On our recent Michigan Road trip, we whizzed right by the South Bend Motel. It was cold, we were tired, and some of the neon was out on this great old sign anyway. Not much new to photograph. So these photos are from earlier road trips. Above, 2009; below, 2007.
Fortunately, little has changed (except the non-functioning neon). This little motel has been plugging away here for as long as I can remember. I grew up less than a mile away.
This motel is on the Michigan Road (and Dixie Highway and Old US 31) on South Bend’s south side. It’s always stood alone in this heavily residential neighborhood. Here’s a daylight shot of its sign.
Online reviews of this place range from “cheap but decent” to “dirty rooms and rude staff.” So if you ever decide to stay, set your expectations accordingly.
If you like old houses, you’ll love driving the Michigan Road through Fulton and Marshall Counties. The road is lined with lovely old houses in Rochester, Argos, and Plymouth. We stopped in Rochester and Plymouth on our recent trip. Here are some of the houses in Rochester. Click any of the photos to see them larger. (The flag was at half mast because of the death of President George H. W. Bush.)
Here are some of the lovely older homes in Plymouth.
That first photograph is of an especially notable house: that of Plymouth’s first mayor, Horace Corbin. Here’s an engraving of his house as it stood shortly after it was built.
It was exciting to come upon this abandoned bridge abutment when my old friend Brian and I explored old US 31 in northern Indiana in 2007. (That whole trip is documented here.)
Standing on the old abutment it’s easy to see where the old bridge used to meet the Tippecanoe River’s north bank. It’s just right of where the current bridge, built in 1982, meets it.
My dad remembers driving the old bridge. He said it was just one lane wide, and there was a stoplight at either end. Traffic on US 31 would often back up at either end waiting to cross here. The mother of an old friend, who grew up in Fulton County, remembers a time before they installed the stoplight — and the games of chicken oncoming drivers played with each other.
My research turns up only the photo above, circa 1910, as possibly a bridge at this location. Those stone abutments look right, and the rise of the left approach looks to me to match the abandoned approach and abutment. The river is awfully full, though, fuller than I’ve ever seen it. This photo could have been made during a flood.
But this two-span bowstring through truss bridge is not the bridge my friend’s mother remembers. She specifically remembers a single-span bridge with a square truss design.
If that bowstring truss was ever at this location, it had to have been replaced with the one everybody remembers, sometime after the 1910 photograph was made. The Great Flood of 1913 destroyed a lot of bridges; perhaps it did this one in.
By the early 1970s, US 31 was rebuilt as a four-lane expressway about a mile to the west, relieving the traffic burden on the old bridge here.
By the way, this bridge is on the Michigan Road. When US 31 was commissioned in Indiana, it used the Michigan Road from about 3½ miles south of here in Rochester, to about 42 miles north of here in downtown South Bend.
In 2010, an aspiring Eagle Scout stabilized this abutment, mortaring in the stones and laying in concrete pavers where the old road bed had gone missing. I made this photograph of it in late 2011 and wrote about it here.
Here’s the same scene the day after Christmas in 2018. The mortar’s color has neutralized with age, making the abutment look more natural.
Three historic markers stand on the old abutment. The third, which is the shorter stone, was placed sometime since 2011. I never think to photograph it because I forget it’s newer and that I’ve not already photographed it. I can’t remember what it commemorates. The larger stone commemorates a village of Potawatomi Indians that was once here, and how those Indians were removed to lands out west in a forced migration now known as the Trail of Death. You’ll find a wealth of information about the Trail of Death here. I have a Potawatomi ancestor, I am told, though I can’t confirm it.
This is the Times Theater, on the Michigan Road in Rochester, Indiana. At least, this was it in 2008, while it was still operating.
The Times showed movies for 90 years, but owners couldn’t afford a digital projector and had to close it in 2014. This marquee was already showing strong signs of rot in 2008…but look at it now.
This poor old sign. Here’s a closer look, first 2008 and then 2018.
Fortunately, a non-profit group has organized with a goal to restore and reopen the Times as an art and entertainment center for the community. Their Facebook page is here. Here’s hoping they can achieve their goals — and see this sign restored, if it’s not too late.
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Logansport’s City Building doesn’t look like much from the outside. I drove by it many times while exploring the Michigan Road without stopping for a photograph. You only get a clue that something interesting may lurk inside when you see the City Building letterforms over the doors.
I made these exterior shots on a Michigan Road day trip my wife and I made recently.
But in 2013 I got to go inside, for a meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association, and I made a few photographs with my phone. I haven’t shared them before because my phone struggled with the low interior light and I wasn’t terribly happy with how they turned out.
But I’m unlikely to get inside again any time soon, and imperfect photographs are better than no photographs!
Logansport built its City Building in 1925, at a time when the city was flush with cash thanks to the railroads that ran through town.
My research revealed nothing more about the City Building. It’s too bad. It’s a lovely building, lovelier than you’d expect in a city the size of Logansport.
What I like best about the building is the stained-glass skylights on the top floor. You can see one through these doors.
There is more than one skylight, but this is the most prominent of them as it is in the center of the roof, visible as you enter the building and ascend the stairs.
I did my best to hold my phone level while standing directly below this skylight.
Returning now to the present day, my wife and I stayed in Logansport long enough for darkness to fall and the decorations to light up.
Canon PowerShot S95, iPhone 5
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When I surveyed the Michigan Road in 2008, I felt bad for little Kirklin, a town about 45 minutes north of Indianapolis. Except for its lovely Carnegie library, it was all but dead. Its run-down buildings, mostly vacant, said that Kirklin’s best days were long past.
A page on my old site shows Kirklin as it was in 2008, plus some postcard images of it during its early-20th-century heyday. Click here to see.
A couple antiques dealers operated out of dilapidated storefronts. As I walked up and down Kirklin’s portion of the Michigan Road, my camera in one hand and my two dogs attached via leash to the other, they came out and accosted me. “Why are you photographing our town?”
When I explained about the Michigan Road and my quest to photograph it end to end, their tones softened. “We sure wish we could get more people to make the short drive up here from Indy to visit our shops,” they lamented. “It would make all the difference to our little town.”
Kirklin was in a catch-22: there wasn’t enough to do there to make the drive worth it, but without people willing to make the drive it wasn’t worth adding anything more to do.
And so I’m puzzled, as Kirklin has renovated most of its buildings and added a number of shops. Most of those shops deal in antiques and knick-knacks, but it’s absolutely enough to make it worth the drive from Indy. My wife and I spent a couple pleasant hours browsing here. We met several of the shop owners, who engaged us in very pleasant conversation. We even bought a few things.
Here, have a look at Kirklin today.
It would be lovely if Michigantown and Burlington, two neighboring Michigan Road towns directly north, could find this same level of revitalization. It would make a lovely “antique alley,” a one-tank trip and a very pleasant day. Travelers could start in Logansport and end for dinner in northwest Indianapolis, or start in Indianapolis and take their meal in Logansport.