Road Trips

Lit neon at the South Bend Motel

South Bend Motel

On our recent Michigan Road trip, we whizzed right by the South Bend Motel. It was cold, we were tired, and some of the neon was out on this great old sign anyway. Not much new to photograph. So these photos are from earlier road trips. Above, 2009; below, 2007.

South Bend Motel

Fortunately, little has changed (except the non-functioning neon). This little motel has been plugging away here for as long as I can remember. I grew up less than a mile away.

This motel is on the Michigan Road (and Dixie Highway and Old US 31) on South Bend’s south side. It’s always stood alone in this heavily residential neighborhood. Here’s a daylight shot of its sign.

South Bend Motel sign

Online reviews of this place range from “cheap but decent” to “dirty rooms and rude staff.” So if you ever decide to stay, set your expectations accordingly.

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

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Road Trips

The lovely old homes on the Michigan Road in Rochester and Plymouth

If you like old houses, you’ll love driving the Michigan Road through Fulton and Marshall Counties. The road is lined with lovely old houses in Rochester, Argos, and Plymouth. We stopped in Rochester and Plymouth on our recent trip. Here are some of the houses in Rochester. Click any of the photos to see them larger. (The flag was at half mast because of the death of President George H. W. Bush.)

Here are some of the lovely older homes in Plymouth.

That first photograph is of an especially notable house: that of Plymouth’s first mayor, Horace Corbin. Here’s an engraving of his house as it stood shortly after it was built.

I shared Horace Corbin’s story once before, here.

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

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Preservation, Road Trips

The mystery of the former one-lane bridge on the Michigan Road in Fulton County, Indiana

It was exciting to come upon this abandoned bridge abutment when my old friend Brian and I explored old US 31 in northern Indiana in 2007. (That whole trip is documented here.)

Bridge abutment, Rochester, Indiana

Standing on the old abutment it’s easy to see where the old bridge used to meet the Tippecanoe River’s north bank. It’s just right of where the current bridge, built in 1982, meets it.

Tippecanoe River bridge

My dad remembers driving the old bridge. He said it was just one lane wide, and there was a stoplight at either end. Traffic on US 31 would often back up at either end waiting to cross here. The mother of an old friend, who grew up in Fulton County, remembers a time before they installed the stoplight — and the games of chicken oncoming drivers played with each other.

My research turns up only the photo above, circa 1910, as possibly a bridge at this location. Those stone abutments look right, and the rise of the left approach looks to me to match the abandoned approach and abutment. The river is awfully full, though, fuller than I’ve ever seen it. This photo could have been made during a flood.

Current bridge and old abutment from the air. Imagery © 2019 DigitalGlobe, Indiana Map Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2019 Google.

But this two-span bowstring through truss bridge is not the bridge my friend’s mother remembers. She specifically remembers a single-span bridge with a squarer truss design, probably a Pratt through truss

If that bowstring truss was ever at this location, it had to have been replaced with the one everybody remembers, sometime after the 1910 photograph was made. The Great Flood of 1913 destroyed a lot of bridges; perhaps it did this one in.

By the early 1970s, US 31 was rebuilt as a four-lane expressway about a mile to the west, relieving the traffic burden on the old bridge here.

By the way, this bridge is on the Michigan Road. When US 31 was commissioned in Indiana, it used the Michigan Road from about 3½ miles south of here in Rochester, to about 42 miles north of here in downtown South Bend.

In 2010, an aspiring Eagle Scout stabilized this abutment, mortaring in the stones and laying in concrete pavers where the old road bed had gone missing. I made this photograph of it in late 2011 and wrote about it here.

Old bridge abutment

Here’s the same scene the day after Christmas in 2018. The mortar’s color has neutralized with age, making the abutment look more natural.

Old bridge abutment, north of Rochester

Three historic markers stand on the old abutment. The third, which is the shorter stone, was placed sometime since 2011. I never think to photograph it because I forget it’s newer and that I’ve not already photographed it. I can’t remember what it commemorates. The larger stone commemorates a village of Potawatomi Indians that was once here, and how those Indians were removed to lands out west in a forced migration now known as the Trail of Death. You’ll find a wealth of information about the Trail of Death here. I have a Potawatomi ancestor, I am told, though I can’t confirm it.

Old bridge abutment, north of Rochester

The final marker on this abutment honors the Michigan Road itself. Two other state markers like this one honor the road: one in Ripley County at US 50, and one in Boone County about three miles north of I-465.

Historic marker

Every time I stop here, the Tippecanoe River is tranquil.

Tippecanoe River

Here’s hoping that someday confirmed photographs of the old bridge here emerge.

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

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Preservation, Road Trips

A lot of deterioration can happen to something neglected for ten years: Rochester’s Times Theater

This is the Times Theater, on the Michigan Road in Rochester, Indiana. At least, this was it in 2008, while it was still operating.

Times Theater

The Times showed movies for 90 years, but owners couldn’t afford a digital projector and had to close it in 2014. This marquee was already showing strong signs of rot in 2008…but look at it now.

Times Theater, Rochester

This poor old sign. Here’s a closer look, first 2008 and then 2018.

Times Theater sign
Times Theater, Rochester

Fortunately, a non-profit group has organized with a goal to restore and reopen the Times as an art and entertainment center for the community. Their Facebook page is here. Here’s hoping they can achieve their goals — and see this sign restored, if it’s not too late.

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

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Leeper Park bridge

Leeper Park bridge
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom
2008

My hometown of South Bend, Indiana, has many lovely bridges. This one, built in 1914, carries Michigan Street, the city’s main street, over the St. Joseph River. That road was US 31 for many years.

This bridge borders beautiful Leeper Park, which is a historic landmark. My mother grew up in the well-to-do neighborhood behind the park to the southwest and spent many hours here as a girl.

The lights on the bridge are replicas of the lights installed when the bridge was new, and were added sometime in the last 20 years. The original lights were removed before I was born. During the years I grew up in South Bend, the bridge had no lights.

Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Leeper Park bridge

.

Image
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

Standard