If you ever drive through Lafayette, Indiana on Main Street, you’ll be surprised by the stunning older homes you pass. I sure was the first time I drove through Lafayette on my way to Purdue to visit my son. I’ve long wanted to stop and explore. My son and I finally made time for it not long ago.
It turns out many of these homes are part of the Perrin Historic District, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979. The 173 homes in it were built between about 1869 and 1923 in many common styles of the era, from Italianate and Queen Anne through American Craftsman.
One of the area’s distinctive features is its hilliness. Put on good walking shoes when you visit the Perrin Historic District.
But as you walk, be sure to keep your mouth tightly closed so you don’t drool. Pretty much every home will stop you dead in your tracks. Many of the homes are lovingly cared for or even restored, while some are in original but rough condition.
Remarkably, you can live in the Perrin Historic District for not a whole lot of money. As I check Zillow.com today, I see estimated values of as little as $90,000 and no higher than $250,000.
If you ever visit, the district is bordered on the south by Main Street (the old Lafayette Road, built in the 1830s to connect Lafayette to Indianapolis), on the north by Union Street, on the west by Erie Street, and on the east by 18th Street.
The central Indiana town of Whitestown calls itself the fastest-growing town in the state. As it continues to expand, it wants to build a sprawling community campus on an unused 170-acre plot that was once the Wrecks, Inc., automobile junkyard. That wrecking yard’s unusual and humorous neon sign remains.
The Wrecks, Inc., property is in Boone County, on Indianapolis Road west and then south of the I-65 Whitestown/Zionsville exit. This road is the historic Lafayette Road, which was built in the 1830s to connect Indianapolis to Lafayette. It carried US 52 for much of the 20th century.
Plans for the community campus show grass and shrubbery where this sign currently stands, making it appear that the sign will not survive the construction.
Plans are preliminary. It’s not clear whether contaminated ground water found on this site has been cleaned up sufficiently to allow construction. That contamination scuttled plans for a housing subdivision to be built here in 2007.
This sign is visible from nearby I-65, and was quite a sight when the junkyard was still in operation and the sign lit up at night. Today, many surely consider the sign to be an eyesore and will not be sorry to see it go. Here’s hoping that if it is not retained, a collector or sign museum will be allowed to dismantle and preserve it.
I photograph this sign a lot. I love it! And I drive by it frequently as it’s on the way to Margaret’s.
This time I photographed it from the driver’s seat of my car. The 35mm lens I used let me do that easily from the side of the road, where I had pulled over. Whenever I photograph this sign with a 50mm lens, I have to back way up from it to fit it in the frame.
The more I shoot 35mm lenses, the more I like them. It’s such a useful focal length for road-trip photography. I don’t have to back up nearly as much to get things into the frame, yet when I want to move in close I can still do so credibly.
Old US 52 Pentax Spotmatic F, 35mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar Kodak Ektar 100 2017
I spend a lot of time on the Lafayette Road, aka Old US 52, as it is my favorite way to get to Margaret’s. It’s been a four-lane road since about the mid 1930s, but hasn’t been a U.S. highway since the 1960s when I-65 opened nearby and US 52 was routed onto it.
And so this old road, which dates to the 1830s, is empty most of the time.
Our trip along the Lafayette Road was spontaneous and brief. We started at about 3 in the afternoon and raced against the setting January sun. Normally, I would have started no later than 10 AM to give myself time to stop anywhere I wanted along the way. But I did manage to squeeze in some photographs of interesting vintage roadside attractions.
The first was this great sign. I drive by it all the time, actually. It’s on the road in southern Boone County, just south of the giant Traders Point Christian Church.
This junkyard has been closed for years. Which is a shame, really, because this sign was just wonderful when it used to light up at night.
Wrecked cars always used to be perched beneath this sign. While the junkyard was in operation, those cars changed from time to time. Afterward, the two cars pictured below lingered for years until finally being removed in 2015. I took this shot years ago with my old Palm Pre.
After the Lafayette Road leaves Indianapolis, Lebanon is the only town it goes through before it reaches Lafayette. (Though its original alignment probably went through Thorntown, as I explained in this post.) Lebanon is the seat of justice in Boone County; here’s the courthouse on the obligatory town square.
The Lebanon square is typical, with plenty of older buildings and a few new ones. Lebanon’s done a reasonable job of keeping its facades up.
Just after we entered Tippecanoe County, we came upon this beauty standing there doing nothing. The stainless steel front portion was manufactured by the Mountain View Diners Co. of Singac, NJ, in about 1952. I’m pretty sure these were shipped whole from the factory.
This one appears to have been closed for some time, which is a shame. But this location isn’t near enough to any town to get local business, and few travelers would stop in as the vast majority of traffic is over on nearby I-65. The Lafayette Road is US 52 here, a four-lane divided highway — and it’s almost always empty of cars. Apparently, the motel behind this diner still operates. I managed not to notice the motel while I was here, or I would have photographed it, too! I saw it on Google Maps while researching this post.
The Lafayette Road becomes Main Street when it enters Lafayette. Shortly we came upon this great frozen custard stand, which was closed for the season.
This is a fairly elaborate little building for a fairly elaborate frozen dairy product. Frozen custard must be at least 10 percent butterfat and contain egg yolk.
Some sources call this the oldest continuously operating frozen custard stand in the nation, having opened in 1932. Others say that this stand opened in 1949, but this company had operated at a different location from 1932-49. Whatever; this is a stunning little building. I would have loved to see the neon lit!
Remember when signs of this type were common as pennies?
Finally, we followed Main Street all the way into downtown Lafayette, which is where we presume the old Lafayette Road ends. This building with its great sign aren’t right on Main Street, but you can see it from there, as it’s just two blocks north on Ninth Street.
By this time, we were starting to run out of light. Perhaps we’ll make this trip again another day and photograph more things: the very old homes we saw along the rural portions of the route, more of Lebanon, and shots of Lafayette’s charming Main Street.