I stayed in Brookville, a town of about 2,500 people in southeastern Indiana, while I attended the Indiana Byways conference in early November. I’d only been to Brookville once before, many years ago, and hardly stopped. This time, I made sure to set aside time to walk the town’s lovely main street with my camera.
Brookville is old compared to most other Indiana towns, as it was platted in 1808. That’s eight years before Indiana became a state! The downtown strip retains much of its 19th-century charm.
Brookville is on US 52, which was laid out along the old Brookville Road. This road was commissioned by the state in 1821 to connect Indianapolis with the Ohio border near Cincinnati.
I made these photographs with my Pentax ME SE, using my 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M lens. I shot Fomapan 200 at EI 125 and developed it in Ilford ID-11, stock solution.
I hadn’t been to Metamora since the late 1980s, and even then, my memory of the place was poor. So I was curious to see it again in early November when the various Indiana byway organizations, including the Historic Michigan Road Association, met there for our biennial conference. Metamora is a very small Indiana town, population less than 200 — but it is well known as a tourist destination for its shops and restaurants. It stands along three one-time major transportation corridors: the Brookville Road, the Whitewater Canal, and the Whitewater Valley Railroad.
I was testing a new-to-me old SLR, a Pentax ME SE, with my 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M lens. I’ll write a proper review of the camera after I’ve put a few more rolls through it. On this day, I shot Kodak Max 400 at EI 200. The camera’s meter seemed to be reading about a stop of overexposure, but the film’s wide latitude covered for it.
Well-known film photo blogger Andrew Morang (Kodachromeguy) sent me one of his last rolls of GAF 125 film to try. This film is the same stuff as Ansco Versapan (Ansco rebranded as GAF in 1967). My roll expired in June, 1972. Dig that red film canister!
Little information is available online about Versapan. I turned to my secret research weapon, Google Books, where I found a Nov., 1963 issue of Popular Science. There I found a single paragraph this then-new film. It said that the film features a “tight” grain pattern, and contrast increases with development time.
I shot this roll in my trusty Nikon N90s with my 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor lens attached. Andrew advised shooting it at EI 80 or even 64; I went with 80.
Where Andrew sent his rolls out to be professionally developed (see his results here), I developed mine myself. Because so very little info was available online, and the data sheet in the film box specified only Ansco developers no longer made, I used the Mike Eckman Method: HC-110, Dilution B (1+31), for 6 minutes. Any film Mike’s not sure about, that’s how he develops it. He gets great results almost every time.
Developed, the GAF 125 suffered from moderate base fog. You expect that from film this old. The images themselves have good density.
I figured my scanner (Minolta ScanDual II) could cut through the base fog to get usable images, and I was right. It was challenging to load the negatives into the holder, however, because after 50 years tight in the canister they curl like crazy.
At snapshot size, these images look surprisingly good. Grain ranges from smooth to slight, and there’s a good range of tones, but the dark areas are very dark. At 100%, the grain really pops out and you see a distinct loss of shadow detail.
I got a ton of dust on these; spotting the negatives in Photoshop took forever. A few were so bad that I gave up. But beyond that and a little sharpening, these scans needed very little post-processing.
I brought the N90s with me when I made a trip along the old Brookville Road in southeastern Indiana. That road is US 52 today. I stopped in the small town of Morristown and photographed its main street in the full sun. Here are several of the photos. Among them are photos of the Kopper Kettle restaurant, which I visited and reviewed as part of the Indiana Fried Chicken Tour many years ago; read that review here.
This was a successful roll overall, and I’ll share more photos from it in upcoming posts.
We stopped here because I saw an abandoned segment of the old highway, and because I’m a roadgeek I wanted to photograph it. This photograph is westbound. The photo of the house above is from about the same place, but I was facing the other way.
This house used to be the Whispering Winds restaurant. I didn’t know that until someone found information on my site about Brookville Road, and emailed me to ask if I knew anything about the Whispering Winds restaurant. She ate there many times while it was open, and wondered if the house still stood. I did a little research and found this photograph on a Facebook group. The poster said that the people in the photo were her grandparents and aunt, and they owned and operated the restaurant.
The house was built by Andrew Morehouse, although I’m unable to find exactly when. Morehouse’s family was said to live here for many years, and his wife died in 1864, which leads me to think the house predates that. Indiana University Library posted online a newspaper article telling some of this house’s story here.
Brookville Road is a historic road from Indiana’s early days. It connects Indianapolis to the town of Brookville, which is near Cincinnati. A historic marker is posted at this abandoned alignment that tells the road’s story in thumbnail.
I’ve made much on this blog about the Michigan Road, which was commissioned by the Indiana state legislature in 1828. I routinely call the Michigan Road the state’s first highway. With its 100-foot right-of-way and 270-mile length, it was the grandest and most important road Indiana built in its early years. But the state did fund and build other roads before the Michigan Road.
In 1821, the legislature set money aside to build ten roads from Indianapolis to various points around the state. One of those roads was to stretch 78 miles to the Ohio state line near Cincinnati via the little town of Brookville, for which the road was named. It was built starting in 1828. You can still drive the Brookville Road today; it is US 52 (and old US 52 in Indianapolis and near the Ohio line). It’s still called Brookville Road in Indianapolis.
As is the story with so many old roads that became modern highways, it has been straightened, widened, and moved in many places. Just before US 52 leaves Indianapolis to the east, a tiny strip of old pavement stands by, a segment of the road’s older alignment there. It’s in the upper left corner of this map segment, but it’s not hard to trace its original arc from there.
My buddy Sherrel and I were returning from our fried-chicken adventure in Morristown when we saw this abandoned segment. I know I can wear out my friends with my roadgeekiness, so I didn’t say anything. But then Sherrel said, “Hey, you wanna stop and take a look at that?” He didn’t have to ask me twice! I made a quick U turn and pulled right up onto the old road.
According to historical aerial imagery at MapIndy, this segment of road was in service until sometime between 1956 and 1962. The new alignment was lower than the old, making it necessary to dig out this chunk of the old alignment so a property owner’s driveway could connect.
The historic aerials show that the old road surface was removed east of this segment. But as this eastbound shot shows, few trees have grown up in the old roadway.
Sherrel wanted to walk the old roadway, but I was worried we’d be trespassing on private property. But looking at the property lines on MapIndy, this strip is still in the state’s right-of-way, and we could have explored it. Sorry Sherrel!