History, Preservation, Road Trips

The story of Story, Indiana

There’s a surprising amount to tell about Story, a tiny village in the hilliest country Indiana has to offer. It’s in Brown County, about thirteen miles southeast of Nashville along the meandering State Road 135. The old Elkinsville Road continues straight where SR 135 curves sharply; that’s where you’ll find Story.

Story, Indiana

Story is named for its founder, George Story, a physician from Ohio, who settled here in 1851 after President Millard Fillmore granted him 173 acres. He built his house (below) in about 1858. By the 1870s, Story’s medical practice, a school, and a mill had been built here, and farms surrounded this burgeoning village. Locals came to call it Storyville.

Story, Indiana

Dr. Arnold Griffitt came in 1882 to continue Story’s medical practice, at which time the village was incorporated as Story. During Griffitt’s time the first general store was built here, and a post office was located inside it. From there Story grew to include a second general store, a church, a one-room school, a grain mill, a sawmill, a slaughterhouse, and a blacksmith. Through the 1920s, Story was the most prominent settlement in this part of Brown County.

Farming had always been difficult here thanks to rocky ground, and after the Great Depression began it became largely impossible to make a living on this land. Families began abandoning their farms to find other work. Meanwhile, the State of Indiana began to buy the 16,000 acres surrounding Story that would create Brown County State Park. This outmigration caused Brown County to lose half its population by 1940.

Story tried to soldier on. The general store in particular kept operating, its 1930s-era gasoline pumps with their distinctive Standard Oil glass crowns continuing to dispense fuel. The store limped along until about 1960 when the Army Corps of Engineers built Lake Monroe southeast of Bloomington as a flood-control project. That project cut off Elkinsville Road, the direct route to Bloomington, and through traffic dried up. The store managed somehow to hang on through the mid 1970s before finally giving up.

Story, Indiana

A man named Benjamin and his wife Cynthia bought most of the town in 1978, making their residence on the store’s second floor and transforming the first floor into a restaurant. About 15 years later, Rick Hofstetter bought the whole town and added lodging to the restaurant, using the store’s second floor and most of Story’s remaining buildings.

Story, Indiana

Hofstetter still owns Story and keeps it rustic. Even when the inn is full, it is said that horses outnumber people in Story. They surely appeared to on the day we visited.

Story, Indiana

Today Story is a popular place to stop off Brown County’s beaten path, especially in the autumn. Motorcycle riders seem especially to enjoy Story, as it’s a great place to stop while enjoying SR 135’s curves and hills.

Story, Indiana

Pentax K10D, 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA

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Martinsville

City of Mineral Water
Pentax K10D, 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA
2017

Martinsville, Indiana, was once renowned for its healing waters.

It was while drilling for oil in the area in 1887 that a smelly aquifer was found. In those days, mineral waters were thought to possess healing properties.

Martinsville’s first mineral-water spa, or sanitarium as they were called then, was established in 1888. By 1930, thirteen sanitariums operated there. People from all walks of life came from around the world to Martinsville to bathe.

But the Great Depression and the closing of the Interurban line that reached Martinsville brought about the sanitariums’ decline. The last of them closed in 1971.

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History, Photography

single frame: City of Mineral Water

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History, Preservation

The incredibly sticky sense of place

The land on which my home stands was farmland not 20 years ago. It’s typical: thanks to sprawl, many American neighborhoods occupy land that produced crops sometime within the last hundred years. In my town, a suburb of Indianapolis, neighboring subdivisions and shopping centers are brand new. I remember well the farmland that was there before.

But at some point the last farm will become another vinyl village or strip mall. Children born here then will have no memory of this area’s bucolic origin.

I was such a kid once, born into a busy and thriving South Bend, Indiana, neighborhood where the last new house had been built 20 years before. It was a typical 20th-century city neighborhood bordered by shops, businesses, and schools. You could almost get away with not owning a car.

My mom managed it: she walked to her job as a teacher’s aide at James Monroe School a block away. I visited her at her job one day when I was about 13. While snooping through some cabinets, I came upon this photograph, and it blew my mind.

MonroeSchoolMayDay1930s

This is that school’s front lawn on the occasion of a May Day celebration. I found the image online recently with a comment that the photo was taken in 1939. That’s eight years after the school was built, but twelve years before my childhood home was built. It and many others would soon be be built on that distant grove of trees in the photo’s upper-right corner. It is fascinating to not see the houses there that have always been a part of my memory!

To me as a kid, our 1951 house might as well have been built in 1851 or even 1751 — it was a time I could not imagine. From my limited childhood perspective, my neighborhood had always existed.

I knew intellectually that this couldn’t be true, of course. But I had no way of imagining the neighborhood before it was completed. The 1939 photograph made that time more imaginable!

school-houseAt right is an excerpt from a 1922 map of South Bend. It shows the location of my childhood home and of the school, neither of which had been built yet. I lived on Erskine Boulevard, the curved street, which would eventually curve back and end at Donmoyer Avenue, the street at the bottom of the map.

I’ve written about my elementary school here many times, and occasionally other former students find my posts and leave comments full of memories. One fellow who attended Monroe School in the 1950s commented on this post how his father never stopped calling my neighborhood “the new extension.” He clearly remembered when this land was that grove of trees.

This is the same delusion in reverse, and it illustrates how sticky our sense of place can be. Because this man remembered the grove of trees, he likely considered it to be this land’s true use and purpose.

Similarly, I have childhood memories of neighborhoods being built well south of James Monroe School. I still recall what was there before, and forty years on those neighborhoods still feel new, in a way, to me. And on my first visits to Indianapolis as a child, US 31 in the county just north of Indianapolis passed through nothing but farmland. A building boom that started in the 1980s brought tall office buildings to that corridor, plus a long string of stoplights. Recently US 31 has been converted into a limited-access highway there. But even after all these years I still marvel at how it’s all changed.

Even the existing built environment changes. If you’re a young student of James Monroe School – or, should I say, Monroe Primary Center, which is its name today – you might not know a time before the school was renovated and expanded (read about it here and here). My memories of this building do not include its current dropped ceilings, and include rooms that no longer exist. And my mind’s eye will forever remember the school’s front yard looking as it did in this photo, which I took in 1984.

James Monroe School

Visiting my hometown in 2013, after the school’s renovation was complete, I happened to take this photograph one gray morning from about the same place. Little of the landscaping survived the addition of the driveway — except the pine trees at right, which are almost certainly the same little pine trees in the lower corner of the 1939 photo.

James Monroe School

The years to come will surely bring more changes, and they’ll surprise both current students and aging alumni like me. Because place imprints on all of us.

I first shared these thoughts and photographs in 2014, but rewrote the article for today.

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History, Preservation

A sense of place: Going home to Twelve Points

Twelve Points State Bank

How well do we actually see the places where we live? Truly notice the details that give it identity and make it a place?

For me, the answer is: Better now than when I was young. I’ve lived long enough now that the stomping grounds of my youth have changed a lot. But back then my inner historian, preservationist, and photographer had not yet awakened. I had not yet learned to see.

In the early 1990s I lived in the Terre Haute, Indiana, neighborhood known as Twelve Points. The area got its name from the awkward intersection of Lafayette Ave., Maple Ave., and 13th St., which created twelve corners.

TwelvePoints

Imagery and map data ©2013 Google

Twelve Points was once a hot spot, at a time when Lafayette Road was still US 41, when passenger-train and streetcar service still delivered hundreds of people each day to shop here, and before the big shopping mall was built on the south side of town.

When I moved there, Twelve Points’ best days were already well in its past. Many of the buildings were empty and in poor repair.

A handful of businesses remained. I used to walk over to Hook’s drug store to fill prescriptions, and I’d sometimes stop at the little IGA grocery store on the way home from work. I could have done my banking, gone out for pizza, gotten my hair cut, and visited the dentist in Twelve Points, too, but I never did. Today I’d do it on principle, but that’s the kind of man I’ve become only lately.

A few years ago I visited an exhibit at the Indiana Historical Society that made me deeply regret not getting to know Twelve Points better. Part of the IHS’s “You Are There” series, the exhibit recreated Citizens Grocery, owned and run by Ernest Zwerner on Lafayette Road in Twelve Points, as it had been in 1945.

It was a painstaking recreation based on 1940s photos of Zwerner’s store (one is here), with period equipment and goods both real and carefully reproduced. Actors portrayed the shopkeeper and customers, all dressed in period clothes. Visitors to the exhibit could go inside the store and talk with the characters, who responded as if it were really 1945 and they were going about their daily business. It put visitors in touch with a time few of us knew.

Remarkably, I knew a couple who would have shopped at Zwerner’s: My landlords, Steve and Henrietta, who had lived since the 1930s in their home a few blocks away and rented its attached apartment to people like me. Inside the recreated grocery, I imagined young Henrietta there doing her marketing. Or, more likely she phoned in her order and waited for delivery.

I became a little misty eyed as I experienced my connection to this store and this time. I wanted to play along with the actors, tell them I lived a few blocks away on 8th Street (which I had, 45 years later), lament rationing, and ask them how much longer they thought we’d have to fight in this war. But I lacked the guts. I walked around the store in silence, slightly dizzy in delight, the corners of my lips curled up in a slight grin that I tried to suppress lest it let the mist in my eyes get out of hand.

(You will learn more about Zwerner the man and his business in this Google Books excerpt of An American Hometown: Terre Haute, Indiana, 1927, here.)

When I last visited Terre Haute, I made a point of returning to Twelve Points with my camera. The building that held Zwerner’s store was demolished decades ago, so I photographed the buildings I remembered from my time living nearby in the early 1990s.

The Twelve Points State Bank building held a branch of the Merchants National Bank when I lived there. It looks pretty good yet, despite the boarded-up storefront there on its south side.

Twelve Points State Bank

Thirty years ago this building was in such poor condition as to be derelict. While it still shows some rough edges, it’s in much better condition today and on the day I took this photo was significantly occupied by Tilford’s Variety Store. Unfortunately, Tilford’s struggled to make its way and closed shortly after I visited.

Tilford's

This was the Garfield Theater, which I’m sure was a focus of the local night life. Many Twelve Points businesses and buildings have Garfield in their name because of the former Garfield High School, which once stood around the corner on Maple Ave. The Banks of the Wabash Chorus, a barbershop harmony group, has been in the building for at least a quarter century.

Banks of the Wabash Chorus

I can’t believe that in the five years I lived nearby, I never ordered a pizza from A Ring Brings Pizza. The now-me shakes his head at the then-me. And now nobody can call C-5951 for pizza anymore, not because C became 232 when seven-digit dialing arrived, but because the restaurant is closed. At least its great sign remains.

A Ring Brings Pizza

The Garfield Barber Shop and Coiffure Salon is also defunct. I swear that the sign and the lettering painted on the window look just as they did 25 years ago.

Garfield Barber Shop

Since I moved away, a new gas station was built on the southwest corner of Maple Ave. and Lafayette Ave., and it was hopping while I visited Twelve Points that day. A CVS Pharmacy replaced the little grocery store on the northeast corner of 13th St. and Maple Ave., and it showed every sign of doing well. These kinds of businesses aren’t enough to reinvigorate Twelve Points on their own, but they at least show that there is some life left in the neighborhood. Here’s hoping it finds revitalization one day.

I first shared these thoughts in early 2013. In the 4½ years since, according to Google Street View, a few things have changed: the defunct Garfield Barber Shop has finally been replaced with a new tenant, and the A Ring Brings Pizza sign has been taken down. Tilford’s is still closed, but the men still sing at The Banks Of The Wabash Chorus. 

If you’d like to see my apartment near Twelve Points and hear my story of getting started as an adult, it’s here.

 

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History, Photography

Favorite subjects: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Indianapolis

My first photographic visit to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church wasn’t until 2014, and I regret that I didn’t start photographing this lovely building earlier. It’s just a wonderful subject. Taken at distance, classic shapes of sacred architecture layer before you while cut limestone textures add interest. Moving in close, plenty of compelling details lurk in the nooks and crannies.

Arches

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E, Ilford Delta 100, 2015

St. Paul’s was founded in 1866 in downtown Indianapolis, but by the late 1930s it was clear that the church’s future lay north of the city, in what was then considered the country. The church secured a plot beyond the Indiana Central Canal on a recently built extension of North Meridian Street, Indianapolis’s main north-south street and grand thoroughfare. People were starting to move out there into newly built, early suburban neighborhoods. St. Paul’s decided that’s where it needed to serve.

North Meridian

Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M, Kodak Gold 200, 2017

St. Paul’s new building was constructed just after World War II  where Meridian makes a distinctive and singular curve as it prepares to cross the White River a half mile to the north.

StPaulsMap

Imagery and map data © 2017 Google

For a subject to be a Favorite Subject, it needs to be close to home so I can reach it easily. St. Paul’s is a short drive down Kessler Boulevard from my home. I pass it right by on my way to Broad Ripple.

I was headed to Broad Ripple, actually, the first time I photographed St. Paul’s. It was evening and light would soon run out. As I waited at the light on Kessler at Meridian I spied the church out of the corner of my eye. It wasn’t the first time I’d noticed the church, of course. I’d even been inside it once, for a wedding. But that day I realized that if I just pulled in and photographed this church, I’d have more time behind my camera before light faded. And then the church offered so much to shoot that I came back again and again.

The church’s design provides lots of intersecting planes, which can create interest.

Planter

Canon T70, Canon FD 50mm f/1.8, Fujicolor 200, 2015

St. Paul's

Agfa Isolette III, 85mm f/4.5 Agfa Apotar, Kodak T-Max 400, 2015

Church building

Kodak Six-20, Kodak Verichrome Pan (expired), 2016

Light plays well across this church, creating beautiful shadows.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Nikon F2AS, 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 AI Zoom Nikkor, Ilford Delta 400, 2014

Church door

Canon A2e, 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF, Fujicolor 200, 2016

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Nikon F2AS, 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 AI Zoom Nikkor, Ilford Delta 400, 2014

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Nikon F2AS, 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 AI Zoom Nikkor, Ilford Delta 400, 2014

I’ve yet to explore all of this lovely church’s details.

Ring things

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E, Ilford Delta 100, 2015

Just a random turtle

iPhone 6s, 2016

Serious statue

Canon A2e, 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF, Fujicolor 200, 2016

Red berries

Canon A2e, 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF, Fujicolor 200, 2016

Angel lighting the way

Canon T70, Canon FD 50mm f/1.8, Fujicolor 200, 2015

As I was putting this post together I realized I had inadvertently created a series of photos that zoom in from this door to an iron bench that usually stands nearby.

Arched door

Canon T70, Canon FD 50mm f/1.8, Fujicolor 200, 2015

St. Paul's

Agfa Isolette III, 85mm f/4.5 Agfa Apotar, Kodak T-Max 400, 2015

Leaves on the iron bench *EXPLORED*

Canon A2e, 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF, Fujicolor 200, 2016

One thing I like about photographing churches is that even though I am trespassing, strictly speaking, nobody ever seems to care. I guess I look harmless enough as a middle-aged man with an old film camera in his hands. I stay away when a church building is obviously in use, but frequently I’ve been to St. Paul’s when a few people are about and they always leave me to my photography. If anyone from St. Paul’s ever reads this, please accept my thanks!

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History, Road Trips

Tracking the changes at Kessler Blvd. and Michigan Road in northwest Indianapolis

Michigan Road bicycle tripI 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.

MR signs at Kessler/Michigan

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.

KesslerMichigan2017

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.

Fisher

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!

Michigan Road Auto Service

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.

Kessler and Michigan

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.

Kessler and Michigan

Kessler Blvd. bridge

Trail

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.

House along the road

This McDonald’s stands in about this location today.

McDonald's

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.

Walmart site

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.

House on Michigan Road, moved

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.

House on Michigan Road, 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.

Shell

Former Shell station

Circle K

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.

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