The Herald Bulletin

August 17, 2013

Jim Bailey: They paved paradise and put up a parking lot


The Herald Bulletin

---- — How many landmark buildings have disappeared from Anderson? Let me count the ones I can remember.

Start with a score of former Delco Remy or Guide plants. The one-time heart of Delco along Columbus Avenue is now an expanse of brownfield. Same for the west side of Martin Luther King Boulevard south of 25th Street where Guide was torn down several years ago.

Delco’s famous Plant 11 along Scatterfield Road suffered a similar fate. Soon it will be an expanse of car dealerships.

Other sites have suffered a similar fate. Gone is Nicholson File, further south on Columbus. And Emge Meat Packing Co., earlier known as Chief Anderson and Duffey Packing, on West Eighth Street.

Just as big a collection of former buildings now used for parking can be found in downtown Anderson. Start with the fireblock, the west side of Meridian across from the Madison County Government Center, which burned to the ground coincidentally while Anderson firefighters were on strike.

The south side of the courthouse square, once the site of Anderson’s largest hotel and a string of other businesses ranging from a Chinese restaurant to a drug store, a laundry and a string of bars, is now a park. The Columbia Hotel at 10th and Main was razed and is another parking lot.

The downtown Woolworth store and adjacent buildings, including a clothing store, a barber shop and a pet store, came down after another fire. Except for the present downtown post office, the entire square is now used for parking.

The building at 14th and Main streets used for years by Model Home Stores and later as an antique mall was razed, as were nearby bars, giving clear visibility to the old Big Four train depot.

The Edgewood Plaza area, a one-time thriving shopping center on Nichol Avenue west of Raible Avenue is now almost entirely gone. Southdale on 53rd Street still stands – empty, for the most part.

Gone also is the old Eavey’s Super Market at 19th and Meridian, once the grocery center of Anderson. And many of the city’s most famous school buildings, including Seventh Street, Longfellow, Roosevelt, the original Park Place and Edgewood schools, are no longer standing. Not to mention old Anderson High School and Central Junior High. We could go on and on about neighborhood landmarks that are now vacant lots.

For what consolation it’s worth, Anderson is not alone. Bankrupt Detroit has lost half its population. City after city across the so-called Rust Belt has been forced to batten down the hatches, dismantling important pieces of their history.

As Joni Mitchell’s song, “Big Yellow Taxi,” puts it:

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone,

They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot.

Anderson has come up with a sequel, tearing out the old Guide parking lot.

Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Sunday. His regular column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by e-mail at jameshenrybailey@earthlink.net.