St. Charles Municipal Center Pentax K10D, 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL 2019
This dramatic Art Deco/Art Moderne structure really stands out on the main street in downtown St. Charles, Illinois. It stands right on the east bank of the Fox River. You can follow a path down the left side of the building and walk along the river’s edge.
St. Charles is charming. If you’re even in the far west Chicago suburbs, it’s worth visiting. They’ve made a lot of their frontage of the Fox River downtown, and there’s plenty to see and do on the main street.
Every year, historic preservation organization Indiana Landmarks publishes a list of ten historic places across the state that they consider to be “on the brink of extinction and too important to lose.” This year’s list of the 10 Most Endangered is just out; see it here.
Two of the places on this year’s list have found themselves in my camera’s lens. Traveling the state’s old roads as I do, I’ve photographically documented historic structures in a growing number of Indiana’s communities.
Mineral Springs Hotel in Paoli, on the Dixie Highway, was built in 1896 — before Paoli had electricity. So the owners built a power plant in the basement to light the hotel, and they sold excess power to their neighbors! Named for the area’s mineral-water springs that were thought to cure all ails, the hotel did big business for many decades. As the mineral-springs fad passed, however, the hotel’s fortunes declined. It stopped taking guests in 1958, although businesses populated its first floor for a few more decades. Today it’s vacant, its roof leaks, and many of its windows are broken. Indiana Landmarks hopes to find someone to restore it.
I visited Paoli during my 2012 excursion along the Dixie Highway in southern Indiana. The hotel sits on Paoli’s delightful square. Read about my visit here.
In Columbus, the Crump Theater has stood here since 1889. As you might guess from these photos, this is not the theater’s original facade. Indeed, the Crump underwent three major remodelings in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Its art-deco facade was added during the third remodeling.
The facade is distinguished by pigmented structural glass panels known as Vitrolite.
The Crump featured live shows until the 1910s when movies began to supplant them. Eventually the Crump became a movie house, and stayed one until 1997, when it showed its last picture. But by then it was already in deplorable condition with a partially collapsed roof and a non-functioning boiler. The theater has only deteriorated more since then, despite several attempts to save it. The city of Columbus would like to see it saved, and Indiana Landmarks is interested in finding a developer who can restore the building and find a good use for it.
The first two photos are from a 2017 and the third from 2008. Both times I was following the Madison State Road, an 1830s route that connected Madison to Indianapolis via Columbus and was an alternative to the Michigan Road, which ran through Greensburg and Shelbyville to the east. Somehow, I’ve managed never to document my Madison State Road trips, an oversight I must one day correct. Meanwhile, you can see more photos from my visits to Columbus here.
Logansport’s City Building doesn’t look like much from the outside. I drove by it many times while exploring the Michigan Road without stopping for a photograph. You only get a clue that something interesting may lurk inside when you see the City Building letterforms over the doors.
I made these exterior shots on a Michigan Road day trip my wife and I made recently.
But in 2013 I got to go inside, for a meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association, and I made a few photographs with my phone. I haven’t shared them before because my phone struggled with the low interior light and I wasn’t terribly happy with how they turned out.
But I’m unlikely to get inside again any time soon, and imperfect photographs are better than no photographs!
Logansport built its City Building in 1925, at a time when the city was flush with cash thanks to the railroads that ran through town.
My research revealed nothing more about the City Building. It’s too bad. It’s a lovely building, lovelier than you’d expect in a city the size of Logansport.
What I like best about the building is the stained-glass skylights on the top floor. You can see one through these doors.
There is more than one skylight, but this is the most prominent of them as it is in the center of the roof, visible as you enter the building and ascend the stairs.
I did my best to hold my phone level while standing directly below this skylight.
Returning now to the present day, my wife and I stayed in Logansport long enough for darkness to fall and the decorations to light up.
Canon PowerShot S95, iPhone 5
I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.
Circle Tower is my favorite building on Monument Circle in Indianapolis. This Art Deco beauty, completed in 1930, was designed by Indianapolis architectural firm Rubush & Hunter.
Last year a firm bought the building to convert the unoccupied offices to coworking space, complete with lightning-fast Internet and craft beer on tap.
I haven’t been inside this building in at least 25 years, not since a restaurant called Del Frisco’s used to occupy one of the upper floors. It was a favorite place. On special occasions I’d drive all the way from Terre Haute, bringing friends along for a good meal.
What was I thinking, photographing this Art Deco church building on expired slide film? I wanted beautiful photographs of my visit.
Beauty is, of course, subjective. If you enjoy the color shifts of expired film, you probably find these photographs to be lovely. I guess they are, in their own way. I just hoped for realistic color and clarity, as I wanted to share this church as you’d see it if you walked up to it.
It’s not that I couldn’t go back and photograph it again; Versailles (pronounced ver-SALES) is only about 80 miles southeast of Indianapolis. I’m sure I’ll do just that one day and get exactly the photographs I want.
This church is named for its builder, James Tyson, who made his fortune as the first investor in Walgreen’s drug stores. Completed in 1937, Tyson built the church as a tribute to his deceased mother, a charter member of this congregation upon its 1834 founding.
This carefully maintained building of brick, terra cotta, copper, aluminum, and glass famously contains not a single nail in its construction. Many of its materials were imported from around Europe, but the oak pews are of local timber.
I was inside for a meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association; Versailles is a Michigan Road town. Two alignments of the Michigan Road pass through Ripley County, of which Versailles is the seat. The original 1830s alignment lies a few miles to the west, but the road was rerouted through Versailles at the dawn of the automobile era.
Such an architectural gem is unusual for a small Indiana town like Versailles. Tyson built two other Art Deco buildings here: a library and a school. The church is arguably the loveliest of the three.