When I made my recent Friday-day-off trip up the Michigan Road to see the Sycamores, I also brought my Yashica-12 along, loaded with Kodak Vericolor III expired since July of 1986. I shot this ISO 160 film at at EI 80 to tame the ravages of time. Here’s the Carnegie library in Kirklin.
This is the Mathews house, in southern Carroll County. It’s part of a farm that’s been in the same family for more than 100 years, which makes it a Hoosier Homestead.
I should have moved in closer to this barn, as it’s the star of this show and who needs to see all of that flat blue sky? This is in Clinton County, I think.
Naturally, I made several photos of Sycamore Row with the Y-12.
Finally, not many people know that this grassy lane that heads west from the south end of Sycamore Row was once State Road 218. It hasn’t been that highway in a very long time. SR 218 still exists. It was moved decades ago about a quarter mile to the north, just past the north end of Sycamore Row, so it didn’t have to cross Deer Creek.
The Vericolor III performed pretty well at EI 80 — much better than it did at EI 100 and 125, as I shot it last time. Still, some photos suffered from a little haze and grain that I couldn’t Photoshop away.
Sycamore Row has become for me much like the covered bridge at Bridgeton was when I was in my 20s: a peaceful place to visit when I need to restore my spirit. I enjoy the drive along a road that has become so familiar to me. When I arrive, I walk the length of this old alignment and enjoy these old trees, the quiet broken only by the zoom of the occasional passing car.
A small band of dedicated Carroll County preservationists and historians cares for the Sycamores. Every now and then they plant new trees, as many of the old ones have died and have been removed. You can see some of the trees they just planted along the left side of this photo.
The old trees that remain have great character: craggy, twisted. With any luck, I’ll live long enough to see the saplings grow to take on similar character.
On my recent day trip up the Michigan Road north from Indianapolis, I stopped in Burlington. This is a small town of about 600 people, 45 minutes north of Indianapolis and 15 minutes west of Kokomo.
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 two 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.
The Burlington Methodist Church is the first major building you pass as you enter town from the south. It’s been expanded several times since it was built, probably in the early 20th century. The original church is made of cinderblock and the expansions are faced in limestone. The church’s original entrance was at the bottom of the steeple tower.
A little farther north is this building, which looks for all the world to me like a former fire station. I’ve seen historic photos of it containing the Burlington State Bank. I have photos of it (and the adjacent building to the left) containing a hardware store and later an antique store, but it’s currently vacant.
Across the street is Burlington Pizza, in this odd building. I’ve never seen a curved roof except on a Quonset hut before. This has been Burlington Pizza for at least 15 years.
A little up the street on the west is this pair of buildings, which have contained a succession of restaurants. I remember the Dinner Bell, Treece’s, BJ’s, and now Hawg Heaven (which is closed) and Burlington Boathouse. The building on the right started out as Oyler and Huddleston’s dry goods store many, many years ago.
This handsome building was originally a general store, and was one for a very long time. But in the years I’ve been driving by, it’s been an antique store, a boutique, and now a coffee shop and cafe. It’s also been vacant at least once in my memory, and has undergone at least one renovation.
Across the street, the Burlington Church of Christ is mostly hidden behind that tree.
This building’s unusual entrance features steep, curved steps and a cornerstone announcing 1908 and 1843, which must be the years the building was built and the church was founded, respectively.
I’ve never had any idea what this building is, but it’s another one with an unusual roof.
Finally, shortly before crossing Wildcat Creek and heading out of town, here’s the American House. It’s a former stagecoach stop and hotel. When I first started passing through Burlington, it was painted a golden yellow and was obviously in poor condition. It’s undergone a renovation in the last five years or so. We had a Historic Michigan Road board meeting in Burlington in 2017 and got to take a tour of the house during its renovation. I have no idea why I didn’t photograph the inside while I had the chance, but I didn’t. I do know that several of these windows were beyond repair, so they had a skilled craftsman build new windows to the same design.
On my old Roads site you can see this page, which shows photos of my 2008 visit to Burlington. It also shows some historic photos of town that I scanned from a book commemorating the town’s 150th anniversary.
When I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end in 2008, I stopped to photograph this abandoned schoolhouse near Middlefork, where State Road 26 intersects. The building faces SR 26; it’s actually on a short segment left behind when the highway was improved.
It was in sad shape, but it was intact. It was much the same in 2013 when I stopped to photograph it again. The upstairs windows were gone.
In the years since, every time I drove past here the school was in worse shape than the last time. When I drove by a couple weeks ago, I finally stopped to photograph it again. It’s not pretty.
I’m surprised this building hasn’t been razed by now. I wonder how much more of it will collapse before someone finishes the job and carts the bits away.
Word reached me late last year that this historic marker at Sycamore Row had been destroyed by a car that went off the road.
Sycamore Row is an old alignment of the Michigan Road, about an hour north of Indianapolis in Carroll County. Bypassed in the 1980s by the new alignment you see at right in the photo below, the trees that line the road here make it unusually narrow. It was a hair-raising spot to encounter oncoming traffic, especially something large like a school bus or a semi. I wrote more about it, and shared some historic photos from when this alignment was still in use, here.
The text on the sign reflects a legend that some have long questioned. It was a common practice two centuries ago to use logs to create a firm road surface where the land was usually wet, as the land here is said to have been in the mid-1800s. Also, it’s not impossible that new trees could have sprouted from sycamore logs laid here. But the truth is, nobody knows for certain how the trees came to be here.
On behalf of the Historic Michigan Road Association, I reported the destroyed sign to the Indiana Historical Bureau, which manages Indiana’s historic markers. They took the opportunity to make a new sign with more information about how the Michigan Road came to exist here, and acknowledging that the sycamores’ origin is uncertain. While the old sign had the same text on both sides, the new marker tells half the story on one side, and the other half on the other side. I was pleased that the IHB chose to tell more of the story of the road itself, including touching on how the Indian people who lived on this land were pressured to give it up for the road. I was especially pleased that the IHB let the HMRA review the proposed text and offer feedback. We suggested a couple small changes, which they accepted. Here’s the new marker.
What’s really cool is that the IHB lists their sources for this text on their Web page for this marker (here).
It struck me at first that this sign was posted backward, as the back side faces you as you stand at the entrance to Sycamore Row. But I’m sure that the IHB’s standards require them to post signs so that they face traffic on the adjacent road. People traveling south on the Michigan Road will see the front of this sign as they pass.
Nearly every time I drive up this way I stop to visit the sycamores. I usually have a camera with me. Here are a couple photos I made of the old marker over the years. I made this one in September, 2019, with my Yashica-12 camera on Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros film.
I made this photo in May, 2013, with a Canon A35F camera on Fujifilm Fujicolor 200 film. As part of the IHB’s program to keep markers in good condition (details here), a volunteer repainted this marker sometime between my 2013 and 2019 photos.
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.