Preservation, Road Trips

On the square in Martinsville

On our October road trip I intended to follow the old alignments of State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway from Indianapolis all the way to Bloomington. Modern SR 37, a four-lane expressway, is being upgraded to Interstate standards to be I-69, and that will certainly cut off easy access to many of the old alignments. I underestimated how much progress has been made — shortly south of Martinsville, construction already blocked off all access to the old road.

At least we got to see a little of Martinsville first, specifically its square. The courthouse at its center was completed in 1859, with additions built in 1956 and 1975-1976. It’s unfortunate that trees blocked the view on all sides, as it is a stunning building well preserved.

Martinsville

The rest of Martinsville’s square was a mixed bag of buildings ranging from dilapidated to gorgeous, with several vacancies punctuated by occasional businesses, including this one which had just opened.

Martinsville

This building originally housed the First National Bank of Martinsville. Remember when every town of any size had its own banks? Today, thanks to bank consolidation, few of those remain. I wonder how many mergers happened before this became a BMO Harris Bank branch.

Martinsville

I enjoyed this building’s strong presence. It was built in 1893 for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and looks like it’s either been well maintained over the years or has been recently restored. Its first floor is largely occupied today by a coffee shop that specializes in homemade cheesecake.

Martinsville

This building looks recently restored as well. I appreciate how the facade, especially the store entrances, retain a period-typical look.

Martinsville

I was especially taken with the sign painted on this window. While the metal beams behind that glass mean that this door no longer operates, and that the Martinsville Bowling Center is a thing of Martinsville’s past, it’s great that the sign was retained.

Martinsville

Other buildings on Martinsville’s square are in various stages of restoration. Here’s hoping the next time I come through on a road trip, I get to see a completely revitalized square.

Martinsville

Martinsville was so excited about the Dixie Highway, by the way, that the town immediately paved it in locally made bricks. The Dixie’s route is covered in asphalt today, but another local road remains paved in those bricks. I told the brick Dixie story and showed the remaining brick road here.

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Due North

Due North
iPhone 6S
2017

I had reason to be in the Boone County Courthouse recently. (See an exterior photo in this post.) As Indiana courthouses go, it’s a relatively new one, completed in 1911.

At the center of its main floor tiles were arranged with an arrow pointing north. I always wonder how accurate such markers are. Given the courthouse’s placement on the city’s downtown street grid, this arrow points in a northerly direction, at least.

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Photography, Preservation

single frame: Due North

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Preservation, Road Trips

Is old road pavement worth preserving?

I’ve shared photos of this concrete road segment many times on this blog as a great example of early American hard pavement. It was probably poured in the early 1920s. But sadly, it no longer exists.

Old SR 37

The 1910s and 1920s were a time of great experimentation as roadbuilders figured out that right intersection of road-surface durability and cost. This was the era of brick roads, but builders also experimented with asphalt and Portland cement concrete. Early concrete roads were continuous ribbons. Natural expansion and contraction caused the concrete to crack, and often to crumble. This photo shows this road’s crack pattern better:

Concrete road

Roadbuilders soon figured out that regularly-spaced expansion joints helped concrete roads last longer. My experience has been that this happened by about 1925. Continuous concrete roads were built for a short time in modern road history, and most concrete roads will have expansion joints. When you come upon a continuous concrete road, you’ve found a rarity that is nearly a century old.

08_Map_Hacker_Creek_segmentYou can thank the construction of I-69 for this segment’s destruction. This road was a segment of old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway, about five miles south of downtown Martinsville. Modern SR 37 has bypassed it for years, mere feet to the west. As the modern road is upgraded to Interstate standards, an exit is being built here. The plan maps (here and here) show the details. This map segment is from the old Windows Live Maps site; I captured it in 2007 when I wrote up my first trip along this old road (here). This concrete is the segment labeled W Hacker Creek Rd north of Liberty Church Rd on the map. The section south of Liberty Church Rd had been covered with asphalt. I made these photos from the north end of the road, where a bridge had been removed.

Abandoned SR 37

I have no photos from my recent trip along this road because the exit here is substantially complete and construction closures and restrictions blocked access. As we moved past here on the new highway I could see a ramp exactly where this concrete used to be. A new bridge was even built over this gap.

And it’s too bad. I’m sure people who live down Liberty Church Road will be happy for easy access to their properties from I-69. But they get it at the cost of losing an interesting and well-preserved example of road history.

Old bridges and old buildings are obvious choices for historic preservation, especially when they are of a style or type of dwindling number or are part of a historic resource. But I think old pavement should be as well.

Just like any candidate for preservation, you can’t save them all. But I’m pretty sure this was the last section of continuous concrete highway on Indiana’s Dixie Highway, and as such this destruction was a real loss.

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Preservation, Road Trips

I brake for neon: The restored sign at the Artcraft Theater

I’ll pretty much always stop to photograph an old neon sign when it’s lit.

Artcraft Theater, Franklin

On our annual road trip Dawn and I made our last stop in Franklin, which is about 20 miles south of downtown Indianapolis on US 31. Actually, downtown Franklin is on old US 31, and as we approached from the south we made a last-minute call to follow the old road through town. We were very happy we did when we came upon the Artcraft Theater’s sign lit.

Artcraft Theater, Franklin

Our last visit to Franklin had been nine years before, almost to the day. I remembered the sign as being in rougher shape, so when I got home I looked through my photographs. As you can see from my 2008 photo below, I remembered right. The sign had been restored! Turns out the whole theater has been restored; see photos here.

Franklin, IN

The Artcraft was built in 1922 as a vaudeville house and to show silent movies. It operated as a movie theater through 2000, a remarkable run in the multiplex era. A nonprofit bought the building in 2004 and, through grants, restored it. Today the theater is used for special events and shows classic films every week.

Artcraft Theater, Franklin

As we passed through, old US 31 was closed in front of the theater as cars lined up, trunks and tailgates open, to pass candy to trick-or-treaters. It was the Saturday before Halloween.

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

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Ohio Theater

Ohio Theater
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom
2008

I made this photo on an impromptu road trip early in 2008, one I took to help me recover from a particularly stressful time. I drove the two 1830s roads that connected Indianapolis to the Ohio River at Madison: the Madison State Road (to Madison) and the Michigan Road (back to Indianapolis). It was my first trip along both roads.

I’d never been to Madison before and I was blown away by how lovely it was. The streets of the old city were lined with very old homes and commercial buildings, some of the oldest I’ve seen anywhere in Indiana — and most of them had been either well maintained or restored.

Built in 1938, the Ohio Theater is a young building on Madison’s historic main street. On the day I visited it still showed first-run movies. But in 2016 the theater’s owners lost the building in foreclosure, and ownership passed to a nonprofit which occasionally shows old films and recently got a grant to determine what it would take to renovate this building.

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Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: Ohio Theater

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Preservation, Road Trips

Destroyed: 1892 Holliday Road bridge

The tractor driver said he didn’t know that the attachment he was towing was wider than the bridge. And so the bridge on Holliday Road, near Zionsville in Boone County, Indiana, met its end.

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Boone County Sheriff’s Office photo

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Boone County Sheriff’s Office photo

It’s a crying shame, because in 2009 this bridge completed a lovely restoration. I told what I know about it here.

The bridge on Holliday Road

There just aren’t many truss bridges left in and near Indianapolis. I visited this one many times since its restoration. It was a lovely, quiet place to stop.

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This bridge looks to me to be damaged beyond repair. But then, so did the 1880 bridge in Paoli that was destroyed by a semi two years ago (story here) — and it reopened this summer. So maybe there’s hope for the bridge on Holliday Road.

 

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