Throwback Thursday: Michigan Street in Downtown South Bend

South Michigan Street - South Bend, Indiana

Downtown South Bend has changed immensely over the past one-hundred and fifty years. Perhaps no street is more emblematic of the city’s changing landscape than Michigan Street. This Throwback Thursday we take a look at photos showing the changes to Michigan Street throughout the years.

Our first photograph is from 1914. It was a postcard used to mail a brief letter to Miss W.C. Whittier of Laporte, Indiana on August 26, 1914. The postcard reads:

Dear sis,

If nothing happens we will be with you Friday by noon – anxious to see you. Clara is coming along for the day, I’m going to stay with you until Sat. evening.

With love,

Horse-drawn wagons are clearly visible, some of which were undoubtedly made at South Bend’s Studebaker factory. You can also make out some early automobiles. The road appears to be made of dirt.

Michigan Street - South Bend, Indiana

The next postcard is dated September 2, 1943. It’s a drawing of a downtown scene looking north along Michigan Street. The State Theater, Robertson’s department store, and various other small shops adorn the busy thoroughfare. The letter reads:

Dearest Mother,

Arrived home yesterday and found you good letter waiting for me. We had a wonderful vacation all the way around, Mildred entertained us so nicely and the church people in Detroit certainly love her. She is going to move to another home soon, as this lady had planned to take her in the first-place as her room was filled. So Seth has returned home. Sarah E. leaves next Tuesday for her school so we are very busy getting her ready! She and Mildred both send their love, also Janet. We made her so happy by visiting her. She is not well at all but is doing her work.

-Ginger & Sarah E.

Michigan Avenue - South Bend, Indiana

The above photo is undated and was taken at the corner of Michigan and Jefferson looking north. The buildings on the left are all gone, replaced with a block-wide parking garage and street-level stores (Bruno’s Pizza would be pictured here today). The building on the right with the Richman’s sign is the Jefferson Centre, which today houses a number of store fronts (Chicory Cafe, Jimmy Johns, etc.) and offices.

Michigan Street has clearly evolved over the years. We still have a number of treasures left, including the State Theater, Morris Performing Arts Center, the LaSalle Hotel, and the former bank that is now Cafe Navarre, but modern buildings have also sprouted up — some for the worse (the giant empty parking garages), others for the better (the beautiful glass-covered Double Tree Hotel).


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