My longtime friend Dawn and I resumed our annual road-trip tradition on October 1 as we explored the oldest alignments of State Road 67 southwest from Indianapolis, working our way to its endpoint at Vincennes. We made it about two-thirds of the way before it got late and we grew tired. I’ll share highlights from the trip here and there, and will write up the entire trip properly for my Friday road trips series in due time.
State Road 67 brushes past Martinsville just beyond its eastern boundary. About a half mile south of where you turn left to head into Martinsville, an old alignment of SR 67 splits off on your right.
About a mile from there southbound SR 67 crosses this terrific old bridge over Lamb’s Creek.
Built in 1893 by the Wrought Iron Bridge Co. of Canton, OH, this is a Pratt through truss design. As I researched this bridge, I found its page at the Historic American Engineering Record and was amused to find that a long-ago photographer parked his car in about the same place as me for his similar image.
Based on damage I see in this photograph, the HAER photographer visited here before this bridge’s restoration, which was probably in the 2004-2006 timeframe based on the best information I can find.
I’m trying to recall how many Pratt bridges I’ve seen with cables for its diagonal members. I’m used to the diagonals being girders just like the framing of the truss here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Pratt bridge where diagonals cross like an X at the center.
Here’s a view of those cables.
This is a pin-connected bridge. Here’s where several of the members come together overhead.
Builder’s plates on either end are in terrific condition.
The old highway continues its southwestward journey beyond the bridge. This narrow road is typical of the highways Indiana built in the 1920s. It’s probably 14 or 16 feet wide.
The Lockerbie Square neighborhood in Downtown Indianapolis was platted between 1847 and 1850, making it one of the city’s oldest surviving neighborhoods. Its streets are lined with older homes, some which date to near the neighborhood’s founding. You’ll also find the only surviving cobblestone street in Indianapolis there.
Margaret and I went there on a photo walk one Saturday afternoon not long ago. I had a film camera along and gave it plenty of exercise, but I photographed the doors of Lockerbie Square with my iPhone 12 mini.
Here’s that cobblestone street. It lasts just one block. On this street is the home James Whitcomb Riley lived in for the last two decades of his life. Riley was a beloved writer and poet, most famous for his verses in the Indiana vernacular of the day. Riley commanded enormous crowds wherever he would speak in the Hoosier State.
After World War II ended, the need for new houses was enormous. Starter houses were built rapidly all across the United States. I lived in such a neighborhood in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The houses were simple, small, wood-sided, wood-frame structures on concrete slabs. Lots of builders experimented with prefabricating sections of these homes to make their constructin simpler, faster, and less expensive.
One innovative company sold a house made out of steel coated in porcelain enamel. The Lustron Corporation built more than 2,500 of these houses nationwide. When you ordered a Lustron house, all of the house’s parts were delivered to your site on a truck. Workers assembled the house much like a Lego set or a jigsaw puzzle!
Lustron houses could be had with pink, tan, yellow, aqua, blue, green and gray exteriors. Sources I’ve read say that the interiors could be either beige or gray, but I’ve seen interior photos showing yellow panels. There were three basic models, each in two- and three-bedroom configurations. One model in particlar, the Westchester, was available in Standard and Deluxe editions. The Westchester Deluxe was the most popular Lustron.
These houses were of typical size for their day, ranging from 713 to 1,140 square feet. Inside, everything but the floor was porcelain steel, just like the exterior. Owners used powerful magnets, presumably with hooks attached, to hang things on the walls. Heat radiated from the ceiling, which most owners found unsatisfactory as heat rises, leaving the floors cold.
The Lustron Corporation struggled to break even. The first house was delivered in 1948, and the last in 1950, and then the company was bankrupt. Thankfully, lots of Lustron houses remain across the United States. Around three dozen of them still stand around Indianapolis in particular. Not long ago I photographed the seven Lustrons I know of that stand in the Broad Ripple neighborhood on Indianapolis’s Northside. I shot these images with a Pentax Spotmatic SP II 35mm SLR with a 50mm f/1.4 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar lens on Kodak T-Max 100 film, which I developed in Rodinal 1+50.
1908 Kessler Boulevard, East Drive. This house appears to be in highly original condition from the outside, with original windows intact. It appears to be well cared for by its owner.
2079 Broad Ripple Avenue. This Lustron could use a power wash, but otherwise looks original and intact.
5638 Indianola Avenue. Over the years, many owners replaced the original aluminum windows with more efficient units. Some owners added custom touches, like the wood paneling around the entry here.
6435 Riverview Drive. This Lustron is on a lot full of vegetation, making it difficult to photograph except in profile.
6466 Central Avenue. It looks like a tree fell on this poor Lustron, damaging its steel roof and its gutter. This Lustron is next door to the previous one, which is on the corner of Riverside and Central.
6321 Central Avenue. This owner replaced the original windows with double-hung windows, an unusual choice among Broad Ripple Lustrons.
6212 Central Avenue. Finally, this cheerful Lustron was in my judgment in the best condition of all of these. It is the only one that retains the original roof pillar at the corner of the porch.
All of these Lustrons appear to be the Westchester Deluxe model, the only one to have the living room bay window, as shallow as it is.
Now that you’ve seen these Lustrons, maybe you’ll recognize some where you live!
This was the scene in Paoli, the seat of justice in Orange County, Indiana, on Christmas Day in 2015.
I thought this beautiful bridge, built in 1880, was a goner. But the people of Paoli wouldn’t have it — they saw to it that the bridge was rescued. The trucking company (or probably its insurance company) paid the entire $700,000 bill. Margaret and I drove through Paoli in July and stopped to photograph it. This photo was taken from about the same place as the photo above.
Height-limit bars were installed several feet before the bridge on both ends. Now a too-large vehicle will hit these bars rather than the bridge. It’s a nice touch that they are in a similar style as the bridge.
In Bloomington, Indiana, just north of the Indiana University campus, you’ll find nine blocks where the interior streets are paved in brick. Bounded by 7th Street on the south, 10th Street on the north, Indiana Avenue on the west, and Woodlawn Avenue on the east, these streets are lined with lovely older homes.
I was in Bloomington in late July to have lunch with my son. My Nikon FA was with me, its 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens mounted. I was shooting some expired Kroger-branded, Ferrania-made ISO 200 color film I had picked up cheap. I overexposed the film by a stop to reduce the color shifts I was likely to get at box speed.
Brick’s heyday as a primary paving material was the 1910s and 1920s. I don’t know when these bricks were laid, but I’d be surprised if it were much earlier or later than those two decades. The occasional brick street or road was laid after then, but more for aesthetic reasons than practical ones. Concrete and then asphalt came to rule the roads.
These streets have been maintained, but never restored. While I’m sure these bricks were in perfect rows when they were first laid, they’ve shifted in the century or so since and look uneven now. You’ll find patches where newer bricks were laid, probably to repair deteriorated sections or to replace bricks removed to access buried utilities. Here and there, concrete was used to replace removed brick.
The real stars of this neighborhood’s show are the gorgeous older homes that line these brick streets. The university owns many of them and uses them as offices. The rest appear to be private residences. The rest of this post are the houses I liked best of those I photographed.
Would you believe that in the 1990s, this grand structure sat abandoned and crumbling? An exterior wall had even collapsed. Yet here it is today, restored and jaw-dropping.
This is the West Baden Springs Hotel, completed in 1902. Nestled among the mineral springs in Orange County in far southern Indiana, the hotel attracted people looking to relax and let the springs heal what ailed them — and people looking to gamble in the illicit casinos here.
Billed as the Eighth Wonder of the World, its enormous domed atrium was the largest domed structure in the world at that time.
There are four exits from the atrium; one of them leads to this lobby, which is also round.
A deep porch curves around the front of the hotel. Some of it is covered and some is not; this uncovered portion was closed this day. The covered portions gave surprising relief from what was a very hot day.
You’ll find a sunken garden next to the hotel. This is where the springs used to be. They’re probably still there, but they’ve been closed up for years.
The main entry and exit road to the hotel is paved in brick. This road shows every sign of heavy use over decades. It was very rumbly as we drove in and out.
The entry arch dates to the hotel’s beginnings, when the springs were marketed as the main attraction here. “West Baden” is an Anglicization of “Wiesbaden,” a springs and spa town in Germany.