I spend a lot of time looking through old newspapers. It all started with my genealogical research. But I realized that this blog could benefit from the very same resources. And, if you have followed this blog, you know I do use them a lot. Today, I want to cover some newspaper articles about the early days of the Lincoln Highway, and construction of same.
The Indianapolis News of 18 June 1914 spent almost an entire column page to the Lincoln Highway. The majority of the article was about what Carl Fisher planned when it came to both the Lincoln Highway and the Michigan Road in his home state. Fisher was in South Bend, witnessing the beginning of work on his brain child. According to the News, he “has started another big movement. It is the improvement of the Michigan road from Indianapolis to South Bend to connect the speedway city with the coats-to-coast highway and to give central and southern Indiana an outlet to it.”
Plans were also to have a “General Good Roads Day” in Marion, Boone, Clinton, Cass, Fulton, Marshall and St. Joseph Counties. He was also calling for the oiling of that road. Calls for a state trunk road system were announced, as well.
The plans for the Lincoln Highway in South Bend called for an 18 foot cement road way with three foot graveled shoulders on each side, make for a total 24 foot wide road right-of-way. Fisher let the St. Joseph County Commissioners know that specifications only called for a 15 foot roadway, with the same three foot shoulders. This would make the right-of-way a total of 21 feet wide.
The cement mixture, according to Fisher, was also too expensive for the work. He recommended that the mixture include one part cement, two parts sand and three parts gravel. This was the same mixture that had been successfully in use in Wayne County, Michigan. This one change decreased the cost of construction of the Lincoln Highway across St. Joseph County from around $194,000 to roughly $150,000.
The Lincoln Highway was, at the time of this article, also completely marked across northern Indiana. Traffic along the new Auto Trail was increasing with travelers moving between the two coasts. The prospect of major traffic from the east going to the California-Panama Exposition in 1915 was on the minds of the people involved with completing the highway across the United States.
Fisher also expressed his concern that the Lincoln Highway be built “under competent engineers and honest contractors.” His belief that “nothing shows worse than concrete construction any underlying graft. It only takes two or three years to label a skimping contractor a thief or an incompetent.”
As a human interest story, less than a month later, in the Indianapolis Star of 19 July 1914, it was announced that “Fred Callahan, the young man who walked from New York to San Francisco and who is now walking back over the Lincoln Highway, reached Ashland, O., a short time ago. He averages about thirty miles a day and has covered more than 5,000 miles. He carries a pack on his back weighing about thirty-five pounds. Callahan says the Lincoln Highway is being put in good shape all across the country, and he ought to know.”
An article covering the entire Lincoln Highway in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette of 13 January 1918 mentions that of the 94 counties crossed by the Lincoln Highway in the United States, only one has completely finished the concrete pavement of the route. That county is St. Joseph, Indiana. The same article mentions that there is an official feeder road to the Lincoln Highway at Dyer. That feeder road connects the coast-to-coast highway to the city of Chicago.
The Indianapolis Star of 7 July 1918 mentions the work that the Indiana State Highway Commission made appropriations for that year. The ISHC, created in 1917, had taken the original route of the Lincoln Highway into the fledgling state highway system. It was called Main Market Road 2. According to the newspaper, $37,000 was allocated for the Lincoln Highway between Elkhart and the Elkhart-St. Joseph County line. The same amount was earmarked be Elkhart County. St. Joseph County was also starting the grading of the highway near Osceola. A contract for a new bridge in St. Joseph County was also let.
Tree planting was the news of the day in the South Bend Tribune of 25 June 1921. St. Joseph County planned to plant as many as 5,000 trees along the national highways that connected to South Bend. Keep in mind that both of Carl Fisher’s “children,” the Lincoln Highway and the Dixie Highway, met in South Bend. The roadside was “barren,” according to the newspaper. They also ran the following two pictures to make their point.
One of the bad things about looking through newspapers for a topic like the Lincoln Highway is that it was such an important feature in the United States that news from across the country would appear in the newspaper. Most of the coverage was for the national perspective, not the Hoosier one. I will continue to scour the newspapers of the state to find more information like this. Just that some projects are so large that local information is usually mainly ignored.
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.
Northeast of where Kentucky Avenue crosses the White River, there is a short, and barricaded, street that connects south southeast to McCarty Street. It is used as access to a parking lot for Lucas Oil Stadium today. Looking at it closely, one can see the remnants of the old stone paving. It is called Sand Street. And where it is today isn’t always where it was. But throughout the history of the city of Indianapolis, it has been really close to where it is today.
The general location of today’s Sand Street was, at one point, actually in the White River. In 1875, the original Sand Street formed the end of Kentucky Avenue at the time. It was crossed by a branch from the Indianapolis & Vincennes Railroad that extended south to Pogues Run, located at the corner of what is now S. Dakota Street and Terrace Avenue (if it weren’t private property). Looking at the 1875 map to the left, one would notice that the intersection of McCarty and Sand Streets doesn’t exist, as it would be in the river.
Due to its “insignificant” nature, Sand Street found itself on and off maps for many years. The 1889 Atlas of Marion County shows that the White River channel had been moved, but that Sand Street was not included on the map. The location of the street, however, is, as shown by the lonely little line connecting to Kentucky Avenue and the Indianapolis & Vincennes Railroad. Notice that crossing the White River was done at River Avenue, which connected the intersection of River and Oliver Avenues to a bridge that connected south of Greenlawn Cemetery. This bridge had been in place for many years, and would be for years to come.
Sand Street would again appear on maps in 1894 and 1898. It would be shown as running along the original path, not a straight line between Kentucky Avenue and McCarty Street, which still didn’t connect past one block west of West Street. It should be noted that a second crossing of White River was completed in the years between 1894 and 1898, as the Kentucky Avenue bridge was built.
The earliest map reference that I have seen that shows Sand Street in its present location is this 1926 snippet. The previous map that I have found, 1914, doesn’t show Sand Street at all. It should be noted that the two crossings of White River are still River and Kentucky Avenues, although the River Avenue crossing is labelled as Oliver Avenue on this map. Within a decade, the river crossing situation would change.
The first aerial photograph of the area that I have found comes from 1937, and is included below. It shows the new Oliver Avenue bridge across White River, connecting to Kentucky Avenue just south of the intersection of Sand and Kentucky. At this time, the entire area is very industrial in nature, and two branches from the Panhandle (formerly Vandalia, and before that, Indianapolis & Vincennes) curve across Kentucky Avenue on either side of Sand Street. The one on the east side of Sand still heads south towards industrial areas along Dakota Street (have to be careful, it is just Dakota Street…the fact that it runs north and south can create confusion!).
With the exceptions of widenings of Kentucky and Oliver Avenues, and the curving of the Oliver Avenue bridge (between 1956 and 1962) on the east end to connect to the intersection of Kentucky Avenue and McCarty Street, not much changed in the area of Sand Street for many years. Yes, the plants along the street became abandoned and in poor shape, and the railroad connections that cross on either side of the street were removed, the street itself continued in place, and in use.
In 2009, the industrial buildings on either side of Sand Street were demolished, leaving the street itself as an abandoned reminder of what was. 2010 saw it fenced off from the McCarty Street end for the first time. The Google image below shows the Kentucky Avenue end as it appeared in 2009.
As mentioned above, Sand Street is still accessible…on days where parking downtown is needed. It is a privately owned street now, and has the consistency of an alley anywhere else in the city. Since it was basically vacated by the City of Indianapolis, maintenance is taken care of by the owners.
As an aside, the Indianapolis News, on 16 September 1979, ran a story called “Paving the Way to Yesteryear,” which included two photos of the granite paving of Sand Street. I will share those here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 1869, a new railroad was chartered to connect Plymouth, in Marshall County, to near Bureau, Illinois. It was a plan to build a road to connect the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago to the Rock Island & Pacific. Within four years, most of the roadbed had been graded. And the company was put into slumber mode due to the Panic of 1873.
Plymouth Weekly Republican, 22 September 1869: “Hon. Jas. McGrew, President of a railroad, visited our town this week to interest the citizens in a new line of railroad that is to be built from some point on the P. Ft. W. & C. R. R., in Indiana, through Kankakee City to Barean (sic), Ills., on the Rock Island and Pacific railroad. A company has been organized in Illinois to build that portion of the line which is in that state.” Both of the companies that would be connected by this railroad “are anxious to have the road built, and will iron it as soon as graded and tied.”
The Illinois section of the road, the Kankakee & Illinois River Railroad, was chartered in Illinois on 16 April 1869. The new railroad on the Indiana side, called the Plymouth, Kankakee & Pacific, would receive its charter on 7 January 1870. These two companies would be consolidated on 20 October 1870. The company would keep the name of the Indiana half of the railroad – PK&P.
The first sign of things to come for this road appeared in April 1871. According to the Plymouth Weekly Republican of 27 April 1871, “The Chicago Times, and in fact all of the Chicago papers, of April 12th contained an item relative to the sale of the Plymouth, Kankakee & Pacific Company.” Basically, the company was being reported as sold to the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific. While this would have been entirely possible, given the feeder route status of the PK&P, there was one group of people that were not notified that the company had been sold. The company itself. As it turned out, right below the above mentioned article was a denial by the PK&P that such a sale had even happened.
Things came to a screeching halt for the company when William C. Richards, Kankakee, filed a petition in bankruptcy against the Plymouth, Kankakee & Pacific. The claim was based on eight first mortgage bond coupons for the railroad. Those eight coupons were to be paid, in gold, on 1 July 1873. They were valued at $35 a piece. There were hundreds of said coupons that were not being paid, as well payments for other law suits.
The bankruptcy put the railroad into a holding pattern. For years. In March 1879 it was reported that there were some mumblings about the PK&P being purchased by the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago. When the company had suspended operations in 1873, most of the grading had been done and bridges built…at least on the Illinois side. There was hope that the PFtW&C would complete and operate the railroad as soon as possible. Such hope was misplaced.
The company languished even more. At this point, all the work had been done on the Illinois side. It had done no work whatsoever in Indiana. Finally, the PK&P was sold at foreclosure to John S. Cushman on 5 May 1881. On 11 July of that year, it would become the Indiana, Illinois & Iowa Railroad of Illinois. 11 August 1881 saw the II&I of Iowa chartered. 14 September 1881 was the date of creation of the Indiana version of the II&I. They were all consolidated on 27 December 1881 to form the ultimate Indiana, Illinois & Iowa.
The II&I used the routing of the original PK&P, at least to Knox, Indiana. The II&I used that right of way set apart by the PK&P to build from Momence, Illinois, to North Judson, Indiana in 1883, a total of 56.2 miles. Three years later, the line was extended to Knox. The last 33.39 miles from Knox to South Bend were completed in 1894.
Through a few consolidations, what was originally part of the Plymouth, Kankakee & Pacific would become part of the New York Central on 23 December 1914. I covered that railroad in the article “The New York Central in Indiana.” Plymouth never did get the new railroad that would connect it to the Pacific Ocean via the Rock Island and the Union Pacific.
It is often times mentioned that the Michigan Road, connecting Madison on the Ohio River to Michigan City on Lake Michigan, is the first state road in Indiana. However, that is not entirely accurate. There were state roads that were build before the Michigan Road. The special spot that the Michigan Road has is that it was the first state road to connect across the entire state. Most roads to that point connected one town to another. And it connected to the state capital at Indianapolis.
Crossing Marion County, it entered from the southeast section of the county, roughly two miles north of the Johnson-Marion County line from Shelby County. The road had been built to Shelbyville, and went in a directly line, more or less, from that county seat to Indianapolis. Not many towns were built along the Michigan Road in Marion County. The first built would be New Bethel, known today as Wanamaker. The town is located two miles north and three miles west of where the road enters the county.
The next location to pop up along the road would be where the road crosses from Franklin Township to Warren Township. That that location, the road meets a north-south road heading south, and a road that runs almost the entirety of the line that separates Franklin and Warren Townships. That location would acquire the name of “Five Points” due to the roads there.
It should be noted that through the 19th century, and quite a bit into the 20th, this section of the road had been known as the Michigan Road. It also had a turnpike, then a free gravel road, name: Lick Creek & New Bethel Turnpike (Free Gravel Road). This road, like many others in Marion County, would keep its original name until it entered the city limits of Indianapolis. Until the late 1890’s, the city street name for Michigan Road was Michigan Avenue. This was changed due to the fact that there already was a Michigan Street in the city which had been on the original design of the town of Indianapolis in 1821. The name was then changed to match the direction it left Indianapolis… Southeastern Avenue.
The first section of the road “ended” at the National Road east of downtown. That is now the (redesigned) corner of Washington Street and Southeastern Avenue. As with other state roads at the time…and even into the 1930s when state roads made a come back, no city streets were part of the original state road. Indiana had a history of “local, local, local” government mentality. This means the state would stand back while local government entities took care of the little things. In towns, that meant roads and streets.
But that is not to say that there wasn’t a plan on how to get the road from one end of the county to the other through Indianapolis. According to the Indiana State Board of Accounts, in a book published in 1914, the route of the road through the state capital would include Circle Street (now Monument Circle), Ohio Street, and Indiana Avenue. When the Michigan Road was built, Indianapolis was barely bigger than the original mile square. So once the road got to the corner of Indiana Avenue, West and North Streets, it was out of the town again.
Heading north, the Michigan Road was built as an extension of West Street, turning north northwest to travel in basically a straight line to the Hamilton-Marion County line. When street names were applied to the old road, the name West Street was continued until the old road crossed the Central Canal. At what was then Seventh Street, the name changed to Northwestern Avenue until the city limits…where ever those were at the time. When the city expanded, so did the name Northwestern. Eventually, the name got to 38th Street, where the city officially ended. From there, then as it is today, it still maintains the name Michigan Road.
Heading to the northwest, again there were very few towns built along the old road. North of the crossing of White River and (again) the Central Canal, a post office was installed. The post office had two names in its history: Mount Pleasant; and Alliance. The “town” of Mount Pleasant, most of which is long gone, was tucked between what is now Cold Spring Road and 51st Street. (A common mistake is that a lost of people will call it Cold Springs Road…it is singular.)
Further north is the town of Augusta. It is centered at what is now 76th Street and Michigan Road. The post office there would be called Augusta, until it was moved 1.5 miles west of town where the railroad was built. A new town called Augusta was created in the 1860’s in Pike County. When the post office was reestablished in the original Augusta, it was called Eck.
The Michigan Road keeps going, uneventfully, to the Hamilton-Marion County line at what is now 96th Street. Commercialization along the route, especially from below 86th Street to past the county line, as led to a removal of the country scenes that had graced this section of Marion County for years.
The Michigan Road, especially in Marion County, has also been a second class citizen when it came to the railroads. I mentioned about that the Augusta post office had been moved 1.5 miles west due to the railroad. This was in 1852, when the Lafayette & Indianapolis Railroad was built connecting those two cities. It rain parallel to the Michigan Road for most of the journey through Marion County. A new settlement was built south and west of Augusta, originally called Hosbrook. It would be later called New Augusta. I have done some work on researching New Augusta, as it came up when I was working on my genealogy. One of the important families in the town is distantly related to mine.
Another place where the Michigan Road lost its importance to the railroad is in the southeastern section of the county. Two miles east, and three miles south of New Bethel (Wanamaker) is the railroad created town of Acton. Acton is along the line that connected Indianapolis to Cincinnati via Shelbyville, Greensburg and Lawrenceburg. The line was built in 1853 from Lawrenceburg to Indianapolis.
In a strange twist of fate, during the railroad consolidation era of the late 1860’s, the Indianapolis & Cincinnati Railroad merged with the Lafayette & Indianapolis Railroad in 1867 to created the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette Railway. Thus, two towns (Augusta and New Bethel) that were built along the same Michigan Road were basically replaced by two towns (New Augusta and Acton) built by what became the same railroad. The IC&L would become part of the founding members of the Big Four – the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway.
Today’s “Indianapolis Street Car Saturday” focuses on
1866. The East Washington Street line commences service. The original length of the line only connected Illinois Street to Liberty Street (now Park Avenue). Service along this line was truncated to Liberty Street until 1883, when it was extended one block to Noble Street (College Avenue). Five years later, East Washington Street became one of the longest mule car lines in the city when it was extended to the new suburb of Irvington, going all the way out to Audubon Avenue, turning south to a turntable near the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks that run through the town. Until this time, access to Irvington via street car was via the English Avenue line, which didn’t originally open until 1875.
The extension to Irvington of East Washington Street was due to its residents wanting a more direct route to downtown Indianapolis. I will get to the English route probably next week, describing the route that Irvington wanted to replace. The line was electrified in 1891. Two more extensions were added to the East Washington Line: in 1900, to west of Arlington Avenue; and in 1920, a purchase from the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern Traction Company Richmond line extended Indianapolis Street Railways to Sheridan Avenue, where a “Y” turned cars around.
The last tracked street car to run along East Washington Street did so on 11 August 1950. This started a combination service using both trackless trolleys and busses.
In 1867, a new line was extended to the then new cemetery at Crown Hill, called the Northwestern Line. The line followed Illinois Street to 12th (21st) Street, crossed over to Northwestern Avenue, followed Northwestern to a spot where 34th Street would be later built. This line was a mule car line for its entire life, because it was completely removed in 1879.
Another 1867 line that commenced service was the Central Line. The start of this line is intertwined with the College Line, as it would for its entire life. In the beginning, it merely followed New Jersey Street from Washington Street to Fort Wayne Avenue. In 1888, the line was extended along Fort Wayne Avenue, then Central Avenue from Christian Avenue (11th Street) to a turn table at 11th (20th) Street. A short detour along Tenth (19th) Street to New Jersey would allow street cars to visit a barn facility located on New Jersey Street.
The line was rerouted in 1889, when it used Alabama Street from Fort Wayne to Home Avenue (13th Street), following Home to Central Avenue. Three years later, the Central line was again rerouted. This time, it would follow the College Line to 16th (24th) Street, turning west to Central Avenue, then north on Central to 26th (34th) Street. This was in 1892, the same year that the line was electrified. A loop was built in the line in 1894. The line was rerouted at the time, moving over to Central from College along the then Tenth (20th) Street to connected to the 1892 line at 16th (24th) Street. The loop then went west on 17th (25th) Street to New Jersey, and back to Central on 16th (24th) Street.
The last electric railed street car would run along this line on 20 March 1937.
Street cars would be added to Kentucky Avenue in 1868. The line was short: from the Louisiana Street barn to Tennessee Street (Capitol Avenue), then along Kentucky Avenue to Illinois and Washington Streets. The line was turned around, heading southwest from Tennessee Street in 1890. The line would end at River Avenue, which at that time was at the south end of Greenlawn Cemetery. This was located half way opposite of a point between what is now Merrill Street and Henry Street on Kentucky Avenue. The following year, the line was electrified. The last documented extension that I can find was in 1903, when the line crossed the White River on the River Avenue bridge (there was no bridge at Oliver Street), following River Avenue to Morris Street. I can find no more information on this line. It is entirely possible that it was extended, in 1914, to connect to the Indianapolis suburb of Mars Hill. But another line that started in 1881 might be the successor to this line. More research is needed.
The last line today is the Pennsylvania line. Started in 1870, the mule cars would run along Pennsylvania Street from Ohio to St. Joseph Street, where it turn west to Illinois Street for its trip downtown. 1873 saw the Illinois/St. Joseph turn removed, and the line wet north to Seventh (16th) Street where it turned east to Alabama. In 1891, the route turned north on Talbot from Seventh (16th) to a turn table at Tenth (19th) Street. 1894 saw the line electrified and extended to 14th (22nd) Street. The last car to use the rails would run on 18 July 1934.
The year is 1902, and the Indianapolis Southern Railroad has just been chartered to enter the city of Indianapolis and rumble through the Marion County countryside south of the city. Once the railroad entered Perry Township from Center Township (at what is now Troy Avenue), the railroad right of way followed the survey line one mile west of the Three Notch Road (Meridian Street) and two miles west of the Range Line (Shelby Street). Just south of what would become Stop 8 Road, now Edgewood Avenue, the railroad crossed the Bluff Free Gravel Road.
Rail and road traffic near this intersection of the Indianapolis Southern and the Bluff Road wasn’t a real problem for several years after the building of the railroad. In 1914, the Bluff Road was to become part of the Dixie Highway. This highway, connecting south Florida to Chicago and northern Michigan, actually connected to Indianapolis, the hometown of its creator, in four different directions. This led to a traffic increase along the Bluff Road, creating more problems at the railroad crossing which was at a very bad angle to begin with.
The problem was made worse when the state took over the Bluff Road in 1923, making it original State Road 22. This made the Indiana State Highway Commission responsible for the maintenance of the very old road. In 1925, the state decided that enough was enough, and a bridge was built over the Indianapolis Southern railroad, which had become part of the Illinois Central.
The bridge that was built was a very narrow facility. Two lanes wide, at best. But it would serve its purpose, creating a safe crossing of the Illinois Central by SR 22, or as it would soon become, SR 37. And it did just that until the state started moving SR 37 to the west in 1964, and completing the job in 1965. The overpass then became property of Marion County. And here is where it went downhill.
Reconstruction work on the deteriorating span was scheduled in both 1971 and 1977. The Indianapolis Transportation Board posted a long list of bridge projects for that year in newspapers in mid May 1971 and early April 1977. By 1984, the city was looking at removing the bridge all together. Unfortunately, getting the right of way to do this proved troublesome. The bridge was built with very little clearance when it came to the actual right-of-way used. It was suggested by John Willen, DOT Chief Engineer, that land acquisition was a problem, and that the bridge would not be replaced due to decreased rail traffic at that location.
Legal notice was published in the newspapers in December 1984 that the Indianapolis Department of Transportation, with the cooperation of the Federal Highway Administration and the Indiana Department of Highways, had decided that the overpass on Bluff Road over what was then the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad would be removed and an at-grade crossing would be put in its place. “The proposed project begins at a point approximately 210 feet south of Banta Road, then extends in a northerly direction mostly along the existing alignment of Bluff Road, and terminates at a point about 750 feet south of Edgewood Avenue for a total project length of 0.42 mile (2,210 feet).” In addition to the removal of the overpass, the following was listed as part of the project: “The portion of Bluff Crest Drive between Bluff Road and Bluff Crest Lane, approximately 280 feet will be removed and Bluff Crest Drive access to Bluff Road will be terminated.”
In September 1986, the city of Indianapolis introduced a resolution to implement a five ton weight limit on the overpass. The notification of the resolution in the newspapers of the time stated “whereas, the Indianapolis Department of Transportation Street Engineering Division was notified that certain portions of this structure had a stage of deterioration.” Prior to this, the bridge had had a ten ton weight limit. In May 1987, the bridge was closed completely as the city of Indianapolis decided it would be better off replacing the structure with an at-grade crossing. The city reported that the work would be completed by 15 July 1987. The original plan to remove Bluff Crest Drive was apparently just dropped along the way. That residential street still connects to Bluff Road in the same location as it had before the removal of the overpass.
On 29 July 1987, the Indianapolis Star announced that “Bluff Road, closed since April from Banta Road to Edgewood Avenue for extensive reconstruction, was reopened for traffic Tuesday (28 July 1987).” The project cost the city $540,000 and involved the removal of the “severely deteriorated Indianapolis Southern Railroad overpass built in 1925.” Even in the end of the overpass’ life, the newspaper still called it the Indianapolis Southern instead of the company that had taken it over just the year before, the Indiana Railroad.
1906. A rural station stop on the Big Four Railroad, originally called Ingalls (or Ingallston), has just been incorporated as a shop town for the same Big Four Railroad. It’s official name at this point became Beech Grove. The new town that grew from the building of the railroad shops, covered in my blog entry “Beech Grove,” found itself barely accessible by anything other than the very railroad that built it. It wouldn’t be long until that would change.
First, the town was actually accessible by route of an old toll road that had been built to reach the farm of a local resident, a Mr. Churchman. That road, for the longest time, had been called the Churchman Pike, even after the county bought it back from the toll road company. The Churchman Pike connected to the town via what would become Albany Street, a survey section line that also acts as the separator between all of the southern townships and the central townships in Marion County. Dirt roads along the other survey lines – which would later become Troy and Emerson Avenues – also led to the area that would become Beech Grove. The old train station, Ingalls or Beech Grove, was at the survey line (Emerson Avenue) and the railroad track. Today, that would be under the Emerson Avenue bridge over the railroad.
But it wouldn’t be long before another method of transportation would make its presence known, and try to work its way into the railroad city. Electric Traction, also known as the interurban, had made its way into Indianapolis, officially, with the opening of the Greenwood line on 1 January 1900. After that, companies started popping up all over the United States. And Indianapolis became a hub for the new transportation form.
But this would create a problem. Steam railroads, which all standard railroads were called at the time, saw the new Traction companies as direct competition. Even though the gauge (width between the tracks) was the same on both, traffic interchange was one of those things that the steam roads were going to keep to an absolute minimum. And since the Traction companies specialized in moving people, this was even more reason for the steam roads to dislike the interurbans.
And now someone wants to add an interurban route to a town BUILT by the railroad? The short answer…yes. The reason for this was actually based in the nature of the steam railroad itself. Passenger trains, taking people from Beech Grove to downtown Indianapolis, weren’t scheduled at very convenient times for citizens of the new town. While the company that had invested in, and created, the town, the Beech Grove Improvement Company, tried running its own special trains to downtown Indianapolis, it was at the whim of the very busy Big Four line from Indianapolis to Cincinnati. In comes the planners of the electric traction.
It started in 1909. A company called the Shore Line Traction Company applied for a franchise to run a traction line from the Indianapolis city limits (point unknown) to Beech Grove. Louis McMains, a real estate agent, put in the petition to the County Commissioners. In October 1909, the petition asked that the Shore Line Traction Company be allowed to use the Churchman Pike from the city limits near Keystone and Churchman Avenues to the corporation limit of Beech Grove. It also asked for some straightening work along the road, and the right of way be widened by 27 feet (adding 13.5 feet on each side). “The petition signifies that the property owners on each side of the pike are willing to part with the necessary land to widen the road.” (Source: Indianapolis News, 14 October 1909)
The county had problems with the widening…especially when it came to the Churchman Pike bridge over Bean Creek (between Walker and Southern Avenues today). The bridge had been in disrepair for years, listed as such as early as 1891. Whether the bridge had been repaired or replaced at this point is unknown. Suffice it to say, the county wasn’t really likely to spend money to replace the bridge.
The petition mentioned that the plan for the Churchman Pike is to widen it to 66 feet, allowing two tracks to be built in the center, with only one track being built to start the company. The new company already had a franchise in hand for the route inside Beech Grove itself.
The Shore Line Traction Company found itself trying to come up with a new route to Beech Grove when the county balked at the Bean Creek bridge. With that, the company was not heard from again.
But shortly after the above petition was filed, a new company would be incorporated – the Beech Grove Traction Company. This company was officially started on 30 December 1909. It had the same goal as the Shore Line Transit Company – connect Beech Grove and downtown Indianapolis.
There was more progress with the Beech Grove Traction than there was with Shore Line. The Indianapolis News of 2 April 1910 reported that the Beech Grove company had elected its corporate officers and announced that grading work would begin soon on the line. Rails, ties and cars had already been ordered. Work on the new Churchman Pike bridge over Bean Creek had begun on 28 March 1910. Officials of the traction company were negotiating with the Indianapolis Traction and Terminal Company “for use of the tracks of the latter company in Shelby Street and Virginia Avenue for entrance to the business district.”
The franchise rights had been awarded by Marion County and the town of Beech Grove. When construction was to begin in April, the company had no agreement with the city of Indianapolis about using the city street railway tracks to enter the downtown area. This agreement would not have been reached until September 1910. This caused construction to be delayed until November 1910.
Even before the track was complete, the first train run over part of the line happened on 20 March 1911. Seven days later, regular service began. The Beech Grove end of the line was on what became Garstang Avenue east of First (Emerson) Avenue. The track then ran north on First Avenue to Main Street. Following Main Street west, it turned north on 17th Avenue (Sherman Drive) for one block, to turn northwest on Churchman Pike (Avenue). The route then turned west on LeGrande Avenue to connect to the city street railway system at Shelby Street.
At first, the company found itself very popular. The Beech Grove Traction only owned, at the start, four cars to travel between the two ends. But there were so many people that wanted to use the new train that the company found itself running trains every 40 minutes from daybreak to midnight. The time table showed that first car left for Indianapolis at 0530, with the first car from Indianapolis arriving at 0610. A nickel would get a rider from Beech Grove to Shelby Street and LeGrande. A dime would get you all the way to the Traction Terminal.
Now, one might ask about why someone would get off the interurban at Shelby Street. Rightly so. But a trip to Garfield Park would require a change to a city street car. Or, one could catch the interurban to Greenwood, Franklin, Columbus and even Louisville at the end of the city Shelby Street line…which was at the Greenwood Line Stop 1 at Perry Street, south of Troy Avenue, on Shelby Street.
But business along the Beech Grove Traction line would start falling off rather quickly. The Big Four, with the completion of the traction line, stopped issuing passes to employees and families to ride the steam train. This made the interurban the best way to get to downtown Indianapolis. In the early days, most traffic was Big Four shop employees coming to and from work from their homes in Indianapolis. Due to the success of the town of Beech Grove, these employees were moving to the town. This caused a drop in traffic on the traction line. And due to shops being built along Main Street, the traffic drop wasn’t made up for in shopping trips to the stores of downtown Indianapolis.
By 1914, an average of 24 round trips ran each day along the line, with a schedule of 1 hour 10 minutes between trains. That had slowed down to 16 round trips a day by March 1916. And, as is typical of Indiana railroads of the time, the Beech Grove Traction Company found itself falling into receivership in December 1917, caused by increased costs without the subsequent increase in revenue.
Lawsuits were filed. Newspapers reported that the traction line wouldn’t be necessary for much longer, since with the improvement of city streets, bus service between Beech Grove and Indianapolis would replace the electric traction line. In a strange twist of fate, the operator of the bus competition to the Beech Grove Traction ceased his bus company and took over the traction line as railway superintendent. Fortunes improved…for the time being.
One of the things that the line started was carrying mail from the Fountain Square post office to the post office in Beech Grove. This started shortly after completion of the line until it was discontinued in the late 1920s.
The little line lumbered on for almost two decades after receivership…barely. It was recommended in November 1923 that the line be closed and sold. Revenues increased with the permission given to raise fares. But the company found itself sold to make up $30,000 in debt due to maintenance and new rolling stock in 1925. The new buyer made a condition – if a bus line was approved, the sale would be null and void, and the line would be junked. Again, lawsuits were filed, and a bus line was granted an injunction to operate. And the bus company was purchased by the traction line…and both were operated at the same time. It found itself teetering financially, yet still managing to survive.
The Great Depression hurt the line, just like it did almost everything else at the time. But it managed to survive…for a while. The Public Service Commission of Indiana, on 7 January 1937, officially told the company that it was to close the line. Indianapolis Railways, the power provider for the line, complained to the PSCI that Beech Grove Traction owed in the neighborhood of $20,000 for power…which Indianapolis Railways turned off at 0100 on 8 January 1937. And hence, the end of the Beech Grove Traction line. Some people hadn’t seen the notices about the end of service, and were waiting at stops on a cold 8 January morning.
The last vestiges of the traction company would last until 21 August 1973. The company’s car barn, at First and Garstang, would last until demolition started that day.
Today, we are going to discuss car makers that were based in Indiana. At one point, there were a LOT of manufacturers in the state. Today, I want to focus on companies based in Indianapolis. Not all of them, mind you. The picture to the left shows the entries in the Polk City Directory of 1914. Even then, companies such as Stutz, which participated in the 1911 Indianapolis 500, weren’t included in the directory. Since there were so many manufacturers in the state, there will be more parts to this subject very soon.
American Motor Car Company – Indianapolis [1906 – 1913]: One of the many automobile companies that had the guiding hand of Harry C. Stutz. Mr. Stutz came to Indianapolis from Ohio when he sold his former company to an Indianapolis concern. In 1905, he designed a new car, which would be the first made by the new American Motor Car Company. Soon after, Stutz left to become part of the Marion Motor Company. American went on to create what was best described at the time as “under powered, over priced luxury cars.” Their most well known car was called “Underslung,” where the chassis was actually set below the axles. This required 40″ wheels to keep the car off the ground. Over time, the Presidency of the company, along with that of Marion Motors, fell into the hands of J. I. Handley. It was the plan, in July 1913, to combine all of the companies under Handley’s influence into the J. I. Handley Company. This did not last long. By November, 1913, American would file for bankruptcy. The company would emerge from the bankruptcy in December, 1914, with the plan of starting car manufacturing again. It never happened. The American Company had locations at both the northwest corner of Illinois and Henry, and at 1939 to 1947 S. Meridian Street at the Belt Railway. Plant number 3 was located at 1965 S. Meridian Street.
Lafayette Motors – Indianapolis (Mars Hill) [1919 – 1922]: In 1919, a new motor car company was founded named after the Marquis de LaFayette, a French hero of the American Revolution. A cameo of his face was used as the logo on each car the company made. In 1920, the company started the Lafayette Building Company. The purpose of the second company was to build housing for the employees that were flocking to Mars Hill to work for the car company. Lafayette specialized in luxury cars. The company installed the first electric clock in automobiles. The company would come under new management in 1921. The new President, Charles Nash, was the President of the Nash Motor Company, as well. The fact that the two companies would remain separate didn’t last very long. It was announced on 29 July 1922 that the Lafayette Motors Corporation would be moving to Milwaukee, closer to the home base of Nash Motors. The name Lafayette would continue until full ownership, in 1924, was acquired by Nash. The Lafayette name would be used again, this time by Nash for a low cost automobile. Nash itself would last until 1954, when it merged with Hudson to create American Motors.
Stutz Motor Car Company – Indianapolis [1911 – 1935]: This company, founded as the Ideal Motor Company, would be started by Harry C. Stutz and Henry F. Campbell for the sole purpose, originally, to build the Bear Cat, a car designed by Harry Stutz. The first car made by Ideal was put together in five weeks from the founding of the company. That vehicle was part of the Indianapolis 500 in 1911. The company would change names in 1913 to Stutz Motor Car Company of Indiana. Stutz would leave the company in 1919. The following year, stock manipulation led the company to be delisted from stock exchanges. The company produced cars until 1935. In September, 1935, three stock brokers were indicted for trying, again, to manipulate Stutz Company stock. Henry Campbell died in September, 1936, in New York. Although Stutz Motor Company had more assets than debts, it filed for bankruptcy in April, 1937. While working through the bankruptcy, no agreements could be made with the creditors. In 1938, the Auburn Automobile Company started making a formerly Stutz produced vehicle – the Pak-Age-Car. For this, Auburn bought tools and machinery from the Stutz factory in Indianapolis, moving them to a facility in Connersville. This was shortly after the Stutz company was to be liquidated.
Marion Motor Company – Indianapolis [1904 – 1915]: The Marion Motor Company commenced work in 1904 at a plant in West Indianapolis at Oliver Avenue and Drover Street. They produced 50 cars in their first year. James I. Handley would gain control of this company, as well as the American Motor Car Company. His plan in 1913 is mentioned above with the American Motor Car paragraph. The Marion Company would, in 1915, combine with Imperial Motors to become Mutual Motor Company. This would close the West Indianapolis plant and the general offices in Indianapolis when the company moved to Jackson, Michigan.
Cole Motor Car Company – Indianapolis [1910 – 1924]: In 1910, Joseph Jeret Cole, founded the Cole Motor Car Company. One of the first, called “The Flyer,” a car built for “long, fast road journeys.” It had a 25 gallon gas tank and was powered by a four cylinder, 30 horsepower, engine. The cost, at the time, was $1,500. Cole was known for its luxury vehicles. After World War I, Cole sold a company peak of 6,255 cars in 1919, second only to Cadillac when it came to luxury cars. The company fell victim to the mass produced, cheaper cars that were very popular after the war. Cole had a choice, mass produce cars or quit making cars altogether. Joseph Cole decided to quit. This was after a failed merger between seven car companies, and even talks with William Durant about becoming part of General Motors. The last car left its East Washington Street factory in October, 1924. The company actually had two factories that are still standing: one known as 730 E. Washington Street, being used, as of the time of this writing, as Marion County Jail II, and one at Market and Davidson Streets, which is currently being used as the Marion County Processing Center. The original factory was in what is now the parking lot of the Jail II, right on the corner of Washington and Davidson Streets. The Cole Motor Car Company began liquidation after the last car was made. But unlike most companies being liquidated, the end result was that the company had money left over. All debts were paid off, and shareholders would get what was left over, roughly $39 per $100 share value. The real estate was sold, but purchased by the Cole family itself. And that is what the Cole Motor Company was after 1925 – a real estate company, leasing office space inside their one time factories. The company was listed as still existing even into the late 1980’s…but with no intention of ever producing cars again.
H. C. S. Motor Car Company – Indianapolis [1919 – 1926]: Another company started by Harry C. Stutz and Henry F. Campbell. Stutz started this company, along with a company that made fire engines (known as the Stutz Fire Apparatus Company) after leaving the Stutz Motor Card Company. Incorporated with $1 million in capital in late 1919. The company would build its factory at 1402 N. Capitol Avenue. As with other products created by Stutz, his new company was very popular in the city. The economy after World War I was very unstable, subject to very wide swings in soundness. 1921 was a very hard year for this new company. By 1923, however, the company was strong enough to buy a factory branch at 846 N. Meridian St. In 1925, Stutz left Indianapolis for Orlando, leaving his companies in the Hoosier capital to their own devices. This lasted around one year. In 1926, the company became property of creditors. 1927 saw the end of the company when it was liquidated.
Empire Motor Car Company – Indianapolis [1906 – 1919]: The founders of this company would be instrumental in the success of the automobile in general. One created two of the first Auto Trail roads in the country – the Lincoln Highway and the Dixie Highway. The other two would join the first in buying a large field along the Crawfordsville Road (and future Dixie Highway) where they would build what would become a world famous 2.5 mile rectangle known as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Carl Fisher, Arthur Newby and James Allison got together to create a car known as the Aristocrat. Allison, Fisher and Newby would put the company in a sort of hibernation in 1911. In early 1912, it was sold to other interests, which would commence building cars almost immediately. According to reports at the time, Fisher and Allison were rumored to want to retire from making cars. The last cars to come out of the Empire Motor Car Company would be the 1918 model year.
This is just the start of the lists. As I wrote at the beginning of this article, there will be more coming soon!
Crawfordsville Road. In its history, it has been a state built county road, a toll road, an Auto Trail, a state road, a US Highway, and, ultimately, a connecting city street (in two towns). Most of the original route of the road in Marion County is still used for the (old) route from Indianapolis to Crawfordsville, which was the purpose. But there are three places where the road has changed in a major way. One close to downtown Indianapolis, one at White River, and one at Speedway.
When the Crawfordsville Road was established, it left Indianapolis along what is now Indiana Avenue. At the time, it was also the Lafayette Road. The road then followed Indiana Avenue to Fall Creek (where 10th Street is now). It then crossed Fall Creek in a straight line with Waterway Boulevard, not Indiana Avenue. Both the Crawfordsville and Lafayette Roads, on the same route, followed the north bank of White River to just north of where the 16th Street Bridge is now. The old bridge at what is now 16th Street, called the Emrichsville Bridge, started on the west bank of the river at the same place the 16th Street bridge does. The difference is that the Emrichsville Bridge crossed at a right angle to the river, making a shorter bridge that caused the road to be north of the present route.
The Crawfordsville and Lafayette Roads split at what is now Lafayette Road and 16th Street. Crawfordsville Road continued on what is now 16th Street to what is now Cunningham Road in Speedway. It then connected to what is currently Crawfordsville Road, and more-or-less followed that route through the rest of Marion County, with the small exception of the area at High School Road, I-465 and I-74. It was slightly rerouted there with the construction of I-74. Then, it was rerouted again, closer to the original path, when the I-74 entrance was removed. Also, the old road was just south of the current one west of I-465.
In 1914, the old Crawfordsville Road became part of the Dixie Highway. This would be part of the western leg, connecting Indianapolis to Chicago…but not directly. Indianapolis was the crossroads of both parts of the western leg. This would make the old road part of a highway that stretched all the way to Miami, Florida.
As is almost typical of the old “state roads” in Indiana, the old road had 1) been county responsibility beginning around the turn of the 20th century, and 2) been criss-crossed by a railroad that had been 20 years after the original construction of the road by the state. The railroad, in this case, was, starting in 1890, the Peoria & Eastern, a New York Central property (via the Big Four). In Marion County alone, the P&E, and the THI&E interurban route to Crawfordsville, crossed the old Crawfordsville Road twice in what is now Speedway.
When the State Highway Commission was (re)created in 1919 (it had been formed originally in 1917, but had legal questions that caused a new law to be passed in 1919), the Dixie Highway route was not brought into the new state road system. Even with the expansion of the system in 1923, the Crawfordsville Road would still not be state responsibility.
But 1923 was the year that the major reroute of the Speedway section would be proposed. The map below, as published in the Indianapolis News of 13 April 1923, shows the plan to move the route from 16th Street to a new build north of the Peoria & Eastern/THI&E Traction tracks. As mentioned, the new construction would “eliminate four dangerous railroad and interurban crossings and would straighten and shorten the road materially.”
In 1926, when the state road system was expanded and renumbered, the old road would be added to the new state road system, sort of. The official description, from the ISHC and published in the Indianapolis News of 28 September 1926, was listed as “State Road 34 – Indianapolis to the Illinois-Indiana state line at Beckwith, passing through Pittsboro, Lizton, Jamestown, New Ross, Crawfordsville, Waynetown, Hillsboro, Veedersburg and Covington. (From Crawfordsville west this now is known as State Road 33. Between Indianapolis and Crawfordsville the road has not yet been added to the state system but soon will be.)”
Ultimately, when added to the state system, the new SR 34 would extend along 16th Street to Northwestern Avenue (now Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street) where it would end at US 36 and SR 29. This would be the other reroute of the old road to connect to downtown. In 1951, SR 34 would be changed to US 136, ending at what had become US 421 at the same time.
As mentioned above, another change to the US 136 route would come with the construction of I-74 in 1959/1960. The road would be bent slightly northwest to connect to the new interstate, with an intersection allowing drivers to turn left onto US 136. The US 136 designation would be removed from this intersection to Northwestern Avenue in 1975. The last change would be when the connection to I-74 was moved from a direct route to a new entrance directly from US 136 (and then US 136 being truncated again, being removed from the section between the new ramp and High School Road). The old road was curved in such a way to create a more “straight through” traffic pattern on Crawfordsville Road.
The original route would also be rerouted near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A new roundabout was put in place at Crawfordsville Road, 16th Street and Main Street. Georgetown Road was removed from this connection. To connect to the old road from this point requires a short trip south on Main Street back to 16th Street, which was made discontinuous with the building of that roundabout.