1951: US 421 – A Third “Michigan Road” Route

In 1950, a series of new United States highways were voted upon by the organization that controlled such things at the time, the American Association of State Highway Officials, or AASHO. That organization is not one of the Federal government, but one that is actually the states (and Washington DC and Puerto Rico) getting together to set standards and keep track of interstate and US highway numbers. (There is a lot more to it, but I want to get to the point!)

Whenever a highway is added or removed to the interstate or US highway system, it has to have approval of AASHTO (the successor to AASHO, with the words “and Transportation” added in 1973). When US 33 was removed from Indiana and Michigan, while the two states agreed, it had to be approved by AASHTO. The same for US 460 when it was truncated at Frankfort, Kentucky, leaving the rest of Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri without that highway that was basically replaced by Interstate 64.

So, in 1950, some new US highway was added to the system. These highways were “daughters” to other routes. For instance, US 136 would be the first branch off of US 36, with 136 starting in Indianapolis, and US 36 originally starting there. But today, I want to look at another road that came through Indianapolis for a time…US 421.

When the Indiana State Highway Commission was created (the second time) in 1919, the first state road added to the highway system after the first five Main Market roads was the Michigan Road Auto Trail, slightly different from the Historic Michigan Road, from Madison, through Versailles, Greensburg, and Shelbyville to Indianapolis. The original State Road 6 continued north from Indianapolis via the Lafayette Road, but that is not part of this profile.

On the northern end, original SR 15 connected Michigan City to Logansport via Laporte, Knox and Winamac. In 1923, with the first Renumbering, the Historic Michigan Road from Logansport to Indianapolis was added as an extension of OSR 15. This created a route that connected the same destinations without going the same direction. The Historic Michigan Road connected Logansport to Michigan City via Rochester, Plymouth and South Bend. The new original State Road 15 used a direct course between the two.

Meanwhile, the original State Road 6 from 1920 would come into this story by connecting Frankfort to Monticello through Rossville and Delphi. With the renumbering of 1923, that route would be given the number 44, the original number of what would become the rerouted Lincoln Highway (and US 30).

With the Great Renumbering of 1 October 1926, entire route of the old Michigan Road Auto Trail from Logansport to Madison was given the number 29, as was the original State Road 15 from Logansport to Michigan City. The old state road 6/44 that connected Frankfort and Monticello was given the number 39.

To other roads that would become part of this story were shown as authorized additions to the state highway system. First was the road that connected the Michigan Road near Boylestown to Frankfort was to be added as State Road 28, which at the time connected US 31 west of Tipton to SR 9 north of Alexandria. The other was to be added as SR 43 north from Reynolds along the new US 24 due north to Michigan City.

Meanwhile, the original Michigan Road route from Logansport to Rochester was an authorized addition to the state highway system as SR 25. The rest of the route, from Rochester to Michigan City had been part of the system since 1923, most having been part of the system since 1917. Original State Road 1 (later US 31) from Rochester to South Bend was an original Main Market Road, as was Original State Road 2 from South Bend to Rolling Prairie. The section from Rolling Prairie to Michigan City would be added as OSR 25, and the section from Rolling Prairie to South Bend would be given the number 25 as well, since the number 2 was moved to what would later become US 30.

So now that we have the history of the route nailed down, let’s get to the topic of this post.

On 25 January 1951, it was announced that road markers had arrived from the renumbering of several state highways to a new number: US 421. At the time, US 421, a daughter of US 21 that connected Cleveland, Ohio, to Hunting Island, South Carolina, ended at Bristol, Tennessee. The road itself had been truncated to Bristol, as it had previously connected to the Cumberland Gap in Virginia. And once again, it would cross Virginia, on its way to Lexington and Milton, Kentucky, to cross the Ohio River into Madison, Indiana.

Once in Indiana, it would follow the Michigan Road Auto Trail route (again, not entirely the Historic Michigan Road) to just south of Boylestown. This would take the new US highway through Versailles, Greensburg, Shelbyville and Indianapolis. This was the route of SR 29.

At the point south of Boylestown, US 421 turned west for seven miles to enter Frankfort along SR 28. At Frankfort, the new highway would turn north along SR 39 to US 24. West along US 24 to SR 43, then north along SR 43 to Michigan Road.

On 13 March 1951, the new US 421 was officially marked along the route mentioned above. All official press releases for the marking of the route made sure to point out that the old route numbers would be used along the new route until 1 July 1951 to avoid confusion. Thus from Boylestown to Madison, the road would have two numbers: US 421 and SR 29. At least for a while. It would seem that the only two road numbers that would removed would be SR 29, located as above, and SR 43 from US 24 to Michigan City. SR 28 is still, to this day, labelled as such along the US 421 route. And SR 39 is multiplexed with US 421 from Frankfort to Monticello.

From Indianapolis, this new US highway would create the third route with a Michigan City end. And all three followed the Historic Michigan Road out of the city. At Boylestown, US 421 separated from the historic road to follow the route above. At Logansport, SR 29 left the historic route by travelling northwest across the old swamp land that caused the road to turn toward Rochester in the first place. Meanwhile, the original road continued along its old path, connecting to Rochester as SR 25, then to South Bend as US 31, and on to Michigan City as US 20.

The SR 29 route would be changed, as well, to a US Highway from Logansport to Michigan City…when it would become part of the US 35 route. By 1935, the number US 35 was multiplexed with SR 29 from Burlington (west of Kokomo) to Michigan City. In 1942, the section from Burlington to Logansport would go back to being just SR 29, as US 35 was rerouted along the new SR 17 connecting Kokomo to Logansport directly. The SR 29 designation would be truncated to Logansport, thus removed from the US 35 route, sometime in either late 1957 to 1958. The Indiana Official State Highway Map of 1959 shows no multiplex of US 35 and SR 29.

Over the 170 years of its existence, the Michigan Road has been an important route. The city of Michigan City was created to be a point of destination for the road. As technology improved, this important route would be replaced and shortened. Today, the US Routes of 20, 35 and 421 are the ends of the different routes connecting Indianapolis (more or less) directly to Lake Michigan at Michigan City.

1930: A New Bridge over the Wabash at East Mount Carmel

Atlantic-Pacific
Highway marker

East Mount Carmel, Indiana. A train stop along the Southern Railway connecting Louisville, Kentucky, to St. Louis, Missouri. The town was also located on an Auto Trail called the Atlantic-Pacific Highway. Across Indiana, it would connect East Mount Carmel on the Wabash to Cincinnati via Princeton, Jasper, Paoli, Salem, Scottsburg, Madison, Vevay, Rising Sun, and Lawrenceburg.

But at East Mount Carmel, traffic was still fed across the Wabash River via ferry. As mentioned in other articles here on Indiana Transportation History, getting a bridge across the Wabash or the Ohio River, given that it would cross a state line (usually – the US 41 bridges actually are all in Kentucky, although they cross the Ohio), was a long process that often met with delays.

Hope was to be had when it was announced on the front page of the Mount Carmel (Illinois) Daily Republican-Register of 10 April 1930 that “Bridge Will Soon Span Wabash – Illinois-Indiana Highway Bridge That Will Span the Wabash River at Mt. Carmel.”

The bridge was the work of many years of planning. The State of Indiana wanted a bridge at Vincennes. They also wanted the State of Illinois to help with the cost. Illinois, however, had other plans. They wanted a bridge at Mount Carmel. And Illinois wanted Indiana to help pay for it. Neither state would budge on their plans…until the agreement was made that both bridges would be built.

Money for the Mount Carmel bridge was allotted by the Illinois General Assembly in 1927. A total of $225,000 was set aside for the construction. This new bridge would connect Illinois State Road 1 and Illinois State Road 15 to the Indiana State Highway system. This would become an extension of Indiana State Road 64.

The new bridge would be located 1000 feet south of the Southern Railway bridge that crosses the river near Mount Carmel. It would consist of a 22 foot wide roadway on twelve 225-foot spans. The bridge would provide 25 feet of clearance from the low steel to the high water mark of 1913. The Illinois approach was to be built at an elevation of three feet above the 1913 high water mark.

10 Apr 1930, Mount Carmel Daily Republican-Register

The bridge would be completed in 1932. By 1985, the bridge had fallen into disrepair. A plan to renovate the bridge was created while waiting for both Illinois and Indiana to decide to replace the bridge…which it did. The new bridge was placed just south of the original bridge.

Adeway

Many highways were given names in the Auto Trail era. One that always intrigued me, and I have yet to find a good history for, is a road that led from Indianapolis to Chicago. It was called the “Adeway.” The best map of the route that I have found, however, shows the road only going from Crawfordsville to Chicago. That map is from 1923, and is available at the Indiana State Library online.

The Adeway left Crawfordsville via Lafayette Avenue, traveling northeast before coming to Old Oak Hill Road near the intersection of current US 231 and Lafayette Avenue. The old auto trail would follow Old Oak Hill Road, and Oak Hill Road, until it becomes what is now Old State Road 55. It would follow what would become SR 55 in 1932 all the way to just east of Wingate. The original route crosses private property now, as it would connect directly to Crawfordsville Road in Wingate. Today, it turns west onto Wabash Street. The Crawfordsville Road intersection has been moved to make a perpendicular junction between the two roads. The original route can still be seen in grass markings in the following Google Maps snippet from 25 October 2020.

From Wingate, the original Adeway would follow what is now SR 55 to Newtown. From Newtown, the road would turn north along what is now SR 341, following that current state road to what is now SR 28. The auto trail turned west along the current SR 28 to Attica. At Attica, instead of turning onto Jackson Street, as SR 28 does now, it continued along Main Street, then Mill Street, and would cross the Wabash River along the old Mill Street bridge. The current state road, and US 41, crosses at Jackson Street.

After crossing the Wabash, the original auto trail would turn on what is now Old SR 55…but that route goes into private property today. It is best to use current SR 55 north of US 41 to approximate the old road. There are places where the current state road was straightened for ease of use and safety, but it is still very close to the original country road that would become part of the Adeway.

At Warren County Road 600 North, the Adeway turned west. It would curve several times, then turn west again on Warren County Road 650 North heading towards Rainsville. The old highway follows what is now Rainsville Road to just before SR 26. The road had been moved for safety at this point. The old Rainsville Road was part of SR 26 before the move. It can be clearly seen on this Google Map snippet of 25 October 2020.

The Adeway then turned north along what is now Meridian Line Road, right at the end of the current bypassed section. This would take travelers (mostly) due north through Fowler, where the street is still called Adeway. After crossing the current US 52, the street becomes known as Washington Street, but also happens to be SR 55 once again for its trip northward through the Benton County countryside.

In an effort to maintain its own way, the Adeway would turn west on what is now Newton County Road 1700 South. This is one mile south of the Illinois Corn Belt Route, which would later become part of US 24 across northern Indiana. The highway would follow SR 1700S until it would turn north along what is now US 41, travelling into Kentland.

Although the road had been straightened in places, the US 41 route approximates the old Adeway route. At Benton County Road 900 South (which east from US 41 is SR 16), the Adeway turned west again…to enter the town of Ade. One might assume that this is where the road got its name…but I am not going to jump to that conclusion until I have more facts.

From Ade, the old highway followed CR 275 West and CR 300 West north through Morocco and onto what is now US 41 (again) northward to Enos. The distance from Ade to Enos is 10 miles according to the Rand McNally Auto Trails Map of 1920. At Enos, the old route leaves the current state highway system again, this time for a short jaunt along CR 100 North to CR 400 West. Five miles later, the old route turns east, along CR 600 North, to connect to CR 300 West, which is still US 41. Just north of the intersection of US 41 and CR 600 North was a place called Conrad. The name still exists there, but not as a town of any kind.

The Adeway still follows US 41 north until just south of Lake Village. Here, the new road bypasses the town, while the old road, called Old 41, enters the town, as did the Adeway. North of Lake Village, the old road connects back to US 41, but doesn’t share that route long. Just south of Schneider, US 41 veers off to the northwest, while the old route continued straight through the town along what is now Parrish Avenue. At what is now 219th Avenue, the Adeway turned east, then north again along what is now Austin Avenue for its journey towards Lowell.

The journey continues along Austin Avenue until the junction of Belshaw Road, where the Adeway turned northeast to Cline Avenue, one-half mile east of Austin. The route entered Lowell on Cline Avenue, but left on Morse Avenue. Here the old highway followed Morse Avenue north and then west along the northern edge of Cedar Lake. It followed what is now Lake Shore Drive until it turns into 135th Avenue. There, it followed what is now 135th Avenue west across US 41 again, until Calumet Avenue near Brunswick.

Turning north along Calumet Avenue, the next turn would be at what is now 101st Avenue near Keitzburg. West along 101st, the Adeway then turned north again on what is now Sheffield Avenue. It then followed Sheffield Avenue/Hart Avenue (Dyer)/Sheffield Avenue until it became what is now Columbia Avenue. The old route then connected back to Calumet Avenue, which it followed all the way up to Indianapolis Boulevard, for a northwesterly turn towards Chicago. From the connection of Columbia and Calumet Avenues, the road is not part of the state highway system. At I-94, Calumet Avenue becomes part of US 41, and the Adeway follows that road designation into Chicago.

As is typical of the Auto Trail era, the journey of the Adeway from Crawfordsville to Chigago is nowhere near a straight journey. It winds through the northwestern Indiana countryside, meandering its way from point a to point b. But it would make one heck of a road trip, should one want to do such a thing.

1910: The National Road West of Indianapolis

Today, I want to show some map snippets of the National Road, and its replacement sections, as of 1910. Now, there is a small problem with this. The maps that I am going to use here are from the United States Postal Service from 1910. And while they are available from the Indiana State Library online, there are two that are noticeably absent from the collection: Clay and Marion Counties.

Marion County is easy to deal with. There are so many historic maps of Marion County available on the web that if I really wanted to, I could get something to cover the area. Clay County is an entirely different story. That is going to take some work.

Many people, today, are used to the straight ribbon of asphalt and concrete that is US 40 through Indiana. But that wasn’t the case when the road was created in the 1830’s. As was the standard operating procedure at the time, roads were built as straight as they could be. There was no heavy machinery to move a hill, or flatten a valley, in the early to mid 1800’s. Surveyors were extremely important at that time, to get the best road possible. If it could come in using less materials, and more importantly, less money, so be it. Most bridges across streams along the way crossed at a right angle to the stream. This was to make the bridge both safer and less expensive.

The hilly terrain of the area southwest of Indianapolis made the National Road surveyors a bit of hassle, as well. Hence, the relatively straight road that we know today was a lot of work and bending the old road into shape…and out of existence. The following maps show the road as it was in 1910. I wanted to give a comparison map from USGS maps…but the earliest available at this time is 1941, meaning that the road has already been replaced in most areas. And looking at Google Maps, there are very few sections that still exist of the original road that was replaced. But, I hope that these maps will start your own research into the original federal highway.

1910 USPS Map of Rural Delivery Routes in Vigo County west of the Wabash River.
1910 USPS Map of Rural Delivery Routes in Eastern Vigo County.
1910 USPS Map of Rural Delivery Routes in Western Putnam County.
1910 USPS Map of Rural Delivery Routes in Eastern Putnam County.

The map above shows the Reelsville bypass of the original National Road. I covered it in the article “National Road at Reelsville.”

1910 USPS Map of Rural Delivery Routes in Western Hendricks County.
1910 USPS Map of Rural Delivery Routes in Eastern Hendricks County.

Michigan Road at Logansport, Revisited

Over a year ago, I wrote a blog entry about the Michigan Road at Logansport (“Michigan Road at Logansport“). In that article, I made a pretty good case for the route of the Michigan Road through the town, using an 1836 map of the towns of Logansport and West Logan (“Plan of the town of Logansport and West Logan“). This articles is not to counter that article. I want to show that source materials are important…and their distance from the original source, whether that be in distance or time, is also very important.

In 1914, the Indiana State Board of Accounts published a book called “Development and lands of Michigan Road.” I have mentioned this several times over the history of this blog. It is a very important research tool for those studying the Michigan Road in its entirety. The detail that the Board of Accounts gave to the book is incredible. And, because of the authoring organization of the book, it would be almost impeachable as a source. After all, the Michigan Road was built by the state of Indiana, which should have records of surveys, deeds, cash outlays, etc. And the Board of Accounts would have had those records.

If one looks at the map of the Michigan Road through Cass County (which is the link I provided above for the book from the State Board of Accounts), the map shows that the Michigan Road separates from what would become called the Burlington Road in Section 2, Township 26 North, Range 1 East, and heads due north to cross the Wabash River west of the town of Logansport. In today’s terms, this would be where Lynas Avenue turns away from Burlington Avenue.

Another important note. The Burlington Road was the same as the Michigan Road. The route out of Logansport, towards Burlington, would eventually be sold to a toll road company that would change the name. In Logansport, it was called Burlington Avenue because that’s where Third Street in town headed…to Burlington.

What is now Cicott Street from West Clinton Street to Wabash Avenue, is what is shown as the Michigan Road route through Cass County. This Board of Accounts book shows that the Michigan Road does not enter Logansport at all, but bypasses it.

Now this is where I said distance, in both time and location, are important. The Board of Accounts book was, as mentioned before, written in 1914. No matter the number of records available, it was still 80 years after the road was constructed.

The second thing at play is that nothing ever went completely to plan when it came to roadbuilding projects at the time. It is entirely possible that the surveyors purposely bypassed Logansport at the time. Granted, there was very little in that area of the state at the time. It would not have been like later road projects that were “encouraged” by local government and business officials to run the road through this town or that. (I call this the “oh, look at all the money I dropped” plan. It happened quite a bit…especially in the Auto Trail era.) There were very few people there.

I tend to err on the side of the 1836 Logansport map linked to above. First, it was created in 1836, while the town of West Logan was being planned. Two, the people making the map want it to be as accurate as possible, since it is a real estate company trying to sell lots in the aforementioned West Logan. Three, and most important, road builders, especially in that era, knew the importance of not skipping a town if they could at all help it. Logansport, no matter how small, would be an important place to get food, sleep and maintenance along the miles of vast forests and farms in northern Indiana at the time. Logansport, like Indianapolis, predated the road. Other points between those two came up because of the road.

Now, I know, there is nothing specifically showing in the 1836 map of Logansport that the route went through town. The closest thing to it is the word “Michigan Road” north of the Eel River, east of the Canal, and the fact that there is a bridge at Wall Street in West Logan to connect to Logansport. Oh, and the fact that the bridge from Biddle Island south is labeled “Michigan Road to Indianapolis.”

But these facts will keep my thought process as this being the original route of the Michigan Road.

Original SR 6, 9, 10, and US 41 and 52

Last year about this time, I was going through a series of articles called the “Road Trip 1926,” where I traced the routes of the roads maintained by the Indiana State Highway Commission, and their new numbers, as of 1 October 1926: the day of the Great Renumbering. It was nearly a year ago I covered the new US 52. I was always intrigued by the route that was assigned the number 52, especially at its northern end. US 52, originally, started at US 41 in Boswell, although the road was under construction to have US 52 end at US 41 northwest of Fowler, as it has been reported to have done since the beginning.

But the route to get to Boswell is what intrigued me. And in researching that, I discovered that Fowler has had a state road running through it since 1920, the first year the ISHC had added roads to its inventory after the first five were added in 1917. But then, it wasn’t what I thought, either.

Let’s just tackle this one road at a time, numerically.

1920 Indiana Official Highway Map of the subject area.

Original State Road 6: When this road was originally added to the state highway system, it started in Madison, following the old Michigan Road out of the city to Bryantsburg. At that point, it then used the old Madison-Versailles State Road to connect to Versailles. The next part of the trip connected Versailles to Napoleon, where it would follow the old Michigan Road to Indianapolis. If this sounds familiar, it is because it is still the rough route of US 421 today, and it was the route of the Michigan Road Auto Trail…although Versailles was never on the original Michigan Road.

From Indianapolis, the original SR 6 left Indianapolis via the original Lafayette State Road. At Lebanon, it turned north through Frankfort, Rossville, Delphi, ending at original SR 7 at Monticello. Now, you may be asking, “what does that have to do with the area you said you wanted to cover?” In 1923, the first state road renumbering occurred. OSR 6 turned west at Rossville onto what had been OSR 29 to end west of Oxford, south of Fowler, at OSR 9. But by 1923, OSR 9 had become OSR 10. More on that later.

1923 Indiana Official State Highway Map of the subject area.

The OSR 6 route would, on 1 October 1926, become part of US 52 and SR 22. The US 52 designation was a temporary one, as the road was already was a proposed relocation on the Great Renumbering map of October 1926.

1926 Indiana Official Highway Map of subject area

Most websites that cover the US highway system have US 52 ending northwest of Fowler in the 1926 plan. To be fair, as shown on the 1926 map above, it did…or would. The whole thing can be a bit confusing.

Original State Road 9: The only reason that OSR 9 is on this list is because that is what the road was in 1920. OSR 9 started, in 1920, in Rockville, heading north to meet the then Dixie Highway at Hillsboro. It then left Veedersburg, through Attica, Williamsport, Boswell, Fowler, ending at OSR 7 west of Goodland. In 1923, the number would change to OSR 10.

Original State Road 10: Starting, in 1920, in Evansville, travelling north through Princeton, Hazelton, Vincennes, Sullivan, Terre Haute, Clinton, Newport, and ending west of the Wabash River at OSR 33 (Dixie Highway) west of Covington. In 1923, the designation would change. OSR 10 would end at Clinton, where the old OSR 10 would be designated OSR 54 from that point north. OSR 9 would become OSR 10 starting in Rockville and heading north. Instead of ending at OSR 7, the OSR 10 designation would takeover the route that had been Original State Road 49 from Kentland north into the Chicago Metropolitan Area on the Indiana side of the state line.

OSR 10 would become the rough original route for US 41 in October 1926, with a newly constructed road heading north from Boswell to a newly constructed road halfway between Fowler and Earl Park heading into Kentland. Fowler itself would be off the state highway system for maybe two years while the new US 52 was being built through the area. Both US 41 and US 52 would be completely hard surfaced before the maps came out in late 1928 for the 1929 travel season.

1929 Indiana Official State Highway map of the subject area.

National Road Through Richmond

When the National Road was surveyed through Indiana, it had the distinct honor of being one of the straightest roads in the state…another being the Michigan Road. This was on purpose. Most roads through the state were built around whatever was in the way. Very few roads were built for getting from point a to point b in the quickest way possible. That was left to the state to buy the property necessary to do that.

One notable exception is through Richmond.

The area around Richmond started being settled around 1806. By the time the National Road surveyors got there in the early 1830’s, the town had already been established. And in the way of the nearly straight as a board road coming from the Ohio capital of Columbus. So when the road got to Richmond, it made sense to run it straight down Main Street. And that’s what happened.

However, on the west bank of the Whitewater River, upon which Richmond sits, the continuation of the straight line from Ohio would be continued. This would mean that the road would actually start again south of its location through Richmond. One block south, as a matter of fact. This led to the layout of Richmond, and the road, as shown in the following 1840 map snippet.

On this map, it is labeled Cumberland Road.

As you can see, the Cumberland Road is opposite Walnut Street on the west side of the Whitewater River. That would be South A Street today. The name change of the streets would occur sometime before 1893, as shown in the 1893 snippet below.

The National Road bridge over the Whitewater River would be built in the location shown on the first two snippets in 1832. The same bridge served residents of Wayne County and travelers on the National Road for 65 years. News reports across the state were reporting that deconstruction of the bridge would occur in August 1897. (Source: Muncie Evening Press, 13 August 1897) It was reported in the source newspaper that “the work of removing the old National road bridge at Richmond, Ind., will begin next week.”

The slight variations in the location of the bridge between the 1840 and 1893 maps are just that, slight variations and could be attributed to slight errors. A measurement here or there could change the map by a few feet…which looks like the case here. Another map, this time from 1853, shows the same area, more like the 1840 map than the 1893 variety.

The original structure was a very large affair…at least for that time. It was easily as large as the National Road bridge at Indianapolis. The Richmond Palladium-Item of 21 October 1962 did an article on a painter from Centerville that had done two paintings of the old bridge. A picture from the article is below.

Another view drawn of the bridge was published in 1911 in Century Magazine. It would accompany an article about the old bridge written by a Richmond native. That drawing is shown to the left.

In 1916, it was reported in the Cambridge City Tribune of 3 February 1916, that “the total cost of the construction of the temporary bridge across Whitewater at the location of the old National road bridge at Richmond was $4,895, of which the county, city and traction company each pay one-third, or $1,798.” I can find no news story about why a temporary crossing of the river was necessary.

The original route, more or less, of the National Road through Richmond would become Main Market Road 3 in 1917. That designation would be changed to State Road 3 in 1919. The slight difference would be on the west side of the river, where the state road followed First Street, not the river, to travel between Main Street and National Road. By this time, a third bridge over the Whitewater River was serving as the facility to cross that wide gorge. On 1 October 1926, SR 3 would be forever changed to US 40.

1962 USGS Topo map of US 40 through Richmond.

In 1998, INDOT decided to build a new bridge across the river, and reroute the old National Road/US 40 through the city of Richmond. This would put the road on its current path through the city, leaving Main Street out of the mix, at least west of 11th Street, as the major thoroughfare for the first time in almost 200 years. The city of Richmond took over the then abandoned route of US 40, creating a more plaza like environment along the historic street.

The new US 40 bridge that was completed in 2000 was advertised as the fourth bridge to serve as the National Road crossing of the Whitewater. I suppose, in a way, this is true. However, the historic crossing was closer to Main Street, which still has a bridge facility across the wide gorge. Not that I have heard arguments over the issue, it is one that road geeks and historians (or, in my case, both) will probably be discussing for years to come.

1836-1838: Michigan Road in the Newspaper

Yesterday, I wrote an article about early state roads, and the Michigan Road. Today, I want to look at the Michigan Road…as it was related to the public in newspapers from 1836 to 1838. One of the most interesting things that I have found in this search is the fact that it was entirely possible that the Michigan Road, as we know it, might not have been built. It could have been a railroad route.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 31 December 1836: Allocation of money involving the Michigan Road was the topic before the General Assembly in December 1836. $140,000 was appropriated “on a turnpike road commencing at Kirk’s on the Michigan road in Clinton county, thence through Frankfort to Delphi and Monticello in White county, and thence by best route to Michigan City.” Another $75,000 are allocated for the Michigan Road between Napoleon and Indianapolis. And yet another $175,000 is appropriated “in contructing a Macadamized road on the line of the Michigan road from Indianapolis to South Bend, thence to Laporte and thence to Michigan City The board are to ascertain whether a Macadamised road or rail road is the best and cheapest and to adopt the cheapest one.” Of this last allocation of funds, $25,000 was to be used to build a Michigan Road bridge in Marion County over the White River.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 21 January 1937: Second reading of the Michigan Road bill is held. One representative, a Mr. Vandeveer, moved to indefinitely postpone the vote on the bill. That postponement failed, when only seven people voted for it. It was passed to the third reading. A survey of the road, with $2,000 allocated, was to be done in the summer of 1837. The bill was amended, requiring the third reading. In the amendment, the bill was changed to exclude the Board of Public Works to building either a M’Adam road or a railroad for the purpose of the Michigan Road. It was also mentioned that $300,000 was to be allocated for the building of the road. Two weeks later, that amount, and others already spent, would be the question of some members of the General Assembly.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 04 February 1937: It was reported that the representative from Wayne County to the Indiana General Assembly, a Mr. Smith, was trying to make sense of the fact that the builders of the Michigan Road, already spending $22,000 more than allocated, wanted another $30,000. To this point, according to Mr. Smith, the money already allocated “has been squandered – sunk, sir, in the interminable swamps along the line without common discretion or common sense. What gentleman here will deny the fact, that one half the money expended on that road should have accomplished more than all that is done?”

On the very same page of the very same issue of the newspaper, a bill to “cause a survey and estimate to be made the ensuing summer, north of Indianapolis, through Logansport, South Bend and Laporte to Michigan City, with a view of ascertaining what kind of improvement is most practicable.” This survey would be done under the auspices of the Board of Internal Improvements.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 1 July 1837: “Mr. Yandes, is authorized, in pursuance of law to cause a survey and estimate to be made, on the Michigan Road, through Logansport, South Bend and Laporte, to Michigan City – with a view of ascertaining the most practicable kind of improvement to be made.” Mr. Yandes “is further authorized, to expend so much of the Michigan road funds, as may remain (if any) after making the survey, in making temporary improvements on the Road, from Napoleon to Lake Michigan, so as to keep the road passible.”

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 16 December 1837: After the survey had been completed in the summer of 1837, the Michigan Road lands were to be disposed of. The report from Indianapolis stated that the proceeds of the sales of those lands came to $8781.70.

As mentioned in yesterday’s “Early State Roads” article, some state roads were funded to create a link to a single person’s property. In March, 1838, a bill before the general assembly was written to “locate a state road from Daniel Dales in White county, to intersect the Michigan road 8 miles north of Logansport.”

Terre Haute, 1854

The mid-19th Century in Indiana was both a traveler’s nightmare and dream. At that time, the state was criss-crossed, or soon would be, with multiple railroads and several canals. And Terre Haute found itself at the crossroads of both. Today, I want to look at Terre Haute through the use of a map that is available at the Indiana State Library online. That maps is at the following link: http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15078coll8/id/1064/rec/7.

First, the National Road came to the town. The idea was that the National Road would be an improved highway, in good condition throughout the state. By the time of this map, it had already been sold to toll road companies. Those companies, in exchange for keeping the road in good condition, would be allowed to charge people to use it. The National Road would connect to Wabash Street in Terre Haute, but didn’t cross the Wabash River along that path. There was a Terre Haute Draw Bridge that crossed the river along the Ohio Street corridor.

The second method of transport that would enter the town was the Wabash & Erie Canal. This canal was the longest such facility in the United States, connecting Fort Wayne to Evansville. It entered the city from the north, separating from the river near where Florida Street is, then finding itself next to the river again around Sycamore Street. At Eagle Street, the canal made a turn back to the north in a loop that would carry it back to a point along what would be Spruce Street, then Canal Street. This section is now part of the Indiana State University campus. It would turn south again just past Ninth Street, cross the National Road, then head off to the southeast as it continued its way to Evansville.

The Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad, planned to connect the two title cities through Indianapolis, came into town from the northeast, with the railroad itself ending in a station on the north side of National Road at what is now 10th Street. The railroad that would become the Vandalia connected to the TH&R near what is now 13th Street, making a looping turn to head out along the Tippecanoe Street corridor to cross the Wabash River.

The other railroad in town, the Evansville & Crawfordsville, had its station on the southside of the National Road, across the street from the TH&R station. This railroad continued north out of town, following the current rail corridor on its way toward Crawfordsville. It, too, followed the 10th Street corridor before turning west, following the same Tippecanoe Street corridor up to and crossing the Wabash.

The area between 9th and 10th Streets at the National Road would, ultimately, include all four of these transportation facilities. Today, only the path of the old E&C still exists, although part of the old TH&R is available for use as a rail trail. The old canal bed has been removed for many years.

Indianapolis’ West Washington Street

It goes without saying that Washington Street in Indianapolis has always been an important facility. Since 1821, when the town of Indianapolis was platted, Washington Street has had a prominent role in the expansion of the city. When the National Road came to Indiana, it followed that same town path through the fledging Hoosier Capital. But today, I am going to fast forward into the 20th century to discuss how it became a major concrete ribbon through town, at least on the westside of Indianapolis.

No matter how important Washington Street was to the city, it had, at least outside of downtown, been not much more than what we would call two lanes wide for the first half of its life. With the coming of the automobile, these old narrow cow paths were going to have to be put on a path to make them usable by more people at a time. Way back in the middle 19th century there were discussions, heated at times, about the width of sidewalks on the street, since only the center was covered with gravel for traveling.

The Indiana State Highway Commission decided that the National Road would be part of the state highway system. This, one would think, would automatically include West Washington Street. It didn’t. It just so happened that Washington Street made a direct connection between SR 3 (US 40) both east and west of the city. But Washington Street was still a city street.

In 1937, there was some talk about the Board of Works and Sanitation of the City of Indianapolis widening West Washington Street from White River west to the city limits…at that time near Tibbs Avenue. That plan was in the works, but there was one project approved for the area: widening of Washington Street between Traub and Tremont Avenues, in front of George Washington High School.

The Indianapolis News of 16 January 1937 ran a full page story about the history and pending expansion of West Washington Street. That article mentioned that the widening of the street in front of Washington High School would allow for the creation of safety islands for students trying to cross the busy thoroughfare. West of the city limits, the old National Road, by that time US 40, was already four lanes wide. Through the city itself was a bottle neck.

But the plan never got off the ground. That same year, the General Assembly passed legislation that would remove Washington Street from city control and give it to the State Highway Commission. This would make any widening of the road a state project, no longer a city problem. While the city could ask for something to be done, the state would be the ones to do it. And the wheels of progress sometime work very slowly at the state level.

Fast forward a decade, or so. “The State Highway Commission will receive a recommendation for the rebuilding of 2.1 miles of West Washington Street between White River and Eagle Creek.” So states the Indianapolis News of 20 May 1948. Three months, at that time, had been spent on surveys to figure out exactly how to widening the old National Road.

The end point to the west is important to note here. Around 1937, a new bridge was built by the State Highway Commission to carry US 40 and US 36 across Eagle Creek. This new bridge would be built north of the old structure, and would also entail moving the intersection of Washington Street and Rockville Road (US 40 and US 36 respectively).

MapIndy aerial photograph of the intersection of Washington Street and Rockville Road, 1937.

The 1948 project would include widening West Washington Street to 60 feet wide. That included four 11 foot wide travel lanes, two in each direction, and two eight foot parking strips (one on each side). The then current road surface, consisting of brick and blacktop, would be completely removed and replaced with concrete. New sidewalks were also part of the project.

There was to be a one block gap in the project, however, due to a planning and construction question. The plans included an underpass, allowing Washington Street to go under the Indianapolis Belt Railway at Neal Street. State Engineer of Road Design, William H. Behrens, recommended that such an underpass be postponed until construction costs could come down. “He said he favors a gap of 1 block in the new construction at this point.”

A spokesman for the Indianapolis Railways stated that when the construction was underway, the company would remove its unused streetcar tracks from Washington Street from the car barns near White River (where the Indianapolis Zoo is now) to a point 100 feet west of Tibbs Avenue.

The News pointed out that “the State Highway Commission has charge of the project because Washington Street is part of Roads 40 and 36. It is also part of the old National Road.”

Indianapolis Star, 19 August 1951.

The next reference I have found to the expansion of West Washington Street, I will let speak for itself. It is the news story from the Indianapolis Star of 19 August 1951 shown above. Apparently, this was the second annual party to celebrate the completion of the 1948 project.

OSR 2/US 30 at Plymouth

When the Indiana state highway system was being expanded in 1920, one of the additions was what was, at the time, the Yellowstone Trail from Valparaiso to Fort Wayne. This Auto Trail snaked its way across the Hoosier landscape, nowhere near anything resembling a straight line. It was added to the system as SR 44, connecting at both ends with SR 2, or the Lincoln Highway. The original route had the road entering Plymouth from the west and the south. The Yellowstone Trail, and the state highway that came after, didn’t go straight through the Marshall County seat.

1923 Indiana Official State Highway Map showing SR 2 between Hamlet and Columbia City.

That was about to change. But first, a number change was in order. In 1923, the Indiana State Highway Commission started changing state road numbers. One of those that would change would be the Lincoln Highway…and SR 44. The SR 2 designation was moved from the Lincoln Highway to the Yellowstone Trail. This “straightened” the road between Valparaiso and Fort Wayne…SR 2 no longer ran through Goshen, Elkhart and South Bend. But the road still was a winding mess between Warsaw and Plymouth.

With the concept of federal aid funding sitting in the background, the state decided it wanted to fix the twists and turns of the original Yellowstone path. The first reference to this project that I found was in August 1925…but it wasn’t good news. The project was “abandoned” due to a $5 million shortfall in federal funding. Or, more to the point, a belief that the state was going to get $5 million from the federal government that hadn’t quite made it to Indianapolis. Two projects were actually put on hold with that shortfall…both of which were in northern Indiana. One was the SR 2 project. The other was the Dunes Highway along Lake Michigan.

The article that made it to most Indiana newspapers in mid-August 1925 lamented that the northern part of the state would be paying for the delays in funding. It also mentioned that most of the road was a hard surface (paved) road from Columbia City eastward to Fort Wayne. The section shown both in the map above and the one below show that the road is “gravel or stone (not treated)” between Warsaw and at least Hamlet…through Plymouth.

1926 Indiana Official State Highway Map showing the new US 30 (former SR 2) from Hamlet to Columbia City. This map also shows the pending reroute of the same road from Warsaw to Hamlet.

The new maps issued in late September and early October 1926, with the Great Renumbering, show the construction is at least still planned, as the circles on the map are listed as “proposed relocations.” The new US 30, which was SR 2, would be given a straighter route from Warsaw to Plymouth. And it would actually enter Plymouth from the east, not follow SR 1/US 31 south out of town like it did originally.

In relative terms, it wouldn’t take long for this new road to be completed. The South Bend Tribune of 20 November 1927 reported that construction was almost complete in a plan to avoid crossing the Pennsylvania Railroad for 75 miles, something the old Yellowstone Trail/SR 2/US 30 did quite a bit. As of the writing of the article, 16 miles to the west of Plymouth were completed. This connected US 30 to SR 29 (now US 35), a “recently improved asphaltic macadam” road.

As a side note, the section west from SR 29 to Hanna was also part of the project, but was in a serious holding pattern. The road was “a stretch of about 10 miles in which no concrete has been laid and cannot be laid this year because of two sink holes in the vicinity of the Kankakee river which have materially resisted grading and filling by the contractors.” That section of US 30 is still in use today…albeit a bit wider than it was at that time.

East from Plymouth, the road was open, according to the Tribune, to Bourbon, a span of 10 miles. Four bridges being constructed between Aetna Green and Warsaw were all that was standing in the way of opening the road on or about 1 December. The article mentions that the route actually enters Plymouth from the east along Pennsylvania Avenue. This is due to a bridge on what is now called Lincoln Highway over the Yellow River being built. Pennsylvania Avenue connects to Michigan Street (old US 31) just north of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Fort Wayne Line (and, for those that are landmark oriented…right at the Penguin Point restaurant).

And, in case you are wondering, the name Lincoln Highway would be officially applied to this road in 1928, one year after this construction. The places where the name “Yellowstone Trail” still exist as a road name were sections of the original path of that road…parts that weren’t improved as a part of the state highway system.

US 40: Bridgeport to Plainfield

When the National Road was surveyed in the 19th century, the people that laid out the road had very little to worry about when it came to man made obstructions to its path. The road was built in the most efficient way possible. Not necessarily the straightest, but the most efficient. An example of this is just west of downtown Indianapolis with the National Road bridge. The original route crossed the White River at a 90 degree angle…typical of bridge building at the time. And although that bridge would be later supplemented, then replaced, by a straighter Washington Street bridge, the old bridge would survive until 1904…a little over 70 years.

Another section of the old National Road that would survive into the 20th century before getting the straightening treatment would be the section starting just west of Bridgeport, heading toward Plainfield. Here, for two and half miles, the National Road would first curve its way across a creek, then find its way, in 1852, across a dangerous railroad crossing near the Marion-Hendricks County line.

Let’s start with the railroad crossing. In 1850, the Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad was chartered to create a route between its two title cities through Indianapolis. Typical railroad construction involves laying out the route to be as flat as possible. Through most of Indiana, being that most of the terrain is relatively flat, this is not a problem. The routing of the the TH&R west of Plainfield found itself winding through some very hilly territory. At Plainfield, the road started on a straight path to the Hoosier capital. When construction was completed in 1852 to Indianapolis, the railroad was a very straight line from west of Plainfield to Indianapolis.

Railroad construction at the time also didn’t take into consideration the roads that were in place when they were built. One half mile west of the Marion-Hendricks County line, at a spot that would later become known as Six Points, the TH&R was built to have a very flat crossing of the National Road. A crossing of about 15 degrees. On a clock, that is about the angle from 12:00 to 12:02:30, or half way between 2 and 3 minutes. Given the little amounts of traffic, the speed of trains, and what little there was normally involved horses, this was not seen as a problem.

Fast forward to the Auto Trail era when automobiles were taking over. Train traffic was booming, locomotive speeds were much higher, and the traffic was getting clogged with cars and trucks. The crossing at Six Points became one of the most dangerous in the state. With the state takeover of the old National Road as Original State Road 3 in 1917, the Indiana State Highway Commission became responsible for the conditions of both the road and the railroad crossing at this point. As traffic increased, this dangerous situation would remain into the mid-1930’s, when the ISHC started turning what had become US 40 into a divided highway across the entire state. The routing of US 40 curved to the north of the old road, crossing the Hendricks County Road (later to become 1050 East) a little over .1 mile north of the old crossing. The railroad, by this time the Pennsylvania Railroad, was then crossed at a 30 degree angle three tenths of a mile west of the Six Points Road.

This improved the situation at the crossing…but didn’t fix it completely. There were news stories of crashes, sometimes fatal, between cars and trains at that crossing, as well. But it did improve the situation.

The other quirk in the National Road would be the crossing of the creek at the west edge of Bridgeport. Bridgeport was an old village, mainly started as a watering hole along the old National Road. It is located less than 1/2 mile east of the Marion-Hendricks County line. At the west edge of town, the National Road curved slightly north of its straight path to cross over the White Lick Creek. The road then turned to become a straight line again aiming towards Plainfield.

This Google Map snippet shows the property lines of the old National Road from a point west of Raceway Road to west of Bridgeport. The road labelled “Old Washington Street” is the original path of the National Road/US 40.
This MapIndy aerial photograph, taken in 1941, shows the construction of the new US 40 west of Bridgeport.

When the state started working on connecting the two sections of already widened US 40, the section that remained was through Bridgeport and over the White Lick Creek Bridge. The work started on this section in 1941. The first task was to eliminate the curve at the White Lick Creek, making a straight line road between the 1936 bypass of Six Points and Bridgeport. It was mentioned in the Indianapolis News of 7 July 1941 that traffic through Bridgeport had dropped quite a bit with the old National Road/US 40 being closed for this construction. By 1942, the new section of US 40 would be completed, and the old road was left to flounder in the weeds.

The Beginning, and End, of SR 534

As the Indiana State Highway Commission’s inventory of state roads was growing, the thought of putting a bypass around the city of Indianapolis hit the planning sheets. The original plan started appearing on official highway maps in 1932. But little would be done for almost a decade. In 1941, the start of a bypass road was contracted…and built. But there was more to it than just a section along the east side from Fort Harrison to Nora.

Yes, that’s right. From Fort Harrison to Nora. The original road that was started in 1941 followed 56th Street from Fort Harrison out to a new construction road along what was, and still is, the Shadeland corridor. At the time, it was Shadeland Road. But that corridor only ran from 10th Street to 56th Street, creating a dead end road north of 56th Street into the Woolen Gardens. A complete history of the road is available as “SR 100: How did it come to be?

The Indianapolis News, 24 July 1941
Legal notice for contract to build SR 534 from
56th Street to Castleton.

Things started happening on the bypass route in 1941, when the first contracts were let. As is typical of the ISHC at the time, the road was contracted separately from the bridges. The first contracts for the road were let in July 1941. The legal notices were published for the contract, as shown on the left. The bids were to be in the hands of the ISHC by 5 August 1941 at 10 AM Central Standard Time (the time zone Indianapolis was in at the time). The plan was for a reinforced concrete road surface north from 56th Street to the old state road that turned west along what is now 82nd Street.

The bridge over Fall Creek was let out for contract in September 1941, with the description “structure on State Road 534” details as a five span arch bridge “over Fall Creek, 2.7 Mi. North of Lawrence.” Those spans were to be, in order: one at 40 feet; three at 80 feet, and one at 40 feet. The bridge was to be of reinforced concrete arch design. Bids were to be at the ISHC by 10 AM CST on 7 October 1941.

The next leg of the road was published for contract in December 1941, with a due date of 16 December 1941. It was to include 4.578 miles of reinforced concrete from Nora to Castleton. (For the route prior to SR 534 construction, check out 82nd and 86th Street Before SR 534 (SR 100).) This would complete the first opened section of SR 534 in Indiana.

Then World War II started.

The Indianapolis News, of 21 December 1942, opined that the ISHC was in a holding pattern when it came to the building of the bypass road. The road was not mentioned by number, but the route was discussed. “One link, approaching Ft. Benjamin Harrison by way of Allisonville and Castleton, has been completed and is in use. The belt highway, discussed for years, will extend south, intersection Roads 40, 52 and 29, until it reaches the Thompson Road, where it will continue west, intersecting Roads 31, 37 and 67.” With the Shadeland Road corridor only extending as far as 10th Street, this would require the acquisition of right-of-way and building of four miles of new road from 10th Street to Troy Avenue/Southeastern Avenue/SR 29. South from here, the road was already in place as the Five Points Road.

“At Valley Mills it will turn north, crossing roads 40, 36 and 34, eventually intersecting Road 52, where it will join the northern east-and-west link that has been built.” This would put the road along the High School Road corridor on the west side. This would also include a state road that connected US 40 to the Indianapolis Municipal Airport. That state road was designated SR 100 when it was commissioned.

“The practical value of such a construction program has long been recognized, both for ordinary traffic and for commercial vehicles that will be enabled to by-pass Indianapolis without contributing to traffic congestion be traversing the downtown streets.”

The article concluded as follows: “A belt line around Indianapolis has been considered ever since the old days of the “Dandy Trail” when gravel roads were marked and motorists wore linen dusters. The successor to that trail is one of the numerous tasks that are being held in abeyance until the war is won.”

The designation of SR 534 would be applied to the east leg from Washington Street north to 82nd Street, then along the 82nd/86th Street corridor to SR 29, Michigan Road. In the summer of 1949, the following was published in the Indianapolis News: “Some of our highways are known by name as well as number. Thus the route called State Road 534 could be more easily found if you called it Shadeland Drive. This road, leading north from Road 40, east of Indianapolis, intersects with Roads 31, 431, 37, 52 and 29 and is part of what, some day, will be a belt line around the city. But what we started out to say is that on the new Indiana highway maps it is 534 no longer. The new number is 100.”

And with that, the ISHC removed one of the “daughters” of State Road 34, stretching the SR 100 designation from a short section of High School Road to the entire bypass. Or, at least, the sections that would be completed before it was entirely replaced by Interstate 465.

Interurban Freight Service

In the Golden Age of Electric Traction, the interurban lines covered quite a bit of the state of Indiana. This is a subject that I have covered several times in Indiana Transportation History. However, today, I want to cover more than just Indiana, in a way. In 1924, a freight service was created using the interconnected electric traction lines across several states. It was given the name of “the Minute Man of the Traffic World.”

The freight system set up, covering 4,728 miles of electric traction track, covering an area from Uniontown, Pennsylvania, and Buffalo, New York, in the east to Chicago and beyond in the west. It was entirely possible to ship something, via interurban, across Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

A statement, issued on 18 July 1924, by Harry Reid of the Central Electric Railway Association, “described the position of the interurban railway as that of a minute man always ready to rush out on a hurry call.” The interurbans were in an ideal place to serve industries and their workers. (Source: Muncie Evening Press, 18 July 1924, pp 15)

“The development of the motor car has taken much local traffic off the hands of the electric and steam roads, but the demand for speedy service has more than repaid the electric lines, at least, for the loss of that business.”

One of the advantages the electric railroads had over the steam roads was less than carload deliveries. Steam railroads would spend a great deal of time and money on the creation of truck trailer service and less than carload service. Traction lines used free space to move parcels.

Fresh fruit, for instance, was shipped by rail into places like Indianapolis. Then the interurbans could deliver that produce to smaller towns along the line. Even livestock was transported by interurban. Indianapolis itself, in 1923, received 10,510 car loads of livestock…and sent out 1,086.

The Indianapolis traction freight yards, also in 1923, handled 229,150 tons of freight. “With the development of the new Indianapolis electric freight terminal, and the addition of new rolling stock by all lines, this total should be greatly exceeded this year.”

This freight service would find itself in trouble in less than a decade. With the Federal Government ordering the separation of electric utilities and electric traction companies, and the Great Depression, the traction lines would start failing. Private automobiles also helped in the demise. The Traction Freight Terminal, located on Kentucky Avenue near White River, didn’t last long. And the interurban was completely gone from Indianapolis in 1941.

Pigeon Roost Route

Today’s entry will be short. Just a little shorter than the road I am writing about. In the Auto Trail era, not all routes were long, cross country experiences. Today’s route, the Pigeon Roost Route, would clock in at 57.5 miles.

Labelled as “96” on this 1920 Rand McNally Auto Trail Map, you can see that the route only ran from Seymour south to New Albany. This is one of those roads that is going to take some time to look into. The southern part of the route, from Crothersville to New Albany looks to be along the route of US 31. It is not. While it connects some of the same places, it actually runs, for the most part, east of the current US 31.

According to newspaper accounts of the time, specifically from 1922, this route was the original State Road 1.

Towns that were included on the Pigeon Roost Route was Seymour, Dudleytown, Crothersville, Scottsburg, Vienna, Underwood, Henryville, Memphis, Sellersburg and New Albany.

It looks like I will be planning a road trip along this old route. Since I do have a dash cam, this will make documenting the Pigeon Roost that much easier.

The name of the road comes from the Pigeon Roost massacre, that occurred near Scottsburg. On 3 September 1812, a settlement named Pigeon Roost was attacked by native Americans. 15 children and nine adults, according the the State Historic Marker at the site, were killed. One family escaped to spread the alarm. I have read that the people of Scott County never found the ones that committed the killings.

Just a short blub today about the Pigeon Roost Route, a short Auto Trail that became part of the bigger state highway system…as its first inclusion.

The Ohio-Indiana-Michigan Way

In the Auto Trail era, I have mentioned many times that there where many roads that crept up all over the state. Many of these Auto Trails connected Indiana to far flung locations across the United States. Today, I want to discuss a road that connected Cincinnati, Ohio, to Kalamazoo, Michigan, through the eastern part of Indiana – the Ohio-Indiana-Michigan Way.

On old Rand McNally maps of the era, the OIM was listed as number nine in their list. I was never sure why Rand put the roads in the order they did. It certainly wasn’t in any kind of chronological order, since the Dixie Highway and the Lincoln Highway, two of the longest, most important and oldest Auto Trails around, were numbers 25 and 34 respectively.

Most of the original road is still followable today. From the south, it entered Indiana at College Corner, Ohio, southeast of Liberty. After passing through Cottage Grove, it made its way into Liberty. In Liberty, from what I can tell, it followed Liberty Avenue, Union Street, turning north on Main Street, then followed Market Street north out of town. Since it entered Indiana, it followed the route now covered by US 27. North of Liberty, an old bypassed section of the same US 27 is the original route of the OIM.

Just north of Potter Shop Road, or Old Indiana 122, the OIM turned northeast on Esteb Road, which it followed until it connects back into US 27. South of Richmond, the old road and US 27 split again, with the old road following Liberty Avenue on its way into the Wayne County seat.

Leaving north out of Richmond, it again follows what is now US 27 towards Chester. Before reaching that town, the old road turns north to follow Arba Pike, then turns northwest on Martin Road to again connect to the current highway.

After leaving Fountain City to the north, a small section of the road is now out of service. At Bockhofer Road, to follow the old OIM, turn left and then turn right on Hough Road. This trip will keet the traveler off of the modern highway for a little over 2 miles, when the old road and the current highway come together again to travel to Lynn.

At Lynn, a westerly turn onto Church Street will take the traveler out of Lynn. At the end of Church Street, at County Road 100 East, the OIM turned north. Here it followed that county road for five miles, where, at CR 300 South, it connects, once again, to US 27. Just north of CR 200 South, it followed what is now Old US 27 into, and through, Winchester.

The section through Geneva gets a little hard to follow. North of Geneva, however, the road veers to the northeast, following Covered Bridge Road to CR 0, which it follows to north of Monroe. Again, the old OIM connects to the current US 27 north of the town. At Decatur, the old road turns onto Winchester Street, the through town follows Second Street. Again, it connects to US 27 for its journey toward Fort Wayne.

At Fort Wayne, Decatur Road is the original path of the OIM…while US 27 was rerouted to the west. It’s best to follow US 27 through Fort Wayne. North of the city, the road changes to become SR 3. South of Huntertown, the old path veers off onto Lima Road and old State Road 3 until the two come back together north of Avilla. South of Kendallville, turn onto Main Street to enter that town. Here, it basically follows US 6 to SR 9, where it turns north bound for Michigan.

The next major detour from a state road occurs south of Valentine, where the OIM turned west on what is now County Road 500 South. At LaGrange, the OIM followed what is now Old State Road 9 north out of town to what is now SR 120. Here it turned west to connect back to the current SR 9 for the last of its journey to the Michigan State line and points north.

Dec 1917: Main Market Roads Officially Announced

When the law creating the Indiana State Highway Commission was passed in early 1917, the announcement was also made that there were would five main market highways, later known as state roads, designated by that commission. There was a general idea of which roads would be involved, bot nothing set in stone. That is, until December 1917.

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette of 12 December 1917 announced the selection of the new main market highways. ISHC officials traveled throughout the state deciding which roads would be part of the new, and yet controversial, system. “A former election of four of the five routes was tentative, and although the general directions of the four roads announced formerly have been adhered to in the official selection, many changes have been made.”

The plan was to create a system which was typical of Indiana’s general demeanor: serve as many people as possible with as little cost and intrusion as possible. Due to the shape of the state of Indiana, it was decided that there would be three roads crossing the state, west to east, from the Illinois state line to the Ohio state line. One north-south road would be designated through the middle of the state. This was the basis of the first four main market roads. A fifth road would connect the fourth road to the Illinois state line in the southern part of the state. The December 1917 system included roughly 800 miles of roads.

The main market highways were officially described as follows: “No. 1. The highway beginning at the Indiana and Michigan state line, thence southerly through South Bend, Plymouth, Rochester, Peru, Kokomo, Westfield, Carmel, Indianapolis, Franklin, Columbus, Seymour, Scottsburg, Sellersburg, New Albany and Jeffersonville.” In the Auto Trail era, there was no one highway this route followed. It seems that it was planned very early to have a split in the highway at the south end, with one branch going to New Albany, and one going to Jeffersonville. And although the route numbers have changed, that split has existed in one form or another since that time.

Main Market Road #2: “The highway passing through the northern part of the state, beginning, at the Illinois and Indiana state line, thence easterly through Dyer, Valparaiso, Laporte, South Bend, Goshen and Fort Wayne via the Lincoln Highway to the Ohio and Indiana state line.” Depending on how one reads that, it could be that the Lincoln Highway was only used from Fort Wayne to the Ohio state line. This is far from true. It was decided that the entire original route of the Lincoln Highway through the state would be used for Road #2.

Main Market Road #3: “The highway crossing the central part of the state, commonly called the old national road trail, beginning at the corner of the Illinois and Indiana state line, thence easterly through Terre Haute, Brazil, Putnamville, Plainfield, Indianapolis, Greenfield, Knightstown, Cambridge City and Richmond to the Ohio and Indiana state line.”

Main Market Road #4: “The road crossing the southern part of the state, beginning at Evansville, thence easterly through Boonville, Huntingburg, Jasper, West Baden, Paoli, Mitchell, Bedford, Seymour, North Vernon, Versailles, Dillsboro, Aurora and Lawrenceburg to the Ohio and Indiana state line.”

Main Market Road #5: “The road connecting Vincennes and Mitchell, via Wheatland, Washington, Loogootee and Shoals.” Basically, this road was designated to connect main market road 4 to Vincennes. Again, this is due to the shape of the state. A (more or less) straight line across Indiana from Cincinnati west would, as is shown by the route of the current US 50, connect to Vincennes, leaving people south of there without a main market road. Evansville was, and still is, one of the top five largest cities in the state, population wise. So ignoring that city would not have been possible.

The article ends with the following: “The total mileage of the roads represents less than one-half of the total 2,000 miles of ‘main market highways’ which the commission may designate under the new state highway commission law prior to 1921.” The law that passed in 1917 created a state highway system so that Indiana could benefit from federal money for good roads. It wasn’t until the law was redone in 1919, with all of the 1917 law’s Constitutional questions answered, that the Indiana State Highway System was officially made part of the landscape.

SR 37, A Review

One of the blogs that I follow everyday is that of Jim Grey. I started reading his blog over a year before I created the Indiana Transportation History Facebook page. It was because of that blog that I asked him to help me admin that group. He was also the one that encouraged me to start this blog…telling me, correctly, that it would be easier to keep track of the information I have been sharing in blog form than in a Facebook group. His blog is called “Down The Road.”

Jim had been sharing his passion for photography and road trips in the Facebook group. His topic has been that of SR 37. Due to those posts, I decided to put together a collection of posts that I have shared over the past 16 months that cover the same subject. Check out his photos on the subject at his blog, or through links on the Facebook group.

Waverly

In the early years of the state of Indiana, a small village located at the Bluffs of the White River became the meeting place for commissioners that set out to determine the location of the new state capital. Two years before that, in 1818, a trail was cut through the wilderness from Brookville that came to be known as the Whetzel Trace. Later on, a road was built north to the new state capital at Indianapolis. Because it went to the Bluffs of the White River, it was called Bluff Road.

Paoli State Road

When the Bluff Road was built, it was included in a longer “state” road that stretched from Indianapolis, through Martinsville, Bloomington and Bedford to Paoli. It would become the basis for original state road 22, and later, the original path of State Road 37.

White River on Indianapolis’ South Side, and its Effects

This article focused more on the effects of the Indianapolis Southern/Illinois Central Railroad, but it DID affect the routing of State Road 37. When SR 37 came into being, it ended at Washington and Meridian Streets, following Meridian Street south to Bluff Avenue (now Road) for its journey out of Marion County. The White River was moved, and the state built a new SR 37 over the old river.

Road Trip 1926: SR 37

On 1 October 1926, the entire state road system was renumbered. State Road 37 was given to what had been State Road 22 from Indianapolis south. The new State Road 37 was designated only south of the capital city.

Winners and Losers, Routing the Dixie Highway Through Indiana

When the committees met to create Carl Fisher’s Dixie Highway, political and personal gain played a part. Especially south of Indianapolis. While Fisher wanted the route to go directly from Indianapolis to Louisville, someone else wanted the same thing…just with a detour through Paoli. The latter won.

Original SR 22 – The “Fight” For the Way to Martinsville

The fastest way to Martinsville from Indianapolis wasn’t always the Bluff Road. When the state started taking over roads, a discussion was had to decide what road would be taken over to get to Martinsville. The choice was between the Vincennes Road and the Bluff Road. Eventually, it would be both.

Removing the Bluff Road Bridge Over the Illinois Central/Indiana Railroad

The Indianapolis Southern Railroad was chartered in 1902, and it crossed the old Bluff Road at an odd angle. The Dixie Highway used the route starting in 1914. In 1923, it became State Road 22. In 1925, a bridge was built over the railroad due to increased traffic on both the road and the railroad.

The Dixie Highway In Morgan County

One of the most bypassed roads in the state is SR 37. And very few more so than SR 37 in Morgan County. But this article focuses on the Dixie Highway through the county…and how it was originally routed through the area.

State Highway Department Construction Plans for 1963-1965

This article is included because part of the plan was to build a new SR 37 through the west side of Indianapolis, and connect it to I-465 at Harding Street. The Harding Street connection would be made. It would be a complete reroute of SR 37 from I-465 south to Martinsville. It ended up that SR 37 would be routed along I-465 from Harding Street to East Street (US 31), and be multiplexed with US 31 all the way to 38th Street on the northside of the city.

Expanding SR 37 from Martinsville to Oolitic

The last article about the routing of SR 37 I want to share is the latest one posted. In the 1970s, SR 37 was being moved and widened from Martinsville to Bedford. The section north of Martinsville had already been moved and widened…in conjunction with the construction of I-465 around Indianapolis.

Toll Roads In Marion County

Toll Roads. In Indiana, they were a way of life for over half a century. The reason they started was very simple. The counties, after having the state build a road for them, found themselves in a bind when it came to maintaining those roads. So the solution became to sell the roads to private companies, and let them do the work of maintaining the road.

By the 1880’s, the non-existent love affair with the toll road companies was becoming just flat out hatred. Citizens, mainly farmers, were tired of paying to get to the city. This led to just ignoring the toll houses, or finding another way to get to town. This led to the toll companies to lose money. Both sides were arguing for legislation to eliminate toll roads. Residents to make travel cheaper. Businessmen in town to eliminate what they saw as a tax on people to use their businesses. And toll road companies to throwing money at the roads. This led to the counties purchasing these old toll roads back, which I covered in the article “Toll Roads, And State Takeover.”

At one point, Marion County had over 200 miles of toll roads. The county started buying the roads back one at a time. The last road to be purchased, as reported in the Indianapolis Journal of 13 August 1896, was the Pleasant Run Toll Road. The entire four mile length of the road was purchased for $100 a mile. The Pleasant Run Toll Road purchased started at what is now 21st Street and Arlington Avenue, going east for those four miles to end at the Mitthoefer Free Gravel Road. Bet you can’t guess what that road is called today.

The National Road east of Indianapolis started on the way to free road status in September, 1889. The Indianapolis News of 19 September 1889 reported that the “the owners of the Cumberland Gravel Road turned the road between this city and Irvington over to the county this morning and it is now a part of the free gravel road system.” Another benefit of the turnover, at least to Irvington, is that the next day, the Citizen’s Street Railway Company would be granted permission to build a street car line along Washington Street/National Road to Irvington. The plan at the time was to build the street car tracks along the south edge of the road, leaving a 16 foot wide path on the north side of the road for drivers.

In the very same issue of the Indianapolis News, it was reported that “there has been a turnpike war on the Three-notch or Leavenworth road, leading south from Indianapolis to Johnson County.” Residents were claiming that the road was in disrepair, raising money to fight the owner of the turnpike. Many people were running the gates along the road, as there was an agreement to not pay tolls. “At the second gate from the city the pole was cut down by the ‘opposition,’ and there has been trouble all along the line.” A court case in Franklin, the day before, saw the toll road company winning, and the people paying tolls again.

An editorial in the Indianapolis News of 22 June 1892, calls for the remaining toll roads to be taken over by the county. It goes on to talk about the “shun pikes,” local roads built to avoid paying to use the toll roads. The first such “shun pike” in Marion County was English Avenue. It was improved by locals as a way to Irvington without using the Cumberland Toll Road. The next one was Prospect Street, from Fountain Square east.

One toll road that came in from the north became so valueless that the owner of the road tried to give to the county free of charge. Apparently, this wasn’t jumped on by the county commissioners. So the owner went to Noblesville, and had the deed for the toll road transferred, legally, to Marion County. It took twelve months after the deed was registered for the county commissioners to realize that the transfer had even taken place.

The Indianapolis News was the newspaper that was arguing, per an editorial of 22 January 1883, against the county buying the toll roads back. “Why should any county purchase a toll road and make it free? Those who never use it ought not to be taxed to make it free to to (sic) those who benefit by it. While it is a toll road, those who use it pay for it, as they ought.” My, how things can change in less than a decade.

It shouldn’t be lost on people that as the toll roads were being eliminated, the “Good Roads Movement” was starting. While this movement was started by both the post office and riders of bicycles, it would lead directly to what would be known as the Auto Trail era.

Toll roads reached in all directions from the city. In the end, most of the major roads that we use today have been in place for almost two centuries…and had spent time as a toll road. I recommend checking out the following map, which shows the improved roads as of 1895 (Palmer’s Official Road Map of Marion County, Indiana).

SR 49 Bypass at Valparaiso

November 1947. The mayoral elections in Valparaiso have just finished, electing Elden Kuehl. This now first term mayor decides that traffic through Valparaiso needs curbing. He recommends that the Indiana State Highway Commission build a bypass of SR 49 around the city. State Senator John Van Ness goes so far as to initiate a feasibility study for the road. And there it sat.

Porter County has always had plenty of roads crossing it to the east and west. Into the Auto Trails age, this included the Lincoln Highway, which entered Valparaiso from the west, leaving via the northeast. But north-south routes were lacking. Valparaiso itself had SR 49 that went right through downtown.

Mayor Kuehl thought there might be a groundbreaking for the new SR 49 by 1950. As it turned out, in the 1950s committees were formed to try to create a route for a bypass. Some plans included using SR 149 to the west of town. But most of the attention was placed on an eastern bypass of Valparaiso. In 1960, then Mayor Don Will said the plans for the eastern bypass were on the drawing board with the state. He announced that before the Valparaiso Lions Club. Later that year, an official from the ISHC told the same Lions Club that “a 49 bypass was not that day’s answer for moving people through the city.” (Source: The Times, Munster, Indiana, 20 July 2003)

The project was still in limbo into the 1970’s when what would become the Northern Indiana Regional Planning Commission stated that they were trying to keep the bypass alive. A bypass of Chesterton had been built in relation to I-94 construction. In 1975, Governor Otis Bowen tried to put locals at ease by saying that the bypass was still a high priority, but that the Federal government places a rather large roadblock in the way. The Governor said that there were now 236 steps from start to completion required according to government officials in Washington, DC. Some didn’t see this as honest, since an eight year completion date in 1975 was the same period that the bypass completion was going to take since 1963.

The Times, Munster, Indiana, photo, 20 July 2003. Groundbreaking for the SR 49 bypass of Valparaiso.

That eight years was an accurate statement. On 10 June 1983, a groundbreaking was held to commence construction on the new SR 49 bypass east of Valparaiso. At the groundbreaking was the then Mayor of Valparaiso…Elden Kuehl, the man that started discussions on the project in the first place way back in 1947. It would be exactly six years later, on 2 June 1989, that the grand opening was held.

A reconstruction project on the road in 2001 turned into a two year project when it was discovered that the soil along the route was inferior when it came to road construction. Previously, craks were starting to form in the concrete as the sub-base of the road was being destroyed by the weight of vehicles using the highway. In 2001, the just poured road had to be ripped up and replaced due to the inferior sub-base. A one year, $12 million project turned into a two year, $18 million project.