My journey to Indiana last weekend was sort of a whirlwind but I had a great time along the way. I went to Franklin to see author Dorothea Benton Frank speak to a sold out crowd that was convened by their library. If you ever have a chance to hear her talk, please do. She is a captivating speaker and she had the room eating out of her hand in no time. I was fortunate to score a front row seat and made friends with a retired school teacher who was also there alone.
Dorothea spoke about her current book “By Invitation Only” and about ideas she has for her next novel. She then opened the floor to questions. Usually I’m more of an observer than a participant but I raised my hand like a big girl and asked a question about “The Christmas Pearl” which happens to be one of my favorite books.
That was the reason I went.
However, the reason I stayed was to explore a little of small town America and a two towns I had never seen. Franklin is a college town, it’s the county seat with a behemoth courthouse and it has a beautifully restored downtown with an amazing old theater. There just seems to be a smidge more prosperity here.
The Artcraft Theater has been restored, including that gorgeous sign out front. The Library Director said they show movies here every weekend and that it’s a good idea to buy tickets in advance because they frequently sell out.
Downtown Franklin was pretty lively on Friday afternoon and evening and it made my heart happy to see so much activity. They have a commercial strip with a big box store, department stores and restaurants but downtown was still bustling.
Shelbyville appears to be a different kind of animal. First of all, it’s mainly an interstate stop with a few hotels, a Cracker Barrel and some gas stations. Most people are detouring here for a meal or for a night. There doesn’t seem to be as much wealth here and it isn’t as polished and clean as Franklin. With that said, there is something charming about this town.
First off, pretty much every kind of architectural style you might like to see is found here so it feels both eclectic and built over time. Are you looking for Neoclassical? They’ve got it! Victorian next door to Art Moderne? No problem. It’s all here.
The downtown is built around a nice square with parking, a fountain and some other points of interest in the middle.
I was obsessed with this building on the square. It’s a slender building, seemingly squished into a corner but it’s amazing. The cast iron facade allows for ornate details.
The town simply has character. Public art projects beautify parking spaces and there are many, many interesting details to behold if you just take a moment to look.
This brings me to my last point. All of these details above would never have been noticed from the car. Anytime you have a chance, park your car and explore a new town or even your own neighborhood. You might be surprised what you see on foot that would have escaped your notice if you were driving by. On a related matter, I know that vacations often take us to exciting places with chain restaurants and amusements parks but it’s an awful lot of fun to explore the quiet, less commercial places too!