You’ll find the Moon-Lite Motel in Versailles (ver-SALES), Indiana, on US 421. That’s also the Auto Trail alignment of the Michigan Road. I’ve seen other photos with the neon fully working — the MOTEL letters light up in pink.
You never know what you’re going to get when you choose to stay at an old motel like this. Thank heavens for Google and its reviews, which say that this is one of the good ones.
You might be surprised to know that 20 drive-in theaters still operate in Indiana. One of them, the Skyline, is on the Michigan Road, in Shelbyville. And it’s expanding.
Things didn’t look so good for the Skyline in 2008 when I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end. I photographed its sign then — and noticed the For Sale sign posted nearby. I figured the Skyline’s days were numbered.
Joe Gaudin, an independent filmmaker in Shelbyville, bought the struggling venue. Audiences were thin for the first few years, but in time he turned it around. It thrives today. Gaudin told me that his theater draws devoted drive-in fans from a 75-mile radius.
I won’t tell Gaudin’s whole story here — look for an article on the Historic Michigan Road Association’s Web site soon that does. My wife, Margaret, has become our marketing director, and she plans to profile interesting businesses and their owners all along the Michigan Road. Shelbyville was our first stop on that tour.
But I will say that Gaudin believes adding a second screen will secure his drive-in’s future. He’s working now to make it real, and he hopes to open it during 2020.
The season hadn’t begun yet when Gaudin met us, and of course work was beginning on the expansion. This is what a drive-in looks like under those conditions!
Gaudin showed us the projection room. We got to see the modern digital projector, critical to the drive-in’s ability to show first-run movies. But next to it stood the film projector and its lighthouse. This is vintage equipment. RCA manufactured the projector in 1948. I didn’t find a manufacturer label on the lighthouse, but Gaudin said it dates to the 1930s.
The vintage equipment lets him run old monster and exploitation movies that never made the leap to digital. Those movies create some of the most popular weekends at the Skyline!
I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.
I’ve had the best results yet in developing black-and-white film. But all’s not perfect.
This time I shot my last roll of original Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros in my Yashica-12 and developed it in Rodinal 1+50 for 10:30 at 23° (as that’s the temperature of my bathroom). I used the Massive Dev App and, thanks to a tip from a commenter, removed the Hypo Clear step that I don’t use. I agitated by twisting the agitator rod. As you can see from these phone photos I made of the negatives, one edge was washed out.
I think I know what happened. I didn’t push the reel to the bottom of the core I’m using, which is longer than the reel. 500ml of Rodinal solution in the tank was therefore not enough to cover the whole negative.
The well-developed part of each negative looks really good to me — neither dense nor thin. But my scanner tried to compensate for the washed-out edge of the film and I had to play with the exposure, highlights, and dehaze sliders in Photoshop to fix that. I also had to crop out the washed-out area. But all twelve photographs are usable.
I took this camera with me to Plymouth, Indiana, for a board meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association. I made photographs on the way home, in Plymouth and Logansport, at Sycamore Row near Deer Creek, and in Burlington and Kirklin.
It was very late to the party: the last segment of the old Michigan Road to be added to Indiana’s modern state highway system.
The state of Indiana built the Michigan Road during the 1830s to connect Madison on the Ohio River to Michigan City on Lake Michigan via the new state capital in Indianapolis.
Indiana built other roads at about the same time, but none like the Michigan Road. Its right-of-way was enormous at 100 feet wide; the road itself used the central third. Even though the road was barely a dirt path at first, it was arguably the grandest road in Indiana. It was a major commerce route that opened deeply wooded northern Indiana to settlers.
The railroad’s rise in the late 1800s led the Michigan Road and all other major roads into disuse and disrepair. But around the turn of the 20th century, the bicycle and the automobile made good roads a priority. Indiana responded in 1917 with its State Highway Commission, which laid a fledgling network of highways over existing major routes and began to improve them, in turn from dirt to gravel to brick or concrete, and eventually to asphalt.
The State Highway Commission numbered just five State Roads in its first year. You might be surprised to learn that the Michigan Road was not among them.
Not in its entirety, at least. State Roads were laid out along portions of the Michigan Road in northern Indiana: from about Rolling Prairie east to South Bend, and then from South Bend south to Rochester.
The east-west segment was part of State Road 2, which followed the 1913 Lincoln Highway, a coast-to-coast auto trail established through the work of entrepreneur Carl Fisher. The north-south section was part of State Road 1, which continued south from Rochester along a new road that passed through Peru and Kokomo on its way to Indianpolis and, ultimately, the Ohio River across from Louisville.
Naturally, all major Indiana cities wanted a good, direct road leading to the state capital, and towns in between wanted to be on those roads. A road would lead from South Bend to Indianapolis. Logansport wanted to be on that route. You have to wonder why the state chose State Road 1 through Peru and Kokomo over the Michigan Road through Logansport. The Michigan Road’s generous right-of-way would certainly ease future improvements. Perhaps the state wanted to provide good-road access to two towns rather than just one. Perhaps Peru and Kokomo had a more effective lobby.
Officials in Logansport went down fighting, agitating for the state to hard-surface the Michigan Road rather than State Road 1 south from Plymouth, as the inset 1919 newspaper article reports. They even claimed — incorrectly — that the Michigan Road was a little shorter.
Alas, State Road 1 was paved.
Indiana expanded its State Road system to more than 50 roads by 1926, adding most of the Michigan Road in the process. The portion from Madison to Indianapolis became State Road 6. The portion from Indianapolis to Logansport became State Road 15.
(By the way, State Road 15 continued northwest from Logansport through Winamac and La Porte to Michigan City, fulfilling the Michigan Road’s mission in much more direct fashion. The indirect route through South Bend had been a compromise — one South Bend certainly enjoyed — to avoid the Kankakee Marsh in northwest Indiana. In the 1830s, no road could be built there. A series of ditches built in the late 1800s through about 1917 drained the marsh, and then by 1922 the river itself was dredged. The direct route finally could be, and was, built. It is US 35 today.)
But the portion of the Michigan Road from Logansport to Rochester remained off the grid.
The U.S. route system we know today was established in 1927. Several State Roads became U.S. highways. Indiana renumbered its State Roads to eliminate numbers the same as the new U.S. routes and to tame what had become a messy numbering scheme. The Michigan Road from Madison to Logansport became State Road 29 (except for a rural segment south of Napoleon in Ripley County, which the highway bypassed to loop in nearby Osgood and Versailles). Old State Road 1, including the Michigan Road from South Bend to Rochester, became US 31. The Michigan Road from South Bend to Michigan City became part of US 20.
Also in 1927, the State Highway Commission decided to build a State Road from Lafayette to Warsaw. To be named State Road 25, it would pass through Logansport and Rochester. At last, this segment of the Michigan Road would join the state highway system! It was added first, in 1928; the rest of State Road 25 was added in stages over the next few years. The state highway map segments above tell the story. In 1923, the Michigan Road didn’t appear between Rochester and Logansport. In 1927 a dotted line appeared to show that the road was approved to be added to the system. In 1928, the thick black line shows that the road was not only added, but hard surfaced, except for a small portion near Fulton. The broken line there and elsewhere on the map indicates a gravel road.
Logansport got its wish nine years too late, as by that time US 31 had become the dominant route to Indianapolis. Not that it mattered much in the long run — US 31 might have boosted Kokomo’s and Peru’s prosperity for a time, but US 31 was rerouted around both towns in the 1970s and traffic through these towns slowed to a trickle. All three towns experienced serious decline toward the end of the 20th century, for reasons bigger than rerouted highways. None is noticeably better off than the others today.
I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.
I took the F2 along when Margaret and I toured the Michigan Road from Indy to Logansport just after Thanksgiving. The light was weird this day, and mighty dim for the ISO 100 film I was packing. Many of my photos suffer from camera shake. Fortunately, not this one.
I have a soft spot in my heart for little Kirklin. I remember how hapless and forlorn it was when I first stopped here, in 2008, during my original Michigan Road survey. That’s the Michigan Road cutting laterally across the center of the frame, by the way. That building on the opposite corner was about ready to fall in when I first saw it. Somebody rescued it.
You’ll find these barns standing in a vast empty field on the Michigan Road in Boone County. They’re at the corner of Sycamore St., which leads into Zionsville.
These barns stand unused on seven choice acres on a bustling Michigan Road corridor through neighboring Hamilton County and into this part of Boone County. Immediately south of here, it’s shops and condos and apartments and restaurants all the way to Indianapolis.
The Pittman family has had plans to develop this land. The news stories I’ve seen said it would be a mixture of housing and shopping. But plans stalled a few years ago after the family patriarch died, and it’s not clear how and when they’ll unstall.