Bicycling the Westfield Road

I would like to wish all of my readers, and their families, a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your celebrations…and always, be careful in all you do!

In the early days of the state of Indiana, with the creation of a series of “state roads,” a road was built out of Indianapolis to connect to Westfield, and points beyond. The road would be, in Hamilton County, built along a survey line known as a range line. When, in 1896, the Indianapolis News started publishing a series of articles about bicycling routes along old roads in Marion and surrounding counties, the Westfield Road would be the way back to the city from Noblesville.

The source article for this post comes from the Indianapolis News of 25 April 1896.

The route taken back to Indianapolis started at the square in Noblesville. I am going to cover the short trek across Hamilton County before aiming back south into Marion County. The Lebanon Pike out of downtown Noblesville would leave that city north of where SR 32 and SR 38 cross the river. The old bridge across White River, the one that was part of the old state road built to Lafayette, is now the Logan Street bridge. (This would be part of old state roads that would connect Richmond and Greenfield through Pendleton to Lafayette.)

After leaving Noblesville along the Lebanon Pike (later original SR 37, then SR 32), the road was relatively flat and straight to Westfield. From here, there were two routes back to Indianapolis. The first was west of Westfield down the Indianapolis & Williams Creek Pike, which is now Spring Mill Road and Illinois Street (south of Kessler Boulevard). The other, the focus of this article, was the Indianapolis & Westfield Road.

The Westfield Road was located on the west side of the town of Westfield. “It runs past a school-house and two churches. There is a bit of a hill on leaving Westfield, with a little stream crossing the road at the foot of it.” After crossing the creek, the road becomes level (relatively) on its way, due south, to the town of Carmel, four miles away. Carmel is described as “built a great deal like Westfield, and is a pretty, good-sized village.” Between Westfield and Carmel, the road is slightly downgrade, “just enough to make riding a pleasure.”

Carmel (the village at the time) is four miles north of the Hamilton-Marion County Line. Between those two points, the old Westfield Road paralleled the Monon tracks. The old road jogged a little to the east at the county line then aimed the 1.5 miles to Nora. It is mentioned that the old road crossed the Monon tracks near this area, but that part of the article is incorrect. At Nora “there is a good east-and-west road that crosses the Westfield road…and goes clear across the county.” That road is now 86th Street. It should be noted that 86th Street is actually one mile south of the county line at 96th Street.

From Nora, the old road swings to the southeast and south towards White River, following the course of the river to Broad Ripple. “The road is hard and firm and in excellent condition.” Before Broad Ripple, the route crosses the river on a large iron bridge. That bridge was located south of the current Westfield Boulevard bridge, crossing the river more due west than does the one that replaced it in the 1970’s. After crossing the canal and the Monon, the route turned west to follow the canal. Along the way, it crossed Central Avenue before turning south along what is now called Illinois Street. At the time, it was still the Westfield Road above Mapleton, at Maple Road (now 38th Street).

The trip to downtown Indianapolis could be accomplished by either taking the Central Avenue route or the Illinois Street route. The Illinois Street route was part of the above mentioned Indianapolis & Williams Creek Road that would also take the bicyclist to Westfield. The Westfield Road was so important, in the grand scheme of things, to the state of Indiana that it would become the original state road 1 in 1917. The Spring Mill route would be considered, during the time of the Indiana State Highway Commission, for a second route to Kokomo, possibly helping to cut traffic along what was, at that time, US 31. That plan never came to fruition.

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