Preservation, Road Trips

Demolished: Abandoned school on the Michigan Road near Middlefork, Indiana

I’ve photographed this abandoned school many times, the first being in 2008 when I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end. It appeared to be in reasonable condition then. I hoped that it would be restored and put to good purpose.

Abandoned school

It was not to be. Over the years I watched as the windows were removed, and then the doors. In time siding started to disappear. I’m sure that in this exposed condition, rainwater began to damage the structure. A few years ago it began to collapse. I last photographed it in May, 2021, when it looked like this.

Abandoned, dilapidated schoolhouse

In this condition, the building was a goner. It was razed recently. What a waste.

Click here to see on Google Maps where this building once stood. It actually faced State Road 26, which crosses the Michigan Road here.

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Sycamore Row

Sycamore Row
Yashica-12
Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros
Rodinal 1+50
2019

In my new book, Square Photographs, I shared an image of Sycamore Row. That image shows the historic marker that was there at the time I made the image in 2019. (That marker was damaged in an accident and a new marker with a different message was put in its place; see it here.)

I was on the fence about whether to include that image in the book, or this one. That image showed the historic marker, but this one did a much better job of showing the road itself, and how narrow it was. This was a state highway until 1987! Imagine encountering an oncoming semi in here.

I landed on the other image, but I’m still not sure I was right.

My new book, Square Photographs, is available now!

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Photographs

single frame: Sycamore Row

A b/w image of Sycamore Row, a narrow passage on the old Michigan Road.

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Road Trips

The Michigan Road and the Dixie Highway in Cass 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.

Where the Michigan Road leaves Carroll County and enters Cass County, it stops being a north-south road and curves northeastward. It stays that way until Rochester.

Cass County was formed in 1828 and was named after Lewis Cass, who was then governor of the Michigan Territory. He was involved in making treaties with the Native Americans who lived in the region, opening the area to white settlers.

The Michigan Road comes to Logansport shortly after entering Cass County. Despite what the map says, State Road 29 no longer goes into Logansport, instead veering away from the Michigan Road south of town and ending about where it intersects with State Road 25. When SR 29 was decertified inside Logansport, that stretch of road was renumbered as State Road 329. But even that was decertified in about 2000, and now the Michigan Road is just Burlington Ave. as it enters Logansport.

This southbound photo shows Burlington Avenue in Logansport.

Logansport

The Wabash and Eel Rivers meet in Logansport, and the Michigan Road crosses both of them. It encounters the Wabash first. There are two bridges over the Wabash because there’s an island in the middle where the road crosses. This photo was taken on the south bridge.

South Wabash River bridge

There are a few streets on the island, known as Biddle Island. When you cross the south bridge, Burlington Ave. becomes 3rd St.

This is the north bridge.

North Wabash River bridge

From the north bridge, this is downtown Logansport.

Downtown from the north bridge

At the time I made this survey, I was not clear on the Michigan Road’s path through Logansport. All I knew is that it entered on Burlington Avenue and exited on Michigan Avenue. Since then I discovered a historic document called Development and Lands of Michigan Road, a 1914 document that shows county-by-county maps of the road as originally surveyed. It shows that the road avoided Biddle Island, following a slightly more easterly route and then hugging the north side of the Wabash River before picking up what is now Michigan Avenue and exiting Logansport. But by 1835, the road had been routed over Biddle Island, according to this post at the Indiana Transportation History blog.

When I made this survey in 2008, it seemed likely to me that the Michigan Road followed 3rd St. to Broadway St., went east on Broadway to 6th St., crossed the Eel River, and then turned onto Michigan Ave. That’s the route we’ll follow here.

The Todd Bank Building, built in 1870, stands on 3rd St. just north of the north bridge. It is one of the oldest brick structures in Logansport.

For sale!

Logansport was named for John Logan, a half-Shawnee soldier who had been friendly to area settlers. The forest that covered what is now downtown was cleared in 1828, and the town grew quickly as a transportation hub. The Michigan Road came in 1832, the Wabash and Erie Canal in 1837 or 1838, and the first of many railroads in 1855. The railroad left the deepest impression on Logansport; by the 1920s, they employed 3,000 here.

A thriving downtown was built during Logansport’s best years. This image from a postcard postmarked 1908 shows eastbound Broadway St. from 3rd St.

Much has changed in this scene in 100 years. Only one older building is visible from this corner today. 3rd St. is one way west today, so northbound Michigan Road travelers follow Market St., which is one block south. This is where the Michigan Road becomes State Road 25, which it will remain until it reaches Rochester.

Broadway St.

This postcard, probably from the 1910s, shows westbound Broadway St. from 5th St.

Logansport’s boom busted. Over time, many of its downtown buildings succumbed to the wrecking ball. This westbound shot was taken from about the same place as the postcard image above.

Broadway St.

This building is in both of these Broadway St. photos.

Broadway St.

I was surprised by how many of Logansport’s old buildings had limestone faces.

On Broadway

This photo is of the northwest corner of Broadway at 6th St, which is where the Michigan Road turns north. This is the Keystone Building, which when built was so far away from the rest of town that locals snickered behind the builder’s back.

6th and Broadway

It appears that many of Broadway Street’s old buildings lasted through the 1960s, when this postcard photograph was taken.

This is the same scene in 2008. The north side of the street is far more intact than the south side.

Broadway from 6th St.

Around the corner on 6th St. stands this little greasy spoon with its gloriously rusty sign. I brought my sons here one day for lunch; see it here. Sadly, this delightful little joint has since closed, and its signs are gone.

Whitehouse No. 1

The Michigan Road crosses the Eel River on 6th St., and then turns right onto Michigan Ave. This southbound photo from Michigan Ave. shows the bridge over the Eel River.

Michigan Ave.

The Michigan Road passes Logansport’s Memorial Hospital, which looked like this in about the 1930s.

The hospital is a sprawling complex today, of which this is but a small part.

Memorial Hospital, Logansport

Northbound from the hospital, the Michigan Road passes through a residential area.

Neighborhood, Logansport

I’d love to know this old house’s history.

Old house, Logansport

Because the Michigan Road passes through most of Indiana at an angle, you get used to seeing roads coming in at crazy angles. Logansport’s history includes annexing a couple of smaller towns, and I would not be surprised if this was once the center of one of those towns because of the storefronts here. The Michigan Road begins to ascend out of the river valley here.

Northbound, Logansport

Most of the Michigan Road’s bridges in northern Indiana are modern, so it was a pleasure to find this survivor. My guess is that this bridge is from no later than the 1930s.

Old bridge

As the Michigan Road leaves Logansport, it passes by the Char-Bett, a hamburger and ice-cream stand.

Char-Bett

Here’s a closer look that the wonderful sign.

Char-Bett sign

This photo is from the grounds of Inntiquity, a bed and breakfast north of Logansport.

Inntiquity

An old farmhouse in Cass County.

Old house

I really like the strong lines of this house, which I guess to have been built around 1850, but the landscaping made a clean shot impossible.

Old house

Metea is a tiny unincorporated town in northern Cass County. It was laid out in 1853 and has been called New Hamilton and Lick Skillet, a name applied to more than one economically depressed Indiana town. (One explanation for the name is that the people were so poor that they ate anything with any food value, including the skillet’s scrapings.) Metea never amounted to much, and today all that’s there is a cemetery, a church, and a few homes. This is the cemetery.

Cemetery in Metea

This is the church.

Metea Baptist Church

North of Metea, just before leaving Cass County for Fulton County, stands this old house. It’s set way back from the road.

Old house

Next: The Michigan Road in Fulton County.

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

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Road Trips

The Michigan Road and the Dixie Highway in Carroll 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.

Carroll County was formed in 1828 and was named for Charles Carroll, the only signer of the Declaration of Independence still alive at the time. Almost as soon as the Michigan Road enters Carroll County, the Mathews Hoosier Homestead Farm appears. Hoosier Homesteads are farms that have been in the same family for over 100 years. The house was built in 1862 by George Harness; it and the farm passed through the family to Mary Mathews, granddaughter of the last Harness to own the farm. It served as a stagecoach stop for a while and is said to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Mathews Hoosier Homestead Farm

I wonder what happened to that missing shutter (second floor, front, second window from the left).

Mathews Hoosier Homestead Farm

This old house appears just south of Burlington.

Old house

The road bends slightly east as it enters Burlington, and back west as it leaves.

The Burlington United Methodist Church built this, its second building, on the Michigan Road at 10th St.

This is the church’s third and current building, still on this site.

Burlington United Methodist Church

Shortly after Carroll County was created in 1828, David Stipp, said to be a cold and stingy man, laid out Burlington. It was hoped to become the seat of a new county made partly from the Great Miami Reserve, which was 2 miles east. The Lafayette and Muncie Road crossed the Michigan Road here, but I’ve had no luck finding any information about that road. Burlington was an important stage stop, mill village, and trading center for both whites and Indians from the reservation. The town, named after a chief of the Wyandot native Americans, was incorporated in 1967. 

This hardware store stands on the south end of Burlington’s downtown.

Former fire station

The older part of the building was once the Burlington State Bank, as this 1946 photo shows. I wonder if this was once a fire station. The current fire station is a block west down the side street in the photo below. The big arch certainly could have passed a fire truck.

An old house left near downtown, across the street from the hardware store.

Old house, Burlington

These buildings stand in the heart of downtown.

Business District

This photo shows the middle building sometime in the first half of the 20th century when it was Oyler and Huddleston’s, a dry-goods store.

This photo is from inside Oyler and Huddleston’s, which people in Burlington called the Park Store for some reason.

Some other shots of downtown. I’m guessing that this one is from the 1910s.

This one’s probably also from the 1910s.

This photo from the 1970s shows the northbound road from State Road 22.

This is from the same spot, except southbound, in the 1970s. It shows the Oyler and Huddleston building on the right and the former bank in the next block south.

This is a former general store, north of downtown. On the vacant lot to the north once stood a house built by David Stipp that, after he sold it, was a relay house for stage horses. A tavern was kept in the basement; the entrance was a trap door on the porch!

Old storefront, Burlington

Here’s the store during its days as the Farm Boy store, probably in the 1970s.

Burlington Church of Christ, formerly the Burlington Christian Church. This is the third building the church used, built in 1908, and the second on this site.

Burlington Church of Christ

This 1929 photo was taken after a snowstorm that shut down the town. The Church of Christ is near the center.

This photo is of a well used until 1935 to supply the north side of town (and passing travelers) with water. It was on Burlington’s north edge, just south of the bridge over Wildcat Creek.

There have been quite a succession of bridges over Wildcat Creek. The earliest recorded was a wooden covered bridge. I’m not sure which end is north and which is south!

Here’s the bridge in 1913 during a flood.

This photo from the bridge’s north end was taken in May of 1919, shortly before the bridge was torn down, suggests that the bridge had lived out its life.

A concrete bridge was planned. This formwork was constructed, but a flood destroyed it in 1920. Builders had to start over.

The bridge was finished in 1923. Imagine – the bridge was closed for four years! This bridge, which was described as narrow, may have been a Luten bridge. Even if it wasn’t, it looks typical of the kinds of bridges Indiana was building in this timeframe.

This northbound photo shows the road leaving town and crossing the current bridge, a typical boring slab supported by piers.

Northbound, Burlington

This photo shows the Michigan Road southbound as it heads toward Burlington. This is probably from the 1910s, as the covered bridge is there. Notice that the road is made of dirt.

The Michigan Road wasn’t paved in Burlington until 1929. This early-1900s northbound photo shows how the road became a rutted bog when it was wet.

This photo from about the same time shows not only how the road got rutted when wet, but also how it once rolled. This section has since been leveled; the road through Burlington is entirely level. There were certainly many such dips along the road until the modern era, roughly since 1950, when technology and road funding allowed rolling highways to be flattened.

Sharon is the first spot on the map north of Burlington.

I stopped mostly to take photos of the Sharon Baptist Church.

Sharon Baptist Church

Some old buildings on the road have steps down to the road. Clearly, they are a holdover from a day before the Michigan Road was capable of handling 55 mile per hour traffic. Nobody parks along the road on Sunday morning and walks up these steps anymore.

Sharon Baptist Church

The road had been freshly paved when I drove through. Compare this to the muddy photos from 100 years before! Northbound.

Northbound, Sharon

A cemetery stands north of the Sharon Baptist Church, just across County Road 50N.

Beech Grove Cemetery

Just south of the town of Deer Creek stands Sycamore Row, a historic old alignment. The origin of the sycamore trees is uncertain. But they boxed in this short segment of road, making it a tight squeeze. Unbelievably, this remained the in-service road until 1987! Read more about Sycamore Row here.

Sycamore Row

This is what the road inside Sycamore Row looks like today.

Sycamore Row

The little town of Deer Creek lies just north of Sycamore Row and the creek the town is named after.

This is the Deer Creek Presbyterian Church, which was established in 1842. This building is certainly newer than that.

Deer Creek Presbyterian Church

This Deer Creek building was a feed store during at least the late 1950s. It began its life as the West Sonora Christian Church. I failed to photograph it, but just north of this building is an arch with the words WEST SONORA, which I’m told used to stretch over the Michigan Road. I’m guessing that Deer Creek was once known as West Sonora.

What is this?

Next: The Michigan Road in Cass County, Indiana.

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

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Road Trips

The Michigan Road and the Dixie Highway in Clinton 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.

Clinton County, founded in 1830, was named for New York State’s seventh governor, DeWitt Clinton. He was largely responsible for the construction of the Erie Canal. I’d like to know why the county was named after him, since no canals pass through it!

Shortly after entering Clinton County, the town of Kirklin appears. Laid out in 1837 by Nathan Kirk, it was once called Kirks X Roads or Kirk’s Cross-roads, recognizing its founder and the two oldest major roads in Clinton County – the Michigan Road and the Newcastle-Lafayette State Road. The latter road stretched from New Castle to Lafayette, probably along the general path of State Road 38, which stretches between those towns today. The Newcastle-Lafayette State Road was built a few years before the Michigan Road. The town was incorporated in 1878.

The building of these roads gave farmers access to markets where they could sell their produce, but it was no small matter to reach those markets. Here’s an excerpt from page 509 of History of Clinton County, Indiana:

“Many of the farmers of [the 1830s] hauled their grain in wagons to Chicago and Michigan City on the lake where they received from 37 to 50 cents per bushel for their wheat. It required from twelve to fifteen days to make the trip. We venture the assertion that the farmer of 1835 went through the laborious undertaking just described with less murmuring than is heard from the lips of the farmer of 1886 who hauls his wheat over a pike a distance of four or five miles and receives for it $1.15 per bushel.”

The first thing I notice every time I enter Kirklin from the south is this attractive and well-kept home. I understand it was once the residence of a prominent doctor.

Home in Kirklin

I came across a cache of 1920s postcard images of Kirklin. This card shows Kirklin’s downtown in those days.

It is astonishing how little the town has changed in 80+ years. A few buildings have been razed, but the overall shape of downtown is the same.

Kirklin

This is the west side of the downtown strip. I believe the white building on the right is the one behind the “Garage” sign in the 1920s photo. Two buildings to the north of the garage were torn down, but the next three buildings match those in the 1920s photo very well.

Kirklin

This is the east side of the downtown strip. I count five buildings here that are in the 1920s photo; the only one missing was where the vacant lot is. I’m told that the water tower is the former site of the Kirklin Methodist Church, torn down sometime in the 1970s despite efforts to save it.

Kirklin

This building was never a Mobil station. Somebody painted it to look like one, perhaps to sucker in people like me. An earlier version of this paragraph wondered when this station was built. A former Kirklin resident wrote to correct me – this was never a gas station, but a barber shop. As you can see, I was out road tripping at the height of the 2008 gas price mess.

Mobil in Kirklin

Much of Kirklin’s downtown is given over to antiques stores. As I was out taking photos of the town, the antiques proprietors all gathered in front of this store to watch. When I came by, they were very curious, and maybe a bit suspicious, of what I was doing. They softened a bit when I explained about the Michigan Road. They lamented the lack of business on this Saturday, the day after Independence Day. They hoped Indianapolis’s sprawl would extend farther into Boone County for the traffic it would bring.

Old Bank

This photo shows the intersection with Madison St. in the 1920s. On the right is the Masonic Hall.

The antiques proprietors told me that the Masonic Hall was torn down in the 1960s. It strikes me as odd that a side street warrants the only stoplight in Kirklin while State Road 38, one block north, gets a stop sign.

At Madison St.

Here’s a better view of the Masonic Hall. Check out that lamp hanging out over the street.

Here’s a southbound view of Main St., as the Michigan Road is signed in Kirklin, from just north of the Masonic Hall.

The Kirklin Public Library stands on the southwest corner of what is now State Road 38.

The building has been remarkably well kept. It is the town’s crown jewel.

Public library

A bit north of Kirklin, the Michigan Road curves and becomes a straight north-south road for the first time.

On the map, this is where US 421 leaves the Michigan Road, following State Road 28 to the west. Here the Michigan Road becomes State Road 29 and carries that number to Logansport. When Indiana implemented its current highway numbering scheme in 1927, the Michigan Road was numbered 29 from its starting point in Madison. US 421 was extended into Indiana in 1951 over existing Indiana highways 28, 39, and 43 to its end at Michigan City. Northwest Indiana’s Kankakee Marsh was drained beginning in late 1800s so the land could be farmed. This allowed later roads to be built through the former marshland, including these that now carry US 421.

Where State Road 28 reaches US 421 from the east stands an abandoned motel.

Old motel

Here’s the Michigan Road as it heads into Boyleston.

Northbound in Clinton County

Boyleston is an unincorporated town founded in 1875 by Lewis Boyle as a stop along the Lake Erie and Western Railroad.

Boyleston

This is the Boyleston Baptist Church.

Boyleston Baptist Church

This grain elevator was probably Boyleston’s focal point. (It has since been torn down.)

Grain elevator

North of Boyleston stands the sprawling Clinton Central High School. I am surprised by how few schools, compared to churches and cemeteries, stand along the Michigan Road. This is the first school on the road since the road passed through northwest Indianapolis.

Clinton County Educational Center

The road bent slightly northeast in Boyleston; it bends back straight north by the school.

Northbound

This cemetery lies just south of Michigantown.

Cemetery

This is a typical scene along the road in this part of the state, as it tracks straight and flat between farms and small towns. Michigantown is ahead.

Northbound

Michigantown was laid out in 1830 along what was then the Frankfort and Kokomo Railroad and was incorporated in the early 1870s. In the 1800s Michigantown was a happening place with merchants and doctors and lawyers, but today like so many other midwestern small towns it stands in some decay. This map shows Michigantown.

A number of older homes stand in Michigantown, this being a clean example.

Old house

The diner next to the house looked to be on a permanent vacation.

House and diner

This is Michigantown’s business district.

Michigantown business district

Ron’s Kwik Mart doesn’t look very kwik anymore. The space on the right used to be the Farmers Bank.

Ron's Kwik Mart

The only business I found open this day was the Michigan Town House. The storefront between it and the post office is known as the Mule Barn Tavern.

Michigan Town House

There are plenty of empty storefronts in Michigantown. The building on the left used to be a small diner. The building on the right was Newell Gas and Appliances.

More Michigantown

This gas station has been abandoned since gas cost $1.099 per gallon.

Gas pumps

North of Michigantown’s business district, the town becomes residential and overall well kept.

Northbound through Michigantown

The Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana moved this house to this spot along the Michigan Road, just south of the railroad tracks on Michigantown’s north end, in late 2007. Workers have been busy laying a new foundation beneath it since.

Historic Landmarks Foundation house

Across the street stands this lovely old home.

Old house, Michigantown

Even though I stop in every town for photos, most of the road in this part of the state passes by farm after farm, as this short video from north of Michigantown shows.

Near Clinton County’s north border stands Middlefork, an unincorporated town named for its placement near the middle fork of Wildcat Creek. Middlefork barely registers on an aerial map.

This cemetery lies just south of Middlefork.

Cemetery, Middlefork

This old house is in Middlefork. It’s one of my favorite houses along the route because of its interesting arches over the porch and balcony.

Old house, Middlefork

This itty bitty house stands in contrast with the previous one.

Little bitty old house

Middlefork ends at State Road 26, just beyond which begins Carroll County. This school stands abandoned on an abandoned alignment of SR 26, which lies 50 feet south of current SR 26 just east of the Michigan Road. (This school is now slowly collapsing. See more photos here.)

Abandoned school

Next: The Michigan Road and the Dixie Highway in Carroll County.

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

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Essay, History

Walking the fine line between telling the truth and avoiding woke excess on state historic markers

Sycamore Row
2018 photo

In 2020, when the historic marker at Sycamore Row on the Michigan Road was damaged in an accident and replaced, its text was revised. The original marker told a story of the sycamores growing out of sycamore logs used to corduroy that section of road. Unfortunately, that story has never been confirmed and might just be legend. The new marker tells instead of the trees’ uncertain origin.

The marker now also tells in thumbnail the broader story of the Michigan Road in northern Indiana, specifically calling out how Potawatomi Indians ceded land for the road under intense pressure. When the Michigan Road was surveyed starting in 1829, all of northern Indiana was Native American land. The Michigan Road opened northern Indiana to white settlement, which ultimately displaced Native American tribes. In particular, a band of Potawatomi who lived near Plymouth were marched out of Indiana at gunpoint, passing by this very spot on the Michigan Road on their way. 859 tribe members were forced out; 40 died on the way. This is known as the Potawatomi Trail of Death.

Sycamore Row
2021 photo
Sycamore Row
2021 photo

A historic marker has only so much space to tell a story. The Indiana Historical Bureau, which oversees the state marker program, reached out to us at the Historic Michigan Road Association to review the proposed text on the new Sycamore Row marker. I was pleased that they addressed the original marker’s likely error on the sycamores’ origin, and touched on the Potawatomi story.

Pennsylvania’s historic marker program was in the news late last month (story here). The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which oversees that state’s marker program, has reviewed all of the state’s 2,500 markers and is beginning to revise and even remove markers as they work to correct factual errors and address language that might now be considered racist or otherwise objectionable.

At the time that article was published, the state had removed two markers, revised two others, and ordered new text for two more. In particular, they removed a marker at Bryn Mawr College that noted that President Woodrow Wilson had taught there. Bryn Mawr requested the removal over Wilson’s stated beliefs about the intellectual capabilities of women and his segregation of the federal workforce.

The commission has also ordered changes to the text on a marker about Continental Army Major General Anthony Wayne to remove a reference to him as an “Indian fighter.” It also removed a marker that noted a 1758 military victory that the marker said “established Anglo-Saxon supremacy in the United States.”

At least with these three markers, Pennsylvania has edged into tricky territory. Woodrow Wilson was wrong about women and segregation, but he will forever have been a President of the United States and that makes his involvement at Bryn Mawr significant. While we should look back with sorrow and shame over how the United States treated Native Americans, the fact remains that Gen. Wayne fought Native Americans. And the aim of so many early American military victories was to claim territory for white immigrants. More sensitive language can be chosen in these latter two cases, but I’m uncomfortable with simply removing language that is true because of current sensitivities.

I’m pleased that Indiana has so far walked this fine line successfully with its historic marker program.

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