Michigan Road at White River

Indiana tends to be an enigma. The people, generally, tend to look at maintaining the status quo when it comes to government and institutions. Yet, somehow, the motto of “progress, progress, progress” rings when it comes to places and roads of historic value. There has been a lot of history torn out around Indiana in the name of progress. And this is very evident when it comes to the paths and trails that served Indiana, but are best left either bypassed or destroyed by the march of progress.

Indianapolis News, 30 August 1919

This subject started while looking for an article about the Michigan Road…and it being accepted into the state highway system. I will have to get back to that subject at some point. Anyway, I found an article in the Indianapolis News talking about the Michigan Road Bridge over White River (the one near Butler University) with the headline “Michigan Road Bridge Over White River, Numbered Among The Doomed, Will Give Way To A Modern Structure As Its Contemporaries Did.”

The bridge in question had been there so long that locals didn’t know what the County Commissioners were talking about when they called it the Northwestern Avenue bridge. It had always been (and still is today) the Michigan Road bridge, calling back to the time when the road was the primary north-south route from Indianapolis to South Bend. “The pioneers forget that Indianapolis is a growing city, and that the one far distant Michigan road bridge is now at the edge of town.”

The News goes on to talk about the interesting and romantic history of the old bridge. First, the talk of the cycling path for the days that riding a bicycle was all the rage. The cycling path in question ran along the southern/eastern bank of the Central Canal at the southern end of the Michigan Road bridge. A toll house on the cycle path (apparently, the path was a toll road for bicycles) was located at the Michigan Road bridge. “Wheelmen,” as bicyclists were called at the time, would detour to the cycle path to ride toward downtown. The cycle path would later cross Northwestern Avenue later, near 16th Street.

The White River sits between two rather large hills along the Michigan Road. When the age of the automobile came, climbing out of the White River valley was quite the chore. Of course, these hills were a challenge to the bicycles before the cars…and the horses before the bicycles. By 1919, the treacherous hills on both sides of the valley had been reduced in grade. In the early days of automobiles, the two hills were used for engine testing in hill climbs. Announcements months in advance would tell of the coming time to test your motors climbing the Michigan Road hills.

Closeup of the above image from the Indianapolis News showing just the Northwestern Avenue (Michigan Road) bridge over White River.

The bridge that was in place in 1919 was a replacement for an original wooden covered bridge at the site. “It has been gone for many years, having failed to stand up under heavy and constantly increasing strain of travel over the Michigan road.” The first image in this article also shows the Northwestern Avenue bridge over Fall Creek, or at least the one that had been replaced prior to publication of the 30 August 1919 article.

Despite the amount of traffic carried by the Michigan Road, it would take several more years before this section would once again become a state road. The replacement of the bridge over White River was taken on by Marion County, not the state.

Bicycling Marion County, 1900, Part 2

Today is part two of two of covering a map I found on the Indiana State Library website about bicycling in Marion County, and the routes that were available.

Bluff Road: The direct route to Martinsville, Bloomington and points south. It was named after the Bluffs of the White River at Waverly. It was one of the first trails to connect to the Hoosier Capitol, as a lot of settlers would start their journey into Marion County from Waverly.

Clifford Avenue Pike: The extension of 10th Street past the city limits. The bicycle route ended at what is now Arlington Avenue, which connected Clifford Avenue to National Road and Brookville Pike.

Flackville Pike: The town of Flackville was created near what is now 30th Street and Lafayette Road. The Pike leading to the town is an extension of Indianapolis’ 30th Street.

Madison Road: The Madison-Indianapolis State Road, which the later Madison & Indianapolis Railroad would closely follow. Today, Madison Road is now Madison Avenue.

Millers Pike: Today known as Millersville Road, since that is where the road ended. A connecting route back to the White River & Fall Creek Pike used what is now 56th Street.

Myers Pike: This road would, in later life, become Cold Spring Road, connecting the Lafayette Road to the Michigan Road on the west (north) side of the White River.

Pendleton Pike: The old (1830’s) state road to the Falls of Fall Creek, where the town of Pendleton was formed. The old road went through Oakland (now Oaklandon), instead of basically around it like it does now.

Rockville Pike: The original Indianapolis-Rockville State Road. Still called Rockville Road for most of its length today. The old road is hard to navigate at its original beginning, since it was removed when Holt Road was built north of Washington Street. Rockville Avenue is the old road.

Shelbyville Road: The original state road to the seat of Shelby County. Its importance dropped off after the building of the Michigan Road. Near the current intersection of Shelbyville Road and Stop 11 Road/Frye Road, a branch took riders to Acton. At Acton, a branch from the Michigan Road came from the north.

Spring Mills Pike: The original path of Spring Mill Road started at the city limits on Illinois Street, crossing the White River near where Kessler Boulevard does today. It then continued up what is now Spring Mill Road into Hamilton County.

Sugar Flats Pike: The continuation of Central Avenue outside the city limits up to the Central Canal towpath, then following what is now Westfield Boulevard through Nora and into Hamilton County. The bike path led, after leaving Marion County, to the downtown area of Carmel.

Three Notch Pike: What is now Meridian Street was, for around a century, known as the Three Notch Road. The bicycle route followed Meridian Street from the Bluff Road intersection down to the county line.

White River and Fall Creek Pike: Labeled on the map as the White River and Eagle Creek Pike, this old road turned bicycle route followed the continuation of Keystone Avenue past the city limits to its end at River Road. Keep in mind, what is now Keystone Avenue north of White River was built by the state as a replacement for SR 431, which used to use Westfield Boulevard.

Bicycling Marion County, 1900, Part 1

Today, we sort of return to a series that I worked on for quite a while – Bicycling Thursday. But the difference between those articles and this two part mini-series is that I will be covering Marion County in its entirety, not just each path. This won’t have the details as published in the Indianapolis News in the Spring of 1896. It will basically cover the routes shown on a map of 1900 – one that is available online from the Indiana State Library.

1900 Road Map of Marion County showing bicycle routes
available in a larger version at http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15078coll8/id/5247/rec/2

If I have happened to cover a specific route in the previous “Bicycling Thursday” series entries, I will make sure to link it here.

Allisonville Pike: Originally built as part of the Indianapolis-Fort Wayne State Road. The town of Allisonville was located at what is now the corner of 82nd Street and Allisonville Road, which is the current name of the Pike.

Brookville Pike: Covering the original Brookville State Road, it entered Marion County at Julietta, following what is now Brookville Road from Julietta to Sherman Drive. The original Brookville Road didn’t end there, however, as covered in the ITH entry “The Indianapolis end of the Brookville (State) Road.” This bicycle route started about one block west of Sherman Drive.

Crawfordsville Pike: As the name explains, this was the Indianapolis-Crawfordsville Road. The route is today Crawfordsville Road (mostly, there have been a couple of changes in the route), Cunningham Road, 16th Street, Waterway Boulevard, and Indiana Avenue.

Darnell Road (Reveal Road): What can be followed today is known as Dandy Trail. Most of the route, however, now sits under quite a bit of water – as in Eagle Creek Reservoir.

Michigan Road (north) and (south): One of the most important state roads in Indiana history, connecting the Ohio River at Madison to Lake Michigan at Michigan City. Inside the Indianapolis city limits, the two sections became known as Northwestern Avenue and Southeastern Avenue. The name Southeastern was extended all the way into Shelby County. Northwestern Avenue would be changed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, but only to the old city limits. At the city limits (38th Street), the old road kept its original name. It was also given the name “Augusta Pike” by the toll road company that owned it for around half a century.

Spring Valley Pike: This road name was applied to what would become Mann Road from the old Mooresville Road, then known as the Mars Hill Pike, south to the county line.

Valley Mills Pike: This road started at the point where the original Mooresville Road changed from being the Mars Hill Pike to the West Newton Pike. Basically, it would follow what is now Thompson Road to Mendenhall Road (an intersection that no longer exists). From there, it would travel south along Mendenhall Road to what is now Camby Road. Here, a branch of the pike would continue south into West Newton, where it would end at the West Newton Pike. The main route followed what is not Camby and Floyd Roads to the county line.

Wall Street Pike: This is the old road name for what would become 21st Street west from the old Crawfordsville Pike, now Cunningham Road.

Webb Road: Crossing Marion County from the Spring Valley Pike to what is now Sherman Drive, this road had many names. Its most familiar name was “Southport Free Gravel Road,” shortened to Southport Road.

West Newton Pike: This road, that connected Mars Hill and Valley Mills to West Newton, and beyond that, Mooresville. It was built, originally, as part of the Indianapolis-Mooresville State Road. Today, the route is still called Mooresville Road.

White River & Big Eagle Creek Pike (Lafayette Road): The long name for this road was given to it when Marion County sold the road to a toll road company in the 1840’s. The original name for it, when it was built by the state, was the Indianapolis-Lafayette State Road. With very little exceptions, what is now Lafayette Road still follows the same route.

Zionsville Road: Starting at what is now 52nd Street just east of Lafayette Road, the old Zionsville State Road follows what is today Moller Road, 62nd Street, and Zionsville Road to it namesake town.

Bicycling the Fall Creek and Mud Creek Road

On 16 May 1896, the Indianapolis News covered the bicycle route along the Pendleton Pike. That trip went as far as Oakland (now Oaklandon). The continuation of the coverage included leaving the Pendleton Pike to head north toward the town of Germantown, which was on the Hamilton-Marion County line north of Oaklandon. (Germantown is now under Geist Reservoir. There are times, in low water periods, when the old town makes an appearance!)

At Fall Creek, slightly west of due north of Oaklandon, was the Willow Mill. This would have been reached by travelling what is now Sunnyside Road now to the Fall Creek. Just like Germantown, that spot is under Geist Reservoir. Willow Mill would be, roughly, at 86th Street and Sunnyside Road. One mile west of that point was the Fall Creek and Mud Creek Road.

The trail north out of Oaklandon was very, very rough. “It is not a difficult matter to find the worst” of the several ways to get across from Oaklandon. But, for the sheer beauty of a ride, following the Fall Creek and Mud Creek Road would be the one to take.

Palmer’s Official Road Map of Marion County, Indiana, 1895

The Fall Creek Road was one mile from the previously mentioned Willow Mill. This was because the old road followed what is now Sargent Road out of the Fall Creek valley. Climbing out of the valley itself requires walking the bike up a large hill. Between that hill and the Fall Creek Pike, four and a half miles from Oaklandon, “are several pretty good dips and rises.” Here, the Fall Creek Road runs north and south (more or less, if you know Sargent Road). “The rider should turn south.”

One and a half miles later, the road starts down a steep hill, “which, if taken properly, is fine coasting. At the foot of the hill, which brings the road nearly to Fall Creek.” The road then turns southwest, following the creek fairly closely. The road dips in and out of the Fall Creek valley for nearly two miles. This “presents an ever-changing view and makes a picture which will cause many to pay more attention to the beauties of the valley than to their wheels and thereby cause trouble.” The road, mostly, is in excellent condition. But like other roads of the time, there were bad spots that could creep up. It was always recommended that riders pay attention to the road at all times.

After two miles of hilly travel, which the newspaper reports as usually aiming the right direction for riders heading toward Indianapolis, the road swings more to the west for about a mile. This area, today, is Fall Creek North Drive, the road having been replaced with the building of I-465 through the Fall Creek valley. It should be noted that part of this route, before turning more west, had been part of the Noblesville-Franklin State Road, connecting the two title cities. Through most of Marion County, the name is shortened to Franklin Road.

The Fall Creek Road changed names as it crossed Fall Creek at Millersville. This is nine miles from Willow Mill. The route to be followed changes to the Millersville Free Gravel Road. This road runs along the south side of Fall Creek until connecting with 22nd Street (now 30th Street). From there, the trip back to downtown Indianapolis uses the Allisonville Free Gravel Road, now known as Central Avenue and Fort Wayne Avenue, before ending at North and Pennsylvania Streets.

Bicycling the Brookville Pike

Today’s Bicycling Thursday will be focusing on a road that, while named the “Indianapolis-Brookville State Road” when it was created, never actually connected directly to the capital city. Its end was actually just shy of three miles east of the Circle, as shown in the post “The Indianapolis end of the Brookville (State) Road.”

The start of this trip is along the National Road, which in 1896 was also called the Irvington Pike. Just past the Indianapolis Belt Railway, a road turns to the south. This road now runs behind the shopping center at Sherman Drive and Washington Street. As shown in the above mentioned post, the original road crossed the railroad tracks (at the time the Junction [B&O] and Panhandle [PRR]) at a very strange angle and at grade. At this location was an old railroad station on the Junction called Stratford.

The road then continues in a straight line to the east-southeast toward the county line. The Junction Railway runs in a parallel path to the old road just to the north. The Brookville Pike skirts the south edge of Irvington. From there, the road continues on its straight line journey crossing the Noblesville-Franklin State Road near the village of Fenton. The only jog in the road in Marion County occurs between the Bade Free Gravel Road (Bade Road) and Franke (German Church Road).

There is a hill (described as “a short, sharp pull going eastward, and a longer pull, if going west”) just west of the village of Julietta. After that, the Pike becomes relatively flat to New Palestine. On the east side of that town, the road drops into the valley of Sugar Creek. After climbing out of the valley, it again becomes flat again to Fountaintown.

The route in the article in the Indianapolis News of 10 April 1896 was actually submitted by a reader of the newspaper. The route was a 47 mile trip out the Brookville Road to Fountaintown, north to Greenfield along what would become the Riley Highway, then back to Indianapolis via the National Road.

Bicycling the Lafayette Road

Bicycle Routes as published on 02 May 1896 in the Indianapolis News. (image courtesy of newspapers.com)

The Indianapolis News, in its bicycling routes series, on 02 May 1896, covered leaving Indianapolis via the Crawfordsville Pike and the Reveal/Centennial Pike. This would bring the “wheelman” of the day through what is now Speedway out to and along the Eagle Creek valley to the town of Trader’s Point. That town was, before the building of the Eagle Creek Reservoir, was located at the crossing of Big Eagle Creek by the White River and Big Eagle Creek Pike, which was built as the Indianapolis-Lafayette State Road. Today, that name has been shortened to Lafayette Road.

After turning southeast along the road out of Trader’s Point, the road crosses the Big Eagle Creek then climbs a “stiff hill.” “After climbing this hill the road is undulating for some distance until the valley of the Big Eagle is left far behind.” Before leaving the hilly area, one half mile from Trader’s Point, is a “pump at the roadside all by itself. The water is very good.” One mile from “the Point” is a dirt road that crosses the Pike west to east. That dirt road, to the east, turns into the New Augusta Free Gravel Road, connecting to the town of that name, the Michigan Road and ending at the Spring Mill and Williams Creek Free Gravel Road.

Two miles from Trader’s Point “is a grocery store and blacksmith shop, where one dirt road turns north and another runs east and west. There is a little settlement at this cross-roads and a pretty white church with a green pump in the church yard.” The road to the north is now Shanghai Road. The east-west road, running from a road on the east side of Big Eagle Creek to the Michigan Road, first became Isenhour Road. That would be changed to 62nd Street with the renumbering of Marion County. There are no remnants of that “little settlement,” as the construction of Interstate 65 wiped out the intersection of 62nd Street and Lafayette Road.

From the settlement southeast, Lafayette Road is “much more level.” The first two roads encountered are the Kissell Road (became High School Road, now gone with the same I-65 construction) that heads south and the Centennial Road (running from the Reveal Road to the Michigan Road at Crooked Creek, now known as 56th Street). One half mile later, the Zionsville and Pike Township Free Gravel Road leaves heading north. That road is now Moller Road from north of 52nd Street to 62nd Street. When it was built, it was part of the Zionsville Pike.

Just southeast of the Zionsville Road junction is a post office town called Snacks. Here there is a white church, store, blacksmith shop, brick schoolhouse, and several houses. Next, the bicyclist would encounter the Russe Road, also known as the Reveal and Russe Free Gravel Road. The east end of this road is at the Lafayette Pike. The west end of this road is at the Crawfordsville Road, at a point one mile east of Clermont. The end at Lafayette Road is now known as 46th Street.

South of what is now 46th Street the Lafayette Pike jogs a little to the due south then more east than southeast, and back to the original line of the road. Those turns are shown in the 1941 aerial photograph to the left. (Image courtesy of MapIndy, a service of the City of Indianapolis.) The News mentioned, also, that the Little Eagle Creek comes very close to, and even parallels, the Lafayette Pike at this point.

The article reports that the road gets into better condition as it gets closer to the city. The next Post Office town encountered is Flackville, located at what is now Tibbs Avenue and Lafayette Road. Before that point, two schoolhouses, one with a green pump in the yard, and two uninviting dirt roads. Those roads, the first heading east, is now 38th Street, and the second heading west in now 34th Street.

At Flackville, several roads are encountered. The Guion Gravel Road turns north towards its end at New Augusta. The Flack Road, now 30th Street, crosses west to east. From here, the rider can follow the Flack Road east to the Michigan Road and back to the city. Continuing along the Lafayette Pike, what is now Tibbs Avenue crosses the road north to south. South of Pike is the Marion County Poor Farm.

Before reaching the Crawfordsville Pike at Emrichsville (now 16th Street), the Lafayette Road encounters the Cooper Avenue Free Gravel Road (now Kessler Boulevard) and the Meyers Free Gravel Road (now Cold Spring Road). The Meyers Road connects to the town of Brooklyn Heights and the Michigan Road near Mount Pleasant (Alliance Post Office).

At Emrichsville, the historic Lafayette and Crawfordsville Roads combine for the trip back to the center of Indianapolis. Both roads crossed the Emrichsville Bridge and followed what is now Waterway Boulevard (see The Lafayette State Road In Downtown Indianapolis). Historically, the Crawfordsville and Lafayette Roads both began at the Michigan Road.

The complete trip, as listed in this article was measured at 32 miles. This included the round trip that went out the Crawfordsville Pike, north along the Reveal and Centennial Roads, and back the Lafayette Road.

Bicycling Indianapolis

In 1896,the Indianapolis News published a series of articles about bicycling in and around Indianapolis. That series of articles is what I have been using to create these “Bicycling Thursday” series of posts here at Indiana Transportation History. These articles generally have covered riding different roads, usually old state roads, leaving Indianapolis. I will include links to all of those below. But this article is about something different. There was a proposed bicycling route that covered quite a bit of the north side of the city and Marion County.

Today’s information comes from the Indianapolis News of 14 March 1896. This plan was to be financed via the sale of subscriptions, much like the way that roads were paid for before this, and how Auto Trails, starting in the 1910’s, were going to be financed afterwards. Most of the route wouldn’t use roads in place. Where it did use roads, it would be built along side that road. Most of the route would make use of riding on the banks of water courses through the county.

Proposed bicycle route through Indianapolis and Marin County as described in the Indianapolis News of 14 March 1896.

The potential route started along Indiana Avenue in downtown Indianapolis. It would follow that road to where it crossed Fall Creek. It is mentioned in the News that the condition of Indiana Avenue, at that time, from West Street to Fall Creek, is such that “no worse road was found in going over the entire course than in this street.” The path would then follow the levee along the north bank of Fall Creek “south of the new pumping station of the Water Company.” The proposed route would continue along Fall Creek, then the east bank of the White River until crossing the Indianapolis Belt Railway. Here, the bicycling route would join the Crawfordsville Free Gravel Road until that road crossed the White River. The Crawfordsville Free Gravel Road is now Waterway Boulevard (after having been named Speedway Avenue), and it crossed the river at the Emrichsville Bridge, later replaced by the current 16th Street bridge.

The proposed path would then continue to follow the White River until after it crossed the “Flack Pike,” now 30th Street, passing “many giant sycamores, winding in and out with the deviation of the stream.” Just north of the Flack Pike the river and the Central Canal come close to one another, where the proposed route would switch over to the tow path along the north bank of the canal on its way to Broad Ripple.

“The ride up the tow-path every wheelman and wheelwoman in the city is familiar with – its beauties, its dangers and it tribulations often.” It is described as a beautiful ride. However, washouts, gullies, chuck holes and soft spots are common along the way, “and a sudden dip into the canal has a most dampening effect on enthusiasm.” The tow path continues through Fairview Park, now the site of Butler University. There is a fairly steep climb before the path would cross Illinois Street. Here, a bicycle rider could choose to use either side of the canal to get to Broad Ripple. But the official route would continue along the north tow path.

At Broad Ripple, the path would follow the Westfield Pike north past the Broad Ripple damn and across the White River on a large iron bridge. After crossing the river, the path then turns south to follow the river along the north/west bank to a point where it crosses White River again at what is now the 82nd Street crossing after passing the Haverstick Farm. After crossing White River, it would follow what was then the Fall Creek and White River Free Gravel Road (FCWRFGR) back towards the city. The first part of that free gravel road doesn’t now exist above what is now 79th Street. From there, it is known as River Road to the point where the FCWRFGR turned south on what is now Keystone Avenue.

The new path would be built along the FCWRFGR until it got to Malott Park, at what is now 56th Street. The route would then turn east “on the dirt road from Malott Park to Millersville.” It is mentioned that this dirt road is very narrow in places, with “scarcely room on either side for the path.” Here, the builders of the route hadn’t decided whether to follow Fall Creek’s north bank or the Millersville Free Gravel Road and the south bank of Fall Creek to Meridian Street. Here, riding down Meridian Street would bring rider back to downtown Indianapolis, and the point where the route started.

Some of the path, as described, has, in more recent times, been added to the Indy Parks trail system. It starts on what is now the White River Trail. It then crosses over to the Central Canal Trail above the old Riverside Amusement Park north of 30th Street. At Illinois Street, where the rider in 1896 had two choices, the path chosen by Indy Parks runs along the opposite bank of the Canal than was chosen to be followed then. Most of the rest of the route, that can still be traveled, can be followed by using the streets that exist now. There are a few places where this can’t happen.

The following is a list of the other entries in this “Bicycling Thursday” series.

Indianapolis and Its Decoration Day Race
Allisonville Pike (Allisonville Road to Noblesville)
Crawfordsville Pike (Old Crawfordsville Road to Crawfordsville)
Madison Road (Madison Avenue from Southport to Indianapolis)
Michigan Road North (MLK/Michigan Road north to Augusta)
Michigan Road South (Southeastern Avenue)
National Road West (Washington Street west to Plainfield)
Pendleton Pike (Pendleton Pike to Oaklandon and beyond)
Reveal Road (Dandy Trail through Eagle Creek valley)
Rockville Road (Old Rockville Road from Danville to Indianapolis)
Shelbyville Road (Old Shelbyville Road from Indianapolis to SE Marion County)
Three Notch Road (Meridian Street south to Southport Road)
Westfield Road (Westfield Boulevard and Illinois Street from Westfield south)

Bicycling the Reveal Road

In the Indianapolis News issue of 02 May 1896, the paper was continuing a series about traveling around Marion County, and beyond, on bicycles. At the time, that was the latest, greatest thing. Most people don’t realize that bicycles were the starting point to getting the government involved in making better roads, something that helped when cars and trucks started showing up in great numbers. That particular issue of the News started by covering the Crawfordsville Pike, which was covered again, and better, one week later on 09 May 1896. But it was the route back to the city that differed between the two.

The focus of today’s post is one part of the return trip. Most of the trip back was done on the Lafayette Pike, now known as Lafayette Road. But connecting the two major pikes was a gravel road that started at the Crawfordsville Pike as the Reveal Road. The Reveal Road is at the base of a large hill on the Crawfordsville Road one mile east of Clermont.

“The Reveal road soon gives evidence of what it is. The rider has an opportunity to test his coasting powers right at the start, for, after climbing a short hill, it wings down a lone, but not very steep, decline to Big Eagle creek.” This road no longer exists in the form it did then. It has been moved several times over the years, especially when Interstate 74 was built through the area. At the bottom of the hill, a bridge crosses over the Big Eagle Creek along what would become the 34th Street corridor. (This bridge, or its replacements, would disappear when I-74 was built and 34th Street was turned to the northwest to connect to Dandy Trail.)

“The bridge is a good one, but, as there had been fresh gravel placed on the road just beyond the bridge, it might be well to slow up a bit in going over.” From here, the road travels east for a little bit then turns north. Here, the road meanders its way through the Big Eagle Creek valley. It ran along a hillside, a short distance from the creek itself.

A mile and a half after crossing the bridge, a road turns due east to connect to the Lafayette Pike. While this road is now known as 46th Street, which ends at both Dandy Trail and Lafayette Road, in 1896 it was known as the Russe Free Gravel Road. It is noted that the Russe Road is in good condition, but very hilly.

The Reveal Road continues north and north west along the Eagle Creek valley until it met the Centennial Pike, which is now 56th Street. Between the Russe and Centennial Pikes, the Reveal is dirt. As with the Russe, the Centennial connects eastward to the Lafayette Road. The Centennial Pike ended at the Reveal Road, which crossed Eagle Creek heading north.

Much is made in the article about the beauty along the Reveal Road as it winds its way from basically 34th Street to near 79th Street through the Big Eagle Creek valley. The route is relatively flat, easy to ride, and plenty of shade along the way. The Reveal Road itself would connect to the Lafayette Pike along the north bank of the creek. Here, it entered the village of Trader’s Point. The village has been moved, this being a result of the creation of the Eagle Creek Reservoir.

For those that have been following Indiana Transportation History through this blog, you probably recognize the path of the old Reveal Road. It, like the original location of the village of Trader’s Point, has been long gone. Again, the creation of Eagle Creek Reservoir is to thank for this. But, before the making of the reservoir, some 30+ years after this bicycling article, this entire section was included in the driving tour around Marion County: Dandy Trail.

Indianapolis and Its Decoration Day Race

If there is one thing that Indianapolis is known for, it is racing. Oh, yes. Almost anyone in the WORLD would respond “Indianapolis 500” if you mention the city. Memorial Day weekend has become a time when the population of the city doubles and triples, with all of the visitors coming to watch “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” But the subject of this post isn’t something related to a farm field with a large rectangle with curved corners in Speedway. As a matter of fact, the subject article of this post dates from the Indianapolis News of 23 May 1896, some 13 years before that other race started.

Before it became known as Memorial Day, 30 May of each year was known as Decoration Day. The holiday floated depending on the location of 30 May on the calendar. It was declared a Federal Holiday in 1868. In Indianapolis, the end of May signified, among other things, the end of the “rainy season,” otherwise known in the rest of the world as Spring. The weather starts getting drier and hotter right after Decoration Day. So it made almost perfect sense to use that holiday as a day to get together to watch a race.

Indianapolis News, 23 May 1896. This map shows the route of the annual Decoration Day Bicycle Road Race of 1896.

The Indianapolis Cycle Club and the Cycle Board of Trade put together the annual Decoration Day Road Race through the streets of Indianapolis. At the time of the source article, thirty men were in the list of racers. Those racers, unlike previous years, weren’t all from Indianapolis. Entries would be taken until 26 May, the following Tuesday. It was estimated that seventy-five to one hundred riders would be at the starting line when the race kicked off. Batches of racers would be set off on the 13.625 mile course at intervals of one minute.

Prizes for the race, due to its amateur status, could not include money. But there were 38 prizes to be given to the riders. The rules state that each rider is only allowed to win one prize. Prizes include four different bicycles, tires, suits, caps, hats, electric lantern, a Kodak, fishing rods, shoes, lamps, golf hoses, sweaters, luggage and a speed indicator. These prizes came from merchants across the city. Carl G. Fisher, future creator of the Lincoln and Dixie Highways, and his bicycle store donated two sweaters, a pair of shoes, and a “speed indicator.”

The course was chosen due to the relative good condition of the route. “It is probable that not another road race will be run on Decoration Day throughout the entire country on a finer course than the one which will be used here.” There are a few bad spots along the way, but they are few and far between.

The race started at the corner of Meridian and 14th (now 21st) Streets , heading north to 30th (now 38th) Street. Here it turned west one block to follow Illinois Street, which since it was outside the city limits at the time, was called the Indianapolis and Westfield Road (which is now Illinois Street and Westfield Boulevard to Broad Ripple). From there, it followed what is now Broad Ripple Avenue to the Fall Creek and White River Gravel Road (now called Keystone Avenue). South along the Fall Creek Road, the course then turned southwest onto the Allisonville Pike (now Fall Creek Boulevard). The Allisonville Pike went as far as what is now 38th Street, with the Allisonville name being used across that numbered street. The route then turned south on Meridian Street at 30th, going back to the starting point at 14th.

A three block stretch of asphalt starts, and finishes, the course. Two bad street car track crossings, one at 26th (34nd) Street and the other at 28th (36th) Street, are encountered. From the Fall Creek bridge to 30th (38th) Street is “one of the worst spots along the whole course.” Potholes and loose gravel make this section a rough going. Turning at 30th (38th) Street gets interesting, with a wooden culvert to be crossed, with boards at one end being lose. Three-eighths of a mile after turning onto Illinois Street riders will encounter a small rise. Further along Illinois Street requires crossing a wooden culvert, a small wooden bridge and climbing a 200 yard long, fairly stiff hill. “This hill stops just beyond the carriage entrance for Fairview Park (now the location of Butler University).” This entrance would be at what is now 46th Street. From here, for the next one-half mile, is a gradual down grade. At the canal, the route drops along a steep grade for about 100 yards.

“Some riders may seek to cross the canal and take advantage of the cycle path, but this will not be allowed.” The first quarter mile along what is now Westfield Boulevard is reported in excellent condition. Then comes 300 yards of horrible conditions, including potholes on both sides of the road. After that, fresh gravel with wheel tracks already in place on each side of center.

At Broad Ripple, the course encounters the Monon tracks and follows the street car tracks along what is Broad Ripple Avenue (previously 62nd Street). The Broad Ripple section is reported as being the worst section of the entire course. One of the best parts of the route is along the Fall Creek and White River Road. “Men who are still in the hunt will be able to come down this road at a lightning clip.” This road runs along the west border of Malott Park (at what is now 52nd Street), and just south of the village is the crossing of the Lake Erie & Western Railroad (Nickle Plate). (As an aside, the street that runs along the railroad tracks is now called Erie due to the name of the railroad company. This is common throughout Indianapolis.)

A turn onto Allisonville Pike (Fall Creek Boulevard), the LE&W tracks are crossed again near 38th Street. Then the course, still following the old Allisonville Pike turns west along 38th Street until Meridian Street, while the Allisonville Road turned south on what is now Central Avenue. The Monon tracks are crossed again on the west side of the Fairgrounds. At Meridian Street, the repeat of the conditions encountered on the way out happens. To avoid having racers cutting across the course, checkers were located at each cross street. “If the race is at all close, there will be a great sprint from Fall Creek to the tape.”

Racing, it seems, has been a part of Indianapolis’s Memorial Day for much longer than the creation of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which included a partner that provided prizes for this race.

** edited 06/03/2021 by Paula Trefun Simpson to note that the ‘canal’ mentioned was the Central Canal

Bicycling the Shelbyville Road

Today, I want to focus on the Indianapolis News of 21 March 1896, and one of the bicycling routes contained there in: the Shelbyville Road. The original road was the first connecting the county seats of Marion and Shelby Counties. Today, not only does Shelbyville Road still exist, but a major south side street still keeps a name that is a remnant of the same. That street is called Shelby Street.

The article starts by very plainly stating “one of the pleasantest rides around the city, and one which will probably come nearest suiting all classes of riders, is over the Shelbyville road.” The road is listed as being in “good condition the year round.” However, it is mentioned that the road has “few, if any, picturesque spots.” But, with no big hills and not as traveled as other roads. It is also mentioned that while there are a lot of trees along the route, shade is scant and it is not recommended to ride this route in the heat of summer.

The bicycle ride of the Shelbyville Pike starts at the “head of Virginia Avenue,” the corner of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington. “The run out is on the asphalt until the end of the avenue is reached” at what is now Fountain Square. The road then turns south on Shelby Street, but “the cyclist will have to ride with a little care until after crossing the Belt railroad.” Two blocks after that crossing is the official beginning of the Shelbyville Pike. The road has a hard pathway on each side, making bicycling a very nice ride. A grove of cottonwood trees appears shortly after along what is called a branch of Pleasant Run, which is actually Bean Creek south of Garfield Park. These trees are located on the east side of the road, little value to an outbound traveler.

A mile after the Belt Railroad, the Pike turns southeast (along what is now Carson Avenue). A quarter mile later, a dirt road crosses east-west across the Shelbyville Pike. This road is now Troy Avenue. This area would be unofficially called McClainsville, and, at the time of the article, there was a blacksmith shop here. It would also be the location of a school, called McClainsville, which would be replaced by Indianapolis Public School #72, Emma Donnan. The dirt road that is Troy Avenue would allow the rider to connect to the Churchman Pike a little less than two miles to the east at what is now Beech Grove’s 17th Avenue and Albany Street.

The Shelbyville Pike continues on its southeastern journey for almost two miles, where it crosses Lick Creek. A turn to the south after crossing the creek, the road continues for about one-half before turning due east along what is now Thompson Road. One path for a shorter ride is to turn west instead of east, allowing the rider to connect to the Madison Turnpike for the journey back to Indianapolis. Within one half mile after turning east onto Thompson Road, a dirt road heads to the north to connect the rider, two miles north, again to the Churchman Pike. And, again, it is at what is now the corner of 17th Avenue and Albany Street in Beech Grove, as this dirt road is now Sherman Drive. This can also be used as a short ride, as well.

When the Shelbyville Pike turns southeast again, following the dirt road east allows connection, once again, to the Churchman Pike. Also, with a couple of turns later along that line, the rider can get to New Bethel (now Wanamaker) on the Michigan Road. The road to Wanamaker, however, is “out of the question at the present time, and it will probably be two months before they are fit for riding.” Part of this route, at that time, included what was created as the Franklin-Noblesville State Road, now Franklin Road. It is recommended that instead of heading toward he Churchman Pike or Wanamaker, the rider continue southeast on the Shelbyville Pike.

Before the road turns southeast, a pump and tin cup “on the left hand side of the road will tempt many a rider to stop for a brief rest under the trees.” The road then passes an old brickyard, and a grove of heavy timber. The road here had been recently graveled for about one quarter mile and was in rough shape. After that, the road got to be in excellent shape for the following two miles. Two dirt roads, a mile apart, connect north and south. The first “runs through to Irvington and on as far north as Millersville.” This is now Emerson Avenue. The second skirts the end of the Churchman Pike and connects to the Michigan Road. This is now Arlington Avenue. Both are reported as will shaded and have some picturesque spots.

Further along, before crossing Little Buck Creek, the rider will be tempted to take a rest at an orchard just to the south of the road. There is a house here, sitting almost a quarter mile back from the Pike. Ten miles out on the road, the rider will come across a wagon and blacksmith shop owned by Sam Crouch. Across the road from that shop is a very nice well used by farmers that travel the route, but is as inviting to bicyclists. “Crouch is a genial sort of man, and always likes to have the riders stop and shat with him a bit. He is not a novice at bicycle repairing, and last season enabled many an unfortunate rider to pedal back home instead of walking and carrying the wreck of his wheel with him.”

The next landmark, at the 12 mile mark, is the Five Points School House. “It is an unwritten law that all wheelmen shall stop at the school-house for a brief rest, and only the century men (those doing a 100 mile ride in one day) who are going against time take the liberty of evading this law.” A pump is available, as well, here, although a cup may not be at the site all the time. The Five Points School House is located at the intersection of three roads: the Mathews Road which crosses the Shelbyville Road, and a road due west that connects to Glenn’s Valley on the west side of Marion County. The latter is nine miles west of this point. Taking this route would allow the rider to connect, at Glenn’s Valley, to the Bluff Road. It also crosses both the Madison Road and the Three Notch Road. This cross county road was originally called Frye Road, but is known today as Stop 11 Road.

Some riders, at this point, continue the 20 miles onward to Shelbyville through Boggstown. Most, however, will turn toward Glenn’s Valley or turn east on a winding trek towards and into Acton. This is recommended as the Shelbyville Road conditions are not as good and encounters quite a few small hills along its path. Getting to Acton requires using what is described as a mud road that passes Ed Frye’s farm (hence the current name of Frye Road), then turns north on the Franklin-Noblesville State Road to the McGregor gravel road. The McGregor is a in excellent condition and an easy ride for its journey to Acton. More on Acton will be included in a later post.

Bicycling the Three Notch Road

In the late 19th Century, when the bicycle was taking the world by storm, Indianapolis became such a “wheelman” city that it even had a “bicycle row,” along Pennsylvania Street, where most of the bicycle shops were. And one of the most favorite routes for bicyclists to live their hobby was the Three Notch Road. That is, as long as it wasn’t where the road started. More on that in a minute.

The Three Notch Road, of Leavenworth Road, which I covered here, was the route that connected Indianapolis to the rural areas of Brown County, including Nashville, before there was a state highway system. When SR 35 (later 135) came into being in Marion, Johnson, Morgan and Brown Counties, at the Indianapolis end it would have signs posted about how to get to Brown County State Park along the route.

Most of the information for this post comes from the Indianapolis News of 4 April 1896. This is a continuation of their series of information for the bicyclists.

The Three Notch Road was a continuation of Meridian Street. According to the News, it “has always been a favorite ride for the Indianapolis wheelmen. It is comparatively level, and nearly always in excellent condition. There is more shade along this road than is found on many of the turnpikes leading out of the city, and it passed through one of the most fertile regions of the county.” The route is recommended for both short and long rides, and it is also recommended that one go out the Three Notch Road and back the Madison Road.

The old road started at what was then the edge of Indianapolis, the Belt Railway. On the north side of the Belt, there was (and still is) a branch off the road. The branch lead off to Waverly along the Bluff (or Paoli State) Road. Once crossing the Belt, the Three Notch became basically impassible south to the crossing of Pleasant Run (about a mile). The description in the newspaper actually reads “it is supposed to begin at the Belt railway crossing, but for a mile south of that point it now little resembles a gravel road. Judging from its current condition, it will be weeks before the road between the Belt and Pleasant run will be fit for a wheel.”

The crossing of Pleasant Run was almost to what was, for the longest time, the city limits on the south side of Indianapolis. That line was at Southern Avenue, the reason that the street was named that in the first place. A bridge was under construction of the creek at the time of the article. Most of the route was relatively flat, but there was one “sharp, steep hill” just after crossing Pleasant Run. It wasn’t that long. From the creek, it topped out at what is now Bakemeyer Street. It is noted that if the rider wants to skip the bad road conditions and the hill, simply take the Madison Road south to a dirt road that connects between the two roads just south of the hill. That would be Yoke Street today, which is just south of the Concordia Cemetery. (It is still possible to travel this originally dirt road that became Yoke Street…but it requires darting through a parking lot between the Wheeler Mission Thrift Store and Planet Fitness [as of 30 September 2019].)

The next road encountered marks the line between Center and Perry Townships. This dirt road “goes east as far as the Churchman pike, crossing the Madison and Shelbyville roads. To the west, it crossed the Bluff road, and runs to the river a mile and a half away.” This road now has the name of Troy Avenue. The Churchman Pike is now Churchman Avenue, and connects at what it is now 17th Avenue and Albany Street in Beech Grove. Before that, it crosses the Madison Road (Madison Avenue) and Shelbyville Road (Carson Avenue).

One half mile south of the road mentioned above is a road that is in such bad shape, the newspaper recommends avoiding it, since it is rarely used. Today, that road can be found by St. Roch Catholic School on the southeast corner. It is now Sumner Avenue.

Before reaching Lick Creek, two dirt roads lead off to the west. The first again connects the Three Notch to the Bluff. Today, that is Hanna Avenue. “The rider is advised to beware the second road, however, as it wanders off into the country for a short distance and then fades from sight, getting tangled up in a farm yard.” The street sign at the Meridian Street end of this dead end road proclaims it as Edwards Avenue today.

At Lick Creek, it is noted, that the road is in excellent condition. There is also a “immense white barn, which, from its size and neat appearance, is an attractive feature of the landscape.” The next reference is something that needs some research. I am not quite sure what the writer is talking about in the following passage. “A dirt road turns east three and three-quarter miles from the Belt and runs across the county, connecting with the Michigan Road. This is a delightful ride in the summer, but now the road is muddy.” One would think that it mentions what is now Thompson Road…and it does run most of the way to the Michigan Road at the time. But only from a point halfway between the Three Notch and the range survey line (now Shelby Street). That halfway point is now East Street, or US 31. Also, Thompson Road doesn’t make it all the way to Michigan Road (Southeastern Avenue). It does, however, connect (more or less) directly to the same town, Shelbyville, as the Michigan Road.

Indianapolis News, 10 April 1896. Part of a map of the entirety of Marion County included on page 9 of that issue of the newspaper. This snippet shows that area from the Three Notch Road east to the Michigan Road as it existed at the time. Most of the highlighted road is now called Thompson Road.

The Three Notch Road after this dirt road, according to the News, turns slightly to the southwest. This would make the dirt road Thompson, but the mileage doesn’t match, nor does the map snippet above.

The next puzzle in the article is that it mentions two cemeteries that the old road passed after the slight southwesterly turn, “but only for a short distance. It climbs and winds round a hill on which is situated a small burying ground, the chief feature of which is a large stone vault facing north. It can be seen for miles. The road swings around the hill and down the other side. Just back of this hill, on the east, is another cemetery.” At the corner of Meridian Street and Epler Avenue is Round Hill Cemetery. There is mention of a small church in the area, “in a grove of trees to the east of the pike.” Here, a dirt road again connects to the Madison and Bluff Roads, then getting lost in the White River bottoms west of the Bluff Road. This would be Epler Avenue today.

Less than half a mile later, another longer dirt road crossed the Three Notch Pike. This road connects the Bluff Road to the west to the Michigan Road on the east. This road is right about the same spot that Little Buck Creek is crossed, making the road the current Edgewood Avenue.

The last point mentioned in the article is the location of Webb Post Office, located at the Southport Pike, seven miles south of Monument Circle. From this point, the rider can choose to cross over to the Madison Road (and the town of Southport) for travel back to the city, or continue the 30 miles south to Brown County. Riding the Southport Pike requires crossing Little Buck Creek “four times inside half a mile.”

From here, the Three Notch Road continues through Johnson and Morgan Counties before reaching Brown County. The old road, which became SR 35 (later SR 135), is mentioned here and here.

Bicycling the National Road West from Indianapolis

Route map from the Indianapolis News, 11 April 1896, showing bicycling routes.

Today’s Bicycling Thursday I want to go back to the Indianapolis News of 11 April 1896, which covered routes west of Indianapolis, starting with the National Road. While the article mentions shorter routes that use other roads back to the city, I want to stick to what is now Washington Street.

The first part of the journey was pretty much straight forward: “starting from Meridian and Washington streets, the run is out Washington street, which is paved some distance west of White River.” Before this point, the crossing of the White River could be done using one of two bridges, with more information available at “Indianapolis: Washington Street & National Road Bridges.” “Beyond the pavement, to the point where the National Road proper begins, the street is badly cut up.” This would be the section from roughly the Belt Railway to Mount Jackson, mentioned later. It was also mentioned that, while the road was in bad shape, the “going is good in the center of the car track.” Keep in mind that the “car track” mentioned here is that of the street cars.

1889 map of Mount Jackson and Haughville along Washington St.

“The National road starts from Mount Jackson, three miles out, and runs off a little southwest.” The town of Mount Jackson stretched from what is now Belmont to Tibbs Avenues, south of Washington Street. (Haughville proper was along the same stretch, north of Washington Street.) At what is now Warman, the “Indiana Insane Hospital” property was located. This property would be later named Central State Hospital.

At the edge of the hospital property, “a dirt road running northwest, skirting Haughville and crossing the Osterman (10 Street from White River to the Danville State Road), Crawfordsville and Lafayette roads.” This is now Tibbs Avenue.

1889 map of the National Road from the Eagle Creek crossing west, also showing the original connection of the National and Rockville Roads.

After passing the hospital, the old road passes over Eagle Creek “on a good iron bridge, the approaches to which are easy.” It then crosses the Big Four railway, which at the time was an at-grade crossing. The road then turns more to the southwest. Here “there has been a liberal supply of fresh gravel distributed over the road for about one mile, but there is a hard path at the side.” Also, there are two dirt roads branching from the main road in this section. One goes to Maywood, which is now Tibbs Avenue south of Washington Street. The other is between Tibbs and the place where the original Rockville Road turned northwest from the National Road (that intersection is now where Holt Road meets Washington Street).

About a mile from Rockville Road, the old road crosses a toll road that is a continuation of Morris Street from Indianapolis (and has that name today), the Emma Hanck turnpike. “Six miles from the city is a grocery and blacksmith shop, which may be used to good advantage by unfortunates.” This is between Morris Street and High School Road, which was called the Forsha Turnpike, which connected the National Road to Ben Davis Post Office. At seven miles from the city, a “pleasant resting place for the first riders” at a big saw mill. A dirt road near this point, running north and south, could allow a rider wanting a short ride to connect back to the city via “half a dozen turnpikes running east and west.”

At a point 9.5 miles from the city, where the road passes through a small, well shaded village called Bridgeport. The road then continues over White Lick Creek and rumbles toward Plainfield over what was a recent installment of fresh gravel. Finally, before leaving Marion County, the rider will come across a “large nursery, with green and white buildings and storehouses, situated on the side of a hill” just at the edge of the county line.

Bicycling the Crawfordsville Pike

Indianapolis News, 09 May 1896, map showing “the Crawfordsville Route.” It should be noted that the “PCC&StL” notations on this map along the railroad tracks from Indianapolis to Danville and Indianapolis to Crawfordsville should read “CCC&StL,” as these are Big Four (NYC) tracks, not Panhandle (PRR) tracks.

Keeping with the Indianapolis News articles about bicycling routes from the city, today we focus on the Crawfordsville Pike, from the News of 09 May 1896. For starters, the Crawfordsville Road was built in the 1820s as the Indianapolis-Crawfordsville Road. It wasn’t the straight route that exists today. Marion County’s section was covered here. Outside Marion County, what became the Peoria & Eastern/Big Four/New York Central was built to dart back and forth across the original road. This was typical of railroad companies at the time, since road travel was sketchy most of the time.

Editor’s note: For those unfamiliar with the work “pike” in this context, here goes. “Pike” is a shortened version of the word “turnpike,” which was a term used to describe a toll road. At points where a toll was to be paid, a large stick, or pike, was put across the road. Once the toll was paid, the toll collector would turn the pike, or move it out of the way for passage.

The bicycle route recommends following, from the Circle, Illinois north to Indiana, Indiana out to Michigan, and Michigan Street out to Haughville. “At the second street beyond the river bridge” the rider should turn north. This is now Belmont Avenue. Belmont took the rider to, and along side, the White River. At the time, the White River Parkway did not exist. Continuing north meant meeting the junction of the Crawfordsville and Lafayette Roads at what is now 16th and Lafayette, although the connection was moved south to allow replacement of the intersection in the 1950s. (Being the parts of US 52 and US 136 at the time, the state made the decision to revamp the area.) The area is shown on the map below. Best described in the News, the bicyclist should “turn and go to a point where the road forks, one branch running north and one west. The west fork is the Crawfordsville pike.”

1889 Map of the area of what is now 16th Street and Lafayette Road. Grandview Street at the bottom of the snippet is 10th Street today. Crawfordsville Gravel Road is 16th Street. The city limits line on the right runs through Belmont Avenue. The bridge over White River, called the Emricksville Bridge, connected the old Crawfordsville/Lafayette Road to downtown to the same roads west of the river. That bridge was named after owners of the land in the area. Image courtesy of the Indiana State Library Digital Collection.

From here, the original road followed what is now 16th Street out to Cunningham Road northwest to (just shy) of what is now Crawfordsville Road. From this point, the old road “runs close to the Peoria & Eastern tracks most of the distance to Brownsburg, passing through Clermont and crossing the tracks twice. This stretch of road is almost level. There are only two small hills.” After Brownsburg, the road is level to Pittsboro. “Any lover of beautiful scenery who is the happy possessor of a camera would do well to take the extra trouble” to bring that camera along.

This changed once past Pittsboro. “From Pittsboro the road is devoid of unusual features, with the exception of a rather long hill about a mile and a half before reaching Lizton.” The writer of this article actually had some advice about this particular hill. “A little caution should be observed in taking this hill, and none but those having accident policies, with all premiums paid, should attempt coasting.” I guess that’s subtle.

1909 map of northern Hendricks County showing the route of the Crawfordsville Pike from Brownsburg to the county line northwest of Lizton. Snippet courtesy of the Indiana State Library Digital Collection.

Here’s where a little historic research is needed. The News states that “the railroad is again crossed before reaching Lizton. From this town the road leads north about three-quarters of a mile, then forks. The west fork should be taken.” According to maps of the era, like the 1909 shown above, the railroad crossover is west of Lizton by one mile. And that crossover is just about 1/2 mile north of the turn in the road. The road then follows closely the railroad on the north side of the tracks. This continues to just before the Boone-Hendricks County Line southeast of Jamestown.

The road crosses back over to the south side of the P&E tracks before leaving Hendricks County. After Jamestown, the road gets “more hilly.” It is also stated that if you have your camera, “at Raccoon creek the camera ‘fiend’ may again find scenery worthy of his instrument.” Before entering Montgomery County, southeast of New Ross, the road once again crosses the railroad tracks. The road here is still in place, with the exception of the bridge over the Big Raccoon Creek. The described trip uses what is now State Street entering New Ross, and follows that street, and the county road continuing from there, to the current US 136. All this time, the road is north of the P&E tracks.

From New Ross to Crawfordsville the route curved quite a bit, before entering the Montgomery County seat. “Crawfordsville is quite a bicycle town, and contains many riders. The wheelmen make it a point to be very courteous to visiting riders.”

A big goal in the early days of bicycling is called “the Century,” a 100 mile trip in one day. The article goes on to mention that following the Crawfordsville Pike from Indianapolis to Crawfordsville and back “will give the rider almost a century.” The article also mentions a more hilly route back to Indianapolis via the Rockville road, which “will make a ride of 110 miles.”

1896: Bicycling to Noblesville

In April 1896, as part of the Indianapolis News series of articles concerning bicycle routes from Indianapolis, it is pointed out that “the trip to Noblesville seems to be a favorite ride for Indianapolis wheelmen this season.” The route is listed as being in fine condition, as long as you don’t completely follow the Allisonville Pike.

At the time, the Allisonville Pike was a rerouted version of the original Indianapolis-Fort Wayne state road, at least through most of the city itself. The original road used Central Avenue to Sutherland Avenue, winding its way to the old 39th Street bridge across Fall Creek to follow Fall Creek and Allisonville Road north through the county. The reroute went straight up Central Avenue to Maple Road (now 38th Street), then follows Fall Creek to connect at the 39th Street bridge with the original route.

The conditions of the road to Noblesville were kept in very good shape over the years. It was a very popular route. “There are some fairly stiff hills on the route, but they are all fit for coasting, an the riders can afford to do a little turn on foot after the exhilarating effect of a mile a minute a clip down a steep grade.”

The newspaper article mentions three methods of reaching what is, now, Allisonville Road. First, the paper points out that while the road is in excellent shape, the section of Central Avenue above Fall Creek is not. Which leads to the second point, which is the recommendation to use Meridian Street north to Maple Road, then east to the State Fairgrounds. The third point is that another popular way to get to the Allisonville Road is to follow College Avenue north then skirting Fall Creek using the Millersville Road to the bridge opposite the fairgrounds. That bridge, at this time, is at 39th Street. This last route is “probably the most satisfactory way to reach the road.”

“The Allisonville pike turns northeast in passing the Fair grounds, and for a mile follows Fall creek. Just at the upper edge of the Fair grounds it crosses the L. E. & W. (Lake Erie & Western) tracks.” Those railroad tracks would later become the Nickle Plate formerly used by the Fair Train. Near where Keystone Avenue is now was the location of “one of the most picturesque spots along Fall creek,” or Schofield’s Mill. There was also an old dam just upstream from the mill. The old dam is still there, of sorts. There is also a newer dam basically under Keystone Avenue.

Where Keystone Avenue is now, the road is described as “White river and Fall creek gravel road.” It is opposite of Hammond’s Park, described as “one of the prettiest spots of natural scenery about Indianapolis.” The White River and Fall Creek Road ran through Malott Park and within a quarter mile of Broad Ripple Park, at least according to the News.

Back to the Allisonville Road, 1.75 miles north of Hammond’s Park is a dirt road connecting Malott Park to Millersville. That road, described as both a popular route for bicycle riders and one of the best dirt roads in the county, is now 56th Street. Shortly north of that road, the Pike crossed the L. E. & W. tracks again before a good condition dirt road leading to Broad Ripple Park and Broad Ripple. That road is now 62nd Street.

For the next two miles above the Broad Ripple road, the route is described as “very undulating” road. The Pike then drops into a valley and crosses a small stream before, at the 2.5 mile mark, it enters the village of Allisonville. From Allisonville, a road leads to the west to Dawson’s Bridge and Nora, and to the east leads to Castleton. That road, at the time called the Andy Smith Pike, now is called 82nd Street. Half a mile north of there was a dirt road (now 86th Street) that lead east to the village of Vertland on the LE&W tracks.

Before leaving Marion County, and entering Hamilton County, the old road climbed one of the biggest hills on the entire route. After crossing the county line, the next major crossroad (now 116th Street) connected the Allisonville Pike to Fisher’s Station on the LE&W railroad. From there, it was five miles to the destination of Noblesville.

The article, like the one I posted about the Michigan Road, mentions a route to get back to Indianapolis. In this case, it would be the Westfield Road. I will cover that in a later entry.

Bicycling the Michigan Road

Toward the end of the 19th Century, and into the early 20th, a movement was underway in the United States called “the Good Roads Movement.” This movement led to a great many things that helped make the current transportation situation much better: state highway departments, Federal funding of roads, Auto Trails, hard surface roads, etc. But what is usually lost in the whole scheme of things is the fact that when the Good Roads movement started, motor vehicle transportation was not the primary concern. It started as a two pronged effort to improve the roads for two purposes: bicycles and mail delivery.

Most of the longer distance roads in the state had been given to toll road companies for maintenance. The idea was that the companies would take the money from tolls to keep the road in good condition. Unfortunately, most of the time these roads turned into a cash grab for the toll road owners. What started out as fairly good condition roads devolved into mud paths connecting distant points. Most of the toll roads turned into basically wider paths through the rural areas that were dusty in dry weather, and mud pits in wet. When bicycles started becoming more and more common, this was unacceptable. When the counties bought back the toll roads, money was tight and it didn’t get much better.

Throughout the mid-1890s, the Indianapolis News would publish articles of interest to bicyclists. Many of these articles covered routes for those riders to follow. Today’s subject is from the News of 18 April 1896, covering “Bicycle Route North,” or the old Michigan Road.

Keeping in mind that the Michigan Road was laid out in the 1830s, and designed for horse transport, the newspaper stated that “the Michigan road is rather in ill repute among cyclists, on account of the many bad hills which mark its pathway for several miles out of the city.” Due to these hills and valleys, the Michigan Road ended up with two reputations: 1) it was only recommended for expert hill climbers, and 2) the “Michigan road to the north is forgotten,” with cyclists using other roads to the north and “it is probably less used than any of the gravel roads leading out of the city.” The News commented that “wheelmen in this make a serious mistake, for there is no prettier trip leading out of Indianapolis than the one out over the Michigan road to Augusta, or even further.”

Indianapolis News, 18 April 1896, map showing routes to the north of Indianapolis.

The subject article goes on to describe the recommended route for cyclists to follow. This series of articles usually included the subject road out of the city, with another route back. This particular article starts by recommending that riders avoid the Michigan Road south of Fall Creek. They state that riders should start out of the city on Illinois Street, instead, “and it is only a run of four blocks across to the Michigan road.”

“Once beyond Fall Creek, the road becomes a hard, firm gravel road, which is in excellent condition.” The road, at the time, ran parallel to the street car tracks taking passengers to North Indianapolis. The first hill is just north of the suburb. “The first hill is not so bad. It is simply a forerunner of what is to come.”

After running along the west edge of Crown Hill Cemetery, a big hill to the north of the cemetery is encountered. A small valley, “before passing the Country Club lane,” gives a little respite before more hill climbing begins. There were two more hills, considered “bad,” before reaching the Central Canal. Between the canal and White River, the road narrows quite a bit. The bridge over the White River is said to be an old covered bridge with a deck, while being replaced that spring, was in bad condition. The News reports that until the deck is replaced “the rider going at a good rate of speed will think he has run foul of a bucking bronco before he gets through.”

After crossing the river proper, the river bottom of about 1/4 mile was crossed. This is where the International School is today. Then begins another big hill. The road in that section as in rough shape, that will “try the mettle of any rider indeed.” Once at the top of the hill, however, the view of the White River was very beautiful. At the top of the hill, a “dirt road turns west and then south running along the river for a short distance, then swinging out through Brooklyn Heights, and connecting with the Meyers gravel road.” This is now Cold Spring Road.

Two more short hills would be encountered before reaching Mount Pleasant (Mount Alliance Post Office) at what is now Grandview Avenue. From there, the old road is listed as being tree lined, and therefore, a great place to ride on a hot day with all the shade. Many crossroads are encountered before reaching Crooked Creek (at the current Kessler Boulevard). After Crooked Creek, the old road then starts across farm fields, losing what is considered, by the newspaper, all of its beauty. The road at Crooked Creek leads to Crow’s Nest, if the rider so chooses to follow that road.

1.5 miles north of Crooked Creek is the town of Augusta. The town was the namesake of the toll company that had owned the road prior to Marion County buying it back. Just before Augusta is the New Augusta turnpike, which is now 71st Street west, and Westlane Road east. Going west, the road goes to, get this, New Augusta, which started as “Augusta Station” on the Lafayette & Indianapolis Railroad. It is stated that going into Augusta, however, is recommended “as there is an excellent well in front of one of the stores. There is also a blacksmith shop, who says he knows something about a bicycle.”

From there, “the ride north over the Michigan road can be continued for many a mile if desired. The road is in excellent condition in this county, but is reported to be badly cut up in Hamilton county.”

The article then goes into side journeys from the Michigan Road. Those are beyond the scope of this entry. But I will be covering more of these articles in the future, and covering the side journeys listed in separate blog posts.

Carl Graham Fisher

There are few people that have had more influence on the current state of cross country travel than one Hoosier: Carl Graham Fisher.

Arguably, we owe the complete system of United States travel routes, whether it be US routes or Interstates, to a young man from southern Indiana that was not only interested in automobiles, but was also a promotion genius.

Carl Fisher was born in Greensburg, IN, on 12 January 1874. In the late 19th century, he became interested in bicycles. He opened a small bicycle shop with his brother. His love of bicycles led to his being involved in racing. This, in turn, led to an interest in the new automobile industry.

Mr. Fisher made his fortune, along with his friend James A. Allison, when he bought an interest in a patent to make acetylene headlights. The company formed to manufacture these headlights, Prest-O-Lite, went on to produce most headlights used on cars at the time. Prest-O-Lite began in 1904. It would be about a decade before the electric headlight became common. Fisher and Allison sold Prest-O-Lite in 1913.

While still owning Prest-O-Lite, Fisher had hands in two things that would change not only Indianapolis, but the entire country.

The first was as one of four people that put together a automobile test track in a large field along the Crawfordsville Road west of Indianapolis. That test track decided to put on a car race in 1909, which only met with disaster, injuries and death. Fisher convinced his partners to make some improvements in that track, paving it with 3.2 million bricks. In 1911, the race was tried again. Today, it is called the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The second was a brain storm. In 1912, Fisher conceived a great coast-to-coast road. That road would become the first Auto Trail, named the Lincoln Highway. It was this route that encouraged a then Lt. Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower to support the construction of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, or Interstate System, when Eisenhower became President of the United States.

After the sale of Prest-O-Lite, Fisher had another transportation brainstorm. He had already created the east-west route. Now a north-south route was in order. Starting in two locations, Chicago and northern Michigan, a series of roads was brought together in two paths to connect to southern Florida. According to sources, it was to allow people of his home state of Indiana to vacation in Florida. This highway was to be called the Dixie Highway.

His two ideas, the Lincoln and Dixie Highways ended up having a junction in South Bend.

Carl Fisher went on to work on other projects, just not as transportation oriented. He did create a city in a swampy area near Miami. That swamp would become Miami Beach.

Carl Fisher died on 15 Jul 1939 after a lengthy illness. Although he had lost his fortune in real estate with the stock market collapse of 1929 and following depression, he continued to work as a promotion man for his former partners.

Carl Fisher left an indelible mark not only on Indiana, but on the country as a whole.

Bonus fact: Neither of his highway brainstorms connected to his original home town, and only the Dixie Highway connected to his adopted hometown of Indianapolis. The Lincoln Highway, however, did connect to the namesake town of his hometown. Greensburg, Indiana, was named after the hometown of the wife of the founder of the town: Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

US Highways: They are actually State Roads

I originally posted the following in the Indiana Transportation History group on 11 Jun 2014. It has been slightly edited to correct some “oopsies” in my original.

For those old enough to remember (and I, unfortunately, am not one of them) before the Interstate system came into being, and US routes were the cross-country method of auto transport, this post is for you.

Somewhere lost in the history of transportation is the true story behind the US Highway system. Believe it or not, the Federal Government was late to the “good roads” party, and really only joined it half-heartedly. Let me explain.

Near the end of the 19th Century, there was a craze sweeping the nation – bicycling. The problem was that most roads at the time were basically dirt paths through the country. Some were graveled, yes. Some were bricked, but mainly only in towns. Those that rode bicycles started clamoring for better roads to reliably and safely use their new-fangled transportation method.

The US Post Office was also involved in this movement, mainly because mail was that important. And delivering the mail in some rural locations was troublesome at best.

With the creation of the automobile boom in the early 20th century, the Good Roads Movement started including the drivers of the horseless carriage. Again, because most roads at the time were dusty at best, and practically impassible at worst.

Clubs started nationwide to encourage auto travel (the Hoosier Motor Club was one). Clubs were also started to encourage the creation of travel routes that were more than dirt roads to the next county seat.

These last clubs led to many named highways throughout the nation. For instance, Indianapolis was served by the (Andrew) Jackson Highway, Dixie Highway, Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, National Old Trails Road, the Hoosier Highway, Michigan Road, the Range Line Road, the Hills & Lakes Trail, and the Hoosier Dixie.

The most famous of the Road Clubs was the Lincoln Highway Association, which crossed Indiana through the northern tier of counties. On its trip from New York to San Francisco, it passed through Fort Wayne, Ligonier (included because it was the SECOND Ligonier on the route – the other being in Pennsylvania!), Goshen, Elkhart, South Bend, La Porte, and Valparaiso. (As you can guess, it wasn’t exactly a straight line at first!)

In 1926, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO), in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Public Roads finalized a national route system that became the US Highways. This was to combat the numerous named highways that led to some major confusion among the automobile traveling public. The system was discussed starting in 1924, with a preliminary list issued in late 1925.

Named highways painted markers on utility poles most of the time. It, apparently, was not unheard of to have numerous colored markers on one pole. And new named highways were popping up monthly. (They even kept appearing after the numbered highways started appearing.)

A misconception is that a US Highway is a Federal road. US Highways have a distinctive shield with a number. It can also have, legally, a State Road marker. That’s because US highways were really just state roads that shared the same number for its entire distance. So SR 40 in Indiana was also SR 40 in Illinois and Ohio, and so on. (INDOT has even posted SR 421 signage on SR 9 at the entrance ramps to I-74/US 421 in Shelbyville.)

While US highway numbers have come and gone across the state, most of them appeared in one of two phases – 1927 and 1951.

The original US Highways in Indiana were: 12, 20, 24, 27, 30, 31, 31E, 31W, 36, 40, 41, 50, 52, 112, and 150.

The second major phase included US 136, US 231, and US 421.

Between these two phases, the following roads were added:
– US 6 (1928)
– US 33 (1937)
– US 35 (1934) It required changing SR 35 to SR 135.
– US 36 – Yes, it is listed twice. US 36 originally ended at Indianapolis from the west. It was extended east in 1931.
– US 152 – Mostly followed US 52 (Lafayette Road) north from Indianapolis from 1934 to 1938. It never left the state, so it was downgraded to mostly state road 53 (which, strangely, was added BACK into the federal numbering system as US 231).
– US 224 (1933)
– US 460 (1947-1977)

These were added to the system in sections. For instance, US 6 came into Indiana from the east and ended up being routed along what, at the time, was Indiana State Road 6.

There have been many changes in the original US highways. Some have bypassed towns in many places (like US 31). Some have just been removed from the system (like the northern end of US 33). Some were replaced by the interstate system created in 1956 (like US 27 north of Fort Wayne).

The beginning of the end of the major importance of the US Highway system started in 1947, when AASHO deemed it “outmoded.” This led to the creation of the interstate system with a law signed by President Eisenhower in 1956.

The Facebook post that started it all.

On 31 May, 2014, I started a group on Facebook with the same name as this blog: Indiana Transportation History. My admin partner over there, Jim Grey, recommended I come over here. His reasoning was sound: Facebook wants the “now,” but all the work I have done to this point is just almost unavailable…or at least hard to get to. (This was brought home when I was scrolling through the group to get to the subject of this post and it took almost 15 minutes.)

So, I finally got to the end of the line when it came to the earliest posts.

And, hence, I start this new journey of the ITH with the first post that started the original journey on Facebook.

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Looking through the Indianapolis News (one of my other interests is genealogy, so I have a subscription to newspapers.com) of 20 Jun 1891, I notice on page four a series of paragraphs about bicycling in Marion and surrounding counties.

This brings to mind the point that the “Good Roads Movement” of the late 19th and early 20th century had less to do with automobiles than it did with bicycling (and mail delivery).

A post somewhere else on Facebook pointed out that travel inns were located between 10 and 15 miles from each other along major routes because that is how far one could get in a DAY in horse-drawn wagons.

Imagine, if you will, that the highways we all use today, were the results of people wanting to ride bicycles safely.

It also gives a different slant on all of the bike routes that the city of Indianapolis is building, doesn’t it?