Indiana Reroute of the Pike’s Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway

When the Pike’s Peak Ocean to Ocean (PPOO) Highway was created in 1915, a meeting in Indianapolis was held “to promote the acquaintance of the people of Colorado with those of the states to the East.” (Source: Indianapolis Star, 21 April 1915) “The Cumberland and the National Roads form the eastern part of the Ocean-to-Ocean highway as it has been mapped by Pike’s Peak boosters.” While this is mostly true, between Richmond, Indiana, and Springfield, Ohio, that route wasn’t. I covered that on 13 September 2019 with the post US 40 East of Richmond.

Starting in 1916, the PPOO started its Indiana journey across the state by entering along what became US 36 from Illinois, connecting Rockville to Indianapolis (along the Rockville State Road). From Indianapolis, the road followed the National Old Trails Road to Springfield, Ohio, via Greenfield, Richmond, Eaton and Dayton. After Springfield, the PPOO connected to Columbus and Coshocton. This will be important soon.

Fast forward to the Muncie Sunday Star of 16 July 1922. The city of Muncie was looking forward to becoming accessible via a transcontinental highway. The PPOO was changing the route through the state. More to the point, the PPOO organization was thinking about it, but “as now seems certain.” This would make Muncie “the largest city in Indiana on the route and probably the largest city for a stretch of 250 miles or more through this section.”

The article goes on to state that “the trail already had been assured as far as Anderson on the west. The success of the effort to orgnaize a local chapter of the Pike’s Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway Association will determine whether the highway will continue on east over the proposed route or whether it will traverse points to the north of the city.”

So, what was the proposed route? At least in the 1922 change listed in that newspaper article? At Rockville, the new path would turn northeast to Crawfordsville. While a path is not specifically mentioned, maps of the proposal show a direct route between the two towns, making it possible for the PPOO to travel through Guion and Waveland on its way to Crawfordsville. From there, the route is pretty much a straight line through Lebanon, Noblesville, Anderson, Muncie, Farmland, Winchester and Union City. On the Ohio side of the state line, Greenville and Piqua would be on the new route before connecting to the original route at Coshocton.

Muncie Sunday Star, 16 July 1922, showing proposed route change to PPOO in Indiana.

When the PPOO was rerouted in 1923, Muncie got its wish. It was included on a transcontinental highway. The difference between what was proposed in 1922 and what became reality in 1923 was the section west of Crawfordsville. Instead of entering the state west of Rockville, the route through Illinois had also been moved north, leaving that state east from Danville. This made the PPOO come through Covington instead of Rockville.

Controversy again arose in 1925 concerning the routing of the PPOO. The Indianapolis Star of 08 March 1925 received a statement from H. D. Judson, of St. Joseph, Missouri, General Manager of the Pike’s Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. The message read that a new map of the routing was released erroneously. What did this map show? In western Indiana, the route would be changed to connect to Attica. The reason for the controversy was that it was alleged that the change in the route was made with the assistance of the Indiana State Highway Commission…with Attica being the hometown of Chairman of the ISHC, Charles W. Zeigler. Since the proposal was listed as erroneous, I can find no maps that show the routing between Danville, Illinois, and Crawfordsville.

It was determined, according to Mr. Judson, that “it was with forethought and careful consideration of future needs that the highway was purposely rerouted to avoid Indianapolis, Dayton, Columbus, Springfield, O., and other cities on the National Old Trails.” A problem occurred when the Indiana PPOO association had taken subscriptions of money from towns along the abandoned route, including Dana and Montezuma. But Mr. Judson made it a point that sections of original SR 33 (became SR 34 [US 136] west of Crawfordsville and SR 32 east of that city in 1926) were in the list to be paved in 1925, making a good anchor for the road through the state.

Indianapolis News, 14 May 1934. Indianapolis is U. S. Crossroads

After the Great Renumbering, and the creation of the US Highway system, Auto Trails started disappearing from the landscape, having served the purpose of getting good roads supported by the government. A mention in the Indianapolis News of 14 May 1934 states the PPOO, at that time, had been rerouted through Indianapolis at some point, following the Rockville Road to the west of the city. A classified ad in the Franklin Evening Star of 23 January 1932 lists an 80 acre farm “located 26 1/2 miles west of Indianapolis, 6 1/2 miles west of Danville, and 1/2 mile east of New Winchester, Hendricks county, on State Road 36, known as Pike’s Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway.” The PPOO is still listed on SR 32 according to the Noblesville Ledger of 14 February 1931. This is listed in a classified ad for another 80 acre farm for sale north of Fishersburg and Lapel.

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