Preservation, Road Trips

The mystery of the former one-lane bridge over the Tippecanoe River in Fulton County

It was exciting to come upon this abandoned bridge abutment when my old friend Brian and I explored old US 31 in northern Indiana in 2007. (That whole trip is documented here.)

Bridge abutment, Rochester, Indiana

Standing on the old abutment it’s easy to see where the old bridge used to meet the Tippecanoe River’s north bank. It’s just right of where the current bridge, built in 1982, meets it.

Tippecanoe River bridge

My dad remembers driving the old bridge. He said it was just one lane wide, and there was a stoplight at either end. Traffic on US 31 would often back up at either end waiting to cross here. The mother of an old friend, who grew up in Fulton County, remembers a time before they installed the stoplight — and the games of chicken oncoming drivers played with each other.

My research turns up only the photo above, circa 1910, as possibly a bridge at this location. Those stone abutments look right, and the rise of the left approach looks to me to match the abandoned approach and abutment. The river is awfully full, though, fuller than I’ve ever seen it. This photo could have been made during a flood.

Current bridge and old abutment from the air. Imagery © 2019 DigitalGlobe, Indiana Map Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2019 Google.

But this two-span bowstring through truss bridge is not the bridge my friend’s mother remembers. She specifically remembers a single-span bridge with a square truss design.

If that bowstring truss was ever at this location, it had to have been replaced with the one everybody remembers, sometime after the 1910 photograph was made. The Great Flood of 1913 destroyed a lot of bridges; perhaps it did this one in.

By the early 1970s, US 31 was rebuilt as a four-lane expressway about a mile to the west, relieving the traffic burden on the old bridge here.

By the way, this bridge is on the Michigan Road. When US 31 was commissioned in Indiana, it used the Michigan Road from about 3½ miles south of here in Rochester, to about 42 miles north of here in downtown South Bend.

In 2010, an aspiring Eagle Scout stabilized this abutment, mortaring in the stones and laying in concrete pavers where the old road bed had gone missing. I made this photograph of it in late 2011 and wrote about it here.

Old bridge abutment

Here’s the same scene the day after Christmas in 2018. The mortar’s color has neutralized with age, making the abutment look more natural.

Old bridge abutment, north of Rochester

Three historic markers stand on the old abutment. The third, which is the shorter stone, was placed sometime since 2011. I never think to photograph it because I forget it’s newer and that I’ve not already photographed it. I can’t remember what it commemorates. The larger stone commemorates a village of Potawatomi Indians that was once here, and how those Indians were removed to lands out west in a forced migration now known as the Trail of Death. You’ll find a wealth of information about the Trail of Death here. I have a Potawatomi ancestor, I am told, though I can’t confirm it.

Old bridge abutment, north of Rochester

The final marker on this abutment honors the Michigan Road itself. Two other state markers like this one honor the road: one in Ripley County at US 50, and one in Boone County about three miles north of I-465.

Historic marker

Every time I stop here, the Tippecanoe River is tranquil.

Tippecanoe River

Here’s hoping that someday confirmed photographs of the old bridge here emerge.

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Preservation, Road Trips

A lot of deterioration can happen to something neglected for ten years

This is the Times Theater, on the Michigan Road in Rochester, Indiana. At least, this was it in 2008, while it was still operating.

Times Theater

The Times showed movies for 90 years, but owners couldn’t afford a digital projector and had to close it in 2014. This marquee was already showing strong signs of rot in 2008…but look at it now.

Times Theater, Rochester

This poor old sign. Here’s a closer look, first 2008 and then 2018.

Times Theater sign
Times Theater, Rochester

Fortunately, a non-profit group has organized with a goal to restore and reopen the Times as an art and entertainment center for the community. Their Facebook page is here. Here’s hoping they can achieve their goals — and see this sign restored, if it’s not too late.

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Photography, Preservation

Welcome to Chinatown

Chinatown, Chicago

Our visit to Chicago included a ride on the L down to Chinatown. We just wanted to see it.

Chinatown Metra stop, Chicago

Our view of it began as we exited the train. It stretches out right there before you.

Chinatown, Chicago

Our visit consisted mostly of walking down and back up Chinatown’s main drag, Wentworth Avenue. We were surprised by how varied the buildings’ facades were.

Chinatown, Chicago
Chinatown, Chicago
Chinatown, Chicago

Ours were the only Caucasian faces out and about here this Sunday morning. While nobody appeared to give us a second glance as we walked and made photographs, I had a distinct feeling of not belonging.

Chinatown, Chicago

At least the Chinese Christian Union Church had a very kind word for everyone, emblazoned on the side of their building.

Chinatown, Chicago

Canon PowerShot S95

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Preservation, Road Trips

A bridge over the Chicago River

Margaret and I enjoyed a long weekend in Chicago a couple weeks ago. We stayed in a lovely hotel in The Loop and walked all over to do a little Christmas shopping and enjoy the sights.

If you’ve never been, The Loop is bordered on the north and west by the Chicago River. Eighteen bridges span this river here, allowing traffic to flow into the rest of Chicago along every major avenue. Here’s just one of them, on Monroe Street a couple blocks from Union Station.

Bridge over the Chicago River

Many of these bridges are in the Beaux Arts design and this one is no exception. The bridges in place here now were built mostly during the first half of the 20th century; this one was completed in 1919.

Bridge over the Chicago River

Each of these 18 bridges raises or swings out of the way to let ships pass. The Monroe Street Bridge in particular is a drawbridge, more precisely a bascule bridge. The building on the right is where the operator lifts the bridge.

Bridge over the Chicago River

If found out in the country, each of these bridges would seem massive. But surrounded by Chicago’s high rise buildings they seem strangely small, yet impossibly sturdy.

Bridge over the Chicago River

The Monroe Street Bridge is dotted with these lamps, lighting the pedestrian walkways at night and, I’m sure, providing a lovely view from the neighboring bridges.

Bridge over the Chicago River

As you cross any of the Chicago River bridges in the Loop, you can see many of the others — and take in a great view of the city.

Bridge over the Chicago River

Canon PowerShot S95

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Preservation, Road Trips

Kirklin, revitalized

When I surveyed the Michigan Road in 2008, I felt bad for little Kirklin, a town about 45 minutes north of Indianapolis. Except for its lovely Carnegie library, it was all but dead. Its run-down buildings, mostly vacant, said that Kirklin’s best days were long past.

A page on my old site shows Kirklin as it was in 2008, plus some postcard images of it during its early-20th-century heyday. Click here to see.

A couple antiques dealers operated out of dilapidated storefronts. As I walked up and down Kirklin’s portion of the Michigan Road, my camera in one hand and my two dogs attached via leash to the other, they came out and accosted me. “Why are you photographing our town?”

When I explained about the Michigan Road and my quest to photograph it end to end, their tones softened. “We sure wish we could get more people to make the short drive up here from Indy to visit our shops,” they lamented. “It would make all the difference to our little town.”

Kirklin was in a catch-22: there wasn’t enough to do there to make the drive worth it, but without people willing to make the drive it wasn’t worth adding anything more to do.

And so I’m puzzled, as Kirklin has renovated most of its buildings and added a number of shops. Most of those shops deal in antiques and knick-knacks, but it’s absolutely enough to make it worth the drive from Indy. My wife and I spent a couple pleasant hours browsing here. We met several of the shop owners, who engaged us in very pleasant conversation. We even bought a few things.

Here, have a look at Kirklin today.

Kirklin
Kirklin
Kirklin
Kirklin

It would be lovely if Michigantown and Burlington, two neighboring Michigan Road towns directly north, could find this same level of revitalization. It would make a lovely “antique alley,” a one-tank trip and a very pleasant day. Travelers could start in Logansport and end for dinner in northwest Indianapolis, or start in Indianapolis and take their meal in Logansport. 

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Film Photography, Preservation

Touring the Purdue Memorial Union

On my last visit to Purdue to see my son, he showed me around the Purdue Memorial Union. What a stunning building!

Purdue Memorial Union

Chicago architects Irving and Allen Pond designed the building, which was completed in 1929. Later, a hotel and a bowling alley were added to the structure. The building hosts several offices serving students plus a number of restaurants and gathering spaces.

Purdue Memorial Union

But I was just overcome by how lovely the building is, and how much care the University clearly has taken in keeping it in good condition. I admit to some jealousy — I wished the college I attended had a facility this lovely with this much to offer.

Purdue Memorial Union

I had a film camera with me, my Pentax KM with the 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax lens attached and Kodak T-Max 400 inside. That gave me shallow depth of field for most inside photos, but you can still get a good feel for the space in these photos.

Purdue Memorial Union

Below is one of the ballrooms. I braced myself against a wall for a long-exposure shot and managed to avoid camera shake.

Ballroom

One of my son’s friends is prominent in the ham radio club, which is headquartered in one of the PMU’s towers. Here’s some of their gear.

Ham radio club

My son also took me to an upper room, tucked away, that has a stage and this piano in it.

In the upper room

One of my son’s hobbies is to learn to play as many instruments as he can. He took a piano class last semester and wowed me with his prowess. He’s got a knack for music. He had his Pentax K1000 along, shooting T-Max 400 too.

Damion at the piano

He played me one whole song on this well-used old piano.

Damion at the piano

The stage is on the opposite wall, and because of the light streaming through it I got this moody shot.

In the upper room *EXPLORED*

What a lovely facility. Purdue students are so fortunate to have it.

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