Photographs, Preservation

On Bloomington’s brick streets

On Bloomington's Brick Streets

In Bloomington, Indiana, just north of the Indiana University campus, you’ll find nine blocks where the interior streets are paved in brick. Bounded by 7th Street on the south, 10th Street on the north, Indiana Avenue on the west, and Woodlawn Avenue on the east, these streets are lined with lovely older homes.

I was in Bloomington in late July to have lunch with my son. My Nikon FA was with me, its 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens mounted. I was shooting some expired Kroger-branded, Ferrania-made ISO 200 color film I had picked up cheap. I overexposed the film by a stop to reduce the color shifts I was likely to get at box speed.

On Bloomington's Brick Streets

Brick’s heyday as a primary paving material was the 1910s and 1920s. I don’t know when these bricks were laid, but I’d be surprised if it were much earlier or later than those two decades. The occasional brick street or road was laid after then, but more for aesthetic reasons than practical ones. Concrete and then asphalt came to rule the roads.

On Bloomington's Brick Streets

These streets have been maintained, but never restored. While I’m sure these bricks were in perfect rows when they were first laid, they’ve shifted in the century or so since and look uneven now. You’ll find patches where newer bricks were laid, probably to repair deteriorated sections or to replace bricks removed to access buried utilities. Here and there, concrete was used to replace removed brick.

On Bloomington's Brick Streets

The real stars of this neighborhood’s show are the gorgeous older homes that line these brick streets. The university owns many of them and uses them as offices. The rest appear to be private residences. The rest of this post are the houses I liked best of those I photographed.

On Bloomington's Brick Streets
On Bloomington's Brick Streets
On Bloomington's Brick Streets
On Bloomington's Brick Streets
On Bloomington's Brick Streets
On Bloomington's Brick Streets

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Road Trips

19th-century granite pavers on Sand Street in Indianapolis

A couple years ago, the late Richard Simpson wrote about what was once a street in Downtown Indianapolis that was, as far as anyone knows, the last place in the city that still shows the granite pavers that were common in the city in the late 19th century. Read its story on Richard’s blog here.

Indianapolis: Sand Street
Southbound Sand Street toward McCarty Street

This is Sand Street. You’ll find it in the southwest corner of Downtown Indianapolis, right by the White River, connecting McCarty Street to Kentucky Avenue. See it on Google Maps here. Since 2009 this street has been private property and is gated closed on either end.

I trespassed — something I almost never do. But when I saw how little of this granite paving remained on Sand Street, I decided that it was important that I document it before it all disappeared. I moved quickly and left no trace that I had been there.

The Indianapolis News shared a photograph of Sand Street as it was in 1979. If you have a subscription to newspapers.com, you can read the article here. But here’s the relevant photo. In 1979, industrial buildings lined Sand Street — but the pavers were still intact. Notice the fan pattern in which they were laid.

These pavers were laid after 1887, as the 1887 Sanborn fire map shows Sand Street following an earlier alignment slightly to the east. The 1898 Sanborn map shows Sand Street on its current alignment. (You can find both of these maps at the MapIndy site, here.) It seems clear to me that the city laid these pavers when they realigned Sand Street. (The maps also show that the city changed the names of a number of streets in this area between those years. I’d love to know why.)

Since then, the street has been almost entirely covered in gravel. I assume the old pavers deteriorated to rough condition, and adding a layer of gravel smoothed the road. I found only three small remaining patches of the granite pavers.

Indianapolis: Sand Street
Indianapolis: Sand Street
Indianapolis: Sand Street

Clearing away the gravel might reveal much more of this granite pavement. I might have been able to dig down with my foot to find more granite pavers, but like I said earlier, I moved quickly and left no trace that I’d been there.

Today, this property is used for paid parking when nearby Lucas Oil Stadium has an event. Sand Street provides entry and exit to the parking.

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Wet winter street

Wet winter street
Minolta Maxxum HTsi
35-80mm f/4-5.6 Minolta Maxxum Zoom
Ilford HP5 Plus
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B
2021

I made this photo just a few weeks ago, and now it’s essentially spring. This same scene is dry, with grass greening up, daffodils and crocus in bloom, and buds appearing on the trees.

We have a saying in Indiana. Maybe you have a similar one where you are. “If you don’t like the weather here, wait five minutes.”

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Film Photography

single frame: Wet winter street

Melting snow on a small-town street, on Ilford HP5 Plus.

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Main Street, South Bend

Main Street, South Bend
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2009

South Bend’s Main Street isn’t the city’s main street. Michigan Street is, one block to the east.

One block of Main Street is paved in brick. I suppose many other blocks were, too, but they were paved over with asphalt at some time.

My brother had an apartment on this block back in the 1990s. Memorial Hospital, which you see in the distance in this photo, was buying out all of the other property owners on this block so they could raze the houses and pave a parking lot. Rick’s landlord, who lived upstairs in the two-story house, would have none of it. He made the hospital wait until he died to get his property. That was long after Rick moved away.

I don’t remember now whether the house still stood when I made this photo, but I remember a time when it and one other house were all that still stood on this block.

Meanwhile, the brick street remains.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Main Street, South Bend

The one block of Main Street still paved in bricks in South Bend, Indiana.

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Cushing St.

Cushing Street
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2008

Today I begin a “single frame” series on brick streets and highways. As bicycles and automobiles created a thirst for hard-surfaced “good roads” in the early 20th century, brick was one of the surfaces tried. The brick era ended by about 1930; asphalt and, to a far lesser extent, concrete won the contest. Except for some modern brick streets built largely for aesthetic reasons, when you find a brick road, it is 90+ years old.

My hometown of South Bend has a large number of brick streets in its core. The main roads were all paved in asphalt decades ago, often right over the original brick. You’ll still find brick only on the side streets.

My mom grew up on one of South Bend’s brick streets, in a large house just north of downtown. My brother had an apartment for a while on the one block of Main St. that’s still brick.

As a kid, I didn’t enjoy riding on the brick streets. They rumbled the car so! I don’t mind them at all today. What I’ve found as I’ve explored the midwest’s old roads is that South Bend’s brick streets are especially rumbly. Some of the brick roads I’ve driven on are as smooth as concrete or asphalt.

This is Cushing St., on South Bend’s northwest side. I made this photo from its intersection with Lincolnway West — the old Lincoln Highway, which in South Bend was routed along the old Michigan Road.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Cushing Street

A brick street in South Bend, Indiana.

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Randolph St. in December

Randolph Street at night in December
Canon PowerShot S95
2017

A couple weeks before Christmas, Margaret and I had another Chicago getaway weekend. These weekends away are good for our spirits. We stayed in a boutique hotel on Randolph Street, four blocks from the former Marshall Field’s department store and two from the annual Christkindlmarkt. It was a perfect location.

We saw the Nutcracker, put on by the Joffrey Ballet. Walking back to our hotel after the show, when we finally reached Randolph Street and Daley Plaza we were greeted by the trees all lit.

Photography

single frame: Randolph Street at night in December

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