Road Trips

New neon at the Old Style Inn

Logansport’s Old Style Inn used to have a great neon sign over its door. I was disappointed a few years ago to discover it had been removed.

Old Style Inn, Logansport

Hard telling how old this sign was, but it was a classic to be sure.

Old Style Inn, Logansport

I was pleased on my recent Logansport trip to find that the Old Style has a new sign in the neon style. It’s probably not actually neon — so many modern neon-like signs are actually flexible LED lighting. But it’s pretty well done.

Old Style Inn, Logansport

Margaret and I stopped here for dinner before we went home. Our server explained that the Old Style had formerly been just a bar. When it remodeled and became a bar/restaurant a few years ago, the owner felt new signage was in order. Here’s hoping the original sign was saved, and isn’t sitting in a landfill somewhere.

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State Theater, Logansport

Through the door at the State Theater
Canon PowerShot S95
2018

50 years ago if you drove through downtown Logansport, Indiana, you’d have found its streets lined with buildings. Most of them dated to the 1800s.

Logansport boomed through about the middle of the 20th century. Good jobs were plentiful in that railroad and manufacturing town. But as happened in so many midwestern cities in the late 20th century, the boom ended and good jobs dried up. Downtown vacancies rose and buildings fell into disrepair. A great number of them ended up being razed. Downtown Logansport is full of parking lots today.

Yet today Logansport keeps showing up on lists of small towns worth living in. The city topped this list at Realtor.com. I’ve seen it in the years I’ve been involved with Logansport through my Michigan Road work: people there want to be proud of the place they call home, and they’re doing the work to show it. The old buildings are never coming back, but those that remain (like the State Theater, from which I made this photo) are being restored. And where parking lots remain, you’ll increasingly find public art to guide and please the eye.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Through the door at the State Theater

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Road Trips

The State Theater in Logansport

State Theater, Logansport

The State Theater has been a mainstay in Logansport, a northern Indiana town of about 18,000 residents, since 1940. In its heyday it was but one of several downtown theaters, but today it is the last that remains. And it looks mighty good.

State Theater, Logansport

It could easily have ended badly for the State. Several years ago the theater changed hands and became a live-music venue called the Shindig. The marquee’s STATE letters came down. Then that owner ran aground in his business. The theater’s future was uncertain until Kevin Burkett, who grew up in Logansport and worked as an editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, returned home to buy this theater.

Given that this theater is on the Michigan Road Historic Byway, I’ve driven past it many times and have made it my camera’s subject over and over. Here’s a 2009 photo I made while the marquee was lit.

State Theater, Logansport

Burkett has since become editor of the Logansport Pharos-Tribune. He since established a nonprofit organization, The State Theater Preservation Society, to own the theater and carry on the restoration work. But he remains heavily involved. Among the first things he did: restore the STATE letters to the marquee. They are reproductions, but he still has the originals.

While much work remains in the restoration, cosmetically the building appears to be in good condition. Here’s the box office.

State Theater, Logansport

Inside, the concession stand features a popcorn popper that dates to about 1948.

State Theater, Logansport

I got a tour thanks to the Historic Michigan Road Association having a board meeting here. Burkett was kind not only to project our logo onto the screen, but to offer free popcorn and soda. I didn’t properly thank him for the Diet Pepsi he gave me.

State Theater, Logansport

The theater’s fixtures really captured my attention. According to Burkett, when the building was made into a theater, craftsmen fabricated all of the lighting on the spot. They are all unique to this theater.

State Theater, Logansport

State Theater, Logansport

State Theater, Logansport

State Theater, Logansport

State Theater, Logansport

The lit wayfinding signs were presumably also fashioned on the premises. They all offer an Art Deco touch, but in some cases the original lettered glass was lost. Some of the replacements are crude. Here’s hoping that during restoration new ones can be made that match the originals.

State Theater, Logansport

State Theater, Logansport

State Theater, Logansport

State Theater, Logansport

State Theater, Logansport

The State’s first-run-film days remain in its past. Today, the venue continues to host concerts, and now also live theater. Local theater groups and other arts-related non-profits are invited to use the theater for free. That’s a mighty good deal for Logansport!

Here’s one last nighttime photo of the marquee, which I made in 2011.

State Theater, Logansport

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Beautiful building on Bloomington's square

Graham Hotel, Bloomington
Pentax K10D, 28-80mm F3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA
2017

While Dawn and I were on our road trip in October, we stopped in Bloomington for lunch. Walking around the square looking for a good restaurant, I photographed this lovely building. This appears to be the common angle at which the building has been photographed since 1929, when it was completed. If you search for it on Google, you’ll find postcards going back decades of the building in just this orientation.

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Photography, Preservation

single frame: Graham Hotel, Bloomington

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Preservation, Road Trips

On the square in Martinsville

On our October road trip I intended to follow the old alignments of State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway from Indianapolis all the way to Bloomington. Modern SR 37, a four-lane expressway, is being upgraded to Interstate standards to be I-69, and that will certainly cut off easy access to many of the old alignments. I underestimated how much progress has been made — shortly south of Martinsville, construction already blocked off all access to the old road.

At least we got to see a little of Martinsville first, specifically its square. The courthouse at its center was completed in 1859, with additions built in 1956 and 1975-1976. It’s unfortunate that trees blocked the view on all sides, as it is a stunning building well preserved.

Martinsville

The rest of Martinsville’s square was a mixed bag of buildings ranging from dilapidated to gorgeous, with several vacancies punctuated by occasional businesses, including this one which had just opened.

Martinsville

This building originally housed the First National Bank of Martinsville. Remember when every town of any size had its own banks? Today, thanks to bank consolidation, few of those remain. I wonder how many mergers happened before this became a BMO Harris Bank branch.

Martinsville

I enjoyed this building’s strong presence. It was built in 1893 for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and looks like it’s either been well maintained over the years or has been recently restored. Its first floor is largely occupied today by a coffee shop that specializes in homemade cheesecake.

Martinsville

This building looks recently restored as well. I appreciate how the facade, especially the store entrances, retain a period-typical look.

Martinsville

I was especially taken with the sign painted on this window. While the metal beams behind that glass mean that this door no longer operates, and that the Martinsville Bowling Center is a thing of Martinsville’s past, it’s great that the sign was retained.

Martinsville

Other buildings on Martinsville’s square are in various stages of restoration. Here’s hoping the next time I come through on a road trip, I get to see a completely revitalized square.

Martinsville

Martinsville was so excited about the Dixie Highway, by the way, that the town immediately paved it in locally made bricks. The Dixie’s route is covered in asphalt today, but another local road remains paved in those bricks. I told the brick Dixie story and showed the remaining brick road here.

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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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