The Hoosier Highway

1917. The Auto Trail era is in full swing. Associations all over the United States were being formed to create a tangled web of named highways connecting places all over the country. Indiana, being the crossroads of America, was crossed by many of these roads. While a great many of these roads were long distance trails, there was one that mainly stayed in the state that became the longest in Indiana. This would be the Hoosier Highway.

The plan of the Hoosier Highway was designed to connect the Henderson ferry, south of Evansville, to Detroit. Looking at a map of the state, one can hardly find a way to cover more of Indiana with a road. Cities and towns that were included in the route were Evansville, Winslow, Petersburg, Washington, Spencer, Martinsville, Indianapolis, Anderson, Muncie, Hartford City, Bluffton and Fort Wayne.

By 1923, most of the Hoosier Highway would become part of the Indiana State Highway system. The road would follow original state road (OSR) 10 out of Evansville, connecting that city to Princeton. This section would, three years later, become US 41. Here starts the questionable section of the original Hoosier Highway. The HH Association, even as late as 1920, hadn’t decided on a route connecting Princeton to Petersburg. When the road was remarked in 1920, it would include Winslow and Oakland City. There was an alternate route that didn’t include these two towns, running more directly between Princeton and Petersburg.

At Princeton, the road would turn east along OSR 40 (now roughly SR 56) through Francisco, Oakland City and Winslow. At Winsolw, the HH turned more northwest, with OSR 40, to a point halfway between Winslow and Petersburg. Here OSR 40 turned east while the HH continued northwest along OSR 28. This section is now roughly SR 61 today.

From Washington, the Hoosier Highway was carried along OSR 28 to a the junction of OSR 4 and OSR 12 (now SR 54) between Switz City and Bloomfield. Here, the HH turned to the northeast along what would become OSR 12. The Hoosier Highway, from here, uses the original Indianapolis-Vincennes State Road, all the way to Indianapolis. This road would become SR 67 in 1926. (SR 67, and why its numbered that, is an interesting history in its own right. I covered it here.)

Once in Indianapolis, the road continued out of the city to the northeast along the old Pendleton State Road (Pendleton Pike). By the time it became part of the state highway system, as OSR 37, the road through Marion and Hancock Counties had been straightened. The old Pendleton Road crossed over the railroad right after leaving Marion County. It is currently known as Reformatory Road, and traverses the Indiana State Penitentiary at Pendleton. Again, this section became part of SR 67.

Reformatory Road ends at what is now Pendleton Avenue. In 1923, this route was also part of OSR 37 through the town on its way to Anderson through to Muncie. Ultimately, the section from Anderson to Muncie would become part of SR 32, but not in 1926.

At Muncie, the Hoosier Highway leaves the city due north. In 1923, this was OSR 13, but would become part of SR 3. The route would follow what is now SR 3 to what is now Huntington County Road 1100S, although OSR 13 would turn east on the road (now SR 18) between Montpelier and Marion. Huntington CR 1100S becomes Wells County Road 500S. At the end of CR 500S, the Hoosier Highway turned northeast bound for Bluffton on what is now called Hoosier Highway.

At Bluffton, that road between Bluffton and Fort Wayne once became OSR 13. This time, however, it would become SR 1 in the end. Although in 1926, it was numbered SR 3. Out of Fort Wayne, the Hoosier Highway followed the old Fort Wayne-Toledo Road, which would not be taken into the state highway system until much later as US 24.

While curves have been removed, and large sections of the old Hoosier Highway have been rerouted, most of the old road is able to be driven. Even in 1920, it was reported in the Herald (Jasper, Indiana) of 27 August 1920 that “with the exception of a small portion of roadway between Petersburg and Worthington, the Hoosier Highway is passable in all kinds of weather from Evansville and Detroit.”

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