From a very early time, the Indiana State Highway Commission made it a point to issue press releases of detours of the growing state highway system. These press releases would be published in the newspapers of the time, listing the current road construction projects throughout the state. Usually, these were listed under the headline “Condition of State Highways.” One of the earliest that I have found so far was published on 11 August 1923.
These updates would usually contain a detailed description of some of the projects, then list the state roads in numerical order.
The above mentioned article listed, for example, a detour of the Lincoln Highway in great detail. “Traffic on the Lincoln Highway eastbound from Valparaiso, will find the road closed east of Valparaiso, west of Westville, and for one mile north of Westville. East-bound traffic from Valparaiso should take the Yellowstone Trail, No. 44, to a point one mile north of Wanatah. From there LaPorte traffic goes north to the south edge of Westville, thence east over the south route to LaPorte. South Bend traffic should go through Wanatah, following No. 44 to Hamlet, thence north and east to destination.”
When the roads were listed in order, not only the number, but the general direction, was listed in the description. For instance, SR 2 (known in press releases as No. 2), the original route of the Lincoln Highway at the time, was listed as follows: “No. 2 (Valparaiso, South Bend, Fort Wayne, Ohio line) – Closed from state line to Ft. Wayne; thence to Churubusco; from five miles east of LaPorte to LaPorte; from one mile west of Westville to two miles west of Westville, and from two miles east of Valparaiso to Valparaiso.” This was the brief description of the same thing listed in the previous paragraph.
Sometimes, the press release would even go into great detail within the state road numbers list. For instance, “No. 4 (Mt. Vernon, Evansville, Seymour, Ohio line) – Closed near Haysville with no suitable detour. North-bound traffic from Jasper go to Loogootee by way of Portersville and Alfordsville. West-bound traffic from Paoli to points south of French Lick turn north to Mitchell, thence west on No. 5. Under construction from Evansville to county line, and from Boonville to Huntingburg. Bridge construction east of Vallonia: drive run-around carefully. Grading approaches to overhead bridge at Mitchell. Heavy grading east of Nebraska. Take run-around in dry weather, detour in wet.” One could safely assume that OSR 4 was mostly a dirt road at that point.
The old Michigan Road and the Indianapolis-Lafayette road, at this point in history, was OSR 6. What is now Lafayette Road out of Indianapolis was “closed just north of Flackville to two miles north of Royalton.” The detour recommended for Lebanon traffic was to take the old Michigan Road, at the time OSR 15, “leaving Indianapolis by way of Capitol avenue and Thirty-eighth street.” This was due to the fact that the “detour starting just out of Indianapolis is very bad.”
OSR 6 was also listed with having “new stone between Osgood and Greensburg, and heavy grading from Greensburg to Shelbyville.” It is also recommended that travelers “take St. Omer run-around carefully.”
Another historic road under construction at that time was No. 42 (Paoli to New Albany). The road is listed as “under construction between New Albany and Floyd Knobs. West-bound traffic detour to old Vincennes road, returning to state road at Galena. Eat-bound traffic detour to left at Spikert Knobs road into New Albany.”
Unlike INDOT state road detours today, most of the detours put in place by the ISHC would use local roads most of the time. With the current better conditions of INDOT maintained roads, longer official detours are put in place for travelers. At that time, such road conditions didn’t exist, so travelers would be routed along the closest available road.
The article covers roughly 18 column inches in the newspaper. At the end of the article, the following paragraph is listed: “roads not mentioned and parts of roads mentions but not specified are in excellent condition.” To give an idea of what that entails, the following roads are listed in this press release: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 31, 32, 33, 37, 40, and 42. Please keep in mind that these are the original state road numbers, before the Great Renumbering of 01 October 1926.