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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Preservation, Road Trips

Endangered: 1925 pony truss bridge on southern Indiana’s Dixie Highway

This is one of my favorite old highway bridges. It’s tucked quietly away on a short old alignment of Indiana State Road 37, the old Dixie Highway, just south of Martinsville. Here’s a photo from my first encounter with it, in 2007.

Pony truss bridge

My friend Dawn (standing on the bridge below) and I visited it together one autumn morning in 2012. We saw few cars here, as modern SR 37 bears the traffic burden just 500 feet to the west.

Pony trusses

But on our return visit a few weeks ago, we found that this bridge no longer carried cars at all. I’ve known for a couple years that the bridge had been closed, but nevertheless it saddened me greatly to see it.

Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

It’s remarkable, isn’t it, how quickly nature begins to reclaim our built environment when it is no longer used and maintained?

Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

Not that this bridge had received very much maintenance in its later years. At its last inspection, its superstructure was rated in Serious condition and its substructure in Poor condition. That was enough to see it immediately closed to traffic.

Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

She does look a little battered. But I’ve seen bridges in worse apparent condition still carrying traffic. What do I know? I’m no civil engineer.

Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

I’ve read that this bridge is slated for replacement, but I’m not sure I believe it. The only properties on this mile-long old alignment are south of the bridge, and all anyone has to do to reach them is enter the alignment at its south end.

Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

The north end of this old alignment is likely to be dead ended when the current project converting SR 37 into I-69 is complete. At least, that’s how I read the plan maps.

Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

If so, here’s hoping this old bridge can simply be left in place as a reminder of a highway era long since gone by.

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Abandoned SR 37

Abandoned Dixie Highway
Pentax K10D, 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA
2017

I used to write up every road trip I took in meticulous detail. I thought these old highways were interesting, and I figured others might think so too. I even thought that perhaps my documentary work might prove important one day.

At first I shared my trip reports on my old HTML site, which is still available here. I gave that up in 2012 to focus entirely on this blog.

I still love the old roads. I just don’t feel compelled to document them anymore. You can see it in how I approach my road trips on this blog. No longer do I comprehensively document each trip from end to end. Instead, I share the interesting sights I see in my travels, especially when I get good photographs of them.

But when I’m on the old road I still look for the abandoned segments, even if I don’t always share them with you. This one is just north of Martinsville, Indiana, on the old Dixie Highway and State Road 37. A road signed “Old State Road 37” is just ahead; it goes directly to downtown Martinsville. The modern SR 37 expressway is 500 feet to the left; typical of such roads, it bypasses the town.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Abandoned Dixie Highway

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Road Trips

Their own private highway bridge

37BluffIndy

Imagery and map data © 2017 Google

Once upon a time, State Road 37 (also the Dixie Highway) passed through Indianapolis on a two-lane alignment. But as the main artery to Bloomington, I’m sure that traffic could overwhelm such a narrow highway. Over the years, this road, like so many others, was improved.

One improvement was to build a new four-lane expressway between the two cities. The big new road began about a mile west of Bluff Road at the I-465 highway, which looped the city.

But after about four and a half miles the new road merged into the path of the old. The old road was dead-ended.

But there was a house right there at old-road’s end. And the old road crossed Pleasant Run just before reaching it, on a bridge built in 1954. That bridge remains, as does the original concrete pavement which probably dates to the 1920s or 1930s.

Bluff Road

The railing is of a style I’ve not seen elsewhere on Indiana highways.

Bluff Road

This is a reinforced concrete slab bridge; those arches are decorative, not load-bearing.

Bluff Road

At its last inspection it was rated as Structurally Deficient for poor substructure and eroding banks. But given that it serves just one house, I’m sure the city isn’t giving this bridge a second thought.

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