Photography, Road Trips

Ten years ago on the Michigan Road

It was ten years ago this summer that I surveyed the entire Michigan Road, a project that contributed directly to a later project I co-led to have the road named a Historic Byway in Indiana. My wife and I wanted to re-survey the entire road this summer to document it as it is now. Given all that’s happened this year, we have yet to start. Other priorities continue to fill our summer. We will be fortunate to drive one or two segments of it this year. Perhaps we can finish it next year.

I drove the road to South Bend last Wednesday for a Historic Michigan Road Association board meeting. I noticed how much has changed just on that section of the road in ten years. It led me to think about changes I’ve noticed as I’ve driven other sections of the road over the years. I’m itching to start the new survey!

I made a quick pass through my 2008 photos and selected ten that pleased me as photographs. I was a beginning photographer then. Have a look.

NB Michigan Road

Madison, near the Michigan Road’s southern end.

Fairmount House

The Fairmount House, Madison.

Stone bridge, Michigan Road

Stone bridge, Ripley County.

Michigan Road, Decatur County, Indiana

A curvy section of road in Decatur County.

Dodge in Pleasant View

Old Dodge parked just off the road, Shelby County.

Waterman Hardware in Five Points

Waterman Hardware, one of Indianapolis’s oldest businesses.

Dunkin' Donuts

Brand new Dunkin’ Donuts preparing to open — it has since closed — Indianapolis.

Bar-B-Q Heaven

Bar-B-Q Heaven, Indianapolis.

1884 building

1884 building, Plymouth.

Approaching South Bend

Approaching South Bend. The Michigan Road is no longer US 31 here; a new-terrain US 31 was built nearby.

Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom

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Film Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

The North Meridian Street Historic District in Inianapolis: “One of America’s Great Streets”

One of America's Great Streets

I’ll never forget the first time I came to Indianapolis. It was 1976. My dad’s best friend knew the director of the about-to-open Children’s Museum and had arranged us a preview tour. We had the museum and its exhibits all to ourselves. That’s memorable enough — but my other great memory of that day is entering town on US 31, Meridian Street, and having my breath taken away by the stunning homes that line it.

More than forty years hence I still love to drive along Meridian Street to see its wonderful homes. Many of the most expansive and expensive homes are within the North Meridian Street Historic District, which runs from 40th St. north about a mile and  a half to Westfield Blvd.

The District’s homes were built between the two World Wars in classical styles. All are large, detailed, and well kept. Here now, a brief tour from a walk I took from 40th St. up to about 46th St.

On Meridian Street

On Meridian Street

On Meridian Street

On Meridian Street

On Meridian Street

On Meridian Street

On Meridian Street

The Booth Tarkington House

Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK, Ultrafine Extreme 100

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Preservation, Road Trips

I brake for neon: The restored sign at the Artcraft Theater

I’ll pretty much always stop to photograph an old neon sign when it’s lit.

Artcraft Theater, Franklin

On our annual road trip Dawn and I made our last stop in Franklin, which is about 20 miles south of downtown Indianapolis on US 31. Actually, downtown Franklin is on old US 31, and as we approached from the south we made a last-minute call to follow the old road through town. We were very happy we did when we came upon the Artcraft Theater’s sign lit.

Artcraft Theater, Franklin

Our last visit to Franklin had been nine years before, almost to the day. I remembered the sign as being in rougher shape, so when I got home I looked through my photographs. As you can see from my 2008 photo below, I remembered right. The sign had been restored! Turns out the whole theater has been restored; see photos here.

Franklin, IN

The Artcraft was built in 1922 as a vaudeville house and to show silent movies. It operated as a movie theater through 2000, a remarkable run in the multiplex era. A nonprofit bought the building in 2004 and, through grants, restored it. Today the theater is used for special events and shows classic films every week.

Artcraft Theater, Franklin

As we passed through, old US 31 was closed in front of the theater as cars lined up, trunks and tailgates open, to pass candy to trick-or-treaters. It was the Saturday before Halloween.

Pentax K10D, 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA

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Road Trips

Photographs that don’t show the best of Columbus, Indiana

I have given Columbus, Indiana, short shrift on my road trips. It is well known, prized even, for its stunning architecture and public art. (See some of it here.) Yet every time I visit I miss most of it.

It’s because on my road trips I stick to the old roads — and Columbus is served by a great one, the Madison State Road. It is one of Indiana’s first highways, from the 1830s, connecting Indianapolis to the Ohio River at Madison. It enters Columbus from the north on old US 31 and exits to the south on State Road 7. Also, it’s well worth exploring US 31 and its old alignments south from town, as well as State Road 46 laterally across town and then through some of Indiana’s loveliest scenery.

So I’ve been to Columbus several times, but I always pass through the same sections of town. Next time I’ll make Columbus a destination, get off the main routes, and come back with art and architecture photographs. Until then, you’ll have to make do with these photos of the heart of Columbus’s downtown. These first shots, starting with the Bartholomew County Courthouse, are from a trip I made in 2008.

Bartholomew County Courthouse

At the time, Columbus’s downtown mall, The Commons, was being renovated. It’s right across the street from the courthouse, where State Road 46 intersects Washington Street.

Columbus, IN

This was my first visit to Columbus, and on the ground Washington Street felt like the main downtown drag. So I walked it for a couple blocks.

Columbus, IN

Downtown Columbus feels like any other Indiana downtown — except that it’s remarkably tidy and every building is occupied. Most small Indiana cities are not so fortunate, with crumbling facades and entire vacant blocks. What makes the difference is the excellent employment available in Columbus: Cummins Engine is headquartered here.

Columbus, IN

The Crump Theater stood around the corner on State Road 46, looking a little worse for the wear. Its facade is of porcelain steel and Vitrolite (pigmented structural glass) panels.

Columbus, IN

On a return visit this October, the Crump was in much the same overall condition even though the deteriorated details had changed. A missing Vitrolite panel had been replaced with a board painted the same color, a boarded-up portion of the entrance had been reopened, and its marquee was missing some panels.

The Crump

At least this time we got to see some of the public art. This photo is a detail of a work called Chaos 1 by Jean Tinguely, who was Columbus’s artist in residence in the early 1970s. Weiging seven tons and standing 30 feet high, it’s inside the renovated The Commons mall. I wish I had thought to photograph the mall exterior, as it looks very little now like it did in 2008. And I wish there had been enough room for me to back up to get this entire kinetic sculpture in my lens.

Steampunk

Looking out from the sculpture, The Commons is a lovely public space.

Stairs

Remarkably little had changed on Washington Street since 2008. I’m sure some businesses have closed and others have opened, but the street looks just as tidy as ever.

Awning

As we walked through, many of the trees were tagged with yellow bands like these. I couldn’t discern a pattern, but all of the tags had words on them. I’m sure they were part of a temporary public-art installation.

Pause

This Washington Street alley is also a public art installation called Friendship Way. I hear it lights up at night.

Alley in Columbus

Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom and Pentax K10D, 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA

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Preservation, Road Trips

Sleep in a wigwam

The sign says, “Sleep in a Wigwam,” but these are actually tipis. A wigwam is a domed structure. But the fellow who invented this motel concept just liked the sound of the word wigwam better. Thus a name was born: Wigwam Village.

Cave City, KY

That fellow was Frank Redford, who built the first Wigwam Village in 1933 in Horse Cave, KY. It was so successful that he built this one in 1937 in nearby Cave City, KY, on the Dixie Highway, known today as US 31W. Frank licensed the design to Chester Lewis, who built five more around the country through 1949. Three Wigwam Villages remain: this one, and two on Route 66 in Holbrook, AZ, and San Bernadino, CA.

Cave City, KY

Each wigwam, or tipi, contains two beds and a bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower. According to reviews on Yelp, these are small, basic rooms from a time gone by, and they show signs of their age.

Cave City, KY

When my sons and I planned our Mammoth Cave trip I considered staying here. I absolutely would have if I were traveling by myself. But my sons aren’t into old-road nostalgia like I am. On this trip, the spacious, modern, more luxurious hotels over by the Interstate were mighty compelling to them.

wigwam_air

Imagery c 2015 Google. Map data c 2015 Google.

But there’s hardly an old motel anywhere as distinctive as this one, with its rooms arranged in a half circle around the big-tipi office. That’s an original alignment of the Dixie Highway behind the motel, by the way. Several old Dixie Highway alignments lurk around US 31W as it snakes through central Kentucky.

Cave City, KY

This old roadgeek yearns to explore them all. When I do, you’d better believe I’ll sleep in a wigwam.

(These are all film photos, by the way, taken with my Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80.)


Several great old motels line US 40 in Columbus, Ohio. Check out their great signs.

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Road Trips

Return to Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace

I’m sure it’s common to be fascinated with Abraham Lincoln. From where I live in central Indiana, it’s easy to indulge that fascination: Lincoln’s childhood and early adult life played out across southern Illinois, southern Indiana, and central Kentucky. Monuments to Lincoln abound, all reached within one tank of gas.

So I’ve visited Lincoln’s Indiana and Kentucky boyhood homes, the place where his family crossed into Illinois, where he legislated in Illinois, and — three times now — where he was born in Kentucky. This third time was while my sons and I were on Spring Break earlier this month. Mammoth Cave is just 40 miles southwest, so we swung by on our way home from there.

A monument to Lincoln

Two numbers figure prominently into the monument to Abe’s birthplace: 16, because he was the 16th President, and 56, because he was 56 when he was assassinated. When you visit, you experience 56 first: count the steps.

A monument to Lincoln

Inside, you’ll find 16 windows, 16 rosettes in the ceiling, and 16 poles through which the guard chain threads. There’s just one cabin, of course, though it’s not the one in which Lincoln was actually born. Nobody knows what became of it. But this one is representative.

Replica cabin

My favorite detail on the monument building is the lions on the doors.

Lion knocker

This property is known as Sinking Spring because of a recessed spring. These steps lead up from the spring.

Steps

Abraham Lincoln had no memories of this place. His family moved when he was 2, to a nearby farm that is also a national park. It was closed this day, or we would have visited it, too. The Lincolns stayed there just five years before moving to Indiana.


Check out photos from my previous visit to Lincoln’s birthplace here.

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