Downtown Fishers

Downtown Fishers
Pentax KM, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax
Ferrania P30 Alpha
2017

Do people actually like apartments like these? I know I’m biased against new construction. I feel like it’s all made with Balsa wood and Elmer’s glue. Give me a sturdy older home any day. Except that within every older home lurks half-assed homeowner repairs and renovations that at some point you’re going to have to tear out and do right.

Photography

single frame: Downtown Fishers

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Life

Goodbye to the last local grocery chain in Indianapolis

Indianapolis is losing its last, and its largest, local grocery-store chain. Marsh Supermarkets declared bankruptcy in May and last week closed deals to sell some of its stores. The rest will close.

Marsh Hometown Market

Agfa Clack, Ilford Pan-F Plus 50, 2015

Although Marsh was founded in 1931 in Muncie, Indiana, its largest market has always been Indianapolis and its surrounding counties. At its height, Marsh operated 86 stores around Indiana and other businesses as diverse as a chain of florists, a popular convenience-store chain, and a catering company. The company was owned by the Marsh family until 2006, when it was sold to a capital investment firm. The Marshes said that the competitive environment was becoming much more challenging, and it seemed like the right time to exit.

In recent years, Kroger, Walmart, and Meijer have all invested in Indianapolis, building new stores and renovating old ones. Meanwhile, Marsh’s new owners largely left their chain to molder. They did rebrand Marsh’s budget LoBill Foods stores as Marsh, a welcome change. But a few years later the company rebranded again, with some stores branded Marsh The Marketplace and others Marsh Hometown Market. It wasn’t clear to shoppers what the names meant. (It turns out that The Marketplace stores were full-line and full-service stores, and Hometown Markets were budget stores.) And then, strangely, all new stores built were branded just Marsh with a new logo. Most existing stores kept the old logo. It was a confusing mishmash.

iPhone 6s, 2017

But the confusion ends soon. A subsidiary of Kroger bought 11 locations, and an Ohio supermarket operator bought 15. That leaves 18 stores behind, which should close for good by the end of the month. All Marsh stores are liquidating, selling goods at up to 30 percent off.

From where I sit, Marsh’s demise has three major reasons.

First, its owner failed to match its competitors’ investments in their chains. Few new stores have been built and old stores hadn’t been refreshed in ages. Most stores retain a distinctly 1990s shopping experience.

Second, its confusing branding may have alienated shoppers. When my nearby Marsh converted to a Hometown Market, I shopped there far less frequently as it stopped carrying many of the nicer grocery items I enjoyed, several of which you could buy locally only at Marsh. (Such as delicious, but expensive, Stewart’s coffee. How I miss it.) Actually, thanks to items it no longer carries I can’t do all of my weekly shopping there anymore.

Finally, Marsh was the most expensive supermarket in town, full stop. I’m no fan of Walmart, but when they opened a Neighborhood Market grocery near my home a few years ago its far lower prices were impossible to ignore. I do my weekly shopping there, or drive past this Marsh to go to Meijer. So, I imagine, do most of my neighbors.

But it’s a shame to lose the last local grocery chain, a name that was so heavily identified with central Indiana. When prominent local businesses close, a piece of local identity dies. Kroger, Walmart, and Meijer are fine stores, but you can find them anywhere. When you shopped at Marsh, you knew you were in Indiana.

I’ll miss Marsh. But my life won’t change much, as I’d already moved on. Clearly, too many others in central Indiana had as well.

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Construction

Under Construction
Pentax KM, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax
Ferrania P30 Alpha
2017

Downtown Fishers, Indiana, is under construction.

This was once a sleepy little downtown of a few older buildings alongside a railroad track. Fishers started out as just a place to stop along the Nickel Plate Railroad. Now its burgeoning downtown is called the Nickel Plate District. It’s modern urban density, except that it’s in one of Indianapolis’s most popular suburbs.

I rather miss the little houses that used to dot Fishers’s narrow streets.

Photography

single frame: Under construction

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Road trips

Changes along the National Road in western Indiana

I’ve made a couple trips along US 40 (the old National Road) between Indianapolis and Terre Haute lately and have taken a few photos along the way. I’ve been driving this road for enough years now that some of the sights have really changed.

First, the Cedar Crest Motel sign is gone. This old motel was in Putnam County about 1.5 miles west of Mt. Meridian. Here’s the sign as I found it in 2011. Longtime readers might recall that this is on the only remaining brick alignment of this road in Indiana.

Cedar Crest Motel sign

Also, out in Terre Haute the great old Woodridge Motel sign is gone, too. The motel still operates, but it has a generic backlit plastic sign now. The new sign is so banal I didn’t even bother getting out to photograph it. Here’s the Woodridge sign in 2009.

Chateau Woodridge

In Seelyville, just east of Terre Haute, the Kleptz Bar neon sign disappeared almost immediately after I photographed it in 2009.

Kleptz Bar

I finally stopped — very quickly — in front of the Putnamville Correctional Facility to properly photograph the original alignment of this road, which is still used as a service road there. It’s blotchy because I shot it at maximum zoom with my iPhone. While most of this road segment is covered in asphalt, its tail is the original 1920s concrete. Those houses, by the way, are associated with the prison. They’re all very attractive, with dark red brick and green-shingled roofs, and I’ve always wished I could tour them.

Old alignment of US 40/National Road near Putnamville, IN

Here’s a through-the-car-window shot I made back in 2009. What’s most interesting to me about these two shots is how they reveal a curvy, undulating road. Putnam County has the most challenging terrain of all the Indiana counties through which this road passes, and when the current four-lane highway was built in the 1930s great care was taken to straighten and smooth the ride.

State prison alignment of National Road

I stopped in Brazil in Clay County. The highway had been rebuilt through town, and I wanted to see it. It wasn’t very exciting; it’s just a modern road. I guess the real excitement was when they tore out the road and found a layer of bricks underneath the asphalt, and the tracks for the interurban that used to pass through town. But I was pleased to see some improvements to the facades of some buildings. Here’s the Times Building in 2009.

Times Building, Brazil, IN

Here it is today, its lower facade refreshed but the upper portion still in poor shape. I Photoshopped this one to correct perspective, which is why it’s so upright when the one above is keystoned. The “today” shots from Brazil, by the way, were shot with my Minolta XG 1 and my 45mm f/2 Rokkor lens on Fujicolor 200.

Times Building, Brazil

And here’s the 1907 Davis Building in 2009, looking pretty rough.

1909 DH Davis building, Brazil, IN

And here it is today, with some improvements made. One of the years between then and now this building made Indiana Landmarks’ 10 Most Endangered list, which got it some attention.

Davis Building, Brazil

But it hasn’t yet gotten all of the attention it still needs, as this peek inside shows.

Davis Building, Brazil

Finally, a couple counties to the east in Hendricks County, just west of Plainfield, this abandoned bridge is still abandoned.

Abandoned US 40 bridge near Plainfield, IN

It doesn’t appear to be deteriorating very fast, which is nice in a way. It was built in the 1920s, probably; it was abandoned in about 1940 when the new four-lane alignment was built next to it.

Abandoned US 40 bridge near Plainfield, IN

Here’s what it looked like on a visit in 2013.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

And here’s what it looked like on my first ever road trip, in the summer of 2006. Finding this bridge on this trip hooked me hard on following the old roads, by the way.

Abandoned National Road/US 40

I suppose that by summer the bridge will look like this again. I’ll be back one day. Because the old roads keep changing.

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One Way Alley

One Way Alley
Apple iPhone 6s
2017

I went to visit Damion at Purdue and found that the campus was socked in because of some sporting event. Neither of us care about sports or like large crowds, so to get some peace we drove across the river into Lafayette and walked Main Street. Before we stopped for dinner, I noticed this old embossed sign in an alley. I processed the photo in Lightroom on my phone.

Photography

Photo: One way alley, Lafayette, IN

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Photography, Road trips

On Shelbyville’s Public Square

It’s the only town square I know of in all of Indiana that doesn’t have a courthouse on it. Rather, the centerpiece of Shelbyville’s Public Square is…a parking lot.

Public Square, Shelbyville

I was in Shelbyville for a board meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association. Turnout was disappointing. Three of our four core officers made it, plus one of our board members from Shelbyville and, at her invitation, one of the Shelby County Commissioners. That was it. Our board numbers about 30.

Several of our founding board members have retired or have experienced career changes that made them step down. And, truth be told, we’re just not moving our heritage-tourism agenda forward very powerfully. We suffer from the common nonprofit board syndrome of a small handful of people doing everything, and there just aren’t enough hands. I think many of our board members are allocating their time to other initiatives.

But also, last year a lot of our limited time and attention was diverted to a matter involving a billboard. United States Code, Title 23, § 131, paragraphs (c) and (s), prohibits new outdoor advertising within 650 feet of any byway. A billboard company and an industrial park spent considerable money on lawyers trying to find a way to get a billboard erected in our corridor. These lawyers want to exploit a possible loophole in the law, and doing so apparently requires approval and action from our board. This is still not resolved, so I’ll say no more beyond that this enormously frustrating matter consumed our limited time and resources last year and is fixing to drain more of the same this year.

Knowing we’d have to discuss this matter again at our board meeting, I wanted to enter in a pleasant mood. So arrived in Shelbyville early with a couple cameras loaded with film and made some photographs. This is the Methodist Building on the west side of the Public Square.

Methodist Building, Shelbyville

Just north of the Methodist Building is my favorite building in the Public Square: the ornate Sheldon Building.

On the Public Square, Shelbyville

I shot the two photos above with my Pentax ME and a 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens on Kentmere 100. I made the rest of the photos in this post with my Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 on Kodak Tri-X 400. The Stylus’s zoom let me move in on the Sheldon Building’s cornice.

Sheldon Building detail, Shelbyville

It also let me move in on the square’s clock. I just noticed as I wrote this that it shows two different times.

Shelbyville clock

When I made my 2008 photographic survey of the Michigan Road, this building on the square’s northeast corner housed a physical therapy business. I didn’t know then that it was once an opera house, but that most Shelbyvillians remember it as an old-fashioned hardware store. Today the first floor is a restaurant, where we held our meeting. But the upper floors remain vacant.

Former opera house, Shelbyville

I walked south along the Michigan Road, which is State Road 9. At the corner where you have to turn east along State Road 44 to stay on the Michigan Road stands this building, which was originally the Alhambra Theater.

Former Alhambra Theater, Shelbyville

On my 2008 visit to Shelbyville I found the downtown to be in sorry condition. But in the nine years since, many facades have been restored. The town is shaping up!

Shelbyville

And then I walked back to the Public Square for my board meeting. The discussion about that infernal billboard wasn’t too painful.

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