Road Trips

The Michigan City Uptown Arts District

In the heart of downtown Michigan City, at the end of the Michigan Road — or the beginning, depending on your perspective — you’ll find the Michigan City Uptown Arts District.

Michigan City Uptown Arts District. Map data © 2019 Google.

When I surveyed the Michigan Road in 2008, this was some mighty depressed real estate. But in 2010 the Uptown Arts District was formed, and a slow transformation began. The transformation remains underway today, but “there’s a there there,” as we say in the road-tripping business. You can spend a pleasant day here popping in and out of the boutique shops and galleries, and enjoying a meal and a pint at one of the several restaurants.

Margaret and I did this on the day before Thanksgiving, a blustery and gray day. There wasn’t much action on this midweek day-before-a-holiday, but we were pleased to find many shops and pubs open.

Michigan City Uptown Arts District

We spent most of our time on the Uptown Arts District’s main drag, Franklin Street. It’s a downtown strip typical of Indiana, with plenty of old buildings in a row.

Michigan City Uptown Arts District

Several striking buildings line this strip, including this one, a former Eagles lodge. I’d sure like to know the story of that crazy roof!

Michigan City Uptown Arts District

Lots of public art lines Franklin Street. I liked this little scene on one of the street corners.

Michigan City Uptown Arts District

Given how close this is to Lake Michigan, this wavelike metal sculpture makes perfect sense.

Michigan City Uptown Arts District

We capped our Uptown Arts District stroll with a visit to an Irish pub, where we had a couple remarkably good pints of Guinness. From there we could see were within walking distance of a large outlet mall, so we went over and did a little early Christmas shopping. All in all, it was a lovely day. If you’d like to have a similarly lovely day, it awaits you at the end of the Michigan Road.

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Damion

Damion at Nine Irish Brothers
Pentax ME, 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A
Fujicolor 200 (at EI 100)
2018

Damion and I have sort of settled on the Nine Irish Brothers pub in West Lafayette as the place we go for dinner. Now that he’s 21, we can both hoist a Guinness. And it’s on tap here, fresh and good.

We had a very nice afternoon together. Two men, their film cameras, the open road, and sights to see.

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Film Photography

single frame: Damion at Nine Irish Brothers

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Photography

Photographs of things that aren’t there anymore

What have you photographed that has since changed dramatically, or isn’t even there anymore?

I’ve been walking or driving around with my camera for long enough now that I’m starting to build quite a collection of photos of scenes that look very different today.

The Elbow Room pub was nearly an Indianapolis institution, having been in operation since 1933 — right at the end of Prohibition. It abruptly closed for good a couple weeks ago.

Elbow Room

These neon signs came down immediately.

Elbow Room

This was one of my favorite downtown pubs. I first visited it when I still lived in Terre Haute and had business in Indy. When I worked downtown in the late 1990s I used to walk over here for lunch all the time. After my brother moved here, this was the first bar we visited together. In the past couple years, Margaret and I have stopped here several times, usually at the end of a downtown photo walk. She really liked a lemony martini they made. I have always loved their cheeseburgers.

The Elbow Room (rear)

The Elbow Room occupied the ground floor of a wedge-shaped building at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave. and Ft. Wayne St. on the north edge of downtown. I’ve sat at a table in that window many times, most recently just a few months ago.

The Elbow Room

An unexpected benefit of buying and testing film cameras over the years is that I walk and drive around with them and photograph stuff. I’m not necessarily trying to make art, but am rather just capturing anything I find interesting in the moment to see how the camera works and what quality of images it can make.

I made these shots with a Nikon F3HP and 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor on Fomapan 200, and a Minolta Maxxum 7000 and 50mm f/1.7 Maxxum AF on Fujicolor 200. They’re not great art; heck, that first color shot turned out pretty underexposed and muddy thanks to a fault in the camera.

But I have them. The Elbow Room’s existence is proved, though evidence is starting to be erased. Soon this will be some other business and anyone who moved here since might never even know about The Elbow Room.

In 2008, I took hundreds of photos as I surveyed the entire Michigan Road. In 2018, I hope to survey it again, end to end. I wonder what photographs I’ll take of things that have changed. Maybe I’ll do a series of then-and-now photos!

What photos lurk in your archive of scenes that are all different now?

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The Harbour Bar, Portrush

The Harbour Bar
Nikon N2000, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Kodak T-Max 400
2016

This isn’t the best ever photo of this historic bar in Portrush, Northern Ireland. But it’s a great memory of meeting fellow photoblogger Michael McNeill.

Photography, Travel
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