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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Photography, Preservation

Favorite subjects: Second Presbyterian Church

This is a favorite subject that I haven’t shot very much. It’s truly a favorite subject in that I really enjoy it. I wish I made it over there more often for photography! It’s striking, a “whoa!” moment the first time you come upon it while driving north on Meridian Street in Indianapolis.

Second Presbyterian

Pentax KM, 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M, Kodak Tri-X 400, 2017

It reminds me of Westminster Abbey a little. The architect must have been going for that style.

SecondPres.PNG

Imagery and map data © 2017 Google.

But this building is not Westminster Abbey’s contemporary: it was completed in 1960 on Indianapolis’s Far Northside. Surprised? But the congregation dates to 1837, making it one of the oldest in the city. It’s also one of the largest Presbyterian congregations in the United States.

Second Presbyterian is perhaps best known for hosting the 1990 funeral of Ryan White, a boy who contracted AIDS via blood transfusion at a time when this disease was ill-understood and greatly feared. His fight to attend school in his hometown of Russiaville, about 45 minutes north of here, made the national news and was instrumental in helping our nation understand that AIDS was not just a “gay disease.”

Over 1,500 people attended White’s funeral, including then-First Lady Barbara Bush, Michael Jackson, and Elton John.

Since then Second Pres has led a lower profile. Here’s hoping I’m raising it ever so slightly today, because this building is just lovely. I’ve photographed it over and over.

Second Pres

Minolta Hi-Matic 7, Fujicolor 200, 2011

Second Presbyterian

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Arista 100 EDU (expired), 2015

Second Presbyterian

Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot), Fujicolor 200, 2011

Second Presbyterian Church

Kodak Monitor Six-20, Kodak Ektachrome E100G, 2011

A handful of times I’ve shot some of the building’s details.

Second Presbyterian

Pentax KM, 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M, Kodak Tri-X 400, 2017

Second Presbyterian

Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot), Fujicolor 200, 2011

Second Presbyterian

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Arista 100 EDU (expired), 2015

At Second Presbyterian Church

Pentax K1000, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Kodak Gold 400, 2017

At Second Presbyterian Church

Pentax K1000, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Kodak Gold 400, 2017

Even though I love this beautiful building, I just haven’t figured out how to shoot it. There have got to be more interesting details, more dramatic angles, but I struggle to find them.

Second Presbyterian

Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot), Fujicolor 200, 2011

So I keep shooting it straight on. Fortunately, it looks great that way.

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Photography, Preservation

As society changes there’s always someone there to make a buck off it

The Broad Ripple neighborhood has been a nighttime destination the whole time I’ve lived in Indianapolis, going on 23 years now. But in those days “the strip” still featured many small businesses that served the neighborhood by day. Today it’s even more a bar-and-nightclub spot, with only a couple of the old neighborhood businesses hanging on.

For most of the time I’ve lived here, Broad Ripple was characterized by low buildings and open skies. I made this photo several years ago of a pedestrian bridge over the Central Canal. If you look through the truss, you can make out a little apartment house and the trees that have characteristically lined the village’s streets.

Pedestrian Bridge

But density is the name of the modern city game. As millennials flock to walkable neighborhoods like Broad Ripple, developers are there to meet the need. This tall apartment building was recently completed. It and others create dramatic change in Broad Ripple’s look and feel.

The new Broad Ripple

Longtime Broad Ripple residents are generally and unsurprisingly not happy with these changes. And arguments are being made that while millennials are being targeted to live in these apartments, they can afford it only if they’re upper-middle-class or wealthy.

It’s always been a little more expensive to live in popular Broad Ripple, but it wasn’t necessarily out of reach for a middle-class young adult, especially one willing to take a roommate. But do middle-class young adults exist in any significant number anymore? I see working-class and well-heeled so-called “creative-class” twentysomethings and little in between.

Every time Margaret and I walk through the neighborhoods surrounding Broad Ripple Village, we are drawn in: single-family dwellings on small lots with mature trees, sidewalks connecting these neighborhoods not only to little parks where our eventual grandkids can play, but also to the Village and its burgeoning shops. Fresh Thyme is a delightful little grocery. We’d love to have one within walking distance. I wonder if other empty nesters and near-empty-nesters are charmed by Broad Ripple as well.

I can’t make sense of all the trends. But here’s what I do know: societal change brings economic opportunity, and someone is always smart enough to capitalize on it. Let the Broad Ripple Villagers cry and protest, but greater density is coming to places like Broad Ripple because money is to be made.

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Preservation, Road Trips

The Indiana Theatre: A crown jewel of Terre Haute

Tucked quietly into the corner of 7th and Ohio Streets in Terre Haute is this grand and gorgeous theater.

Indiana Theater

Minolta XG 1, 45mm f/2 MD Rokkor, Fujicolor 200, 2017

Opened in 1922 and designed by John Emerson in Spanish Andalusian style, this is considered the first theater in the nation to embody “atmospheric” theater design, which recreated exotic foreign locales. This style quickly became common and characterized many theaters built during the 1920s.

Indiana Theater

Konica C35, Fujicolor 200, 2013

The versatile Indiana has hosted vaudeville, movies, live theater, and music events throughout its life. But when I lived in Terre Haute, from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, it was a dollar theater. It showed The Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight every Friday; I still remember many of the audience-participation lines. A girlfriend and I saw a fair number of movies here because it was a cheap date. I especially remember seeing Born on the Fourth of July here, because on the theater’s enormous screen (54 by 33 feet, the second largest in the state, I’m told) the film’s violence and gore chased us away long before the movie ended.

Inside the Indiana

Konica C35, Fujicolor 200, 2013

I haven’t set foot inside the Indiana in more than 20 years. This is the only interior photo I’ve taken, of the atrium behind the box office. What awaits behind those doors is truly stunning — and was even during the dollar-theater days, when the building had fallen into some disrepair. The second balcony, for example, was permanently closed because of rumored structural issues. But since 2013 the building has been renovated and restored. Check out the theater’s Wikipedia page to see some of its gorgeous interior today.

The theater is now primarily an event center. Seats on the floor in front of the stage were removed in favor of tables, which lets the venue host meetings and parties. Taking a look at the venue’s calendar, I see live theater, weddings, and a rock concert booked in the near future.

Indiana Theater

Minolta XG 1, 45mm f/2 MD Rokkor, Fujicolor 200, 2017

I try to stop by the Indiana for photographs every time I visit downtown Terre Haute. I’d love to see just one more dollar movie here. And I’d bring a good camera and photograph the interior extensively.

Indiana Detail

Konica C35, Fujicolor 200, 2013

But I, and by extension you, will have to be satisfied with these exterior shots. And so finally, here’s a long shot of 7th Street from Wabash Avenue, the famous Crossroads of America, where US 40 and US 41 once intersected. The Indiana truly is tucked tidily into the Terre Haute streetscape. Do you see it there?

Southbound Old US 41

Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom, 2009

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Photography, Preservation

Great doors I have photographed

A UK blogger I know only as “conspicari” posts wonderful photos of beautiful doors every Thursday. Yes, doors. Go check out his blog to see. I look forward to Thursday doors!

While I don’t make a giant point of photographing doors, they have found themselves within my viewfinder many times. Here, then, is a dump of door photos, in homage.

Red Brick Tavern, Lafayette, Ohio. Canon PowerShot S95.

Red Brick Tavern

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Indianapolis. Canon T70, 50mm f/1.8 Canon FD, Fujicolor 200.

Arched door

Indiana War Memorial, Indianapolis. Kodak 35, Kodak Plus-X.

Words

Salem Lutheran Church, New Augusta, Indianapolis. Olympus Trip 500, Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400.

Salem Lutheran Church

Salem Lutheran Church, New Augusta, Indianapolis. Pentax ME, 28mm f/2.8 Pentax-M, Fujicolor 200.

Ramp entrance

Men’s room on the Monon Trail, Carmel, Indiana. Kodak Retina IIa, Fujicolor 200.

Red door

Drumcliffe Parish Church, Drumcliffe, Co. Sligo, Ireland. Canon PowerShot S95.

IMG_3742 rawproc.jpg

Shop, Waynetown, Indiana. Canon PowerShot S95.

Waynetown

Old house, Delphi, Indiana. Yashica Lynx 14e, Kodak T-Max 400.

Entryway

Crooked Creek Baptist Church, Indianapolis. Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom.

Crooked Creek Baptist Church

Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis. Pentax K1000, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Kodak Gold 400.

At Second Presbyterian Church

Residence, Lockerbie, Indianapolis. Pentax ES II, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Kodak Ektar 100.

Door in Lockerbie

Angie’s List, former fire station, Indianapolis. Canon PowerShot S95.

Entrance

Traders Point Christian Church, former First Church of Christ, Scientist, Indianapolis. Canon PowerShot S95.

First Church of Christ, Scientist

Church of the Holy Family, Ardara, Ireland. Canon PowerShot S95.

Church of the Holy Family, Ardara, Ireland

Gash & Co., Eminence, Indiana. Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom.

Gash & Co. entrance

Notice my cameo appearance in this final shot. This building also featured in this post from my State Road 42 road trip. According to a recent comment on a photo of this building I posted to Flickr, this building is no more.

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