I’ve photographed this abandoned school many times, the first being in 2008 when I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end. It appeared to be in reasonable condition then. I hoped that it would be restored and put to good purpose.
It was not to be. Over the years I watched as the windows were removed, and then the doors. In time siding started to disappear. I’m sure that in this exposed condition, rainwater began to damage the structure. A few years ago it began to collapse. I last photographed it in May, 2021, when it looked like this.
In this condition, the building was a goner. It was razed recently. What a waste.
Click here to see on Google Maps where this building once stood. It actually faced State Road 26, which crosses the Michigan Road here.
In my new book, Square Photographs, I shared an image of Sycamore Row. That image shows the historic marker that was there at the time I made the image in 2019. (That marker was damaged in an accident and a new marker with a different message was put in its place; see it here.)
I was on the fence about whether to include that image in the book, or this one. That image showed the historic marker, but this one did a much better job of showing the road itself, and how narrow it was. This was a state highway until 1987! Imagine encountering an oncoming semi in here.
I landed on the other image, but I’m still not sure I was right.
My new book, Square Photographs, is available now!
In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is the final installment of that trip report.
The original portion of La Porte County was founded in 1832, was expanded tin 1842, and grew to its current boundaries in 1850 when some of St. Joseph County was annexed.
2.5 miles inside La Porte County, the Michigan Road leaves US 20. In the map below, the Michigan Road follows Bootjack Road. At one time, a small town called Boot Jack stood at this fork.
US 20 followed Bootjack Road until just after World War II, when US 20 was rerouted to bypass Rolling Prairie, a town just west of here. We’ll meet up with US 20 again on the other side of Rolling Prairie.
The road in the upper-right corner of the map, Chicago Rd., is also a historic road. A contemporary of the Michigan Road, it was completed in 1835 to link Chicago and Detroit and roughly follows the old Sauk Trail, an Indian trail that is at least 400 years old. The Chicago Road follows US 20’s modern path. It sure looks like a section of the road was removed between Emery Rd. and Bootjack Rd., doesn’t it?
Here’s that fork in the road from ground level. We say goodbye to the Lincoln Highway here; it follows US 20 on the left and then State Road 2 to La Porte.
Quite a bit of road work has happened along the Michigan Road and Lincoln Highway around Rolling Prairie. In this map, the blue line is the Michigan Road’s original route. The road crossed the railroad tracks at an awkward, and thus dangerous, angle. One source says that in 1940 the crossing was deleted, the road rerouted, and a bridge built to carry the railroad over the road The red line shows how the road was rerouted, down Bootjack Rd. and then right onto Wiley Rd. and under the bridge.
This video shows the Bootjack Road route, including where it curves to avoid the railroad tracks and later turns onto Wiley Rd. and goes under the viaduct.
The video pointed out an old Texaco station. Courtesy Rob Heinek, here’s a photo of Elkins Texaco Garage, which was built in about 1929 on the corner of Bootjack Rd. and Wiley Rd.
This eastbound photo shows the Michigan Road’s original path on the west side of the railroad tracks. It’s somebody’s driveway today.
Westbound from the same spot. Wiley Rd. is just ahead, where the pavement is temporarily darker.
The first cabin in what is now Rolling Prairie was built in 1831, and as more settlers arrived the place was named Nauvoo. In 1853, the village was platted and named Portland. In 1857, when it was discovered that another Portland existed in Indiana, a postal employee changed the town’s name to Rolling Prairie.
Inside Rolling Prairie, this former church is now a branch of the La Porte County Public Library. Kind of a shame how its original windows were reduced to those tiny little things.
Rolling Prairie’s is the only Michigan Road town whose downtown is not on the Michigan Road. Downtown is actually along Depot St., which intersects the Michigan Road.
I walked along Depot St. for its few blocks. This restaurant is a block south of the Michigan Road.
On the opposite corner is Rolling Prairie’s Odd Fellows building.
This westbound shot from Depot St. shows the Michigan Road westbound as it heads out of town.
The First Christian Church.
The Rolling Prairie Cemetery stands on the edge of town, just before the Michigan Road meets US 20 again.
Just past the cemetery, US 20 rejoins the route. Notice how the row of trees ahead is in line with what used to be the road’s pre-bypass north edge. And there’s my little red car, making one of its cameo appearances.
Just shy of five miles after the Michigan Road rejoins US 20 west of Rolling Prairie, an old alignment of the road appears. It’s very easy to miss.
This excerpt from an 1892 plat map shows the road before it was bypassed. It runs through the tiny town of Springville.
The 1853 Rossburg Cemetery stands on the northeast corner of N. Willhelm Rd., where the old alignment begins. The cemetery is way up on a hill, and there’s no sign of Rossburg. The 1892 plat map shows a church on the northwest corner; there’s no sign of it today.
Here’s where the Michigan Road turns away from US 20. This is signed Willhelm Rd., but it is the Michigan Road’s original path.
Almost immediately, the road forks. The Michigan Road follows the right fork, which the photo shows. It’s signed Springville Rd.
Much of Springville Road is lined with rough-looking trailer parks. I decided that this might not be a place friendly to strangers snapping photos, so I kept driving. Where State Road 39 intersects, just east of where Springville appears on the 1892 plat map, stands the Springville Free Methodist Church.
The plat map shows that a railroad intersected the Michigan Road. At some point, a bridge was built so that Michigan Road traffic could pass underneath unimpeded. Later, the railroad tracks were removed – but the bridge’s abutments were left behind.
Springville Road ends just beyond the abutment ruins, and US 20 curves back into the Michigan Road’s path.
The stoplight marks where US 35 joins the Michigan Road. You can follow US 35 to Logansport. Originally, the desire for the Michigan Road was to go directly between Logansport and Michigan City, but the Kankakee Marsh made that difficult. So the road was routed around it through South Bend, New Carlisle, and Rolling Prairie instead. The Kankakee Marsh was eventually drained, which allowed roads like US 35 to be built. That’s I-94 ahead. Just beyond I-94, US 20 heads south and leaves the Michigan Road behind.
Just beyond I-94, the road enters Michigan City.
There’s not much to see on the road in Michigan City, and when there is something to see, there is often no place to park the car to get a photo. This interesting building is home to a little grocery.
Just west of the grocery, what was once a pretty big hill was leveled out and a retaining wall built.
The Michigan Road is Michigan Blvd. through Michigan City. When the road was surveyed and laid out, it continued on its westbound path all the way to Lake Michigan. At some point, however, it was turned to follow what is now US 12 through downtown. Sources I’ve found place the later end of the Michigan Road either at Wabash St. or at 4th St.
When the road was new, this stood near 4th Street:
The Hoosier Slide was a 175-foot-tall sand dune that dominated Michigan City’s skyline. Sadly, it was carted away bit by bit to be used as land fill and in glassmaking, and by 1920 nothing was left of it. Michigan City was said to be a spunky and enterprising town in its early days, founded in 1832 deliberately to stand where the Michigan Road would end when it was built. In its early days, Michigan City vied with Chicago for size and importance.
Today, this cooling tower for a coal-fired power plant stands where the Hoosier Slide did.
The Michigan Road ends here, inauspiciously and anticlimactically. US 12 continues as 4th St.
At the road’s other end, at Madison, the Ohio River is visible. But in Michigan City it’s hard to tell that Lake Michigan lies just beyond the road’s end. Here’s the lake and the cooling tower.
Although the Hoosier Slide is no longer with us, Mount Baldy, a neighboring sand dune, remains. This photo of the lake is from atop Mount Baldy.
In case you’re wondering why there are no leaves on the trees when all the other photos in this series are fully green, it’s because I took these photos on a trip in early spring 2007. It was about 35 degrees outside and the wind off the lake was brutal! Notice that the top of the dune is almost level with the tops of the utility poles.
And so the Michigan Road completes its mission, connecting the Ohio River to Lake Michigan to provide access to the state capital at Indianapolis and to northern Indiana.
In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report. While this article refers exclusively to the Michigan Road, another historic highway, the Lincoln Highway, was routed along this portion of the Michigan Road.
At Michigan Street and La Salle Avenue in South Bend, the Michigan Road hangs a hard left. Where it had always been a north-south road, here it becomes an east-west road. It also ceases to be the Dixie Highway and becomes the Lincoln Highway. This is westbound La Salle Avenue.
Shortly, La Salle Ave. curves and becomes Lincolnway West. Before the Lincoln Highway came in 1913, however, this road was called Michigan Avenue.
This little building on La Salle Ave. was the South Bend Hat Bleachery in the 1930s and a women’s clothing shop into the 1970s, I’m told.
While the road is signed “Lincoln Way” today, until recently it was signed “Lincolnway,” and many businesses adopted that spelling. This building, at the corner of Cushing St., was once an A&P grocery at which both my father’s and mother’s families shopped. Today, it is Lincolnway Foods.
Rather, it was Lincolnway Foods. It burned to the ground a few days after I took the previous shot.
Lincolnway passes through an old part of South Bend, with many of its brick streets still intact. This is Cushing St. Of all the brick streets I’ve driven on, South Bend’s are the rumbliest.
The imposing Oliver School is today the Colfax Cultural Center, which houses space for artists, performers, and related businesses. This is what it looks like as you drive toward it on Lincolnway.
Many older homes stand along the road here.
This is the Elizabeth Memorial Church of God in Christ, but I suspect that this building housed another congregation previously.
A former service station along Lincolnway.
This is the westbound road. Notice the “SUPRKET” sign on the storefront on the left. When I was a kid, that sign read “SUPERMARKET.” Somewhere along the line it lost its ERMA.
From the air, this recording studio building looks like a guitar pick.
This neat little apartment building was named after the Lincoln Highway.
This monstrosity was once the Hoosier Brewery.
Kreamo Bread was once a South Bend bakery, and its headquarters are on the Michigan Road (and the Lincoln Highway).
The 1911 Epworth Memorial United Methodist Church, hidden behind trees. I’d have better luck taking photos in the winter, when the leaves are down.
The Lincolnwood Motel.
The South Bend Regional Airport needed to extend its runway a few years ago, and to do so it took out part of the Michigan Road’s original route. This shows the road curving slightly south around the new runway, but originally it went straight through here.
Google Maps’ imagery isn’t up to date. It still shows the Michigan Road on its original route. The road markings show the current route, though, on which there are two roundabouts. (Since then, the new Lincolnway West route was extended even further, bypassing another 2,000 feet or so of the original Michigan Road. While the section of the Michigan Road east of Mayflower Road no longer exists, you can still drive the section west of Mayflower. It dead ends whre the new Lincolnway West curves back around to resume its original path.)
I took this westbound photo from where the road curves away from its original route. You can see the road pick up on the other side of the airport.
This eastbound photo is from the west side of the airport. If you view this at full size and squint, you can see the stoplights at Sheridan St. glowing red. The road in the middle of the photo is the original Michigan Road path, left behind in the runway expansion.
Here is where travelers curve back onto the road’s original path on the west side of the airport. (Today, this is the section of Michigan Road I mentioned before that dead ends.)
The road becomes US 20 outside of South Bend. Just beyond the city limits stands the Kenrose Motel, which didn’t appear to be very busy this day.
The Michigan Road narrows to two lanes as soon as it leaves South Bend.
The road passes through the Terre Coupee prairie on its way to New Carlisle. I’m told this building was once a school and later a store.
The Michigan Road next comes to New Carlisle.
Notice how the road curves wide on the east side of town. Until 1926, the road ran straight here, crossing the railroad tracks at an awkward and dangerous angle that was the scene of many accidents. Four tracks crossed the road here then, two owned by the New York Central Railroad; one by the Chicago, South Bend, and Northern Indiana Railway; and one by the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad. The tracks were even at different levels, the interurban tracks a few feet lower than the New York Central tracks, making the crossing even more challenging. This drawing, courtesy Rob Heinek, shows the original configuration of the tracks. The road’s original path is shown with red dotted lines. Heinek also provided the story of the viaduct I’ve shared here.
Negotiations with the railroads to build a viaduct and reroute the road for safer passage dragged on for several years but kicked into high gear when New Carlisle passed an ordinance limiting trains to eight miles per hour. The terms worked out, a viaduct was built and the road curved. A retaining wall on the southernmost curve touts New Carlisle’s virtues today.
Here’s what it’s like to enter New Carlisle under the viaduct.
This eastbound photo shows the road as the curve returns to the road’s original path. The driveway that begins where the road curves is the original road.
On the edge of downtown New Carlisle, this mural of the town from about 1941 is painted onto a building.
Here’s the same scene in modern times.
Downtown New Carlisle makes a hodgepodge of its buildings, which seems typical of towns of this age and size.
New Carlisle is better cared for than many other Michigan Road towns of its size, however.
A longtime bank building, today a Wells Fargo branch. Somehow, I doubt the drive-through is original to the building.
I find it interesting how these two mirror-image buildings ended up differently decorated.
The only reason I’m including this photo is because I happened to go to public school with this podiatrist, and I haven’t seen her in over 20 years. I was surprised to see her name again after so long.
New Carlisle is rich with older homes.
The sign says, “God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts.”
Another older home along the way in New Carlisle.
The road’s name tips its hat to its heritage. Richard Carlisle founded New Carlisle in 1837 along the road.
New Carlisle’s park.
Outside New Carlisle, on the border with La Porte County, stands the 1863 New Carlisle Cemetery.
Next: The Michigan Road in La Porte County – and the end of the Michigan Road.
In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report. While this article refers exclusively to the Michigan Road, another historic highway, the Dixie Highway, was routed along this portion of the Michigan Road.
Since I made this survey, a new-terrain US 31was built between South Bend and Plymouth. In St. Joseph County, the Michigan Road remains intact except for a slight detour on the south side of South Bend. What I call US 31 in this article is now Old US 31, and is signed as State Road 931.
Lakeville is on the Michigan Road in southern St. Joseph County. It and La Paz (just to the south in Marshall County) have always struck me as twin sisters, towns of similar size one right after the other along the road. Where La Paz is bounded by US 6 on the south, Lakeville is bounded by State Road 4 on the north. As La Paz is a railroad town, so once was Lakeville, but several years ago Lakeville’s tracks were removed. You can’t tell from the road that tracks were ever there. This map shows how the Michigan Road swings around Pleasant Lake and into Lakeville from the south.
It’s hard to make out on the map above, but the Michigan Road’s original path diverges briefly from US 31 as it passes Pleasant Lake. The northernmost tip of this original alignment probably passed behind what is now a shopping strip north of US 31 (see the upper right corner of this map) and curved into current US 31.
Here’s the south end of Quinn Trail.
Just north of where Quinn Trail begins, this house appears on a bluff overlooking the road.
This northbound shot shows the road from in front of this house.
Quinn Trail carried US 31 until that highway was expanded to four lanes in northern Indiana. It’s not clear to me why Quinn Trail was left behind; it seems like it would have been possible to expand this road to four lanes. A small bridge built on what is now Quinn Trail seems to have anticipated a wider US 31 – as the map excerpt below shows, it could carry four lanes of traffic, albeit with no shoulder.
Here’s Quinn Trail’s northern end.
Lakeville was named after the two small lakes that stand near it. It was deliberately founded along the Michigan Road to take advantage of all its benefits, but I haven’t been able to learn exactly when. The town did all right because of the road, but really took off when railroads intersected it. Lakeville is lined with homes; this one is typical.
This was once Lakeville’s Mobil station.
This is probably the nicest old house on the road in Lakeville. It’s an apparel and gift store today.
This southbound shot of the east side of the road is north of Lakeville’s business district.
I think that this postcard, postmarked 1911, was taken in about the same spot. I figured I’d have no trouble finding this scene in modern Lakeville, but it turned out to be quite challenging. I think that the third house from the left in the postcard is the same one as the third house from the left in the photo above. Notice how wide this dirt road is. The Michigan Road was built with a 100-foot right-of-way.
I marvel at how there is no sign that there were ever tracks on Lakeville’s north side. This photo is taken from where the road once passed over the tracks.
From about the same spot, here’s the southbound road as it leads into Lakeville.
And here’s the northbound road as it leads out of Lakeville. The Lakeville United Methodist Church is behind the trees on the right.
The Lakeville Cemetery, established 1849, is actually north of Lakeville.
This building was once a school. It most recently housed an outlet of the Country Bake Shop, but even that has been closed for probably 20 years.
In case you can’t read it: “Pleasant View School, Dist No 2, 1902.”
This is the Michigan Road as it enters South Bend. I’ll bet that the original Michigan Road builders’ minds would be blown if they could see what the road has become here.
Here’s the road as it approaches the St. Joseph Valley Parkway, which carries US 31 around the west side of South Bend. (Since I made this trip in 2008, a new-terrain US 31 was built between South Bend and Plymouth. The northern end of the new US 31 meets the old US 31 at about where the 31 shield is at the center of the map below. It is no longer possible to drive old US 31, the Michigan Road, through into South Bend, as it dead ends where the new US 31 merges in. To enter South Bend on the Michigan Road, you must turn left onto Kern and take the exit onto northbound US 31.)
An interesting old house just south of the city limits.
Southlawn Cemetery, which has been here since 1836, appears at the very bottom of the map above.
People from South Bend can joke that they live in extreme southern Michigan. Originally, Indiana’s northern boundary was even with the southern tip of Lake Michigan. What is now Johnson Road in South Bend was originally along that boundary line.
This southbound shot from north of the St. Joseph Valley Parkway shows the onramps to that road. South Benders have called this road “the bypass” for as long as I can remember. When I lived here, the bypass didn’t go any farther east than this. Even though US 31 has not gone through South Bend in decades, people still call the road through town “31.”
The first white man to set foot in St. Joseph County and what would become South Bend was French explorer Robert de La Salle in 1679. The first white man to settle St. Joseph County was Pierre Navarre, who came in 1820 and built a home north of the St. Joseph River near what is now downtown South Bend. In 1823, Alexis Coquillard (co-QUILL-erd) began trading furs near where La Salle landed. The area was first known as St. Joseph’s, and in 1829 a town named Southold was founded here. Navarre and Coquillard were the driving forces behind the town’s early development. The town’s name became South Bend in 1830. In 1831, South Bend was named the seat of the newly formed St. Joseph County, and in 1835 was incorporated as a town. South Bend is said to have lobbied hard to have the Michigan Road routed through town. With the river, the Michigan Road, and the railroad’s 1851 arrival, the stage was set for South Bend to boom, and it did. Manufacturing companies blossomed in the fledgling town, which became a city in 1865.
This map shows the Michigan Road’s route through town. It heads north on Michigan St., and then makes its big left turn and heads out of town on Lincoln Way West.
I took this in-car photo just south of Chippewa Ave., where Michigan St. becomes one way north all the way to downtown. There’s no way to drive the Michigan Road south from downtown to Chippewa Ave.; you have to drive Main St. instead, one block west. (This is no longer true. Since 2017, both Michigan and Main Streets carry two-way traffic from here to downtown.)
North of where Michigan St. becomes one way north stands the South Bend Motel.
The South Bend Motel’s great neon sign.
This northbound shot shows the one-way Michigan Road on South Bend’s south side. I grew up four blocks east of here; these are my old stomping grounds.
This used to be Cira’s Supermarket, which had all of five aisles but a well-regarded meat department. I rode my bike down here for a gallon of milk more times than I could ever count.
I never got my hair cut here, but I rode my bike past this barber shop and its little pole all the time. It’s about a half block north of Cira’s.
South Bend is full of non-standard highway shields. I’ve counted three shields with this funky shield shape and blocky typeface. Sign fans will also notice the single “Business North” sign, when the standard is to have separate signs. I’m pretty sure the Business North sign was hand painted. A lot of road signs were hand painted in South Bend during my 1970s-80s childhood there.
This building about a mile north on Michigan St. just south of Indiana Ave. used to be a Bonnie Doon drive-in. Imagine a day when the locked gate was gone, the sign’s first two parts still read “Bonnie” and “Doon,” and you could get a great tenderloin and wonderful made-in-South-Bend ice cream here. At one time, Bonnie Doon locations dotted Michiana. I think only one Bonnie Doon, on the Lincoln Highway in neighboring Mishawaka, remains.
Two restaurants, the Kitchenette and the Kitchenette II, stand on the northeast corner of Ewing Ave. The neon Eat sign still lights up every night.
North of Ewing, it becomes clear that South Bend’s south side has seen happier days.
This little market seems to be doing all right.
This appears to be a 1930s service station with a 1960s overhang tacked on.
Michigan St. was once rich with homes and neighborhoods on the south side, but over time most of the homes have been razed. Here are some survivors.
More decay on the south side.
This northbound photo was taken just south of Sample St.
Here’s a closer look at some of the signs in the previous photo. Notice how some of the signs are fading badly. The “Stadium A&C Center” sign is easily 40 years old. The Indiana 933 sign was ungracefully tacked over a US 33 sign. US 33 once ran through South Bend on its way to St. Joseph, Michigan, but since 1998 has ended on the western outskirts of Elkhart. Old US 33 in St. Joseph County is now State Road 933.
I made a road trip along this corridor once before when I explored US 31’s original path in northern Indiana. (See my report on South Bend from that trip here). A fellow e-mailed me to say that he used to live in a neighborhood that used to stand here. It made way for The Frederick Juvenile Justice Center.
This imposing structure, the Christ Temple Church of God in Christ, was originally the First Brethren Church. The house is attached.
Nearer to downtown, entire blocks have been razed. The near south side could be turning into an urban prairie!
I have heard that this block was in danger of being razed. (As of 2022, it’s still there, and stil boarded up.)
The South Bend State Bank has been gone for longer than I’ve been alive, but its building remains.
Signs of life begin to appear again immediately south of downtown. The Victory Bar has some great signage. (Sadly, the Victory Bar has since closed, and its great signage was removed.)
The UAW meets here.
The St. Andrews Greek Orthodox Church.
At Bronson St., the railroad is overhead. An Amtrak train happened by when I was here.
This imposing building with its prominent fire escape stands right by the tracks.
Here’s a view under the tracks. Bronson St. actually meets Michigan St. here.
Last time I drove by here, this great neon sign was gone.
This corner has never been in great shape in my lifetime, but when I moved away from here in 1985 it still contained viable businesses. Today, except for an auto repair shop on the southeast corner, all of the buildings at this intersection are vacant. This is the southwest corner. Even though Fat Daddy’s was by no means the original tenant of this building, this is known as the Fat Daddy’s Block. (This block has since been razed.)
This is the northwest corner, which used to house Whitmer-McNease Music and a news stand.
I’m relying entirely on memory of my 12th-grade social studies class for the story I’m about to tell, because my research has found no facts. The teacher was also a county-city councilman, so I think his his story was sound.
The Associates was a national investment company founded and headquartered in South Bend. In the wake of Studebaker’s failure, the company wanted to build a new headquarters and revitalize downtown at the same time. To build the new downtown Superblock, as it was called, several downtown buildings were demolished. Until that time, US 31 followed Michigan St. through downtown. The Superblock project rerouted US 31. Main St. was made one way south, and southbound US 31 was routed onto it. Michigan St. was made one way north, and northbound US 31 was routed onto it, except for several blocks downtown, where it was routed one block east to St. Joseph St. Michigan St. between Western Ave. and LaSalle Ave. was closed to traffic and made into a pedestrian-only “mall” called River Bend Plaza. This map shows how it works:
Then in 1975, The Associates relocated to Chicago, leaving the project a shambles. The city became known for the holes in the ground where proud buildings, some historic, once had stood. The pedestrian mall succeeded only in making it necessary to park farther from downtown businesses, creating a needless barrier for customers. South Bend’s first enclosed shopping mall was built at about the same time, on the far south side, and shoppers went there instead. It took South Bend 15 years to rebuild downtown after that.
This photo shows where Michigan St. starts to curve away onto St. Joseph St. Michigan St. has since been repaved and opened to traffic, as you can see near the center of the photo.
To follow the Michigan Road, turn left onto Western Ave. and then immediately right onto Michigan St., where you are greeted with this scene. As someone who grew up with that awful pedestrian mall, it is very gratifying to see all the cars here.
This early 1950s postcard is from about the same place.
This image from a postcard postmarked 1906 is from about the same spot. South Bend has changed a great deal in the past century!
Check out the old State Theater marquee in the 1950s postcard photo. The one below is the only one I’ve known. I saw my first movie at the State, a rerelease of Bambi, sometime in the early 1970s.
Here’s a long shot of the State.
South Bend still bears some evidence of its disastrous urban renewal period, as this block north of Jefferson Blvd. shows.
This image from a postcard postmarked 1909 shows the road northbound from Jefferson Blvd. as it once was.
The First Source Bank and Marriott Hotel building at Washington St. filled one of the last downtown holes in South Bend. When I was a kid, this lot was a popular place for people to watch the annual July 4th fireworks.
This grand 1921 building was originally a vaudeville theater called the Palace but is now the Morris Performing Arts Center. This real gem has been extensively restored. I’ve been in it twice, before and after the restoration, and all I can say is that an amazing, painstaking, and loving job was done. The theater’s story is here.
The block of Michigan St. in front of the Morris is only one lane wide and not used for traffic. To follow the Michigan Road, you must detour. One way is to turn left onto Colfax, go two blocks west to Lafayette Blvd., go north for one block, and then turn left onto LaSalle Ave., where you’ll resume the Michigan Road route.
The former La Salle Hotel stands where St. Joseph St. merges back into the Michigan Road’s original path. But to keep following the Michigan Road, you turn left around the hotel onto La Salle Avenue.
Here, the Michigan Road ceases to be the Dixie Highway and becomes the Lincoln Highway, running east-west rather than north-south.
Next: The Michigan Road and the Lincoln Highway in St. Joseph County.
I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.
In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report. While this article refers exclusively to the Michigan Road, another historic highway, the Dixie Highway, was routed along this portion of the Michigan Road.
Since I made this survey, a new-terrain US 31was built from just northeast of Plymouth, north to South Bend. In Marshall County, what I call US 31 in this article is now no longer a state or US highway, and is under local maintenance.
Much of northeastern Indiana, including what is now Marshall County, was purchased from the Potawatomi Indians via treaty in 1832. Marshall County was formed on July 20, 1836. It was named for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, who died the previous year. The Michigan Road came to Marshall County by 1838.
The Michigan Road enters Marshall County when it crosses State Road 110.
Argos has roots to 1833 when Sidney Williams bought some land here and built a tavern and an inn and even helped build some of the Michigan Road. A town eventually built up around Williams’s land and was named Sidney after him in 1851. In 1856, an adjoining town called Fremont was organized. In 1859, the towns were consolidated and named Argos. The town was incorporated in 1869. Argos, which remains a small town, was hard hit when US 31, which had formerly followed the Michigan Road, was moved to bypass the town. This map shows that current US 31 is very close to Argos.
This old house stands near Argos’s southern edge. I like its arched windows and door.
This was probably once a service station. Notice how the second bay, on the left, was added sometime after the original bay and office were built.
This house is quite a hodgepodge. It looks like the original part of the house was built in about the 1850s, and that the front part with the stone work was added in the early 1900s, perhaps as late as the 1920s. The stone work is by a local fellow named Foker who did similar stone work throughout the area. There’s a lot of it on display on the Michigan Road in Argos.
Wheels and stars were common themes in Foker’s work.
This may be an old automobile repair garage.
Another former service station on the south edge of downtown.
An old theater, formerly named the Princess and also the Lido, stands next to the old service station in downtown Argos.
This house, which probably was built in the 1840s, is said to have served as an inn during the Michigan Road’s early years. The two-story section in the middle of this structure is probably the original house; the porch and rear section came later.
A faded Kreamo Bread advertisement has faded on the side of this building, but its slogan, “America’s Finest,” can still be made out. Kreamo was a bakery in South Bend.
The whitewashed building used to be an opera house. I’m told it was a dime store in the 1980s.
This, the 1883 W. D. Corey building, was once Holland’s Hardware but is now mostly vacant after a fire. The white storefront still operates as a bar.
Just north of downtown, two homes on the National Register of Historic Places face each other. This one is from 1890.
This one is from 1892.
This northbound shot from in front of the 1890 house shows the road in Argos’s northside residential district.
The man who founded Argos built his home on this spot. The rectangular two-story portion of this house may be that house, and if so, it was built in the 1830s. Everything else would have been added later, probably in the early 1900s.
Another Argos house with Foker stonework.
This house probably dates to the 1840s; logs may lurk behind that siding.
The vacant Fuller Baptist Church building, built in about 1860, stands on the northeast corner of Church St.
Just up the street is the Argos Wesleyan Church building.
On the northern outskirts of town stands Beamer’s Drive-In, which had closed the day before I took this photo, so there was no chocolate malt for me.
An old schoolhouse, converted into a residence, lurks behind the trees. I normally don’t include buildings so hidden, but this was such a colorful shot and it captured the beauty of this day perfectly.
Northbound from the converted schoolhouse, the road tracks perfectly straight. This is still the original alignment of US 31 in this part of Indiana.
Shortly, the road curves to meet current US 31. The Michigan Road follows US 31’s path for about ¾ mile. (The map incorrectly labels the Michigan Road as State Road 31 in the upper left corner.)
This southbound shot shows where the road curves to meet US 31 at a right angle.
Northbound from the same spot, this stub of the Michigan Road is left behind. I’ve driven by here hundreds of times in my lifetime and it seems like trailers are always parked here.
Travelers turn right onto US 31, and then shortly left onto Michigan Road again, which is still the original US 31 alignment. There was no good place to photograph it facing northbound, so here it is southbound pointed at current US 31.
As the road curves it passes this, the Tabor House, home of the first white settlers in Marshall County. If you don’t know it’s there, you will probably not see it.
Just south of Plymouth, this house was originally an inn on the Michigan Road. It also served some government purposes, elections and council meetings and such, in Marshall County’s early days, given that it was at the time the only quasi-public building in the county.
William Polke, Michigan Road surveyor and commissioner, is said to have been the driving force behind locating Plymouth where the Yellow River and the Michigan Road intersect. He even named the town, although it’s not clear why he chose the name. Plymouth was incorporated as a town in 1851 and as a city in 1873. This map shows the town, the Michigan Road its main street, in the context of its current and former highways. US 31 bypasses it to the east and US 30 to the north, but at one time these two roads intersected downtown at Michigan and Jefferson Sts. Jefferson St. is the 1928 alignment of the Lincoln Highway.
Oak Hill Cemetery stands on Plymouth’s south side.
Plymouth’s Michigan Street is rich with 19th-century homes — so much so that to keep this already-long page within reason, I’m going to show you just a few and move on.
These light posts line Michigan St. in the residential districts north and south of downtown. They’re original. Look closely at the base, which reads “DO NOT HITCH TO THIS POST CITY OF PLYMOUTH.”
Felke Florist has a great neon sign, which I’ve seen brilliantly lit when I’ve driven through Plymouth in the evening. One day I’ll have my camera with me on such a night.
The Bible Baptist Church.
The main building of the Trinity United Methodist Church, which was formerly the United Brethren Church, is from 1926.
The fellow who lives in, and is slowly restoring, this 1850s house gave me a personal tour of his town (and of Argos and Rochester, too), and pointed out the most interesting homes along the way. This house is just south of the railroad viaduct and downtown. The road was lowered when the viaduct was built; hence the concrete retaining wall.
The viaduct from the retaining wall.
Check out that stone abutment.
Don’t tell anybody, but we climbed onto the viaduct to get a few shots. This long shot is southbound.
I zoomed in tightly to frame downtown and the newly restored Luten bridge in this northbound shot.
Here’s the same scene from the ground.
The railing is new in the restoration, but is sympathetic to those built during the time this bridge was new. Before the restoration, a steel guardrail kept cars out of the drink.
The Marshall Co. Trust and Savings Co building stands on the river.
Here’s the same building from the northeast.
This northbound shot is from the Trust and Savings Co. corner. That’s another former bank building on the opposite corner.
Across Michigan St. from that former bank is the 1939 Rees Theater, restored not long ago to its Art Moderne glory.
This postcard photo from probably the mid 1950s shows the Rees marquee in its context.
Downtown Plymouth is remarkably vibrant. It is one of the gems of the Michigan Road. Greensburg is the only other similarly-sized Michigan Road town with a downtown that competes. This photo is southbound from Garro St.
Plymouth must have been quite the financial center in its day, because here’s another bank building, on the northwest corner of Garro St.
This colorful building from 1884 stands on the northeast corner of Garro St.
The Plymouth Pilot-News occupies what was the first Montgomery Ward retail store in the nation. I’m told this building housed J. C. Penney in the 1980s.
Here’s a straight southbound shot from the early-to-mid 1950s from just north of Washington St.
North of downtown, Plymouth becomes heavily residential again. That fellow Foker brought his stonework into Plymouth, as well, but it’s not as common on the Michigan Road here as it is in Argos.
This former service station stands on the northeast corner of Jefferson St., which is a former alignment of the Lincoln Highway.
This looks like it was once simply a house, but now the First Assembly of God meets here. (Since I made this trip, this house has been demolished.)
Horace Corbin, a lawyer, came to Marshall County in about 1852. He became a judge and a land officer, and when the town of Plymouth became a city in 1873, its first mayor. He and his wife lived here until 1903. The house has been restored in the past ten years, and my hat is off to the current owners for the effort and expense involved in keeping this link to the city’s history alive.
The house is in a typically dense neighborhood today, but that was not always so. I’ll bet that when Corbin built it, it was out in the sticks! Here’s what the house looked like in 1876. It’s from the David Rumsey map collection.
This is what the neighborhood around the Corbin house looks like today. Northbound.
North of Plymouth lies Fairmount Cemetery, Marshall County’s oldest, from 1834. Many of the graves show markers typical of the period.
North of the cemetery is the Tri-Way Drive-In Theatre, so named because it is near US 31, US 6, and US 30.
Here’s its great neon sign in action. Many thanks to the fellow who honked as he passed me, causing me to come out of my skin.
The Michigan Road merges with US 31 north of Plymouth. (It used to. A new-terrain US 31 was subsequently built east of here, and a segment of the earlier highway was removed. Today, this merger no longer exists and Michigan Road simply continues straight.)
Here’s the northbound view from the ground. Notice the road on the left, labeled 3rd Rd. on the map. Where it curves slightly west is where that road becomes the Michigan Road and the road on the right ceases to be the Michigan Road. But then if you follow the non-Michigan Road, you will soon merge with US 31 northbound. I’m pretty sure the Michigan Road follows modern US 31’s southbound lanes.
In the foreground is the southbound ramp that connects US 31 to Old US 31 and the Michigan Road. The northbound ramp flies over current US 31 as it curves away to bypass Plymouth. Southbound photo.
Soon US 31 meets US 6, just north of which lies little La Paz, which was organized in 1873.
This is most of the town.
This is probably a former bank because the door opens to the corner and because a much newer First Source Bank branch is across the street. I’ve seen many new bank buildings locate close to the ones they replace in little towns. I wonder what’s behind the vinyl siding.
Pat’s, a bar, which has been there as long as I can remember.
I wonder if the railroad built these little houses south of the tracks.
The tracks on La Paz’s northside are still in regular use.
A southbound look at La Paz from the railroad overpass.
This former service station stands just north of the tracks. The big graffiti on the front used to read GO BIG BLUE before some of the red boards were removed.
Across the street from the empty service station stands the Birchwood Motel sign.
The motel itself is hard to see from the road. I walked onto the property a bit to snap this shot of the tiny motel, which does not appear to have been used as such in years.
Next: The Michigan Road in St. Joseph County.
I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.
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