Even though I’ve taken 3,204 photos across Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, I’ve only had brief opportunities to take pictures of non-courthouse structures that interest me. I’ve been diligent about only photographing courthouses in an effort to try and keep some sense of scope to the project, but occasionally an easy opportunity to do a little more came my way. Here are some of those photos.
2011 turned out to be a rough year for my courthouse project- I abandoned it! I still had the desire to document our area’s history, but surrendering to to scope of taking photos of every historic courthouse in the state led me to two new projects while I sat and contemplated my options. At the time, I knew I needed to scale down the complexity of my efforts in order to eventually get back on track, and it occurred to me to finish an endeavor that my grandma had started back in the early 2000s as a member of the local historical society. I found some old plat maps and started finding and documenting each of Delaware County’s remaining one-room schoolhouses. Since the schoolhouse project happened within the sphere of the courthouse project, let’s run through some of those photos now.
We might as well start with the Shideler school, located in the eponymous town north of Muncie on IN-3. Yep, that’s my name there- two branches of Shidelers split back in the 1870s, but my family was not part of the sect that founded this town. Today, Shideler is a sleepy town-in-name-only, and it’s dominated by a couple of towering grain elevators. By 1918, this school consolidated with Hamilton Township, and now the structure serves as a home. Although the porch and dormer are more recent additions, the arched windows (and unfortunate infill panels), symmetry, and apparent age of the brick give it away as an old schoolhouse- not to mention its location on the map. Why’d I lead off with a sign pointing to the town’s location? Well, I spent the weekend at my family’s property, where the sign resides. Put it this way: My activities in the town were much less sedate than those of my father and his two best friends.
Most old schoolhouses aren’t homes though- sadly, they’re abandoned. This is the District 9 School in Washington Township just outside of Gaston. The school was originally located at the corner of county roads 850-N and 450-W, at the site of the Gaston Lions Club fairgrounds. At some point, the building was moved to where it sits now (probably when they built the fairgrounds), and it’s usually obscured by trees. In local parlance, the structure was known as the “Hard-Scrabble” school, a phrase that connotes a difficult period of time laden with struggle. I don’t know what conditions the original builders found, but moving the old school nearly 1,300 feet to the east to its present location must have been a hard scrabble indeed. All Washington Schools consolidated into Gaston High School by the early 1920s, which combined with Harrison Township to form Wes-Del in 1964.
This schoolhouse has seen better days. It’s the only remaining wooden school in Delaware County, standing just southwest of Desoto on County Road 450-E. Although I’ve now been literally everywhere in the state, I still have trouble getting myself to Desoto- It only sits 11 miles away from my house! It might be hard to find, but I’ll never forget this schoolhouse. Judging by the squat addition to the rear, it was most recently used for agricultural purposes. The schoolhouse closed in the early 1900s and consolidated into Desoto, which combined with Eaton and Royerton in 1967 to create the Delaware Metropolitan School District, adding Albany High School the following year.
Africa School in Harrison Township is a favorite of mine. Like many rural schoolhouses, including the previous one in Desoto, it’s been converted to farm use. The owner of this site actually grafted wooden additions onto the sides of the old school, as well as a makeshift barn door to its front. Despite the alterations, it’s clearly an old schoolhouse, and I’m glad it’s still standing! Not sure about the origin of the name as no obvious Reconstruction-era concept seems to apply here, but I’m thankful that the building has retained its usefulness in some way after consolidations across the county shuttered it. This school ultimately consolidated into the Harrison Township High School, which merged with Gaston in 1964.
The Corinth School in Monroe Township has a happy story. Around the time I started going to Cowan Schools in 2005, a group of former educators bought the building and raised enough funds to convert it into a living history museum where local kids could go use a privy, play with a stick, and be reprimanded by a school marm. I never got the chance to be subjected to that treatment, but I’m glad to see the old building utilized in a productive, non-agricultural way after being consolidated into Cowan back around 1910. The old school’s been restored enough to make it habitable, and the owners put the cupola back on its front, which makes it one of two in the county to retain that feature! Major props to the ownership group.
I ended up finding and photographing 44 former schoolhouses in Delaware County. That’s a lot! But nevertheless, the courthouse project began to call my name again and I restarted it in earnest. But before I could totally finish it, another project came up on the horizon that I just had to do.
By the summer of 2016, my grandpa was sick with cancer. Grandpa was a major influence on me throughout my life, and if his illness wasn’t enough, the Marsh Supermarkets chain he’d worked for his entire life was going under. For those of you not from central Indiana, Marsh was once a regional powerhouse, founded in Muncie, and it gained near-ubiquitous status as the place to buy groceries across the midwest from Naperville, Illinois to Cincinnati, Ohio. Although the chain once boasted more than 120 groceries, the Marsh family sold out in 2006 to an out-of-state private equity firm that ravaged the company. One day I found myself in front of an old, abandoned Marsh that they’d closed here in Muncie. Another project took off.
I couldn’t help myself, and I started documenting all of the stores that Sun Capital Partners closed. Although the project was based on renders and not photography, I still took some photos of a few shuttered stores to reference in Adobe. There are three abandoned Marshes within seven miles of each other on East Washington Street in Indianapolis, and here’s part of one at German Church Road. A 76,000 square-foot grocery, the building opened in 1992. It didn’t really last, though- this store was shuttered during the first year of Sun Capital Partners’ cutthroat ownership.
Going further into town, here’s the second abandoned Marsh on E. Washington, located in the Irvington Plaza. Despite the shopping center’s sketchy reputation, I’d been in here a few times since my band recorded just down the road. This location was truly an old-school Marsh, built as a 32,000 square foot anchor to the adjacent plaza developed in the late 1950s. It’s one that retains the old neon sign, but it closed in April of 2017. I’m only 27, but I’m old enough to remember when these old neon Marsh signs were still common in Muncie. I was glad to see one left, at least for now.
This hideous old Lo Bill Food Store at the Sherman Commons shopping center sits further down E. Washington. Not sure when this building opened, but the left side of it is now a Save A Lot. Marsh owned Lo Bill, and they attempted to attract Hispanic consumers to the store by bizarrely branding the Save A Lot half as a Savin*$ Mercado, featuring discount Mexican products and bilingual management. Unfortunately, this did not last. Two years later, the company demolished the wall between the two groceries to allow for more traffic, and both stores closed three years later. Today, the old Lo Bill is used in some capacity by the Marion County Election Board.
I rendered more than sixty abandoned Marsh supermarkets around Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. Their closure represented the end of an era to thousands of former employees and their family members, like me. But the company’s bankruptcy had even more of a troubling impact on area residents who no longer had a place to buy quality food and quite suddenly found themselves in a food desert.
But, thankfully, here’s Counterpoint A to the phenomenon. In 2017, Ohio grocers Fresh Encounter stepped in to purchase 15 former Marsh stores, kept them open, and eventually branded them as Needler’s Fresh Market after the owners’ surname. Above is a high-end Needler’s, located in Pendleton. Fresh Encounter is known for frugal investments that bring only small capital improvements to each store, after purchasing Cincinnati-based Remke in 2017, along with Chief and Fulmer Supermarkets in 2013 and 1998. While many of the new stores aren’t as nice as this one, the company needs to be applauded for continuing to serve communities devastated by Marsh’s closure.
Although the Needler’s name best seems to fit the Disneyland of opiods in south Muncie, they haven’t claimed the former Marsh Supermarkets there- the closest Needler’s is in Hartford City. But an old Marsh competitor did swoop in to pick up two of their former stores in town- Kroger is Counterpoint B to the abandoned Marsh experience. The grocery giant bought 11 former Marsh stores out of bankruptcy, and here’s a photo of what Muncie’s west side is waiting for. This old Marsh, built in 1996, will soon be home to a Pay Less supermarket nearly a year after Kroger acquired the building’s lease. Pay Less groceries live in Anderson, West Lafayette, and on the north side of Muncie in another old Marsh that Kroger bought. This one looks to be undergoing a more substantial renovation than its counterpart in town, and i’m excited for it to open.
So all that said, how do old schoolhouses and supermarkets relate to courthouses? Well, I guess they don’t, other than to represent well-deserved breaks from documenting all of the historic county courthouses in the state. If I’d paused to take pictures of everything interesting I ran across while doing this project, it would never end. I definitely missed a lot, but thankfully I found the strength to limit myself to courthouses- almost. Non-courthouse images represent less than 1% of my total photo haul, but there may still be more interesting miscellaneous photos to share. Stay tuned, because I might decide to inflict even more of them on you!