History, Photography

Favorite subjects: Broad Ripple Village

What is now the Broad Ripple neighborhood of Indianapolis started as two rival towns far north of the city limits and along the White River. It was 1836 and construction of the Indiana Central Canal had been approved. The two towns were platted that year to bracket it, Broad Ripple to the north and Wellington to the south.

Broad Ripple, bisected by the Indiana Central Canal. Imagery and map data © 2017 Google.

The Mammoth Internal Improvement Act that funded the Canal and other infrastructure improvements would quickly cause a financial panic that brought Indiana to the brink of bankruptcy. Many of the Act’s improvements were aborted, including the Canal. Of the hundreds of miles the Canal was intended to span, just eight miles were completed, all within Indianapolis.

But the Canal’s construction brought people to the area, and the two towns grew. But by the 1880s Wellington had become a thriving community while Broad Ripple foundered, dwindling to about 35 residents. Yet when a new post office was located in Wellington but given the name Broad Ripple, the less-prosperous town won out and the entire area soon had the name all of Indianapolis knows today.

At first, just the canal and a single dirt road (now Westfield Boulevard) connected Broad Ripple to Indianapolis. In 1883, a railway came to Broad Ripple that connected to Chicago; it would later become the Monon Railroad. In 1894, electric street cars were extended into Broad Ripple; in 1904, the same tracks were used to carry interurban trains. The advent of the automobile led Indiana to form its first highway system in 1917; Westfield Boulevard became part of State Road 1 and, later, the first alignment of US 31. Broad Ripple had become very well connected.

On the Central Canal. Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2014
Broad Ripple
Walking path on the Canal. Canon Canonet QL 17 G-III, Fuji Neopan 100 Acros, 2010
Rainbow bridge
The 1906 Guilford Avenue bridge over the Canal. Kodak Monitor Six-20, Kodak Ektachrome E100G, 2012
Monon bridge
Monon Railroad bridge over the Canal. Kodak VR35 K40, Fujicolor 200, 2011

With so many ways to reach Broad Ripple from all over, the town increasingly became a place to go for fun. The well-to-do built cottages along the river; an amusement park went up on the eastern outskirts of town. Businesses filled the town’s main street.

And then in 1924 Broad Ripple was annexed into Indianapolis, and more and more houses were built in the area. It started to become a neighborhood, and the former town’s identity as an amusement destination began to wane. The amusement park was transformed into a city park. The village started to become a commercial center for residents.

In time, buses replaced the streetcars and interurban and the tracks were paved over. US 31 was routed several block west onto Meridian Street, newly built north of the canal. Even the fabled Monon Railroad went defunct. And as happened in every American city, the suburbs kept pushing farther and farther away from the city center. By the 1960s, Broad Ripple was in decline. Residents were leaving and businesses were failing. But the falling rents created opportunity. Quirky shops went into the storefronts and even into some of the homes. A vibrant night life formed, with bars opening along the main street and the former movie theater, the Vogue, becoming a concert venue. Broad Ripple was, once again, a destination for fun.

The Vogue at night. iPhone 5, 2015
The Vogue
The Vogue by day. Rollei A110, Fujicolor Superia 200 (exp. 1996), 2013
The Monkey's Tale
The Monkey’s Tale bar, Kodak Monitor Six-20, Kodak Ektachrome E100G, 2012
Big Hat Books
Bookstore in a big old house, Kodak Brownie Starmatic, Kodak Portra 160, 2012
Kayaks for sale, Kodak Brownie Starmatic, Kodak Portra 160, 2012
Ripple Bagel Deli, Nikon F2AS, 35-70mm Zoom-Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2014

My first visit to Broad Ripple was in this era. It was about 1992, and the Terre Haute radio station where I worked gave me tickets to see a concert at the Vogue. And then when I moved to Indianapolis a couple years later I ended up in a neighborhood that’s a quick drive from Broad Ripple. I’ve been there most of the last 23 years. Broad Ripple remains a common destination for me.

Broad Ripple’s main street, today called Broad Ripple Avenue and known as “the strip,” was a fun mix when I moved here: by day, popular shops and art galleries; by night, bars and late-night food joints for a younger crowd. I found the night life to be great fun then.

Now that I’m pushing 50, that kind of nightlife isn’t fun for me anymore. But I still enjoy Broad Ripple’s offbeat shops. My favorite coffee shop in town is there; I’ve written a few blog posts at one of its tables. And the Village remains a great place to go for some photography. I’ve visited it dozens of times for just that purpose.

Broad Ripple Kroger
Tiny Kroger. Olympus XA, Kodak T-Max 400, 2016
Shoe repair
Shoe repair. Polaroid Colorpack II, Fujifilm FP-100C, 2017
Corner Wine Bar
Corner Wine Bar. Nikon F2AS, 35-70mm Zoom-Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2014
Colorful clothes
Clothing shop on Westfield Boulevard. Kodak VR35 K40, Fujicolor 200, 2011
Today's specials
Good food at Petite Chou. Kodak VR35 K40, Fujicolor 200, 2011
196x Volkswagen Karmann Ghia
Karmann Ghia parked in front of the natural food store. Palm Pre, 2012.
Street seating awaiting customers. Pentax ME, SMC Pentax 55mm f/1.8, Kodak T-Max 400, 2012

Some things haven’t changed over these years. The strip remains lively and young; the streets just off the strip appeal more to those who’ve graduated from their 20s. The tiny Broad Ripple Kroger remains open somehow. Many of the former residences off the main business district still contain small businesses and restaurants. And when you drive through you can still imagine a time when Broad Ripple was a small town.

But much has changed in Broad Ripple. Businesses have come and gone, of course. Art galleries that used to dot the strip have mostly closed, replaced by more bars and late-night food joints. The Monon rail bed has become a very popular running and biking trail. Bazbeaux Pizza, which started in a garage, moved into a very nice facility down the street. And a giant polka-dotted chair was painted onto the side of a building.

Ice cream station
Former Monon station, now an ice-cream shop. Kodak VR35 K40, Fujicolor 200, 2011
Carter Bldg
Winter in Broad Ripple. Canon Dial 35-2, Fujicolor 200, 2013
Brugge Jeep
Former Internet cafe, now a brewpub. Rollei A110, Fujicolor Superia 200 (exp. 1996), 2013
Brown Rolls, brown brick
I don’t know what this business was, but it’s long gone now. Kodak VR35 K40, Fujicolor 200, 2011
Bazbeaux Pizza, a Broad Ripple institution, moved down the street from its original location. Canon EOS A2e, 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF, Kodak Tri-X, 2016
Monon Coffee Co.
My favorite coffee shop in Indy opened since I moved here but is 20 years old now. Canon EOS A2e, 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF, Kodak Tri-X, 2016
Brick Chair
The Bungalow. Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot), Fujicolor 200, 2011.

For more than 40 years, Broad Ripple has had a quirky, offbeat, hippie vibe. But that is beginning to change as yet another major transition comes to the area: urban densification. The neighborhoods around Broad Ripple have been very popular over the last quarter century or so, which has driven home prices and rents up. Developers have taken notice. They’ve sought and won zoning changes and are building multi-story apartments and parking garages with first-story retail. The buildings crowd the street. Broad Ripple had formerly felt open and airy, but it increasingly feels closed-in and tight.

Pedestrian Bridge
Monon bridge. Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot), Fujicolor 200, 2011
The new Broad Ripple
Behind the pedestrian bridge now. Polaroid Colorpack II, Fujifilm FP-100C, 2017
Blue mural
Mural on a building recently torn down, Kodak VR35 K40, Fujicolor 200, 2011
Electric cars for hire taking up prime parking, Polaroid Colorpack II, Fujifilm FP-100C, 2017

I love old bridges and I have a preservationist’s heart. So I was sad to see that the railing on the 1906 bridge over the Canal was altered, I’m sure to make it safer. The railing was about knee height before, making it easy to fall off.

Rainbow Bridge
Rainbow bridge railing before. Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot), Fujicolor 200, 2011
Rainbow Bridge
Rainbow bridge railing after. Pentax K1000, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Kodak Gold 400, 2017

Taking the long view, change has been constant in Broad Ripple. But many places of quirky charm from Broad Ripple’s most recent era remain. I never lack for photographic subjects there. I can always photograph the Monon bridge or the polka-dotted chair one more time. Or I can walk down a side street I haven’t visited in a while and see what’s new.

Monon bridge 1
Monon bridge. Pentax ME, Kodak T-Max 400, SMC Pentax 55mm f/1.8, 2012
Polka-dotted chair
Polka-dotted chair. Kodak Monitor Six-20, Kodak Ektachrome E100G, 2012
Blue picket fence. Kodak Monitor Six-20, Kodak Ektachrome E100G, 2012
Dilapidated building (restored since I took this photo). Kodak VR35 K40, Fujicolor 200, 2011
Vintage clothes. Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot), Fujicolor 200, 2011
Brugge. Nikon F2AS, 35-70mm Zoom-Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2014

Broad Ripple has survived many transitions before and forged a new identity. I expect it will survive this one just the same.

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The Bungalow Inc

The Bungalow, Inc.
Kodak VR35 K40
Fujicolor 200 (I think)

Of late I’ve been either busy, or ill, or busy and ill. It’s left little energy for photography. So to feed the blog I’ve been trawling through my photo archive for ones that please me. My mom bought me my first Kodak VR35 K40 new in the late 80s. Though it was just a point and shoot, it was the nicest camera I ever owned and it always did reasonable work. I don’t know what became of it. I paid a couple bucks for this one at Goodwill.

Film Photography
Watching over Indianapolis

Watching over Indianapolis
Nikon F3HP, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor
Foma Fomapan 200

Film Photography
Essay, Photography

Scenes from a defunct golf course

It’s surprising how fast a golf course deteriorates when it gets minimal maintenance.

That my home has a golf view is happenstance; my house came first by 20 years. But the course was built as a community with large homes much more expensive than mine. Imagine those homeowners’ shock early this year when they learned that the golf course had gone into receivership. (I wasn’t exactly thrilled to learn of it either.) A bank owns it now, but the course is not operating.

On the abandoned golf course

It’s fascinating to watch the course deteriorate. The bank regularly sends someone to cut the grass, but a golf course needs a lot more work than that to continue to look and perform like a golf course. As spring arrived, at first you could still make out the distinctive features of the fairways and greens. But nature was starting to have its way.

On the abandoned golf course

I haven’t golfed in 25 years, but many of my friends do. They tell me that they find other area courses to be more interesting, but they liked this course’s low green fees. They often mention that maintenance here is so-so at best. Last season, even that so-so maintenance fell off. In the view from my back yard, the rough became very rough and even bare in spots. Fallen tree branches were not being picked up. The cable barrier that kept carts on the path was not being repaired when it broke. I wondered what was up. Now we all know.

On the abandoned golf course

These three trees just behind my property are a frequent subject when I test new-to-me old cameras. You can see that there was still some contrast between the fairway and the rough earlier this spring. Black-and-white film really brings it out.

Golf course trees

Today it’s very hard to tell fairway from rough. Greens are even hard to distinguish now. Whoever buys this course, if anyone ever does, will have a lot of work to do to make the course fit for golf again. I shot this from the 14th tee; this is the fairway I see from my back yard.


Before this season, I’d stepped over my fence onto the course only a few times, and always to maintain my property. I’ve been curious to walk the course as the families who live in this golf community often do, but I’ve felt sure that wasn’t allowed. This season, curiosity has sent me over the fence a handful of times to explore. I’ve walked only the back nine, the part on which I live. The 14th hole is in the worst shape, with fallen trees blocking the cart path in a few places.

Tree down

The ponds have all scummed over.

Pond scum

A distinctive feature of this course is that the back and front nine are separated by a heavily traveled road. You’d never know it while driving through, but golfers play through by using a tunnel under the road. This photo doesn’t show it well, but this tunnel is tall enough for me to stand up in, and should be easily tall enough for a cart to drive under.


Despite the decay, it’s easy to see how attractive this course is. It provides lovely views for homeowners along it.

On the abandoned golf course

Of course I hope someone buys and operates this course. But I worry that this area has more golf courses than it can support, and this one failing is a natural consequence.

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Road Trips

Improvements on “MLK,” aka the Michigan Road, in northwest Indianapolis

There’s an unfortunate saying: if you’re on a street named after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., you’re in a rough neighborhood.

This may be only a stereotype, but sadly it’s been true of any city I’ve ever been in. Indianapolis, the city I call home, is no exception. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd., is the Michigan Road between 10th and 38th Streets. “MLK,” as we all call it, is in an economically challenged part of town. It figures frequently in the police blotter. When I surveyed the Michigan Road in 2008, I felt very out of place there and didn’t linger for many photos. Most things were in dilapidated condition. This house is representative.

Dilapidated house

Bar-B-Q Heaven was one of the bright spots on MLK. Its great neon sign is lit night and day.

Bar-B-Q Heaven

Holy Angels Catholic Church anchors this neighborhood, but sadly, this building has been torn down since I shot this photo.

Holy Angels Catholic Church

Here, the road goes under I-65 just before it passes Crown Hill Cemetery and reaches 38th St. Much of MLK had this “nowhere” feeling.

Michigan Road at I-65

15 or 20 years ago now, a group of civic leaders pressed to have the MLK name extended all the way up Michigan Road to the city limits at 96th St. Their argument was that this would honor Dr. King in all kinds of Indianapolis neighborhoods, from depressed to properous, from inner city to suburban. I was sympathetic to their cause, but I wasn’t in favor of renaming more of this historic road. It would have wiped the Michigan Road name off Indianapolis’s map. I hoped the group would find another road for this purpose, but then the effort quietly faded away.

Since 2008, the city has completed a number of infrastructure beautification improvements in several challenged neighborhoods. MLK was one of them. The road had previously been four lanes wide, a remnant from the days when this road was US 421 and needed to move cars swiftly through town. But since MLK is used much more as a local road today, the first step was to remove two of the driving lanes and add parking.

MLK southbound

Colorful crosswalks went in at every intersection. Notice the stylized “MLK” logo.


That logo appears in wayfinding signs posted all along the corridor, giving this area its own branding. I love how the signs link people to the great resources nearby.

MLK signage

The grass is all green and young trees line the road. The entire area is much more cheerful.


I love what the city has done here, but please don’t confuse it for improved prosperity. There are still dilapidated houses and the police still visit this area a lot. Improving the socioeconomic situation along MLK will take much more than a city infrastructure program.

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

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Corner Wine Bar

Corner Wine Bar
Nikon F2AS, 35-70mm Zoom-Nikkor, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200

Film Photography