’ve shot a fair amount of FP4 Plus over the years and finally it’s looking like I expect it to, compared to the results I got from the pro labs I used to send it to.

The Rathskeller is technically on Michigan Street, but its imposing entrance is fully visible to and accessible from Mass Ave. This building is also known as the Athanaeum and, as the sign over the door says, Das Deutsche Haus. Built in the late 1800s, it was originally a social club for German immigrants. Today it’s a restaurant, beer hall, and coffee shop.

The Rathskeller

The rest of these images are not as architecturally interesting. Over the last 20 years or so, entire blocks of Mass Ave have been demolished so enormous apartment and condo complexes could be built, with retail on the ground floor. Silver in the City, a kitshcy gift shop, is in one of the early-20th-century buildings that remains.

Silver in the City

Global Gifts is a few doors down, in the same building. It’s a non-profit organization that sources its items ethically from around the world.

Global Gifts

In the same building as the previous two businesses, Three Dog Bakery has been around for at least 15 years now. I remember when they opened — I thought this business surely couldn’t last. Home-baked dog treats? Really? They have several locations today.

Three Dog Bakery

I worked Downtown the first time in 1996-97, when Mass Ave was a very different place, not yet hip and cool. It was just starting to recover from a period when it was Indianapolis’s Skid Row, and many of its businesses remained from that era. I don’t know how long The Frame Shop has been here, but it strikes me as a 1990s-era Mass Ave business.

The Frame Shop

Lots and lots of bars line Mass Ave now. This one opened a couple years ago, replacing a longtime Mass Ave bar called the Old Point Tavern. It was one of the last old Mass Ave businesses to throw in the towel, and I miss the place. When I worked Downtown in the 1990s, I sat at the bar many a lunch hour in front of a bowl of chili. It was the kind of chili you might make for yourself at home. I didn’t make much money in those days, and the $3 (as I recall) bowl was a filling, delicious lunch for very little money. I miss the Old Point Tavern.

Tavern on the Point

I’ve never set foot inside the Burnside Inn, despite its inviting facade. It’s been open for only a few years, replacing a hair salon that operated here for a long time.

Burnside Inn

Nine Irish Brothers is a chain restaurant that opened in this new building some years ago. In this case, nothing was torn down to build this building — it was a green space. I’m sure some other building once stood here, but it was torn down long before I ever set foot on Mass Ave. Margaret and I have stopped in here a number of times because the Guinness is fresh and good.

Nine Irish Brothers

Finally, here’s my favorite Mass Ave bar, Liberty Street. They have the widest whiskey selection in town, and a massive mahogany bar. I’ve met my brother here for a tipple many a time. He lives just a couple blocks away, so it’s easy enough for him to get here!

Liberty Street

I hope I’m settling into a successful groove with my home developing and scanning. It’s been frustrating to have gotten such mixed results over the year and a half I’ve been doing it.

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20 thoughts on “Storefronts on Mass Ave

  1. I’m sitting here wondering how many pints of Guinness nine Irish brothers could sink in an evening. It’s feels a very long time since I sat in a bar and had a proper pint of the black stuff.

  2. Andy Umbo says:

    Bought a few bits and bobs at Silver in the City for gal pals over the years I was in Indy; some nice area artist jewelry available, for that ‘something special’. Every thing I bought was well appreciated!

  3. Hi Jim, these are great shots. You nailed the exposures and I like the density of the negatives. Lately, I have been shooting my black and white overexposed by a stop. It seems to give better room for post processing. I have much better results using Silverfast than the stock Epson software. The worst cog in the process for me is the film holders, especially when the film has a curl to it. I have tried using special Newton glass and tape, but that brings its own set of hassles. More often than not the film dries relatively flat. L.

    • Thank you! These are easily among the best images, from a focus and exposure perspective, that I’ve made with this camera. I am also finally in the groove with developing and scanning. I’m using VueScan with my CanoScan 9000F MkII. The FP4 dries flat enough that I don’t have to fight to get it to stay in the film holder. I love Tri-X, but I don’t use it anymore because of its curl.

  4. All great shots! I live right downtown and a favourite route for my ‘daily walk’ is up to the north end of Mass Ave and back, so all of these look quite familiar :) My book club even meets at Liberty Street (or “did” meet there; we haven’t returned to in person meetings yet). Cheers.

    • My brother lives Downtown, too, just a couple blocks off Mass Ave — I’m a little jealous!

      Books and bourbon – a winning combination!

  5. matt says:

    Great images. I also like your negative density. I may have to try some FP4 at some point.

    I’m using D-76 1:1 solution on HP5+, and I’m using the CanoScan 8800F. I looked at VueScan… the benefit to that was it works on my desktop (I run Debian), but I wasn’t sure if that alone was worth the price. I do my scanning now on a Surface Pro then move them over to the desktop to work on them. I also liked the SilverFast software for the Windows machine.

    • I’m going to try Ilford ID-11 next, which I guess is their version of D-76. But clearly FP4 loves L110 (HC-110).

      VueScan does a much better job than the software that came with my CanoScan. I had Silverfast for my previous scanner, an Epson V300 — yikes, what a terrible UI. VueScan is easier to use.

      • matt says:

        How long ago was that? I thought the SF UI was fine, not altogether much different than VueScan or the CanoScan software. (though I only demoed those).

  6. Nice set of storefronts. If you forget about the global brands like H&M or Starbucks there is a distinct difference in the style of retail buildings between Europe and US. I do like how the black and white film turned out.

    Little tidbit. “Rathskeller” is an older German spelling, today we would not use the “h”. But there are still many Rathskeller in Germany using the historic spelling.

    • When I was in Germany so many years ago, I only ever saw Ratskeller. Of course, everyone here butchers the pronunciation, pronouncing the in the English way, as if the word were “wraths-keller.”

  7. Sir, you’re doing just fine with this article! Where I grew up on the east side I’d take the 21st Street bus (# 21) Downtown from the neighborhood, which used Mass Avenue from 10th Street to about Ohio Street, so I’ve watched Mass Avenue “evolve” from a skid row-type but eclectic stretch to what it is today…and you ARE “on point” about the “Avenue”! My Mom used to shop at Sablosky’s near the Coca Cola plant (took a tour of it in grade school) and a few other second-hand type stores along there and never felt unsafe despite the “diversified” population there..

    • My first encounter with Mass Ave was in 1996. I was 29 and working Downtown for the first time. I used to go to the Old Point Tavern and the Abbey Coffeehouse for lunch. I miss those places!

  8. Interesting set of storefronts Jim. I’m happy to see that your effort at home developing and scanning are are bearing fruit. I’m in the “can’t be bothered” mindset. 😃

    Pre-pandemic there was always cars or delivery trucks parked on the shopping streets in Princeton. On the weekends during the day the sidewalks The pandemic cleared the streets making it possible for me to document some of the storefronts and doors last Spring.

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