If you ever visit Casey, Illinois, be sure to do two things: (1) pronounce it “cay-zee,” and (2) drive in from the east on Main Street. The first is to prevent embarrassing yourself should you talk to any of the locals, for the town’s name is not pronounced as it looks. The second is to enjoy the absolutely gorgeous homes that line the street, which is the old National Road.
These lovely homes and their good condition say that Casey found some prosperity in the early 20th century and either managed to keep it or found it anew more recently. That’s not to say Casey is a wealthy city. In the 2010 census, the median annual income for a household was about $37,000. That income doesn’t support purchasing any of these houses. Clearly, these are homes to some of Casey’s well-to-do families.
I tried to photograph these houses when I last visited, on a hot summer day in 2007. But the trees were fully leafed, blocking many of these houses entirely. On this early-spring day the trees only recently started to produce leaves, so my camera’s lens could see more of the houses.
Even then, I sometimes struggled to frame some of the homes. I frequently got more of a house’s side than its front, as the photos above and below show. By the way, dig the great soffits on the house below.
I made all of these photographs with my Nikon F2 and my 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom-Nikkor lens on Fujicolor 200 film. That zoom lens let me take some of these photos from the same side of the street as the house was on, and others from across the street. My go-to lens is my 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens, but for these subjects I would have found myself standing in the middle of Main Street to get most of these photos. I’m not entirely sold on how saturated these colors are and kind of wish I’d put something like Portra 400 into the camera for this series.
Not that there was much traffic, had I stepped into the road to take a photo. Main Street may once have been US 40 and the National Road, but US 40 was rebuilt decades ago to bypass the town, and later I-70 was also built nearby. If you’re on Main Street in Casey, it’s because you want to be in Casey.
That’s all right with me. It leaves Casey’s lovely and quiet Main Street to those of us who follow the old paths.
If you like old-house photos, some more are here.
I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.
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