Road Trips, Preservation

The beautiful Art Deco church in the small Indiana town

What was I thinking, photographing this Art Deco church building on expired slide film? I wanted beautiful photographs of my visit.

Tyson United Methodist Church, Versailles, IN

Beauty is, of course, subjective. If you enjoy the color shifts of expired film, you probably find these photographs to be lovely. I guess they are, in their own way. I just hoped for realistic color and clarity, as I wanted to share this church as you’d see it if you walked up to it.

Tyson United Methodist Church, Versailles, IN

It’s not that I couldn’t go back and photograph it again; Versailles (pronounced ver-SALES) is only about 80 miles southeast of Indianapolis. I’m sure I’ll do just that one day and get exactly the photographs I want.

Tyson United Methodist Church, Versailles, IN

This church is named for its builder, James Tyson, who made his fortune as the first investor in Walgreen’s drug stores. Completed in 1937, Tyson built the church as a tribute to his deceased mother, a charter member of this congregation upon its 1834 founding.

Tyson United Methodist Church, Versailles, IN

This carefully maintained building of brick, terra cotta, copper, aluminum, and glass famously contains not a single nail in its construction. Many of its materials were imported from around Europe, but the oak pews are of local timber.

Tyson United Methodist Church, Versailles, IN

I was inside for a meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association; Versailles is a Michigan Road town. Two alignments of the Michigan Road pass through Ripley County, of which Versailles is the seat. The original 1830s alignment lies a few miles to the west, but the road was rerouted through Versailles at the dawn of the automobile era.

Tyson United Methodist Church, Versailles, IN

Such an architectural gem is unusual for a small Indiana town like Versailles. Tyson built two other Art Deco buildings here: a library and a school. The church is arguably the loveliest of the three.

Tyson United Methodist Church, Versailles, IN

Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Konica Chrome Centuria 200 (exp. 12/2003)

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Preservation, Road Trips

Burned Elks Lodge in Madison, Indiana, sees first hope for restoration in 11 years

Eleven years is a mighty long time for a burned-out building to stand — especially in Madison, Indiana, which is well known for preserving its historic architecture. Yet the 1904 Elks lodge has stood virtually untouched for years after a 2006 arson gutted it. Here’s what it looked like when I first saw it in 2008:

Burned BPOE

It stands on West Street, just three blocks north of where the historic Michigan Road begins and a block north of Madison’s beautiful and historic main street. Things were little changed when I visited again a year later:

BPOE

I haven’t been to Madison in a few years, but a check of Google Street View (here) reveals that a little work has been done on the building, including putting on a roof. And now Indiana Landmarks reports (here) that a Madison couple is interested in rebuilding the lodge to be luxury apartments. Here’s hoping they see their project through. Maybe next time I visit, I’ll come back with cheerier photos to share of this great old building!

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Tyson United Methodist Church, Versailles, IN

Inside Tyson United Methodist Church
Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar
Konica Chrome Centuria 200 (x 12-2003)
2017

This is probably my favorite photo from inside the Art Deco church in little Versailles, Indiana. More photos to come.

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Film Photography, Preservation

single frame: Inside Tyson United Methodist Church

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Preservation, Road Trips

The bridge on Holliday Road

At the bridge on Holliday RoadI pass Holliday Road every time I follow the Michigan Road north out of Indianapolis. For a long time a giant Bridge Out sign blocked the road. When the sign disappeared in 2009, I figured that an old bridge back there had been replaced. So I visited bridgehunter.com, certainly the finest site about US historic bridges, to see what had once stood there. I was delighted to learn that the bridge, a Pratt through truss bridge built in the 1890s and known as the O’Neal Bridge, had been carefully restored.

Even though the bridge was just 20 minutes from my home, I kept not driving up for a visit. But then the Boone County Historical Society invited me to speak about the Michigan Road in the spring of 2011. When I saw that the meeting location was about a mile from the bridge, I knew my time had come. After the meeting I made my way around to Holliday Road, which was of surprisingly rough gravel, and went to see the old girl.

The bridge on Holliday Road

I don’t know the details of the restoration other than what I could observe, which was two new concrete abutments, a fresh wooden deck, and a coat of red-orange paint. I’m sure much more went into bringing this bridge back to life.

The bridge on Holliday Road

The original latticed railing, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, was even restored.

The bridge on Holliday Road

I wanted to show my sons this great old bridge, and on a lazy early-August Saturday we drove up to see it.

At the bridge on Holliday Road

We climbed down the bank to see under the bridge.

At the bridge on Holliday Road

It seems like governments in most Indiana communities want to replace old bridges, believing it’s less expensive than restoring them. The guys over at bridgehunter.com say that’s often not the case, but I’m no civil engineer and can’t say for sure. I do know that a truss bridge adds beauty to the view and can be a local landmark and a point of pride. Yet so many have disappeared in my lifetime. I’m just glad folks in Boone County saw fit to restore this one.

I wrote this article in 2011. Now I live in Boone County, but somehow still 20 minutes away! But now, at least, whenever I’m on the Michigan Road I can cut down Holliday Road on my way home.

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Photography

Favorite subjects: Crown Hill Cemetery

Is it weird to like photographing cemeteries? I’m drawn to them. When I’m on a road trip I stop to tour even the most ragtag patch of graves. But I prefer beautiful cemeteries, and Crown Hill is easily the most beautiful of any of the cemeteries I’ve photographed. It could be my favorite favorite subject of all.

A cemetery could be the best place for an introverted photographer to go when he needs some alone time. I seldom encounter other people in cemeteries, and when I do, they leave me alone. But my wife sometimes comes along. I know it’s love because being with her is nearly as good as pure alone time. We love to take photo walks together. She took this photo of me at Crown Hill on one of our walks.

A portrait of the photographer

Nikon N60, 28-80 mm f/3.3-5.6 AF Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2015. Margaret Grey photo.

The Civil War still raged when Crown Hill was founded in 1863. It was the city’s second major cemetery even though it was located, at the time, outside the city limits.

CrownHillMap.PNG

Imagery and map data © 2017 Google

Spanning 38th Street along the Michigan Road, Crown Hill started at 236 acres and expanded over the years to its current 555 acres. More than 200,000 people are interred here, from everyday citizens to titans of industry, celebrities of their time, one President, and three Vice Presidents.

The cemetery got its name from a notable hill on the property that came to be called the “crown” of Indianapolis. It’s the highest elevation in a notably flat city. Standing on the crown, you can see for miles.

Let’s start our photo tour at the crown and take in the view. I’ve shot it over and over. I love it.

Indianapolis from the heights

Olympus OM-1, 50mm f/1.8 F. Zuiko Auto-S, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2015

Long view

Nikon N2000, 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E, Kodak Ektar 100, 2014

Many of the most prominent names in Indianapolis have tombs on this hill. But at the very top lies a poet who, in his day, had rock-star celebrity status.

Looking uphill at Riley's rest

Pentax ME, Fujicolor 200, Sears f/4 80-200mm zoom, 2013

It’s hard to imagine now how any poet could be so adored as Riley was. At around the turn of the 20th century he was the nation’s most-read poet. His public appearances could bring out thousands of people. Indiana schools were required to teach his poems in the 1910s! His 1916 death was front-page news across the country. His body was allowed to lie in state in the Indiana Statehouse, an honor previously bestowed only on Abraham Lincoln. So it was small wonder that he was buried at such a prominent and visible place.

Riley's rest

Kodak Pony 135 Model C, Fujicolor 200, 2013

Schoolchildren traditionally leave coins on his tomb. It is all donated to the Riley Hospital for Children.

James Whitcomb Riley

Olympus Stylus, Kodak Gold 200 (expired), 2013

This little child, sitting next to Riley’s tomb, will forever read Riley’s rhymes.

Riley reader

Canon PowerShot S95, 2011

Many of Crown Hill’s most interesting grave markers are on the hill.

Home Sweet Home

Pentax ME, 80-200 mm f/4 Sears Zoom, Fujicolor 200, 2013

Head

Pentax ME, 80-200 mm f/4 Sears Zoom, Fujicolor 200, 2013

Short steps

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E, Kodak Portra 160, 2015

Crown Hill is also a showplace of cemetery architecture. As a bridgefan, I love the bridge that carries 38th Street over a road that connects the north and south portions of the cemetery. When you drive along 38th Street you might never know the bridge is here. It was built in 1925.

Crown Hill bridge

Canon PowerShot S95, 2011

On one visit, we met mama deer and her fawns at the bridge.

Under the bridge at Crown Hill

Canon PowerShot S95, 2011

One of my favorite photos from Crown Hill is this one from under the bridge.

Tunnel *EXPLORED*

Nikon F3HP, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Plus-X, 2015

Crown Hill has two entrances. This gate, built 1885, awaits at the south entrance.

Gates

Olympus Stylus, Kodak Gold 200 (expired), 2013

The actual gates are ornate iron affairs.

Cemetery gate

Yashica-D, Kodak E100G, 2014

Just beyond the gate stands the Waiting Station, built the same year.

Crown Hill gate

Kodak Pony 135 Model C, Fujicolor 200, 2013

The 1875 Gothic Chapel is just down the road from the Gate and the Waiting Station. It held James Whitcomb Riley’s body for a year while his burial site was prepared.

Chapel

Kodak Pony 135 Model C, Fujicolor 200, 2013

57 private mausoleums dot the grounds, and they can be stunning.

Columns

Voigtländer Vito II, Kodak Plus-X (expired, cold stored), 2015

This mausoleum holds the body of Carl Fisher, who founded the Indianapolis 500 and the Lincoln and Dixie Highways.

Fisher

Sears KS-2, 135mm f/2.8 Auto Sears MC, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2015

Many of the less prominent gravesites have interesting markers, too.

Grave marker

Canon PowerShot S95, 2011

Test

Certo Super Sport Dolly, Model A, Kodak Ektar 100, 2017

Even graves that have plainer markers seem more interesting because of the lovely setting.

Barney

Nikon N2000, 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E, Kodak Ektar 100, 2014

Autumn is stunning at Crown Hill. It’s my favorite time to go.

Autumn at Crown Hill

Nikon F2AS, 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, Kodak Ektar 100, 2015

Autumn at Crown Hill

Nikon F2AS, 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, Kodak Ektar 100, 2015

Autumn at Crown Hill

Nikon F2AS, 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, Kodak Ektar 100, 2015

My favorite subject within this favorite subject is the National Cemetery. Established in 1866 and administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, this 1.4-acre site inters primarily Union Army soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

Crown Hill National Cemetery

Yashica-D, Kodak E100G, 2014

795 soldiers are buried here.

At Crown Hill

Nikon F2, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2016

The plain markers’ sober, dignified typography makes them compelling.

James Richard Bradford

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2016

Charles H. Ackerman

Yashica-D, Kodak Ektar 100, 2017

I have regularly taken my sons to Crown Hill for the portraits I make of them. There are plenty of places to make portraits that are not obviously in a cemetery. But this spot before military graves was interesting enough to me that I photographed it anyway.

Damion

Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2016

Let’s take one last trip up the big hill for a parting view of the city.

Overlooking the city

Voigtländer Vito II, Kodak Plus-X (expired, cold stored), 2015

I believe I will miss Crown Hill the most of my favorite photographic subjects. Maybe I can get Margaret to drive down with me sometimes. This is one worth hanging onto even if it does take me a lot longer to drive to it now.

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Road Trips

I love the Michigan Road, but I don’t always like living near it

The Michigan Road sucks. At least it does where it passes near my northwest Indianapolis home.

It’s still the Michigan Road, built in the 1830s to connect the Ohio River to Indianapolis to Lake Michigan, opening the entire northern part of Indiana to settlement. I will always love it.

But a long section of the road has been a part of my daily life for more than 20 years, and frankly, I try to avoid driving on it.

As a major artery, Michigan Road’s speed limit is 45 MPH. Especially since the late 1990s when the last portion of the road was widened to four lanes, traffic really flows fast. The road is designed to swiftly move lots of cars. Yet lots of businesses and even entrances to residential neighborhoods line the road. People turn left all the time, and there is no central left-turn lane. Rear-end accidents are common. It has happened to me twice.

MRBumperBash1

These photos are from the first accident, which happened a half block south of the 1852 Aston Inn house. Can I admit to still feeling satisfied, even five years later, that the other guy’s car sustained so much more damage than mine and was probably totaled? I was stopped behind a car turning left when I noticed this guy coming up fast. The crash was unavoidable, so I pressed hard on my brake to avoid hitting the waiting car before me. It’s amazing the crash didn’t do more damage to my car. And yes, someone’s head smacked the other car’s windshield in the accident. That fellow disappeared the minute I called the cops. Arrest warrant? Here illegally? Hope the concussion was worth it.

MRBumperBash2

Lesson learned: drive in the right lane, even if left-lane traffic is moving faster. The frequent left turns just create too much risk.

MR_NW_Ind

Imagery and map data © 2017 Google.

Meanwhile, this 2½-mile section of Michigan Road, from Kessler Boulevard north just beyond 71st Street to the former town of Augusta, has seen happier days. It’s a sad sight to drive through.

This strip’s heyday was probably the 1960s and 1970s when this road was still US 421. A building boom brought strip malls, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and motels.

Today, those strip malls are aging. You won’t find a Kroger or a Target here — it’s all second- and third-tier retailers and service providers. The motels, gas stations, and restaurants that remain have been repurposed for other uses. Many of these buildings have received minimal maintenance and show their age.

This mishmash of shabby businesses provides a poor introduction to the area, which is filled with middle-class neighborhoods.

This used to be a shoe-repair shop, but has been vacant for a while.

Pink building

I applaud the creative reuse of this former motel as a day care, but I wish it could be made more attractive.

Kiddie Factory

This aging strip of shops is at least kept tidy. The barber shop owner gave his overhead sign a fresh coat of paint in the last couple years; it had faded to near illegibility.

Barber

The pedestrian trail built a few years ago robbed this little strip of some of its parking. I can’t imagine that these tenants were happy about it. Here’s a 2008 photo that shows cars parked at these doors.

Getting your hair done on the Michigan Road

Mr. Dan’s is a small local burger chain. I photographed it in 2015:

Mr. Dan's

I don’t know what happened that the joint is called Mr. Dee’s now, but their reuse of the existing signs has all the grace and style of a knuckle sandwich.

Mr. Dee's

Ace Lock and Key has been on this corner for longer than I’ve lived in Indianapolis. This building looks like its first use was as a gas station. It’s an attractive little building.

Ace Lock and Key

When I mentioned the kinds of retailers you won’t find along this stretch of Michigan Road, I mentioned Kroger and Target specifically because this strip once contained both. Kroger was on the left, and Target was on the right. They moved out just before I moved to the area, and the buildings were vacant for years. Now it’s a grading facility for school standardized tests.

Fomer Target/Kroger strip

The strip mall on the southwest corner with 71st Street/Westlane Road has changed a lot since I moved here. This was once a full-line Marsh grocery store, but for most of the time I lived here it was a dim, dirty store with only basic grocery items. They chained up the carts. Someone at the service desk had to come unlock one so you could use it. Such class. Then Marsh closed it and discount chain Save-A-Lot moved in. Unfortunately, they also tore out Marsh’s attractive facade and rebuilt it with this windowless wonder. At least it didn’t go vacant.

Save-a-Lot

Across the street is the dry cleaner I’ve used all the years I’ve lived here. It was once a drive-in restaurant.

Griffith Cleaners

By all accounts, the food at this Vietnamese restaurant is delicious. The former fast-food building could use some love, however.

Pho 54

Here’s another tidy, aging strip. The clock-repair shop has been there longer than I’ve lived here. I had them repair a watch once, and they did a nice job.

Strip mall

It sure seems to me that this solidly middle class part of town would be able to attract higher-line businesses and improved facades.

Houses are sometimes sandwiched between the various commercial buildings along this section of Michigan Road. Many of them have seen happier days.

House on Michigan Road

A few houses have been well cared for, but it’s far easier to find ones that could use some TLC.

MCM

Over the years some buildings have seen great improvement. This building was vacant for years, and was clearly in sorry condition a couple years ago when this funeral center bought it and renovated it.

Serenity Funeral Services

St. Monica’s Catholic church and school has always been well cared for. A couple years ago, fire destroyed the section of the building at about the center of the photo. The church immediately rebuilt it.

St. Monica's

When I moved here, this U-Haul location was dingy and depressing. Some years ago it was renovated inside and out, and looks great.

U-Haul

This lot was vacant for a long time until this church was built.

Praise Fellowship Family Center

A bowling alley once stood on this lot, but it went out of business five years ago or so. This storage place opened only in the last year or so, and its graceless design says “industrial park” more than “shopping district.” Its setback from the road is also considerably shallower than anything else nearby, which makes it an imposing presence. It’s wrong for this section of the road.

Storage

A few auto-parts places were built along this corridor in the last 10 years or so, and they’re well kept. This is the one I visit most often.

Advance Auto Parts

I do understand this much about retail: the shiny, new shops always go where the money has moved to. If you drive just four miles north of here on Michigan Road, into Carmel, you’ll find solid retailers like Target, Best Buy, Kohl’s, and The Home Depot, plus shiny chain restaurants and coffee shops. Perhaps that’s why this section of Michigan Road is left to molder. It only takes ten extra minutes to get to the nice shops from here.

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