Road Trips

The Michigan Road and the Dixie Highway in Hamilton and Boone Counties

In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report. While this article refers exclusively to the Michigan Road, another historic highway, the Dixie Highway, was routed along this portion of the Michigan Road.

Hamilton County was founded in 1823 and had an agricultural economy for most of its history. But after World War II, Indianapolis expanded northward and Hamilton County’s communities increasingly became Indianapolis suburbs. It is now one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation and certainly the fastest growing county in the state. It is also the wealthiest county in the state, as measured by median household income.

Only 1¾ miles of the Michigan Road lie inside Hamilton County. The road cuts across its southwest corner. On this map, the green line is the Marion-Hamilton line and the blue line is the Boone-Hamilton line.

Carmel is a city in Hamilton County. It has been on an annexing bender since the mid 1990s, reflected in its population growth – about 32,500 in 1996 to almost 69,000 in 2007. Somewhere along the line Carmel assumed all of the land around the Michigan Road within the county. Where Carmel goes, roads are improved and shopping centers are built.

Carmel

A massive improvement to the road was finished in 1997, making it what you see here. When I moved to Indianapolis in 1994, if my memory serves the road was four lanes undivided for a short distance north of Indianapolis, and then narrowed to two lanes.

106th St. and Michigan Road

Boone County, founded in 1830, was named after Daniel Boone. Despite bordering Indianapolis, the county is mostly rural. It has maybe 20% of the population of neighboring Hamilton County. The Michigan Road cuts across the county’s east side, never encountering a town of any consequence.

Looking southbound from just inside Boone County, you can see where the highway narrows. No need for all those lanes out here – yet. New subdivisions keep being built out here, so it’s probably just a matter of time before increased traffic demands a widened road.

Southbound, Boone County

But for now, fields and old farmhouses are the norm.

Old farmhouse in its context

Here’s a closer look at the old farmhouse.

Old farmhouse

I caught these horses grazing in another field nearby.

Horses

Rosston was once a place where trains stopped to pick up grain. I’ve seen old references to the place as “Rosston Station.”

This is Rosston’s old general store, just north of the train tracks which have long been removed. I’m not sure why I didn’t photograph the old grain elevator.

Storefront in Rosston

I haven’t been able to find out anything about the unincorporated town of Waugh.

This old house, but not much else, stands in Waugh.

Old house in Waugh

Where the Michigan Road intersects State Road 47 stands the Christian Liberty Church. Its sign says 1885, but I couldn’t tell whether the building is that old, too.

Christian Liberty Church

After a few more miles of farm fields, the Michigan Road exits Boone County and enters Clinton County.

Next: The Michigan Road and the Dixie Highway in Clinton County.

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

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Film Photography

First roll impressions: Agfa Agfacolor Vista 400

The reader who sent me the Minolta Maxxum 5 also sent me four rolls of film, including two of the original Agfa Vista 400. The last film sold under the Agfa Vista 400 name was rebranded Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400. The film I was sent was the older, Agfa-made emulsion. It’s easy to tell one from the other: the older emulsion carries Agfacolor branding, and the newer carries Agfa Photo branding.

Any Agfacolor Vista 400 you come upon is expired. The two rolls I received were always stored frozen, which always bodes well for like-fresh performance.

Boldly, I shot my first roll at box speed in my Pentax ME SE with the 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens attached. Sadly, I was rewarded with photographs that ranged from slightly to very underexposed. Drat it. Photoshop was able to rescue about two thirds of them. The rest were too faint to be made usable.

I shot most of the roll on an afternoon trip to Carmel, a suburb of Indianapolis. They have a quirky downtown area they call the Arts and Design District. This photo of leftover Christmas decorations is one of the least degraded images on the roll, and gives a good sense of this film’s capabilities. The colors are true, but slightly oversaturated.

Red ribbons

This film clearly has a color palette all its own, different from the Kodak and Fuji stocks.

Woman with flowers

The Arts and Design District features several statues of people represented as going about their daily lives. I’ve always found them to be strange and creepy.

Carmel statue

It’s strange to me how some of these images are noticeably underexposed and others aren’t. My past experience with expired film is that it behaves fairly consistently throughout the roll.

Carmel statue

I like how Agfa Vista 400 rendered the neutrals and blacks in this photo.

Monon trail

Bub’s is a Carmel institution. You could smell the burgers grilling for 100 yards in any direction.

Bub's

When I shoot my next (and last) roll of Agfa Agfacolor Vista 400, I’ll dial my camera in at EI 200. That ought to result in better exposures on this expired stock.

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Christmas dishes

Christmas dishes for sale
Nikon Df, 28-80mm f/3/5-5.6D AF Nikkor
2021

Margaret and I couldn’t make it to Chicago this year to visit their excellent Christkindlmarkt, so we visited the one in nearby Carmel instead. It’s a lot smaller, but it was still fun. We had Belgian hot chocolate with European-style (not sweetened) heavy whipped cream as we wandered and shopped. I brought the Nikon Df along for its first cold-weather duty. It handled it fine.

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Photographs

single frame: Christmas dishes for sale

German-made Christmas dishes.

Image
Film Photography

Fujicolor 200 in the Olympus Trip 35

This summer as I’ve ridden my bicycle around, I’ve slipped whatever camera had film in it into the pannier. It hasn’t worked out as well as I’d hoped; camera after camera, roll after roll, many of the images are quite hazy from (I presume) a lens fogged by the humidity inside the bag. When my Olympus Trip 35 found its way into the pannier, it suffered from this, too. Here are some images I was able to rescue well enough in Photoshop.

This bar and restaurant is a couple miles north of the house in old Whitestown.

LA Cafe

I was surprised to find this sign on a country road. I probably shouldn’t have been; there are plenty of horses out here, and plenty of wealthy people who would use the word equestrian instead of horse.

Equestrian Xing

I love the look of this property and have photographed it several times. The trees near the end of the lane are probably peach trees — last time I drove by, there were big buckets full of fruit, labeled “Free Peaches,” at the end of their driveway.

Toward the orchard

One of my usual rides takes me over I-865. Here it is northbound, its end visible in the photo.

I-865 NB

It was a gray day when I dropped one of our cars off at my mechanic’s in Carmel and rode home. I seldom get to ride out here and made sure my route home passed by the stunning Mormon Temple.

Mormon temple

That route home took me past Coxhall Gardens, a park I’ve photographed many times. You can see a little haze still in this photograph.

Coxhall Gardens

By the time I got back to Zionsville, my lens had gone all foggy. I wish I’d checked it and wiped it before making several shots. Perhaps I need to find a different way to carry a camera while on the bike. This pedestrian bridge is near Lions Park on the east edge of town.

On the ped bridge

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Road Trips

Old US 31 in Westfield and Carmel, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

US 31 followed its original path for the next 26 miles to Westfield, which it then bypassed. When you look at Westfield on a map it looks small, its downtown just a short strip along State Road 32, with some cul-de-sac neighborhoods extending north and south from there. But Westfield is a sparse, sprawling suburb of about eight square miles, a place to have a home while you work elsewhere. Still, it adopted a city-style government the first of 2008 and is now officially considered a city in Indiana. But without nearby Indianapolis, it would only be a little town in the country.

Because of its growth, US 31 bypasses downtown Westfield, but the city swallowed the bypass some time ago. This map shows the northern two-thirds of the route.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Here’s where we turned onto old US 31. There is a long stub of old US 31 between the top of this curve and current US 31, too.

US 31 at Old US 31

This photo shows old US 31 southbound as it heads toward Westfield.

Old US 31

The old town of Westfield is a nicely-kept typical Indiana town. This northbound photo is of old US 31 a block or so before Main St.

Westfield, IN, on US 31

This bank building is on the northeast corner of downtown Westfield. It’s an antique shop, and as far as I could tell the most prominent business on this corner.

Westfield, IN, on US 31

Here’s the southbound road leaving downtown.

Westfield, IN, on US 31

This map shows how US 31 curves back to the road’s original path.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Here’s where old US 31 curves to end at current US 31, for completism’s sake.

Old US 31 at US 31

Not that long ago, Westfield and Carmel were separated by a couple miles of Hamilton County farmland. Today, Westfield ends, and Carmel begins, at 146th St., where US 31 swings west, State Road 431 begins and swings east, and Rangeline Road goes straight south, perfectly in the direction of US 31 before this intersection. I vaguely remember being able to turn on and off 146th St here years ago, but the last time they rebuilt this intersection they made 146th St. an overpass. You can get to it from US 31 using Greyhound Pass. This map shows how it works. Before current US 31 and Keystone Parkway (labeled 431 on the map) were built, US 31 went straight south on Rangeline Road. (This ramp system was heavily revised in the early 2010s.)

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Unfortunately, Brian and I didn’t know that when we made this trip. Rangeline Road goes through downtown Carmel and enters Indianapolis as Westfield Road. It goes through the Broad Ripple neighborhood as Westfield Boulevard, and connects with Indianapolis’s Meridian Street just south of the Central Canal. US 31 then followed Meridian Street to downtown Indianapolis. Here’s Rangeline Road northbound toward US 31.

Old US 31 (Rangeline Road) NB

Here’s a closer look showing that Rangeline Road is not through. To get to US 31, you curve left and turn right. (You did in 2007, anyway. Today, you can’t get onto US 31 here. There’s a roundabout here, and an overpass that carries US 31 over a connector road about where the Jeep is, to a shopping center on the other side.)

Old US 31 (Rangeline Road) NB

Instead, Brian and I followed the first alignment of US 31 after the Rangeline/Westfield alignment in Carmel, which is Old Meridian Street. It’s the road that runs diagonally south and east of US 31 on this map.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

This northbound photo is of the narrow stub in the upper right corner of the map. This narrow road hasn’t been highway for a very long time.

Old Meridian St. (Old US 31)

Brian and I had tried for months to make this trip happen. If we had done it earlier in the year, we would have missed all of the construction on Old Meridian Street, and would have had a record of this road as two lanes. By the time we could take this trip, the road was being widened to four lanes and roundabouts were being installed at three of its intersections. This photo shows the roundabout under construction near St. Vincent Hospital.

Old Meridian St. (Old US 31)

Upscale shops and restaurants are being built with high-end condos above. The lighter gray pavement is the original Old Meridian St., still striped for two-way traffic.

Old Meridian St. (Old US 31)

Another roundabout was being built at Pennsylvania Ave. All this construction is finished as I write this.

Old Meridian St. (Old US 31)

Shortly Old Meridian Street ended at US 31 and we turned left onto the current highway. (You can’t do this anymore; Old Meridian Street dead ends here southbound. A ramp from US 31 allows northbound drivers to reach Old Meridian Street, however.) Our map labeled a short road at 116th St. as Old Meridian St. We went to look, but it was part of a parking lot. We wondered if an older iteration of this road had not been such a straight shot, and this was where the old road had gone before the parking lot was paved. Brian, who had caught the old-alignment bug in a bad way, searched around the woods south of the parking lot for signs of the old road, but found nothing.

Next: Old US 31 in Indianapolis.

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Photography, Preservation

Coxhall Gardens

It wasn’t that long ago that Hamilton County, Indiana, was mostly farmland. When I moved to central Indiana in the mid 1990s, if you drove north from Indianapolis into Hamilton County, city rapidly gave way to corn and soybean fields.

Today, it’s all developed. The Hamilton County towns of Carmel, Fishers, and Noblesville have annexed a great deal of the county and, one by one, farmers have sold their land to developers. Office buildings line the major roads now. Everywhere else you’ll find homes, ranging from inexpensive vinyl-village subdivisions, to gated communities of stone and brick homes, to sprawling estates. You’ll also find the suburban shopping centers that follow residential development.

Jesse and Beulah Cox foresaw this all happening. They bought the farm of original Hamilton County settler John Williams in 1958, and by 1974 they had built their dream home on the property. In 1999, they donated their property to the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department to preserve their land, to “create an oasis in a sea of homes,” Jesse said. Their farm, now known as Coxhall Gardens, is a sprawling park. It’s also one of my frequent photographic destinations.

Williams began farming this land in 1855, and built this house on it in 1865.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

As you drive by, this house is largely hidden by a row of trees. When the Coxes bought the property, they lived in the Williams house at first.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

The Williams’ barn still stands near the house.

At Coxhall Gardens
Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Agfa Vista 200
Barn
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

Looming behind the barn is the mansion the Coxes built in 1974. (But first, they built and lived in a single-story ranch in what looks like limestone. It still stands, but I’ve never photographed it.)

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

I was surprised to learn that this large, solid home was built so recently. It looks like something from a hundred years before.

Mansion at Coshall Gardens
Rollei 35B, Fujicolor 200

I especially enjoy the mansion during the warm months, because it is lushly landscaped.

Mansion at Coxhall Gardens
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

I don’t know the significance of this statue, but I like it and have photographed it a number of times.

Statue at Coxhall Gardens
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

I’m partial to this photo of my wife on the mansion’s steps.

Margaret at Coxhall Gardens
Rollei 35B, Fujicolor 200

Not far from the mansion is the ampitheater. The rotunda-like stage is large enough only for a small performance, such as a musical quartet.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

Many times I’ve found people here making wedding photographs. This would be a lovely setting for an outdoor wedding.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL
At Coxhall Gardens
Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Agfa Vista 200
Up the ampitheater
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

This monument to the Coxes, featuring their quote about the “sea of homes,” stands at the back of the ampitheater.

The Coxes
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

When you walk behind the ampitheater, you find yourself on a bridge over a large pond. From there, you can easily see the park’s two large clocks.

At Coxhall Gardens
Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Agfa Vista 200
Concrete donut
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

Here’s one of the clocks from a little closer. I don’t know what their significance is, but they are a defining feature in the park. Notice the bells below the clock. I’ve never heard them ring.

At Coxhall Gardens

This is the bridge behind the ampitheater.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

Finally, there’s a little “wild west” village in a back corner of Coxhall Gardens, which I imagine might be fun for children.

Wild Wild West
Rollei 35B, Fujicolor 200

You’ll find the entrance to Coxhall Gardens on Towne Road, just north of 116th Street, in Carmel, Indiana.

Reviews of the cameras used in this photo essay: Rollei 35B, Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Pentax K10D.

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