Preservation

Photographing two of Indiana Landmarks’ 2019 Ten Most Endangered

Every year, historic preservation organization Indiana Landmarks publishes a list of ten historic places across the state that they consider to be “on the brink of extinction and too important to lose.” This year’s list of the 10 Most Endangered is just out; see it here.

Two of the places on this year’s list have found themselves in my camera’s lens. Traveling the state’s old roads as I do, I’ve photographically documented historic structures in a growing number of Indiana’s communities.

Mineral Springs Hotel

Mineral Springs Hotel in Paoli, on the Dixie Highway, was built in 1896 — before Paoli had electricity. So the owners built a power plant in the basement to light the hotel, and they sold excess power to their neighbors! Named for the area’s mineral-water springs that were thought to cure all ails, the hotel did big business for many decades. As the mineral-springs fad passed, however, the hotel’s fortunes declined. It stopped taking guests in 1958, although businesses populated its first floor for a few more decades. Today it’s vacant, its roof leaks, and many of its windows are broken. Indiana Landmarks hopes to find someone to restore it.

I visited Paoli during my 2012 excursion along the Dixie Highway in southern Indiana. The hotel sits on Paoli’s delightful square. Read about my visit here.

The Crump

In Columbus, the Crump Theater has stood here since 1889. As you might guess from these photos, this is not the theater’s original facade. Indeed, the Crump underwent three major remodelings in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Its art-deco facade was added during the third remodeling.

Crump

The facade is distinguished by pigmented structural glass panels known as Vitrolite.

Columbus, IN

The Crump featured live shows until the 1910s when movies began to supplant them. Eventually the Crump became a movie house, and stayed one until 1997, when it showed its last picture. But by then it was already in deplorable condition with a partially collapsed roof and a non-functioning boiler. The theater has only deteriorated more since then, despite several attempts to save it. The city of Columbus would like to see it saved, and Indiana Landmarks is interested in finding a developer who can restore the building and find a good use for it.

The first two photos are from a 2017 and the third from 2008. Both times I was following the Madison State Road, an 1830s route that connected Madison to Indianapolis via Columbus and was an alternative to the Michigan Road, which ran through Greensburg and Shelbyville to the east. Somehow, I’ve managed never to document my Madison State Road trips, an oversight I must one day correct. Meanwhile, you can see more photos from my visits to Columbus here.

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History, Preservation

Carnegie libraries in Indiana

Wealthy industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie built an astounding 1,689 libraries around the United States — plus 660 in the UK, 125 in Canada, and 35 in other countries around the world — between 1883 and 1929.

Preservationist blogger Susie Trexler wrote recently about the rich variation in architectural styles among Carnegie libraries in California, Oregon, and Washington. I was surprised to see how different from each other these libraries looked — because as I’ve encountered a handful of Carnegie libraries in my travels along Indiana’s old roads, what I’ve noticed is how similar they look. They all have some characteristics in common: prominent entrances, compact dimensions, brick construction, and usually pitched clay-tile roofs.

The first Carnegie library I ever encountered was along the Michigan Road in Greensburg. But I didn’t know what I was looking at. I just thought it was a compact City Hall building.

Former City Hall
Completed 1903. Architects: William Harris, Clifford Shopbell, and others.

I drove through again a few months later to find the City Hall sign gone, revealing what you see below. (The town built a new City Hall elsewhere.) I’d not heard of Andrew Carnegie’s libraries then. Seeing this sent me to the Internet to research. That’s when I learned that Carnegie’s efforts saw 167 libraries built in Indiana between 1901 and 1918.

Carnegie Library, Greensburg

Since I took these photos, this Carnegie Library has been converted into a private residence.

Interestingly, the Greensburg Carnegie library is nestled into this corner. The Michigan Road is on the left. All of the other Carnegie libraries I’ve found around the state are parallel with their streets.

Michigan Road and former City Hall

This Carnegie “Pvblic Library” stands on the Michigan Road in tiny Kirklin. Notice the addition out back, which was built in 2001. I like how its style reasonably harmonizes, but I wish they’d taken greater care to match the brick.

Kirklin Public Library
Completed 1915. Architects: Brookie & McGinnis

It’s still the town’s library. Here’s another photo of the Kirklin library, just because I like this shot.

Kirklin Carnegie Library

I found this Carnegie library on US 50 in downtown North Vernon. It is said to have been one of the last two Carnegie libraries built in Indiana. It was vacant for years, but was repurposed as North Vernon’s Town Hall in 2012.

North Vernon library
Completed 1920. Architect: unknown.

You’ll find this Carnegie library on the square in Paoli, on the Dixie Highway in southern Indiana. (This is the same town that lost its 1880 iron bridge last month thanks to a woefully inexperienced semi driver.) This is the smallest Carnegie library I’ve found in Indiana. My memory is that this building was being used as a day care or preschool at the time I took this photo, but I hear the building is vacant today.

Library
Completed 1920. Architect: unknown.

Here’s the Carnegie library in Sheridan, a small town north of Indianapolis. As best as I can tell, it’s vacant, but owned by an architect who is looking for a buyer who can put it to appropriate use. I really enjoy the look of this one.

Sheridan Carnegie Library
Completed 1913. Architect: Charles Bond.

Finally, here is the Carnegie library in Knightstown, east of Indianapolis on the National Road (US 40). It’s the only one I’ve found so far without a pitched roof. It appears to still be the town’s library.

Carnegie Library
Completed 1912. Architect: unknown.

There you have it: all the Carnegie libraries I’ve found across the state. Clearly, six out of 167 is hardly a representative sample: that’s just 3.6 percent of them! Maybe I need to make a focus of future road trips to visit them all across the state. In researching for this post, I discovered that the community center building two blocks from my church is a Carnegie library! I can start there. Until then, I can rely on Wikipedia’s list of Indiana Carnegie libraries.

I do have one more Carnegie library in my photo archive: this one, in Greenup, IL, on the National Road (US 40).

Carnegie Library

Such a different look from any of the ones I’ve photographed in Indiana!

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History, Preservation, Road Trips

1880 Paoli bridge, destroyed

This was the scene on the 1880 iron truss bridge in Paoli, Indiana, on Christmas Day.

PaoliBridge1

From the Facebook page of the French Lick Fire Dept.

Despite the signs on both sides of this bridge declaring no trucks, a 13′ 3″ height limit, and a 6-ton weight limit, this too-tall semi loaded well beyond 6 tons with bottled water drove onto it anyway. Its trailer hit the first overhead beam (a.k.a. the portal strut) as the truck’s weight began to bear down on the deck. This mangled mess followed directly.

According to a news report from Louisville TV station WDRB, workers had to cut this bridge apart to extract the semi. Locals hope to see the bridge restored. But given the extent of damage, I think they should plan to find a new bridge built here. I hope I’m wrong.

This just makes me sick.

Here’s what this bridge looked like until Christmas Day.

1880 bridge

My friend Dawn and I visited it, and all of Paoli’s delightful square, in 2012 on a tour of the Dixie Highway in southern Indiana.

1880 bridge

What a delightful find it was! It looked to have been restored, but long enough in the past that rust spots were starting to peek through the paint.

1880 bridge

This bridge had wonderful details, including the ornate portal bracing and the curlicues on this builder’s plate.

1880 bridge

And now, this. It’s a damn shame.

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From the Facebook page of the French Lick Fire Dept.

I find old truss bridges like this one on many of my road trips. They fit broadly into two categories: those still serving very light traffic on a nearly forgotten back road, and those adding to an old town’s charming ambiance.

I follow the old-bridge news on bridgehunter.com, where I see a couple stories a year of heavy trucks taking out old bridges. The driver found themselves approaching the old bridge, often because their GPS sent them that way. They didn’t see or chose to ignore the weight-limit signs. They either didn’t realize their truck would be too heavy, or worried that it might be but chose to keep going and hope for the best. I have but one word for all of this: idiotic.

I wish every last old truss bridge could be closed except to pedestrians so this can’t happen again.

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Courthouse at Paoli

Once in a while, one of my old posts gets shared on Facebook and picks up a bunch of views. So it went a couple weeks ago with a 2012 post about the great public square in Paoli, a Dixie Highway town in southern Indiana. Out of nowhere, it got about a thousand views over a few days.

That day I shot my Pentax ME with the 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M lens. It was my first time shooting that lens — and also Kodak Ektar 100, a film that disappointed me a little on this cloudy day for the muted colors it returned. Still, I like this shot a lot, as it captures this stunning courthouse so well. Since then I’ve come to appreciate Ektar’s good qualities, especially on a bright day with vividly colored subjects.

Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

Captured: Courthouse at Paoli

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Preservation, Road Trips

On Paoli’s square

Imagery ©2012 DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, IndianaMap Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2012 Google.

I’ll never forget the first time I visited Paoli. Calling it a visit is a bit of a stretch, of course; I was just passing through, with a friend on the way to his southern Indiana home for a long weekend away from school. But I’d never encountered a town with a square before, and I’d never encountered a roundabout before. And that’s essentially how the streets on Paoli’s square function. There are four entry/exit points, but you must always turn right to enter and right to exit.

I didn’t know on that trip more than a quarter century ago that I was on the old Dixie Highway. A short refresher: a long stretch of the Dixie Highway south of Indianapolis became State Road 37, much of which was rerouted when it was upgraded to a divided four-lane highway in the 1960s. But about seven miles south of Bedford, at a town called Mitchell, the highway skinnies down to two lanes and resumes the Dixie’s original route all the way to Paoli and its square. Just think counterclockwise when you get there and you’ll do fine.

The point of having a square is usually so the county courthouse can be at its center, and Orange County makes no exception. This courthouse is striking, to the point of making you involuntarily say, “Whoa,” when you come upon it.

Courthouse at Paoli

This courthouse has been in continuous service since its completion in 1850. These iron stairs reminded me of something you might see on a southern plantation.

Courthouse at Paoli

This hotel is the next most arresting building on the square. It’s a generation younger than the courthouse, having been completed in 1896. The first floor is a restaurant, but the upper floors are said to have been unused for decades. The hotel gets its name because of famous mineral springs in this part of Indiana, the best known of which was just ten or so miles west at French Lick.

Mineral Springs Hotel

Some 20th-century architecture appears on this square, too, such as this former automobile garage currently used to house various shops. Auto garages like this were a common highway sight in the first few decades of the 20th century, as cars needed a great deal more attention and maintenance in those days.

Garage in Paoli

This Carnegie library is the garage’s neighbor. It opened in 1913, but its contents moved to a larger building a few blocks away some years ago.

Library

This corner of the square isn’t as picturesque as the others I’ve shown, but at least it still stands; the one corner I haven’t shown you was devastated in a fire in 2010. Several buildings had to be razed. New buildings are almost completed, and while they are sympathetic to the styles around this square, they are clearly new construction.

Paoli square

For me, though, this 1880 iron bridge was the star of the show. You know I love old bridges! It’s an eight-panel Pratt through truss. Next to it stands a little bowstring arch span for pedestrians.

1880 bridge

Whenever you cross an old truss bridge, look up to see if the builder’s plate is still there. This old bridge was restored several years ago, bringing ornate plates back to life at both portals.

1880 bridge

At Paoli, the Dixie Highway takes leave of State Road 37 and instead follows US 150 to Louisville. Likewise, Paoli is where Dawn and I took leave of our Dixie Highway excursion. I’ll catch those last 40 or so miles of Indiana’s Dixie Highway another day, one to which I very much look forward.

Check out these circa 1920 photos from
the Dixie Highway in northern Indiana.

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