Road Trips

The Michigan Road and the Dixie Highway in Marshall County

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 31 was 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.

Old house, Argos

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.

Former service station

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.

Old house, Argos

Wheels and stars were common themes in Foker’s work.

Foker stone

This may be an old automobile repair garage.

Fomer garage, Argos

Another former service station on the south edge of downtown.

Former gas station

An old theater, formerly named the Princess and also the Lido, stands next to the old service station in downtown Argos.

Former theater

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.

Old house, Argos

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.

Kreamo Bread advertisement

The whitewashed building used to be an opera house. I’m told it was a dime store in the 1980s.

Argos/Huff opera house

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.

W. D. Corey building

Just north of downtown, two homes on the National Register of Historic Places face each other. This one is from 1890.

Old house, Argos

This one is from 1892.

Old house, Argos

This northbound shot from in front of the 1890 house shows the road in Argos’s northside residential district.

Argos residences

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.

Old house, probably heavily modified

Another Argos house with Foker stonework.

Foker stone

This house probably dates to the 1840s; logs may lurk behind that siding.

Old house, Argos

The vacant Fuller Baptist Church building, built in about 1860, stands on the northeast corner of Church St.

Fuller Baptist Church building

Just up the street is the Argos Wesleyan Church building.

Argos Wesleyan Church

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.

Beamer's Drive-In

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.

Former schoolhouse

Northbound from the converted schoolhouse, the road tracks perfectly straight. This is still the original alignment of US 31 in this part of Indiana.

Northbound, north of Argos

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.

Southbound

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.

Old road

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.

Meeting US 31, Part 2

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.

Tabor house

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.

Inn

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.

Oak Hill Cemetery

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.

Old house, Plymouth
Old house, Plymouth
Old house, Plymouth
Humrichouser-Kane house

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.”

Plymouth streetlight

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.

Felke Florist

The Bible Baptist Church.

Bible Baptist Church

The main building of the Trinity United Methodist Church, which was formerly the United Brethren Church, is from 1926.

Trinity United Methodist Church

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.

Old house, Plymouth

The viaduct from the retaining wall.

Viaduct

Check out that stone abutment.

Viaduct

Don’t tell anybody, but we climbed onto the viaduct to get a few shots. This long shot is southbound.

Southbound

I zoomed in tightly to frame downtown and the newly restored Luten bridge in this northbound shot.

Northbound

Here’s the same scene from the ground.

Entering Downtown Plymouth

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.

Luten bridge

The Marshall Co. Trust and Savings Co building stands on the river.

Marshall Co. Trust and Savings Co.

Here’s the same building from the northeast.

Marshall Co. Trust and Savings Co.

This northbound shot is from the Trust and Savings Co. corner. That’s another former bank building on the opposite corner.

Downtown Plymouth

Across Michigan St. from that former bank is the 1939 Rees Theater, restored not long ago to its Art Moderne glory.

Rees marquee

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.

Southbound at 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.

Bank

This colorful building from 1884 stands on the northeast corner of Garro St.

1884 building

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.

Montgomery Ward

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.

Foker stone porch

This former service station stands on the northeast corner of Jefferson St., which is a former alignment of the Lincoln Highway.

Former service station

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.)

First Assembly of God

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.

Corbin house

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.

Northbound

North of Plymouth lies Fairmount Cemetery, Marshall County’s oldest, from 1834. Many of the graves show markers typical of the period.

Fairmount Cemetery

North of the cemetery is the Tri-Way Drive-In Theatre, so named because it is near US 31, US 6, and US 30.

Tri-Way sign

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.

Northbound

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.

Ramps

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.

La Paz, Indiana

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.

Former bank?

Pat’s, a bar, which has been there as long as I can remember.

Pat's in La Paz

I wonder if the railroad built these little houses south of the tracks.

What are these?

The tracks on La Paz’s northside are still in regular use.

Train north of La Paz

A southbound look at La Paz from the railroad overpass.

La Paz

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.

Former service station

Across the street from the empty service station stands the Birchwood Motel sign.

Birchwood Motel

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.

Birchwood Motel

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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Road Trips

Old 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

Postcard views of the Michigan Road, Indianapolis to Michigan City

Here are the rest of the vintage postcards I collected showing images from the Michigan Road in Indiana. Last time I shared images from Madison to Indianapolis, the southern portion of the road. Now I’ll share images from Indianapolis to Michigan City, the northern portion of the road.

In Indianapolis, for many years the road on the northwest side of the city was called Northwestern Avenue. Today it’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd. from the northwest edge of Downtown to the old city limits, and then Michigan Road from there to the county line. This bridge, long since replaced, carried the road over the White River. Guessing, I think this postcard is from the 1920s. Back then, this was outside the city limits.

The next postcards I owned take us 66 miles north of that bridge to downtown Logansport. The road followed Broadway Street for a few blocks. This view looks east, which is northbound on the Michigan Road. This postcard bears a 1906 postmark.

This 1920s view of Broadway looks west, which is southbound on the Michigan Road.

This 1960s view also looks west on Broadway.

Finally, as the road leaves Logansport northbound it passes by Logansport Memorial Hospital. This hospital building isn’t visible from the road; perhaps it’s been razed in favor of the current set of buildings. Perhaps it was in a different location in the city; I don’t know. But I’m including it because the current hospital is very much on the Michigan Road

Next, a couple views of downtown Rochester. This view from the air is on a postcard postmarked 1911. The grand Fulton County Courthouse is just out of the photo to the right.

Here’s a 1960s ground-level view from the intersection with 8th Street, right in front of the courthouse.

Next I had this postcard from Plymouth, a little south of downtown from its grand avenue of lovely homes. Most of those homes still stand today, making this just as lovely a drive now as then. This postcard is postmarked 1911.

This view of downtown Plymouth is from a postcard postmarked 1958, but judging by the cars I’d say the image is from the early 1950s. This photo looks northbound.

This southbound photo of downtown Plymouth is also postmarked 1958.

This is easily the most interesting postcard in the set. It’s a view of Lakeville, a small town just south of South Bend. It is postmarked 1911. This is a southbound view. Notice how wide this dirt road is! The Michigan Road claimed a 100-foot right-of-way when it was built.

Next is South Bend. This card postmarked 1906 shows Michigan Street, but the city has changed so much that I couldn’t tell you where this is located and whether this is a northbound or southbound photo.

The same would be true for this card postmarked 1909, except that its caption clears things up very nicely.

This card is from the same place as the one above, taken sometime in the 1950s. I think the building second from the right edge of the photo is the same one that’s second from the right edge of the photo above, the building with the advertisement sign painted on the side.

Finally, we reach the end of the Michigan Road, in Michigan City. This vast sand dune is no more. It was carted off load by load, and used to make glass. A giant cooling tower for an electrical power plant stands here today.

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Tri-Way sign

Tri-Way Drive-In
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2008

Not long ago I shared some photos of the Skyline Drive-In, on the Michigan Road in Shelbyville, Indiana. It’s not the only drive-in on the road, however. The Tri-Way is about 150 miles north on the road, in Plymouth. It’s been operating since 1953. It’s a four-screen outdoor theater — another screen was added since I made this photograph!

I haven’t been by here in a long time, but as I remember it, they leave the sign lit most of the time in season.

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Photography

single frame: Tri-Way Drive-In

The sign for the Tri-Way Drive-In in Plymouth, Indiana.

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Felke Florist

Felke Florist
Canon PowerShot S80
2009

If you’ve never been to Plymouth, put it on your list; it is a charming small Indiana city. I came to appreciate it on my many passes through as I explored the Michigan Road in 2008. Its intact old downtown is filled with viable local shops; well-cared-for homes dating to the mid-1800s line the Michigan Road leading in and out. Terre Haute, Muncie, Goshen – they all wish they had a main drag like Plymouth’s.

Once I drove through Plymouth at twilight and Felke Florist’s sign was lit with beautiful bright red neon. I so regretted that I didn’t have my camera with me. And then on many subsequent trips through town, the sign wasn’t lit. But then on this particular afternoon it was — inexplicably, as it was four o’clock in the afternoon. Fortunately, my camera was sitting on the passenger seat. You’d better believe I stopped for this photo!

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Photography

single frame: Felke Florist

A neon sign for a florist in Plymouth, Indiana.

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Film Photography

More adventures in home film developing

I’ve had the best results yet in developing black-and-white film. But all’s not perfect.

This time I shot my last roll of original Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros in my Yashica-12 and developed it in Rodinal 1+50 for 10:30 at 23° (as that’s the temperature of my bathroom). I used the Massive Dev App and, thanks to a tip from a commenter, removed the Hypo Clear step that I don’t use. I agitated by twisting the agitator rod. As you can see from these phone photos I made of the negatives, one edge was washed out.

I think I know what happened. I didn’t push the reel to the bottom of the core I’m using, which is longer than the reel. 500ml of Rodinal solution in the tank was therefore not enough to cover the whole negative.

The well-developed part of each negative looks really good to me — neither dense nor thin. But my scanner tried to compensate for the washed-out edge of the film and I had to play with the exposure, highlights, and dehaze sliders in Photoshop to fix that. I also had to crop out the washed-out area. But all twelve photographs are usable.

I took this camera with me to Plymouth, Indiana, for a board meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association. I made photographs on the way home, in Plymouth and Logansport, at Sycamore Row near Deer Creek, and in Burlington and Kirklin.

Rees Theater, sign lit
All the sweaters you can buy!
Coffee shop
City Building
State Theater, Logansport
People's Winery, Logansport
Sycamore Row
Sycamore Row
Mercantile
For sale
Burlington Church of Christ
Kirklin and its Carnegie library

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