The Von Lee

The Von Lee
Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL
2020

This may look like a former movie theater, but only this entrance remains. Behind it is new construction.

This theater opened as the Ritz in 1928, and was renamed the Von Lee in 1948. It’s a half block from the vast Indiana University campus, on a street that most students consider to be Bloomington’s main drag.

In 1988 I saw at least one movie here, maybe two. I had a girlfriend at IU and we could walk here easily from her dorm. I remember the auditorium being cramped. But we didn’t think much of such things then. Enough old theaters still operated that it was just how it was sometimes. Newly built theaters offered only three or four screens then. The mega multiplex was several years into the future yet.

You’d think that a university town would have been able to find a community use for an old theater. Well, they did. The Indiana Theater stands a few blocks down this same street. It fell into disuse just like the Von Lee did, but it found fortune in being reused as a performing arts center in 1995. I suppose a town Bloomington’s size can support but one such venue. The Von Lee’s auditorium was demolished in about 2006.

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Photography, Preservation

single frame: The Von Lee

A quick look at the Von Lee Theater, what’s left of it anyway, in Bloomington, Indiana.

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Fishin' on the Dixie Highway

Fishing on the Dixie Highway
Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL
2020

The Dixie Highway, old State Road 37, winds its way out of Bloomington, Indiana, and into the Morgan-Monroe State Forest.

This little lake lies just south of the forest’s entrance. I like to walk to the shore and photograph the trees. But on this day, I decided not to disturb this person fishing. I captured her (I think it was a woman) in mid-cast.

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Photography

single frame: Fishing on the Dixie Highway

A woman fishing on the old Dixie Highway north of Bloomington, Indiana.

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Road Trips

North on the Dixie Highway from Bloomington

A couple weeks ago I drove to Bloomington to see my son, who lives there. When I headed home, I followed the Dixie Highway, old State Road 37, as far as it would take me. Since SR 37 had been upgraded to become I-69, which removed all of the turnoffs to the old alignments, I wasn’t sure what I would find. I was pleased that the old road took me almost to Martinsville. Here’s its route, which now includes some new-terrain road.

Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway to where it ended on my September, 2020, trip. Map data ©2020 Google.

For about 14 miles, Old 37 and the Dixie follow a winding path nowhere near the new Interstate. But for the next four miles or so, until it ends, the old road parallels I-69 and acts as its frontage road.

Within those first 14 miles, the old road is just as it always was: lightly traveled and lush. I’ve written about this segment before, here and here.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

I had this road entirely to myself this Friday afternoon. On past trips I’ve encountered bicyclists out here; not this time.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

This long segment used to exit onto State Road 37, but Interstates are limited access by their nature. Here’s how it exited onto SR 37 northbound when I first visited it in 2007.

Old SR 37

Today, the old road curves the other way into a brand new frontage road.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

Shortly the frontage road meets the next old alignment of Old SR 37 and the Dixie Highway. When I last wrote about it, here, I said that an old bridge had been left in place after a new bridge was built alongside it. I got to see the old bridge. It was saved because its qualities put it on the state’s Select list of bridges, which prevents it from being demolished without the state jumping through a whole bunch of hoops. It looks to me like some repairs have been done to it to stabilize it. But it is open now only to pedestrians.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

This southbound photograph from the new bridge shows that the old road has been significantly upgraded. Notice how wide it is, compared to the old road on the right.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

The new road ends about 2½ miles later, where the older, narrower pavement resumes. Shortly the road dead ends at this old bridge.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

I was happy to find this bridge still here, as I’d heard a rumor that it had been removed. But I’m still saddened that it’s closed to traffic after failing an inspection in 2015. Here it is the last time I got to drive on it, which was in 2012. Read more about this bridge here.

Pony trusses

The old highway north of the bridge has been removed, however. What a strange sight.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

I’ve heard that this bridge will be repurposed as a pedestrian bridge. I’ve studied the I-69 plan map for this area and it looks like there’s no plan to continue the frontage road from here.

Here’s one final look at this old bridge from the north.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

Until I-69 is built around Martinsville, it’s easy enough to return to SR 37: back up from here to the first side road, follow it east until it Ts, turn left, then follow that road until it reaches SR 37.

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Travel

Sunset over the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

The George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

My wife and I spent a weekend in Louisville recently. We hadn’t gotten away since our January trip to Chicago, and we badly needed a change of scenery. So we rented an Airbnb in the heart of downtown and spent our time walking and making photographs. There wasn’t much else to do thanks to the pandemic.

The George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

The US 31 bridge from Indiana to Kentucky over the Ohio River was built in 1929. It underwent a restoration a couple years ago that finished with its new yellow paint job. It had been painted a silvery gray before.

The George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

Lots of bridges cross the Ohio at Louisville, including the two I-65 bridges and the old Big Four bridge, visible here. The Big Four bridge is open to pedestrians only. The George Rogers Clark bridge has pedestrian walkways as well — thank heavens, or making these photographs would have been a dangerous proposition.

The George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

There are also a couple railroad bridges to the west, plus the I-64 bridge. Here’s a view of some of that.

Sunset off the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

As the title promised, here’s the sun going down over the Ohio River from the bridge.

Sunset off the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

While I stood there, a few motor-powered rafts tore around on the river. This one passed by us on its way under the bridge. If you look closely, one of the people on the boat gave me the peace sign.

Speeding by

Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL

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Old Louisville is a neighborhood in, as you might guess, Louisville. You’ll find it just south of downtown. It’s full of late-1800s homes mostly in the Late Victorian style, with a few Italianate, Federal, Second Empire, and Richardson Romanesque homes in there for good measure.

Belgravia Court, Old Louisville

The centerpiece of Old Louisville is St. James Court, a wide boulevard with a grassy median and a copper fountain. The centerpiece of this centerpiece, however, is Belgravia Court. It’s at the south end of St. James Court. But you can’t drive this court — you’ll have to park your car and walk. It is two rows of houses that face each other, sidewalks and a grassy median separating them. Gas streetlights line the median.

Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville

Here now, the doors of Belgravia Court.

Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville

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Photography

Thursday doors: Belgravia Court, Old Louisville

The doors of Belgravia Court, Louisville.

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Road Trips

Movies on the Michigan Road: The Skyline Drive-in in Shelbyville

You might be surprised to know that 20 drive-in theaters still operate in Indiana. One of them, the Skyline, is on the Michigan Road, in Shelbyville. And it’s expanding.

Skyline Drive-In

Things didn’t look so good for the Skyline in 2008 when I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end. I photographed its sign then — and noticed the For Sale sign posted nearby. I figured the Skyline’s days were numbered.

Skyline Drive-In

Joe Gaudin, an independent filmmaker in Shelbyville, bought the struggling venue. Audiences were thin for the first few years, but in time he turned it around. It thrives today. Gaudin told me that his theater draws devoted drive-in fans from a 75-mile radius.

I won’t tell Gaudin’s whole story here — look for an article on the Historic Michigan Road Association’s Web site soon that does. My wife, Margaret, has become our marketing director, and she plans to profile interesting businesses and their owners all along the Michigan Road. Shelbyville was our first stop on that tour.

Skyline Drive-In

But I will say that Gaudin believes adding a second screen will secure his drive-in’s future. He’s working now to make it real, and he hopes to open it during 2020.

Skyline Drive-In

The season hadn’t begun yet when Gaudin met us, and of course work was beginning on the expansion. This is what a drive-in looks like under those conditions!

Skyline Drive-In

Gaudin showed us the projection room. We got to see the modern digital projector, critical to the drive-in’s ability to show first-run movies. But next to it stood the film projector and its lighthouse. This is vintage equipment. RCA manufactured the projector in 1948. I didn’t find a manufacturer label on the lighthouse, but Gaudin said it dates to the 1930s.

Skyline Drive-In

The vintage equipment lets him run old monster and exploitation movies that never made the leap to digital. Those movies create some of the most popular weekends at the Skyline!

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

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