Around the time of World War II, the state of Indiana decided that it was time to finally start building a belt highway around Indianapolis. The decision was made that the new state highway, named SR 534, would use an old county road that would later become known as 82nd Street and 86th Street. (For information about SR 100, check out “SR 100: How did it come to be?,” published 9 March 2019.) But a question that comes up on a regular basis is why 86th and 82nd Streets are connected they way they are? Was it the state that changed this? That answer is, no.
By 1855 (and still into 1875, as shown above), there was a road built connecting Nora, at the Westfield State Road (later the Range Line Road) and Castleton at the Lake Erie & Western railroad, through Allisonville. This road would start, on the west, on a survey line (one that is one mile south of the Hamilton-Marion County line) at Nora. The road at the east end of this section would be placed on the half section line (1/2 mile south of the section line that would run through Nora). A quick look at the map above will show that the survey line east out of Nora would cross the White River in three places, if the road was put in that place.
The bridge that was put into place would skirt the White River, which was standard operating procedure at the time. Early state roads, those built by the state originally but turned over to the counties as they were completed, would, as a general rule, be built in as simple and inexpensive way as possible. A road didn’t have to be straight if geography didn’t allow it to be easily done. Such is the case with this section of the 86th/82nd Street corridor. Also, bridges at the time were built to cross rivers at a right angle, making them easier and cheaper to build. This route also had the additional consequence of making Castleton the bigger of two towns along the Lake Erie & Western. The other town, which pretty much floundered, and disappeared, was Vertland. Vertland was located on the survey line that would become 86th Street at the LE&W tracks.
At Nora, as shown in the 1889 map above, the town consisted of two roads, one of which is now 86th Street and the other was the state road connecting Indianapolis to Westfield and Kokomo (Westfield Boulevard/Range Line Road). This latter road would be the original State Road 1/original US 31.
At Allisonville, the road would rumble through town along what is now the 82nd Street corridor. The other major road through the town, at the time of this 1889 map of the town, was a toll road called the Allisonville Pike. This road started life as the state road that connected Indianapolis to Fort Wayne through Noblesville, Marion and Huntington. There was a toll gate south of what is now 82nd Street on Allisonville Road, clearly shown in the map snippet. Allisonville contained three small streets. Due to commercial development in the area, what was the town of Allisonville was basically just removed from maps.
The Allisonville Pike was one of the few old state roads that wasn’t immediately accepted into the state highway system between 1919 and 1926. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t be until around 1930 when this road became part of the highway system as SR 13. Later, it would become SR 37.
At Castleton, the 82nd Street corridor was, in 1889, called “State Road.” This is typical of Indiana street naming conventions. In most places, if the name of the street includes the word “State,” for instance State Road, State Street or State Avenue, it generally means that it was, at one point, an original state road from the 19th Century. (Indianapolis’ State Avenue does not fit this rule, one of the few exceptions in Indiana.) The 1889 map of Castleton shows this.
By the time the state decided to add this corridor to the state highway system, the curvy road was still in place. The following MapIndy images show the corridor in 1941. The Indiana State Highway Commission decided that, if they were to turn this into SR 534, it would need to straighten out the corridor. Work started on this project, and one that would continue Shadeland Avenue from south of Fall Creek (at 56th Street and Fort Benjamin Harrison) to connect to this corridor. When completed, this would be a two lane “highway,” first connecting Nora to Fort Harrison. Along the way, due to traffic volumes, it would be expanded to four (or more) lanes. This would be before I-465 was built to replace this state highway.