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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Blogosphere

Recommended reading

On this cold December Saturday, enjoy ye some bloggery.

Eric Swanger considered his Agfa Clack, as I did mine recently, and came to a different conclusion. Read Arms Behind

Using all the old cameras I have has taught me a lot about what kind of gear I like for the kind of photos I shoot. Ming Thien calls this shot confidence — knowing that you can get the shot you want with the gear in your hand. He explains this and a lot more about the experience of using your gear. Read The shooting experience

How should you behave at work in the #MeToo era? Professionally. Johanna Rothman explains. Read Organizations Are Not Family, Part 1

This week’s camera reviews and experience reports:

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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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Road Trips

Photographs that don’t show the best of Columbus, Indiana

I have given Columbus, Indiana, short shrift on my road trips. It is well known, prized even, for its stunning architecture and public art. (See some of it here.) Yet every time I visit I miss most of it.

It’s because on my road trips I stick to the old roads — and Columbus is served by a great one, the Madison State Road. It is one of Indiana’s first highways, from the 1830s, connecting Indianapolis to the Ohio River at Madison. It enters Columbus from the north on old US 31 and exits to the south on State Road 7. Also, it’s well worth exploring US 31 and its old alignments south from town, as well as State Road 46 laterally across town and then through some of Indiana’s loveliest scenery.

So I’ve been to Columbus several times, but I always pass through the same sections of town. Next time I’ll make Columbus a destination, get off the main routes, and come back with art and architecture photographs. Until then, you’ll have to make do with these photos of the heart of Columbus’s downtown. These first shots, starting with the Bartholomew County Courthouse, are from a trip I made in 2008.

Bartholomew County Courthouse

At the time, Columbus’s downtown mall, The Commons, was being renovated. It’s right across the street from the courthouse, where State Road 46 intersects Washington Street.

Columbus, IN

This was my first visit to Columbus, and on the ground Washington Street felt like the main downtown drag. So I walked it for a couple blocks.

Columbus, IN

Downtown Columbus feels like any other Indiana downtown — except that it’s remarkably tidy and every building is occupied. Most small Indiana cities are not so fortunate, with crumbling facades and entire vacant blocks. What makes the difference is the excellent employment available in Columbus: Cummins Engine is headquartered here.

Columbus, IN

The Crump Theater stood around the corner on State Road 46, looking a little worse for the wear. Its facade is of porcelain steel and Vitrolite (pigmented structural glass) panels.

Columbus, IN

On a return visit this October, the Crump was in much the same overall condition even though the deteriorated details had changed. A missing Vitrolite panel had been replaced with a board painted the same color, a boarded-up portion of the entrance had been reopened, and its marquee was missing some panels.

The Crump

At least this time we got to see some of the public art. This photo is a detail of a work called Chaos 1 by Jean Tinguely, who was Columbus’s artist in residence in the early 1970s. Weiging seven tons and standing 30 feet high, it’s inside the renovated The Commons mall. I wish I had thought to photograph the mall exterior, as it looks very little now like it did in 2008. And I wish there had been enough room for me to back up to get this entire kinetic sculpture in my lens.

Steampunk

Looking out from the sculpture, The Commons is a lovely public space.

Stairs

Remarkably little had changed on Washington Street since 2008. I’m sure some businesses have closed and others have opened, but the street looks just as tidy as ever.

Awning

As we walked through, many of the trees were tagged with yellow bands like these. I couldn’t discern a pattern, but all of the tags had words on them. I’m sure they were part of a temporary public-art installation.

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This Washington Street alley is also a public art installation called Friendship Way. I hear it lights up at night.

Alley in Columbus

Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom and Pentax K10D, 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA

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Madison, IN

Downtown Madison, Indiana
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom
2008

Yesterday I mentioned the Madison State Road, an 1830s highway connecting Indianapolis to Madison on the Ohio River. It was one of two such highways, the other being the Michigan Road. Indiana’s first railroad was built between the two cities, as well.

Madison was, in those days, Indiana’s largest city. It competed as a port city with Cincinnati and Louisville and was probably equally important to those cities then. So it’s small wonder there were so many ways to get to the state’s capital.

But times change, and after the Civil War Cincinnati and Louisville surged in ways Madison did not. It has had the effect of freezing Madison in time. Its streets are lined with buildings built through the 19th century, and most of them have been well preserved. It is a lovely town and well worth visiting.

Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Downtown Madison, Indiana

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