Road Trips

US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway in Argos, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

US 31 follows about 1,000 yards of its original path between Plymouth and Argos before curving away again, as this map shows.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

The turnoff looks like this from the west side of US 31.

Meeting US 31

As we turned in, we passed this freshly planted sign commemorating the Potawatomi Trail of Death, in which more than 850 Potawatomi were forcibly evacuated from land in this and surrounding counties. They were marched all the way to Kansas, and more than 40 Potawatomi died on the trip. Their journey followed the Michigan Road from about here to Logansport, which is ironic because it was a treaty with the Potawatomi that allowed Indiana to build this road in the first place.

Trail of Death marker

A great-great-grandmother, my mother’s mother’s mother, is said to have been full Potawatomi. My great-grandmother was born in 1898, so this great-great-grandmother was likely born between 1860 and 1885. That part of my family is from Rochester, which is in one of the counties from which the Potawatomi were evacuated. Did this woman’s parents somehow escape evacuation?

We would see these signs along the road until old US 31 left the Michigan Road on Rochester’s south side.

A short stub of old US 31 remains to provide access to a house. Every time I drive by here, trailers are parked on it.

Old road

I turned around from that spot to photograph the old highway southbound.

Southbound

Argos came quickly. US 31 didn’t bypass it by very much. The map shows old US 31 running through it at an angle, and US 31 running north-south just west of town.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Argos began with a tidy neighborhood. Lawns were mowed and edged and homes were in decent repair.

Argos residences

Brian and I noticed two 1800s homes in Argos, across the street from each other at the corner of Michigan and Smith Streets. Here’s the first, built in 1892.

Old house, Argos

Here’s the second, built in 1890. Both houses are on the national historic register.

Old house, Argos

It was apparent as soon as we hit downtown, however, that Argos had seen better days. The tall building has a Mason shield and the year 1905 on it above the top row of windows.

Downtown Argos

I once worked with a woman from Argos. She said that when she was a young adult there, most people in town worked “over to Ristan’s,” a wonderfully northern-Indiana way of saying that they all worked at the Ristan factory, which was just across US 31. Then it closed, she said, and Argos’s fortunes haven’t been as good since.

Next: Continuing south to Rochester.

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Road Trips

US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway in Plymouth, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

Thanks to old-fashioned nepotism, one college summer I landed a job with the courier service my aunt owned. One of my frequent destinations was a hospital on Plymouth’s main drag. I didn’t know then that Plymouth was on old US 31. Current US 31 bypasses Plymouth to the west; this map shows where the new and old roads split. US 6 is the east-west road at the top of the map.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

This southbound photo shows the split as two cars follow old US 31 southbound. It also shows the northbound flyover ramp from old US 31 to current US 31. Note: This is how it was in 2007. A new US 31 was subsequently built to the east, about 3/4 mile from here. The four-lane US 31 shown here was removed from about this point to about a mile southeast of here. All traffic here now follows the original US 31/Michigan Road/Dixie Highway alignment on the right in this photo. The bridge on the left was replaced with an at-grade road.

Southbound

Here’s another look at this split between old and new US 31, southbound.

Ramps

When we reached the top of the ramp, we noticed a road running parallel to it. Brian, who had the trip map, thought it looked to flow naturally from US 31 before it curved to bypass Plymouth, so he suggested we explore it. We drove it northbound until it made a sharp turn to the left.

End of the Michigan Road?

Sure enough, it appears to be old US 31. Brian walked past the end and a little bit into the yard there. He noticed some concrete there, heavily overgrown with grass, as the photo below shows.

Northbound

This southbound photo shows how this stub lines up with the end of the ramp, just before the stub veers to the right. It’s hard to see, but the stub hooks sharply to intersect at a T with old US 31.

Southbound

Pretty soon we came upon the Tri-Way drive-in theater and miniature golf course. The three-screen theater has operated since 1953 and was named because it was located (then) on US 31 between US 6 and US 30. The morning sun’s unfortunate angle made good pictures difficult, but here’s a fair shot of the sign, its colors fading.

Tri-Way Drive-In, Plymouth

After about three miles, we entered Plymouth. Here’s a map of the city to just before downtown. Notice US 30 near the top of this map and Jefferson St. near the bottom. Outside of town, Jefferson St. is called Lincolnway – US 30’s old alignment and the second major alignment of the Lincoln Highway.

Windows Live Maps 2007

After passing a few shops on Plymouth’s north edge, we entered a long residential section with trees shading the homes and the road, as this northbound photo shows.

Northbound

Homes are remarkably well kept along Plymouth’s Michigan St., a common name for old US 31 in northern Indiana because of its Michigan Road roots.

Residential Plymouth

I had no idea that this house was historically significant when I photographed it. It stands among many others along the Michigan Road on the north side of Plymouth. I took pictures of many of these houses, but lingered longest before this one. It had the strongest presence. Turns out it is the home of Plymouth’s first mayor, Judge Horace Corbin. I wrote about this in more detail here.

Corbin house

This was as far south as I’d ever been in Plymouth, and I never saw the hospital that was my aunt’s customer. They don’t just tear down hospitals, do they?

South of Jefferson St., residences faded in favor of businesses. We had reached downtown. Here’s a map of downtown and Plymouth’s south side.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Downtown Plymouth lasts all of about three blocks, but those blocks remain vital and well cared for. Both car and pedestrian traffic were heavy that Saturday – we happened upon a big sidewalk sale. This photo is of the west side of Michigan St. south of Washington St., which is the third street north of the Yellow River.

Southbound at Washington St

This is the next block south, at Garro St., again the west side of the street. The building at the left end is actually on the corner of LaPorte St., where old US 31 curves before it crosses the river.

Southbound at Garro St.

Someone far more experienced in the ways of the road than I pointed out to me that old banks open to the corner. I had never noticed it before, but now I see it everywhere.

Bank

Here’s another one, the former Marshall County Trust and Savings Co.

Marshall Co. Trust and Savings Co.

The Rees Theater has a lovely facade and sign.

Rees marquee

South of LaPorte St., the road curves slightly east as it crosses the Yellow River. Downtown ends, and residences begin again, south of the bridge and the railroad overpass.

Railroad underpass

The road heads southeast out of town. Past a cemetery, and then past any number of cul-de-sac neighborhoods, old US 31 ends at US 31, as this map shows.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

As usual, when the new road was built, highway engineers curved the old road to meet it at a T for safety.

Meeting US 31, Part 2

A stub of the original road remains, however, I presume to provide access to a house along it. Here’s the four-lane old US 31 northbound at where it curves to meet current US 31. I took the photo standing on the stub of old US 31.

Northbound

I turned around in that spot to shoot this two-lane stub of old US 31. Before US 31 bypassed Plymouth, it curved gently from here into the current roadbed.

Old road

Next: We didn’t drive on current US 31 more than 1,000 yards before old 31 split off again on its way to Argos.

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Road Trips

US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway in Lakeville and La Paz, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

In my early days driving, I wished there were a way around Lakeville and La Paz and their 35 mph speed limits. I’ll be getting that wish when US 31 is rerouted between South Bend and Plymouth in the coming years.

On opposite sides of the St. Joseph/Marshall county line, bounded by State Road 4 on the north and US 6 on the south, these twin towns were built along the Michigan Road in the 1800s, probably hoping for commerce the road would bring.

This map shows US 31 (Michigan Street) from State Road 4 through Lakeville.

Windows Live Maps 2007

This northbound photo is taken from the corner just south of Newton Park. It shows the four-lane-undivided character of the road between South Bend and Lakeville.

Northbound from Lakeville

I’m sure Lakeville has made a lot of money over the years off people who don’t slow down in time for this town. A boldly colored LED sign in front of Newton Park used to warn people of the speed limit, saying that if they didn’t heed it, they would get to meet the town judge.

When Brian and I were kids, before you entered Lakeville you passed over a railroad track on a bridge. Several years ago, traffic was rerouted around US 31 while they removed the track and the bridge. Only a slight hill remains where the bridge was. I took this southbound photo of Lakeville from the crest of the hill.

Lakeville

Today, there is no sign that the railroad ever went through here. This easterly photo is from the hill where the railroad bridge used to be.

No more tracks

Somewhere along the way I found a post card, postmarked 1911, of Lakeville and this road. As you can see, this was a wide road even then. That’s because this is the old Michigan Road, an early state-funded highway, and it had a 100-foot right of way.

On Lakeville’s south side, Quinn Trail probably used to be US 31, based on how it could flow from and then back into current US 31, and how there’s a curve at the south end that lets this segment meet US 31 squarely. I can’t tell why 31 was rerouted here.

Windows Live Maps 2007

It looks like the northernmost segment of this alignment is currently a parking lot. This photo shows the southbound road south of there.

Quinn Trail

A small bridge on Quinn Trail is surprisingly wide, as you can see in this northbound photo from a 2009 visit. One railing is visible; the other is just out of the photo on the right. It suggests that there was a thought that someday this road might need to be a lot wider. Instead, the road was moved when it was widened.

St. Joe County Michigan Road bridge

Judging by the width and condition of this road, this hasn’t been US 31 in a long time. This northbound photo is from near the end of this segment.

Quinn Trail

Quinn Trail ends here. I took this southbound photo standing in the road’s direction at that point. Notice how it could flow easily into US 31 about where the guardrail curves out of sight.

Quinn Trail

Lakeville is in southern St. Joseph County near the Marshall County line. Shortly after crossing into Marshall County, we came upon La Paz. This map shows the town.

Windows Live Maps 2007

Like Lakeville in days gone by, La Paz begins on the north with a railroad bridge. This photo looks down into La Paz from the bridge.

La Paz

Looking over the railroad tracks from this bridge, we could see an eastbound train heading for us. As we watched it and took photos of it, Brian said, “He’s going to blow the whistle at us and wave.” Just as I shot the photo below, sure enough, the conductor did just that! I asked him how he knew. Turns out that my old friend has been keeping from me all these years that he’s a railfan. He knows the ways of the trains.

Train north of La Paz

From a 2009 visit, here’s a northbound view from within La Paz, leading toward the railroad bridge.

La Paz, Indiana

Next: The old alignment of US 31 through Plymouth, Indiana.

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Road Trips

Old US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway on the south side of South Bend, part 2: Northbound

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

We spent a lot of time in South Bend on this trip because it is our hometown. I covered the north side of South Bend here and downtown here. On the south side, southbound Old US 31 followed Main Street (covered here), and northbound followed Michigan Street. This post covers the northbound route.

Heading north from Chippewa Ave., after passing a large church and some empty storefronts, Michigan St. and its surrounding area becomes predominantly residential. This map shows the many houses along the route.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

The South Bend Motel stands at the corner of Klinger St., advertising its clean rooms.

South Bend Motel

Its leaning neon sign lights up every night. (I made this image on a 2009 visit.)

South Bend Motel

I stopped a few blocks north at Woodside St. for a photo of the road and its three wide lanes. And now please take a walk down memory lane with me, as my childhood home is four blocks east of here. These are part of my old stomping grounds.

Northbound in the old stomping grounds

The street sign in the photo says “Woodside Av.” The old embossed street signs all said “E Woodside St” until the city replaced them all several years ago. Inexplicably, narrow Woodside became an avenue in the process.

This grocery store was called Cira’s in my day. It had maybe seven aisles. The prices were higher than the chain supermarkets, but the meat counter was well respected. Its primary advantage to my family was that it was close enough by that Mom could send me for milk if needed. The bars across the windows are a recent addition, and it saddens me to think that a business in my old neighborhood needs them.

South Bend Market

Across the street and a block north at Oakside St., this banquet facility used to be Hans-Burkhart Pharmacy, Hans Haus Restaurant, and the Ranita Bar and Grill, from left to right. I bought candy, MAD Magazine, film for my cameras, and the occasional pen or pad of paper at Hans-Burkhart. The owner was the pharmacist, and he barely tolerated the kids who came in, so I was sure to be quick and quiet when I shopped there.

Banquet facility

In the 1980s, I walked this block every day because it was at the far end of my paper route. I always liked this house with its barber shop on the lower level. I was pleased to find the shop still operating.

Barber shop, downstairs

The shop’s little pole was motionless. My dim memories say it stopped spinning sometime in the late 1970s. It seems strange today that thirty years ago you recognized a barber shop by its pole, though even then poles were starting to disappear.

Barber pole

Here’s the view from Oakside Street north. The tall building in the distance is South Bend’s tallest building, and it’s in the heart of downtown.

Northbound

Leaving memory lane and driving north on Michigan St., I found another one of those strange US 31 shields in front of a used-car lot. The block-style numbers remind me of those used on the embossed cutout shields originally placed on US highways after the system was created. I’ve never seen shields like these anywhere but in South Bend, though. The combined “Business North” sign is also a South Bend creation; the standard is to have separate Business and North signs.

Funky US 31 shield

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.

Bonnie Doon

Sadly, South Michigan St. is best known for blight. Here’s a map from Indiana Ave. on the south to the north split. The worst blight is between Indiana Ave. and Western Ave., which is where Michigan Street curves into St. Joseph Street.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

This northbound photo is taken from just south of Sample St. State Road 933, which used to be US 33 before it was truncated at Elkhart, joins US 31 here.

Northbound

Notice how the signs have seen better days. It’s amusing how the state just plastered small SR 933 signs over the larger US 33 shields. “Staduim A&C Center” (which refers to the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center at Notre Dame) signs like this one have been posted around town for as long as I can remember, at least back to the 1970s. I would not be surprised if most of these Stadium signs are originals.

Faded signs

While there has been some new construction, like the sprawling Juvenile Justice Center…

Juvenile Justice Center

…the razed blocks and the boarded up buildings team up with the liquor stores and strip clubs to give the near south side its unfortunate ambiance.

Boarded up

A few active churches still stand on South Michigan Street, providing a necessary counterpoint.

Christ Temple

The Victory Bar’s sign is a landmark close to downtown.

Victory Bar

So is the Hope Rescue Mission’s often-photographed neon sign.

Hope Rescue Mission

This Greek Orthodox church building anchors its block.

St. Andrews Greek Orthodox Church

Just before Western Ave., Michigan St. curves to the east and becomes St. Joseph St., Michigan St. continues beyond the trees and across Western Ave., as this photo shows. I’m told that St. Joseph St. was a glorified alley before it was rebuilt to handle US 31 traffic.

Bypassing Michigan St.

As Michigan St. becomes St. Joseph St., the beauty of South Bend’s downtown returns.

Bypassing Michigan St.

Shortly after rounding the curve, the Century Center appears on the right. Built in the early 1980s, it was an early home to the Studebaker National Museum. My high school’s drama club held its plays and musicals in its auditorium, making the Century Center a second home in those days for my thespian pal Brian.

Century Center

Quite a bit of the Lincoln Highway was torn up to build the Century Center and other city projects along the river here. A 1916 city map I have on hand says that the Lincoln Highway used to connect with Washington St. as I’ve drawn it in green on this map. The Century Center is the series of buildings at the green line’s north end.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Across from Century Center is the Marriott Hotel, its flat facade facing St. Joseph Street.

Marriott Hotel

As old US 31 heads north from the Century Center and the Mariott Hotel, at Colfax Ave. towards LaSalle St., it curves to meet the old Michigan St. alignment. On the left in this photo you see the Morris Performing Arts Center, which was shown more extensively in the article about Old US 31 in downtown South Bend. On the right, out of the photo, is the St. Joseph River.

St. Joseph St. northbound

Let’s take one last look at South Bend before we depart. The St. Joseph River hugs St. Joseph St. just north of the Century Center. This photo, off the Colfax Ave. bridge, is of the Century Center’s back yard. The orange girder structure is Keepers of the Fire, a 1980 abstract expressionist sculpture by Mark di Suvero. Its erection was controversial to the tune of, “The city spent taxpayer dollars on steel beams painted orange?

St. Joseph River from the LaSalle St. Bridge

Next: We finally leave South Bend and head to Lakeville and La Paz.

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Road Trips

Old US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway on the south side of South Bend, part 1: Southbound

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

We spent a lot of time in South Bend on this trip because it is our hometown. I covered the north side of South Bend here and downtown here. In this post I cover the south side of South Bend, southbound. Next post I’ll cover it northbound, as the two directions followed two different streets.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

When US 31 was created in 1926, it followed Michigan Street all the way through South Bend. This highway’s predecessor, original State Road 1, did the same upon its 1917 creation. But in about 1971, US 31’s route was changed. From just north of downtown, at Marion Street, southbound traffic was diverted to follow Main Street for three miles, to Chippewa Avenue on the south side of town. This section of Main Street was made one way southbound at this time. The map shows how these roads were configured downtown at that time.

The corresponding section of Michigan Street was made one way northbound, except through five blocks downtown, where traffic was diverted one block east to follow St. Joseph Street, also one way northbound. It was at about this time that the five blocks of Michigan Street now bypassed were converted into an unloved pedestrian mall called River Bend Plaza. Suburban shopping centers and malls had drawn away many people who used to shop downtown. River Bend Plaza was meant to draw them back, but it failed. The city began to remove River Bend Plaza in 1986, and in time returned these blocks of Michigan Street to two-way vehicular traffic. Through traffic still followed Main and St. Joseph Streets, however.

In about 2017, the city returned Michigan/St. Joseph and Main Streets to two-way traffic. The southbound split at Marion Street was converted into a roundabout, as was the merge at Chippewa Avenue.

After Brian and I finished exploring Michigan Street downtown, we drove over to Main Street to begin our journey south. This is a view of Main Street southbound, from Marion Street, one block before the intersection with westbound Business US 20 at LaSalle Street. South Bend’s tallest building is just beyond it.

Old US 31 in South Bend

The 1898 St. Joseph County Courthouse stands on Main St. at Washington.

St. Joseph County Courthouse

South of the courthouse, on Jefferson Blvd., stands the old First Bank building. The First Bank of South Bend renamed itself First Source Bank in the 1980s and then built the new steel-and-glass headquarters I showed in the post about Michigan Street downtown. Quite a difference in architecture!

First Bank building

South of downtown, Main and Michigan Streets parallel each other, separated by one block. Main St. becomes lined with light industry and small businesses.

Southbound Main Street

This old McDonald’s sign was a relic even in 2007. I’ve never seen another one like it.

McDonald's Sign

When Main St. reaches Chippewa Ave. on the south side, Business US 31 follows Chippewa east for a block. Then it curves south onto Michigan St. where the road resumes two-way traffic, as the yellow highlighting on this map shows.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Here’s the intersection of Main and Chippewa, southbound. I used to ride my bike every Saturday morning to bowl in a league at an alley on this corner. Looking back, maybe it wasn’t so bright to ride my 3-speed across a busy highway while carrying a 14-pound ball.

Southbound Main St. at Chippewa Ave.

Here’s a northbound view of Main Street from the same spot.

Northbound Main St. at Chippewa Ave.

This shot is of Chippewa Ave. east toward Michigan St. The curve onto Michigan St. was being rebuilt. On the south side of town, “Business” never managed to get appended to any of the old US 31 shields.

Chippewa Ave. to SB Michigan St.

This map shows Business US 31 from Chippewa Ave. to the St. Joseph Valley Parkway, which carries US 31 and US 20 around the city. (South Bend old-timers just call it “the bypass.”) Southbound US 31 comes in from the west on this map, but exits to rejoin its original alignment at the interchange.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

When we made our trip, Michigan St. was being rebuilt at Chippewa Ave., as this southbound photo shows. The single lane with the concrete median in the photo is for traffic turning left onto Michigan from westbound Chippewa. It’s a tight fit for city buses. Southbound.

SB Michigan St. at Chippewa Ave

Here’s the northbound view from the same spot. This is where Michigan Street becomes one way northbound.

NB Michigan St. at Chippewa Ave

Shortly we came upon the interchange that brought US 31 back to its original alignment. I don’t remember a time when this interchange didn’t exist, but during the years I lived in South Bend the bypass did not continue east of here. The future road’s right-of-way lay empty for years, however, and malls, schools, and neighborhoods were built around it. One of my aunts owned a house a few doors north of the right-of-way in one of those neighborhoods. Today, the elevated highway crowds the neighborhood. Roadfan.com has a great timeline of the St. Joseph Valley Parkway.

Entrances to the St. Joseph Valley Parkway

Just past this interchange, at Jackson Road, stands a historical marker that explains how land north of here originally belonged to Michigan. It’s why I sometimes joke I’m from extreme southern Michigan.

Indiana Territorial Line marker

As we drove south out of town, US 31 was four undivided lanes all the way to Lakeville. Here’s the southbound highway at Johnson Road.

SB US 31 at Johnson St.

This road has changed dramatically since 2007, when I made these photographs. The intersection at Michigan and Chippewa is now a roundabout. The interchange with the St. Joseph Valley Parkway is unchanged, but the view from Johnson Road south looks nothing like this. Johnson Road is now elevated over US 31 on a bridge, most of these homes and businesses have been razed, and a new alignment of US 31 curves to the west (right) from here.

In Part 2 of this tour of South Bend’s south side, we travel Michigan Street north from Chippewa Avenue to downtown.

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Road Trips

Old US 31, the Dixie Highway, and the Michigan Road in downtown South Bend, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

Signs

In downtown South Bend, US 31 passed through town along Michigan Street with traffic flowing northbound and southbound. In the late 1960s, Michigan Street was made one-way northbound from downtown to deep into South Bend’s south side. At the same time, the same section of Main Street, one block to the west, was made one-way southbound, and southbound US 31 was routed onto it — except for five blocks of downtown, where US 31 was rerouted one block east onto St. Joseph St. In those five blocks, Michigan Street was closed to traffic and a disastrous pedestrian mall was built, which I wrote about here.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

All of this helped traffic flow through South Bend a lot more efficiently, but was no good for downtown’s businesses. And then in 1982 a new US 31 was completed to bypass South Bend to the west, well into Michigan. Original US 31 became Business US 31 in South Bend. Parts of the road are also signed as State Road 933, parts that used to also carry US 33 until 1998 when that road was truncated to end in neighboring Elkhart County.

Sometime during the 1990s, the pedestrian mall was removed from four of those five blocks, which were restored to two-way traffic. Then in 2018, all of Michigan/St. Joseph and Main Streets were restored to two-way traffic. This article shows Michigan Street downtown after it was reopened to two-way traffic, but while Main Street was still one way south and the rest of Michigan Street was still one way north.

In the last post in this series, my friend Brian and I had traveled south on former US 31 to where the southbound route split from Michigan Street to follow Main Street. We made a left as soon as we could to return to Michigan Street. This northbound photo is at the north end of the isolated Michigan St. alignment where St. Joseph St. curves to become Michigan St. again. This is where Old US 31 meets the Michigan Road, built in the 1830s to connect the Ohio River to Lake Michigan and enable white settlement of northern Indiana. The Michigan Road followed what is now Lincolnway West to LaSalle Street, where it turned right onto Michigan Street.

Northbound

The 1921 Morris Performing Arts Center stands at Colfax Avenue and Michigan Street, gorgeous in the early daylight.

The Morris Performing Arts Center

The Morris was first the Palace Theater, a burlesque house and later a movie theater. During the downtown’s malaise years of the 1970s and 1980s, the theater, renamed the Morris Civic Auditorium, had fallen into disrepair. I watched It’s a Wonderful Life there at Christmastime in 1987 and the building was in a sorry state. But when I saw Heart play there in 2006, it was clear that great pride had been taken in the old theater’s restoration. (South Bend is my hometown.)

Morris Performing Arts Center

South of the Morris and across Michigan Street stand the modern twins, the 1st Source Bank headquarters and the Marriott Hotel. These buildings went up in the 1980s in the ongoing fight to fill the holes left by the aborted Associates Superblock. Their design was somewhat controversial at the time, but have become a point of pride for the city. These buildings fill the block; the Marriott borders St. Joseph Street.

First Source Bank and Marriott Hotel

When the city tore out the unloved pedestrian mall in the 1980s, it rebuilt Michigan St. as two lanes with pull-in parking. The revival has had reasonable success, but there’s still some work to do to bring businesses back to this strip. In the photo below, which is northbound from Michigan St. at Jefferson Ave., the street is blocked for a foot race.

Northbound

It was always hoped that the State Theater, south of Jefferson on the east side of Michigan Street, would be returned to full use in some way, but none of the attempts ever caught on. At least the facade remains solid and strong.

State Theater

My mother took my brother and I to see Bambi and, later, Fantasia,here when they toured in the 1970s. We took the city bus downtown and walked to the theater and its huge auditorium. I was very young, so I’m glad I have some memories of those trips.

State Theater

The photo below looks northbound from south of Wayne St. The second building on the left is the former Robertson’s Department Store, now an apartment building. I remember that Robertson’s advertised its annual clearance sale on TV with the jingle, “Save a fourth, save a third, save a half, on every department, on every floor!” Here, have a listen:

Northbound

One block later, at Western Ave., the downtown strip of Michigan St. ends. This photo is from Michigan Street just south of Western, where it curves to become St. Joseph Street. You can see the bypassed section of Michigan Street on the left in this photo.

Bypassing Michigan St.

Next: A jaunt down Main Street, the onetime southbound lanes of US 31.

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