Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Ashley, IL: Fading crossroads
Ashley is now so insignificant that the Rand McNally Road Atlas doesn't even list its population; other sources place the year-2000 figure at anything from 600 to 1500. But Ashley was obviously more important at one time--How else to explain all the motels? Before the Interstates came through (a major interchange is less than 15 miles away at Mt. Vernon), Ashley was sitting pretty at the intersection of US 51 (a major north-south route) and State Road 15. This placed it just about halfway across the state for east-west travelers, and thus a natural stopping point.
The motels now look like the kind with long-term residents. It's still easy, however, to picture a trucker or drifter of the not-too-distant past rolling into Ashley, checking out the watering hole at the edge of town, and then floppin' at the Parkview.
Also of note is the Ashley Waterworks, a little north of town on 51. Built in 1941, it seems to belong to a style that could be easily dubbed "Half-Assed Moderne," or perhaps "Cheapsh*t International." I thought it was kind of cute.
Currently adrift in my files are some nice black & white photos of the old factory at the center of town. I want to say it made glass products. When the pics turn up, I'll post 'em.