The Indianapolis end of the Brookville (State) Road

One of the “state roads” created in the early history of Indiana was a route connecting the town of Brookville, where the Federal Land Office selling plots of Central Indiana was located, to the new capitol city of the Hoosier State, where that land office would move in the 1820s. Most of the road still exists as part of the Brookville Road, or US 52, with small sections that were bypassed for safety and efficiency reasons. One such section was mentioned in a blog post recently (link here). Another is a short straightening in Marion County about two miles from where I am sitting right now.

But the end of the road, on the Marion County end, ended up being changed not once, but twice. Once by railroads, once by the Indiana State Highway Commission.

The original end of the Brookville State Road. Image courtesy of Google Maps. The orange line shows the original route of the road, and where it crossed both the Junction Railroad (future B&O) and the Indiana Central (future PRR).

The original end of the road connected to the National Road almost three miles east of downtown Indianapolis. As shown in the map above, the Brookville State Road was a pretty much straight line through to the end. What is currently Ewing Street, behind a shopping center, was part of the original road. Sherman Drive was added later, as it is along a survey line (three miles east of Meridian Street). The road was in place when two railroads were built through the area, the Junction Railroad (which runs parallel to Brookville Road to the southeast) and the Indiana Central Railway (which ran, before abandonment, parallel [mostly] to the National Road). This created a very dangerous crossing at or near what became Sherman Drive.

As was typical at the time in Indiana, such a dangerous crossing was mainly dismissed due to the fact that the railroads became more used than the dirt trails that were “roads” at the time.

Fast forward to the mid-1910’s. Track elevation through most of Center Township, Marion County, led to both an overpass of the railroad at Sherman Drive and a slight “correction” of the original state road. Brookville Road was moved to go more westerly to connect south of the Sherman Drive overpass. Ewing Street, named as a continuation of the street north of Washington Street, would be bent more easterly to connect to Sherman Drive north of the overpass.

When US 52 was originally commissioned on 1 October 1926, it would follow the Brookville Road route, then turn north on Sherman Drive to connect to US 40 at Washington Street. From there, it would multiplex with US 40 west into Indianapolis. It would follow this route for almost a decade. By 1936, US 52 was routed along English Avenue from Brookville Road to Southeastern Avenue (at the time, SR 29). It would then multiplex with SR 29 (later US 421) into downtown Indianapolis. The original end of the old Brookville State Road would end up being a minor residential street for its last 1.5 miles. This is shown by the fact that both English Avenue and Brookville Road east of the intersection, are four lanes wide, while the old end of the road, including the Sherman Drive connection, are two lanes wide.

US 52 would follow that route until the completion of I-465 to SR 100 (Shadeland Avenue). At that time, the state route was moved to SR 100 and I-465 to bypass the city along the south side. In 1999, this was changed again with the (finally) completion of a direct connection to I-465, taking US 52 north on the interstate in a more direct connection to US 52 in Boone County.


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