After swinging through Aurora, we decided to take a detour from US-50 and follow Rt-56, which winds along the Ohio River.
Route-56 is a beautiful drive, with amazing views of the Ohio River (and Kentucky beyond):
Below, the path we took:
Often, the view of the river would be replaced by cornfields…
It was on Route 56 that we first started seeing abandoned farming buildings. I started taking pictures like a crazy…
…and more, until I began to realize that abandoned farm buildings are really, really common in the midwest, and we’d never finish the roadtrip if I shot every single one.
We continued down 56…
…passing into Switzerland County, Indiana, marked by this great sign:
We passed this enormous, somewhat creepy-looking rubber ducky outside of a daycare center just down the road…
Hidden behind the foliage: a really old hand-painted Pepsi sign, with lettering advertising an RV park below:
As we rounded a bend in the road, we noticed this graveyard just on the edge of an immense cornfield…
…which apparently belongs to the Gale family. Sort of an interesting thought to have stalks of corn growing within four feet of a grave…
Then we rolled into Madison, Indiana, one of the most beautiful small towns I’ve ever visited.
One of the largest historic districts in the country, the entire run of Madison’s Main Street looks as new as if it were built yesterday:
Founded in 1809, Madison was once a thriving town due to its location along the Ohio River, as well as its place in the Madison & Indianapolis railroad. The bank building, built in 1833:
Clock outside the bank building:
According to its Wikipedia entry, Madison’s historic district features examples of all the major architectural styles of the 19th and early 20th centuries, from Federal to Art Moderne.
The Ohio Theater:
A glimpse at a side street leading to the river:
John Knoebel & Son Clothing:
If you’re ever nearby, Madison is one of the most charming Main Streets you’ll ever visit, with lots of fun shops and the river just a block away. A beautiful mansard-roofed building:
At that point, the sun was beginning to set, and we continued on our way to meet up with Route 50:
We passed through a number of small towns – I especially liked this old hotel:
As we rolled into West Baden, we passed by this intriguing arch. We almost didn’t stop because of the late hour…but my curiosity was piqued!
We had no idea what was down the long brick drive. What the heck did “West Baden Springs Carlsbad of America” even mean?? As we neared the end of the drive, we began to see a building obscured by foliage. We caught glimpses of a porch…
Breaks in the trees confirmed it to be a hotel…
…which seemed to grow grander as we continued down the drive…
Then, we came around to the rear and realized that this was much bigger than we had expected:
We went in through the front doors, and saw an atrium just inside. We passed through…
…and were blown away by what we saw:
Then we looked up…
The West Baden Springs Hotel is a recently restored resort dating back to 1902. Up until 1955, it had the largest free-spanning dome in the world:
The dome was unbelievably huge, with six stories of hotel rooms overlooking the main floor (note the balconies):
A hotel was first built on the site in 1852, offering access to the “curative powers” of the town’s natural springs. After the hotel burned down in 1901, the current building was constructed, and remained operating until 1932, when the Stock Market Crash literally cleared the place out overnight. It was sold, and over the decades, fell into immense disrepair:
The atrium in its prime:
In recent years, a local casino purchased and restored the property. I’m not 100% sure how true they were to the original design, but I’m just glad it survived its near-death experience. I can’t tell you how incredible it is to stand in such an immense room, which my pictures do not do justice:
Also, nearly all the light in the atrium was from sunlight passing through the dome. I really wished we could have stayed until it was totally dark out, when the only light would come from a few scattered lamps on the floor.
We met up with Route 50 and continued into Illinois.