I took a 25-mile bike ride recently. I’m toying with doing a multi-day bike tour late this summer, and I need to both train for it, and also see what it’s like to take long rides on a 35-year-old bike as a 53-year-old man. I discovered that the wide, springy seat on my Schwinn is comfortable on a long ride. I also discovered that my lower back starts to ache at about mile 20. I’m going to see if raising my handlebars helps with that.
My route took me up the Michigan Road for about 4½ miles. Here the road is US 421 and therefore a fairly busy highway. The tour I am considering will be all along a highway, so I want to build familiarity with riding on them.
I slipped my Canon PowerShot S95 into the little bag that hangs off my seat. I have passed this barn a number of times while driving by, but never really studied it before. Doesn’t it look like a new barn built in an old style? I didn’t photograph this barn as part of my 2008 survey of the Michigan Road, but Google did for Street View. Have a look here. It looks like this is an old barn with a new skin. I don’t know anything about barn preservation but this seems like a cool way to go about it to me.
One marker is not far from my home in Boone County. Placed in 1966, it tells the road’s story in thumbnail.
This marker received a restoration since I first photographed it in 2008. The Indiana Historical Bureau, which manages these markers statewide, seeks volunteers to repaint faded markers. This one found its volunteer somewhere along the way.
This marker stands on the west side of the road, at Valley Meadow Road, which is north of E CR 550 S and south of E CR 500 S in Boone County.
When I made my recent Friday-day-off trip up the Michigan Road to see the Sycamores, I also brought my Yashica-12 along, loaded with Kodak Vericolor III expired since July of 1986. I shot this ISO 160 film at at EI 80 to tame the ravages of time. Here’s the Carnegie library in Kirklin.
This is the Mathews house, in southern Carroll County. It’s part of a farm that’s been in the same family for more than 100 years, which makes it a Hoosier Homestead.
I should have moved in closer to this barn, as it’s the star of this show and who needs to see all of that flat blue sky? This is in Clinton County, I think.
Naturally, I made several photos of Sycamore Row with the Y-12.
Finally, not many people know that this grassy lane that heads west from the south end of Sycamore Row was once State Road 218. It hasn’t been that highway in a very long time. SR 218 still exists. It was moved decades ago about a quarter mile to the north, just past the north end of Sycamore Row, so it didn’t have to cross Deer Creek.
The Vericolor III performed pretty well at EI 80 — much better than it did at EI 100 and 125, as I shot it last time. Still, some photos suffered from a little haze and grain that I couldn’t Photoshop away.
Friday I had most of the day off, so I went for a drive up the Michigan Road. I’d heard that a new streetscape was being built in tiny Kirklin, so I stopped to see the progress.
The new sidewalks even extend around the corners, for about a block.
When I first visited Kirklin, while surveying the Michigan Road in 2008, several shop owners stopped me to find out why I was photographing their town. When I explained, they all lamented that despite being only about 45 minutes north of Indianapolis, they seldom got visitors from there, and they were all barely getting by in their shops.
Many of Kirklin’s builidngs were in dilapidated condition then. In the intervening years, many have been renovated and filled with antique and arty-crafty shops. Most of them are open only on the weekends. But there’s critical mass in Kirklin now, where there wasn’t in 2008. It’s worth the Saturday or Sunday drive to spend a couple hours looking through these shops and perhaps getting a bite in one of the restaurants.
The new streetscape will only enhance Kirklin’s appeal. Bravo to them.
Here are the rest of the vintage postcards I collected showing images from the Michigan Road in Indiana. Last time I shared images from Madison to Indianapolis, the southern portion of the road. Now I’ll share images from Indianapolis to Michigan City, the northern portion of the road.
In Indianapolis, for many years the road on the northwest side of the city was called Northwestern Avenue. Today it’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd. from the northwest edge of Downtown to the old city limits, and then Michigan Road from there to the county line. This bridge, long since replaced, carried the road over the White River. Guessing, I think this postcard is from the 1920s. Back then, this was outside the city limits.
The next postcards I owned take us 66 miles north of that bridge to downtown Logansport. The road followed Broadway Street for a few blocks. This view looks east, which is northbound on the Michigan Road. This postcard bears a 1906 postmark.
This 1920s view of Broadway looks west, which is southbound on the Michigan Road.
This 1960s view also looks west on Broadway.
Finally, as the road leaves Logansport northbound it passes by Logansport Memorial Hospital. This hospital building isn’t visible from the road; perhaps it’s been razed in favor of the current set of buildings. Perhaps it was in a different location in the city; I don’t know. But I’m including it because the current hospital is very much on the Michigan Road
Next, a couple views of downtown Rochester. This view from the air is on a postcard postmarked 1911. The grand Fulton County Courthouse is just out of the photo to the right.
Here’s a 1960s ground-level view from the intersection with 8th Street, right in front of the courthouse.
Next I had this postcard from Plymouth, a little south of downtown from its grand avenue of lovely homes. Most of those homes still stand today, making this just as lovely a drive now as then. This postcard is postmarked 1911.
This view of downtown Plymouth is from a postcard postmarked 1958, but judging by the cars I’d say the image is from the early 1950s. This photo looks northbound.
This southbound photo of downtown Plymouth is also postmarked 1958.
This is easily the most interesting postcard in the set. It’s a view of Lakeville, a small town just south of South Bend. It is postmarked 1911. This is a southbound view. Notice how wide this dirt road is! The Michigan Road claimed a 100-foot right-of-way when it was built.
Next is South Bend. This card postmarked 1906 shows Michigan Street, but the city has changed so much that I couldn’t tell you where this is located and whether this is a northbound or southbound photo.
The same would be true for this card postmarked 1909, except that its caption clears things up very nicely.
This card is from the same place as the one above, taken sometime in the 1950s. I think the building second from the right edge of the photo is the same one that’s second from the right edge of the photo above, the building with the advertisement sign painted on the side.
Finally, we reach the end of the Michigan Road, in Michigan City. This vast sand dune is no more. It was carted off load by load, and used to make glass. A giant cooling tower for an electrical power plant stands here today.
As I researched the Michigan Road back in about 2008, I bought a number of vintage postcards of scenes from the road. They gave some good 20th-century views of the road and the places on it.
I sent those postcards to a road-loving collector not long ago; a man can keep only so much. But I scanned them all first.
The Michigan Road begins in Madison, on the Ohio River. This 1960s postcard shows Madison’s Main Street at West Street. While the Michigan Road actually begins six blocks north of this intersection, Main and West is the spiritual beginning, if you will, of the Michigan Road.
Madison is in the Ohio River valley. As you begin your Michigan Road journey north from Madison, you climb out of that valley on a winding section of the road. This is what part of it looked like in the 1940s.
North of Madison the Michigan Road splits in two. The original 1830s alignment is a narrow country road that leads directly to the small town of Napoleon. But in the early 20th century, the road was rerouted to the east through Versailles and Osgood and then back to Napoleon. This 1970s postcard shows a motel in Versailles that still operates.
The road soon reaches Greensburg. It’s clear how the road originally entered and exited this small city, but it’s anybody’s guess how it passed through its downtown. This impressive YMCA building is near where the road picks up again on the northwest edge of downtown. It still stands and is senior apartments today.
This Methodist church still stands, as well, and is around the corner from the YMCA. Its bell tower was removed somewhere along the way.
Greensburg’s Carnegie Library stands where the Michigan Road leads out of town. It was used as city hall for some years, and I gather now it is a private residence. It was a popular postcard subject.
In Shelbyville, the Michigan Road makes a right turn at Harrison Street downtown. This theater still stands on that corner, although it hasn’t been used as a theater in a long time.
The back of this postcard is a hand-typed advertisement for a film the theater was showing. Notice the 1912 postmark!
A couple blocks later the Michigan Road reaches Shelbyville’s Public Square. In those days, streetcar tracks crisscrossed the square.
Today, the a parking lot sits at the center of the Public Square.
Finally, this image in Downtown Indianapolis shows Washington Street, which carried both the Michigan Road and the National Road. The photo looks to the east, which is southbound on the Michigan Road. I’m pretty sure that the Michigan Road turned north one block east of here at Meridian Street, but when we routed the Michigan Road Historic Byway it was much more practical to let it continue west on Washington a few blocks to West Street, where the byway turns north and soon rejoins the original Michigan Road path.