It’s time for “Your Town Friday” and this morning we are headed to Shelbyville! You’ll find the Shelby County community about 32 miles southeast of downtown Indy.
When you think of Shelbyville you may think of the Indiana Grand Casino or the historic Strand Theatre, but if you really want to step back in time and get a sense of what Shelbyville was like over 100 years ago, there’s a place where you can do just that in the downtown square.
Shelbyville dates back to the early 1800s. The city is named after Isaac Shelby, Kentucky’s first and fifth governor. In the late 1800s Shelbyville was known as the “Furniture Capitol” as there were 22 manufacturing companies in town. Most went out of business during the Great Depression.
Today, over 19,000 Hoosiers call Shelbyville home and while historic buildings are now being renovated and new businesses have come to town, if you wander over to the Grover Museum you can take a step back in time.
“We have a train station, a train depot, buy your tickets and get on the train. There’s a hotel attached to the saloon, a blacksmith shop next to the livery …a barbershop, get your hair cut, a jail features the bars of Shelby County’s first jail, our little chapel has the pipe organ from the Second Baptist Church and that’s a big donation,” said Executive Director Candace Miller.
Candace takes us through the museum’s night time street scene. It took volunteers over 15 years to build!
“It’s circa 1900 to 1910. There are 27 or 28 store fronts, it is the feature of the museum. The street scene and railroad exhibit are both permanent and there are 3 rotating galleries that change out every 8 to 10 weeks. There’s a mixture of purchased artifacts similar to what would’ve been here along with Shelby County historical artifacts to beef it up and give it a lot to look at. The bar in the saloon is actually a sales counter from the Goodman’s Department store downtown and the mirror behind it is from an old mansion. The emporium on the third Saturday of each month, we open it and serve free root beer floats. It’s a 1900 soda shop drug store kind of thing,” said Candace.
Right along Shelbyville’s downtown square you’ll also find this working art gallery.
“I call it a working art gallery because my wife does baskets here and my daughter is throwing the pottery and when I’m here I do stained glass, wire wrap jewelry or copper,” said Al Taylor.
Al Taylor says Shelbyville needed an outlet where local artists could show off their talent and sell their works of art, so two years ago he opened Aba-Creations.
“Everything is handmade and 95% are from local artists. It gives Shelbyville, the local community and other people, a chance to come in and buy local and it’s good quality art stuff. Not only do we sell, we also give lessons, basket lessons, stained glass lessons and jewelry lessons,” said Al.
Al has many regular customers but he also sees a lot of people from outside of Shelby County.
On the other side of the square, Chef Joseph Martin also sees a handful of people from all over central Indiana. They come in hungry and leave happy!
“We like comfort food, things that tie people together when they’re sitting across the table from each other,” said Chef Joseph, who opened 18 On The Square nearly 4 years ago.
“The building was built in 1868, it was an opera house and then 10 years later it turned into hardware store. It had a long history there until 1986 when it closed down and since then it’s been several different things,” said Chef Joseph.
Today it’s a restaurant that features seasonal American cuisine with a southern flare.
“We always have fried green tomatoes, it’s a little cliché, it spans all boundaries south north east west, we have charcuterie, game and meat plates, cheeses and veggies. Shelbyville is revitalizing itself and we are hopefully on the front side of that. People are drawn to this town, it’s the old world and new world in this town in both atmosphere and food,” said Chef Joseph.