Indianapolis in the Auto Trail Era

Indiana has been known as the “Crossroads of America” for most of its history. No other place in the state exemplifies that more than the Hoosier Capitol. Although Indianapolis, as a town, started as a remote outpost in the forests and swamps of central Indiana, it would soon become a transportation center. The National and Michigan Roads started the journey toward Indianapolis’ connections to the rest of the country. The coming of the railroads from 1847 to the middle 1850’s accelerated it. The automobile would seal the deal.

A quick look at a Rand McNally Auto Trails map of 1920 shows that Indianapolis was well served when it came to the new routes. Some of these were old roads, using names that had been used for almost a century. Others were new names on old country roads. Today, I want to look at the Auto Trails of 1920 radiating from Indianapolis. For this, I will be using that mentioned Rand McNally map, and using Rand’s numbering system.

8 – Range Line Road: Leaving Indianapolis due north, earlier on Illinois Street, later on Meridian, this route connected Indianapolis to South Bend via Kokomo, Peru, Rochester and Peru. In Marion County, the Range Line followed the Central Canal into Broad Ripple, then northeast along the Westfield Pike, which once it crossed the Hamilton-Marion County Line followed a survey range line north to Kokomo and beyond. In 1926, this would be the route of US 31.

22 – National Old Trails Road: In Indiana, this old route followed what was the first United States road that had been built to connect Cumberland, Maryland, to Vandalia, Illinois. This was called the National Road. In Indianapolis, it followed that route as closely as it could. (Downtown, the original path of the National Road had been removed in 1904 with the demolition of the covered bridge over the White River.) In 1926, it became US 40.

24 – Hoosier Highway: This road crossed the city southwest to northeast. It would come into Marion County along the old Mooresville State Road, also known as the West Newton Pike/Maywood Road/Kentucky Avenue. It left the city along Massachusetts Avenue where it became the Pendleton Pike at the city limits. The Pendleton Pike was also called the Oakland (Oaklandon) Toll Road for a time. This routing, both ways, would become SR 67 in 1926.

25 – Dixie Highway: Indianapolis found itself in a very nice position when it came to this road. It was created by an Indianapolis resident, Carl G. Fisher. And it used four roads to enter and exit the Hoosier capitol. From the north, it entered Indianapolis along the path of the historic Michigan Road. From the west, the Dixie followed the old Crawfordsville Pike. Southward, the Dixie Highway left using the Bluff Road heading toward Waverly, Martinsville and Bloomington. The route also followed the National Road to the east toward Richmond and Dayton, Ohio. The former three routes are still known by those names today. With the Great Renumbering, Michigan Road became SR 29, Crawfordsville became SR 34, and Bluff Road became SR 37.

26 – Michigan Road: The historic old Indiana state road connecting the Ohio River to Lake Michigan. Through Indianapolis, that would be Southeastern Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street/Michigan Road. The Michigan Road Auto Trail to the north ended at South Bend, even though the historic road left the west toward Michigan City. The entirety of the Michigan Road was made SR 29 in 1926.

42 – Hills And Lakes: This route was created to make a more or less direct route from Indianapolis to Lake Wawasee. It left Indianapolis along the Range Line Road, until it reached the Maple Road (now 38th Street), where the H&L turned east to follow the old Fort Wayne State Road, also known as the Allisonville Pike, out of the county. It did not get a state road number until 1932, when it became SR 13. It would later be renumbered SR 37.

47 – Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway: The original route of this road came through Indianapolis, using Rockville Road on the west and Washington Street/National Road to the east. It would later be moved to north of the city through Lebanon, Noblesville and Anderson. The original PPOO was made US 36 and US 40 in 1926.

69 – Jackson Highway: The Indianapolis section of this north-south long distance road used the old Lafayette State Road from the north (US 52 in 1926) and the old Madison State Road (US 31 in 1926) to cross the city.

92 – Terre Haute & Indianapolis Scenic Route: In Marion County, this duplicated the National Old Trails Road from downtown to the west, diverging in Belleville in Hendricks County.

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