The Michigan Road
Side trip: Old Madison
To put the road in its proper context, I started at the river and worked my way north. At left in this photo the Madison-Milton Bridge carries US 421 over the river. A barge, curiously named Barbara, pushes its way east. I took this photo from a place where spectators gather to watch the annual Madison Regatta, a boat race that has roots back to the 1800s.
Just east of this site lies a boat ramp from the river. On one trip to Madison, I was lucky to happen upon the Delta Queen waiting at the ramp. The Delta Queen has since ceased to cruise the rivers.
The ramp leads directly to West St., which ends six blocks north at the Michigan Road. This photo shows the Madison-Milton Bridge a little more clearly, although I know of a Madison photographer who captured it better than i could ever hope to.
Looking from the top of the ramp, West Street leads north toward downtown Madison and the Michigan Road.
Old Madison is full of old buildings. Some of them appear to need a little TLC, like this one on the northeast corner of 2nd and West Streets. The sign calls it the Cinnamon Tea Room.
On the northeast corner at this intersection is "The Feed Mill," a consignment and auction shop.
Shepley's Tavern, in operation since 1867, is at 322 West St. This is just around the corner from Main St., also called State Road 56.
An old alignment of US 421 turns north off Main St. onto West St. This is the heart of downtown Madison, 133 blocks of which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The old City Hall stands just north of Main St., damaged after a 2006 fire next door. It was built in 1879 and received a new facade in 1925. Compare to what it looked like in probably the 1940s.
Next door to the old City Hall stands the Elks building, a burned-out shell since August, 2006.
Just north, on the northeast corner at Third St., stands this building, which houses Historic Madison, Inc. It previously housed churches of two denominations and a mortuary. Here's a photo from its mortuary days.
A home and the oldest operating fire station in Indiana, built in 1848, sit on the northwest corner at Third St.
Moving north to the southeast corner at Fifth St., painted advertisements continue to fade on the Madison Creamery building.
The Michigan Road is in sight. A sign warns heavy trucks to stay off the Michigan Road and follow US 421 instead. A bridge carries the road over a canal.
But before we go back to the Michigan Road, let's explore downtown Madison. Not too long ago, Madison's Main St. was lined with businesses that served Madison – an assortment of places to buy shoes and clothes, get your prescription filled, take in a movie, deposit your paycheck, or have a soda. Even 50 years ago, many of these buildings were serving their second, third, or maybe fourth purposes. Today, downtown Madison's focus has changed to antique stores, galleries, bars, and cafes.
The first building I noticed when I reached Main St. was the Ohio Theatre, which anomalously dates to 1936. It replaced a theater on this site that burned. I understand that it shows the movie Some Came Running, which was shot in Madison, once a year. It stands just east of West St. on the north side of the street. Here's what it looked like when new.
A little bit down the street stands the Madison Bank and Trust Co. building, built in 1833. In this era of bank mergers, it became a Mainsource Bank in 2005, but fortunately this building retains its old signs.
US 421 meets Main St. along Jefferson St. This photo shows the northwest corner, which looked pretty different in the 1940s.
Downtown appears to end at Jefferson St., so I surveyed the south side of Main St. Here's the southwest corner of this intersection. Compare to what this corner looked like in 1947.
This postcard, probably from the late 1960s, shows what this side of Main St. looked like then as it approached Mulberry St.
From a different angle, here are the two buildings on the southeast corner today. Inglis Drugs, the brown brick building, is a nightclub now. The building east of it hasn't seen maintenance in a while, but the building east of that got a new facade along the way.
Here's what it looks like to stroll along Main St.
I hear that Hinkle Hamburgers is more than just a great neon sign – it's also great burgers made from beef ground fresh on the premises. Unfortunately, I had my dogs on a leash with me this day and couldn't go in.
By this time I had reached the western edge of downtown. Here's the view eastward from here. Except for the modern cars, Main St. looks like a photo plate from an old book.
This postcard from the mid 1960s shows eastbound Main St. from West St. Notice the sign cluster on the corner, which points drivers to West St. to follow northbound US 421.
Here's the same scene in modern times.
The oldest Indiana firehouse still operating stands just west of West St. on 3rd St.
Also along 3rd St., these houses are typical of those found in old Madison.
Not all is pristine in Madison, as this house shows.
Also on 3rd St. is the office and hospital of Dr. William D. Hutchings. The house was built in about the 1840s and served as a law office before Dr. Hutchings moved in. He lived in Madison until his death in 1903. His daughters closed up the house until 1969, when they donated it with all its equipment intact to a group in Madison which operates it as a museum.
Finally, old Madison is anchored by this fountain, which stands on Broadway St. between Main and 3rd Streets. It was a gift to Madison in 1886 from the Independent Order of Odd Fellows – a controversial gift at the time, as only the fountain itself was a gift, funds were needed to build the infrastructure to support it, and many felt that money was better spent on more practical projects. The fountain is of cast iron but was bronzed when the fountain was restored in 1976 (its second restoration, the first having occurred in 1949).
Created 16 June 2008. Updated 13 March 2009.