Some Auto Trails and Original Indiana State Roads

In the 1910’s, organizations were being set up all over the country to support building a system of roads, called Auto Trails, to facilitate the moving of traffic across the state and across the nation. I have covered several of these of the past 11 months: Lincoln Highway, Hoosier Dixie, National Road, Michigan Road, Dandy Trail, Crawfordsville to Anderson, Hoosier Highway, Ben Hur Route, Jackson Highway, Tip Top Trail, Riley Highway, Illinois Corn Belt and the Midland Route. The purpose of these organizations was to create good, hard surface roads, allowing better, faster and safer transportation across the United States. Some organizations were successful. Others were not. And some of these were brought into the early Indiana State Road system.

Now, when I say brought into the system, it should be known that occasionally I will be talking about corridors…although many of the the roads were taken directly by the State Highway Commission.

The Yellowstone Trail: The Yellowstone Trail connected Plymouth, Massachusetts, to Seattle, Washington, and both to the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. From Valparaiso to Fort Wayne, the Yellowstone Trail became SR 44 originally. Later, in 1923, it would be changed to SR 2. That designation would be gone in 1926, when the corridor became that of US 30.

Dixie Bee Line: Designed as a more direct route to the south, as opposed to the older and more famous Dixie Highway, the Dixie Bee Highway separated from its namesake at Danville, Illinois. It entered Indiana northwest of Cuyuga, and went roughly due south through Terre Haute, Vincennes and Evansville. In 1920, the section from Cuyuga south became SR 10. It would later become SR 63 to Clinton, then US 41 to Evansville.

Range Line: This route became part of, arguably, the most important north-south route in Indiana. The Range Line Road, connecting Indianapolis to Peru via Kokomo, started life in Indianapolis as the Westfield Road. It got its Auto Trail name from the fact that it followed a survey line, called the Range Line, up to west of Peru, where it ended at the Wabash Way, mentioned later. It was so important that the route would be made a Main Market Road in 1917, given the number 1. It became SR 1 in 1919. It was changed to US 31 in 1926.

Lincoln Highway: The original version of this first transcontinental highway connected across Indiana via Valparaiso, LaPorte, South Bend, Elkhart, Goshen, Ligonier, and Fort Wayne. Again, due to its importance, it became one of the first five Main Market Roads in 1917, given the number 2. It then became SR 2. In 1923, the Fort Wayne to Elkhart became SR 46, Elkhart to South Bend became SR 25 to Rolling Prairie, and the rest of the original Lincoln Highway to Valparaiso became SR 42, while the future Lincoln Highway became SR 2 along the Yellowstone Route corridor. The two ends of the road in Indiana became US 30, while from Valpo to Rolling Prairie, and from South Bend to Fort Wayne, became SR 2 again. Later from South Bend to Fort Wayne became US 33.

National Old Trails Road: While most of the way across Indiana, this Auto Trail follows the nation’s first highway, the National Road, it is not entirely the route. While most of the NOTR became Main Market Road 3 in 1917, then SR 3 in 1919, the portion east of Richmond was left out of the state road system. At Richmond, the NOTR turned toward Eaton and Dayton, before connecting back to the original National Road at Springfield. Later, in 1926, that section of the NOTR would become SR 11…then US 35 in 1935.

Dixie Highway: Ironically, that which was the first transcontinental north-south highway would only become part of the state road system in sections. From Danville, Illinois, to Crawfordsville would become SR 33, the Indiana-Michigan state line to Rochester became SR 1, Martinsville to Bedford became SR 22, Bedford to Paoli would become SR, originally Main Market Road, 4, and from Paoli to New Albany would be SR 42. This changed in 1923. SR 42 became part of SR 5, SR 4 became an extension of SR 22, as did the route from Martinsville to Indianapolis, from Indianapolis to Logansport became SR 15. 1926, and the number of state roads the old Dixie Highway became is large: SR 25, SR 29, US 31, SR 34, SR 37, and US 150.

Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean: This road had two routes through Indiana in its history. The first route came into Indiana west of Montezuma. From Montezuma to Danville, the original route became SR 31. By 1923, instead of SR 31 connecting to SR 3 (later US 40) near Cartersburg, it connected to SR 3 west of Indianapolis at where the (original) Rockville Road connected to the National Road. The new route would cross Indiana north of Indianapolis, with the route entering Indiana from Danville, Illinois, with the Dixie Highway. From Crawfordsville to Lebanon, it would become SR 33. From Westfield to Union City, the 1920 road number was SR 37. 1923 saw SR 33 extended from Crawfordsville to Union City, with the SR 37 designation from Anderson to Muncie. In 1926, SR 33 would be changed to SR 32. This was also the route of the Crawfordsville to Anderson Auto Trail.

There are far more routes that crossed the state. I will cover more of them at a later date.

The Hoosier Highway

1917. The Auto Trail era is in full swing. Associations all over the United States were being formed to create a tangled web of named highways connecting places all over the country. Indiana, being the crossroads of America, was crossed by many of these roads. While a great many of these roads were long distance trails, there was one that mainly stayed in the state that became the longest in Indiana. This would be the Hoosier Highway.

The plan of the Hoosier Highway was designed to connect the Henderson ferry, south of Evansville, to Detroit. Looking at a map of the state, one can hardly find a way to cover more of Indiana with a road. Cities and towns that were included in the route were Evansville, Winslow, Petersburg, Washington, Spencer, Martinsville, Indianapolis, Anderson, Muncie, Hartford City, Bluffton and Fort Wayne.

By 1923, most of the Hoosier Highway would become part of the Indiana State Highway system. The road would follow original state road (OSR) 10 out of Evansville, connecting that city to Princeton. This section would, three years later, become US 41. Here starts the questionable section of the original Hoosier Highway. The HH Association, even as late as 1920, hadn’t decided on a route connecting Princeton to Petersburg. When the road was remarked in 1920, it would include Winslow and Oakland City. There was an alternate route that didn’t include these two towns, running more directly between Princeton and Petersburg.

At Princeton, the road would turn east along OSR 40 (now roughly SR 56) through Francisco, Oakland City and Winslow. At Winsolw, the HH turned more northwest, with OSR 40, to a point halfway between Winslow and Petersburg. Here OSR 40 turned east while the HH continued northwest along OSR 28. This section is now roughly SR 61 today.

From Washington, the Hoosier Highway was carried along OSR 28 to a the junction of OSR 4 and OSR 12 (now SR 54) between Switz City and Bloomfield. Here, the HH turned to the northeast along what would become OSR 12. The Hoosier Highway, from here, uses the original Indianapolis-Vincennes State Road, all the way to Indianapolis. This road would become SR 67 in 1926. (SR 67, and why its numbered that, is an interesting history in its own right. I covered it here.)

Once in Indianapolis, the road continued out of the city to the northeast along the old Pendleton State Road (Pendleton Pike). By the time it became part of the state highway system, as OSR 37, the road through Marion and Hancock Counties had been straightened. The old Pendleton Road crossed over the railroad right after leaving Marion County. It is currently known as Reformatory Road, and traverses the Indiana State Penitentiary at Pendleton. Again, this section became part of SR 67.

Reformatory Road ends at what is now Pendleton Avenue. In 1923, this route was also part of OSR 37 through the town on its way to Anderson through to Muncie. Ultimately, the section from Anderson to Muncie would become part of SR 32, but not in 1926.

At Muncie, the Hoosier Highway leaves the city due north. In 1923, this was OSR 13, but would become part of SR 3. The route would follow what is now SR 3 to what is now Huntington County Road 1100S, although OSR 13 would turn east on the road (now SR 18) between Montpelier and Marion. Huntington CR 1100S becomes Wells County Road 500S. At the end of CR 500S, the Hoosier Highway turned northeast bound for Bluffton on what is now called Hoosier Highway.

At Bluffton, that road between Bluffton and Fort Wayne once became OSR 13. This time, however, it would become SR 1 in the end. Although in 1926, it was numbered SR 3. Out of Fort Wayne, the Hoosier Highway followed the old Fort Wayne-Toledo Road, which would not be taken into the state highway system until much later as US 24.

While curves have been removed, and large sections of the old Hoosier Highway have been rerouted, most of the old road is able to be driven. Even in 1920, it was reported in the Herald (Jasper, Indiana) of 27 August 1920 that “with the exception of a small portion of roadway between Petersburg and Worthington, the Hoosier Highway is passable in all kinds of weather from Evansville and Detroit.”

Road Trip 1926: US 52

Well, we are going a little out of order with today’s road trip. But, I am following the lead of Jim Grey, my co-admin of the Indiana Transportation History Facebook group, as today is a special day…number 52, as a matter of fact.

US 52 started, originally, at US 41 near Fowler, Indiana. This beginning of the route created an almost direct route from Cincinnati to Chicago, via Indianapolis. Through Indiana, it took the place of a couple of original state roads: the Lafayette Road (Lafayette to Indianapolis) and the Brookville Road (Indianapolis to Brookville). In the Auto Trail era, parts of the road were also part of the Jackson Highway (from Montmorenci to Lafayette and from Lebanon to Indianapolis). Those sections would become original SR 6 in 1919. By 1923, the section from Indianapolis to Brookville (and to the Ohio state line) became OSR 39.

The rest of what became US 52 was a “new route” (not part of the then state highway system) when the Great Renumbering happened on 1 October 1926.

The Lincoln Highway, The Michigan Road and Rolling Prairie

With the coming “dog bone” intersection completion at US 20 and SR 2 east of Rolling Prairie, I thought it would be a good idea to cover the multiple copies of both of these routes and the roads that were in place before the state highway system was created.

Rolling Prairie, Indiana, showing the multiple transportation facilities around the area. Original image courtesy of Google Maps, snipped 03 September 2019. Colored lines added using Microsoft Paint.

In the 1830s, the state of Indiana created a road that connected Michigan City (a new town created for the end of the road) to Madison on the Ohio River, via Indianapolis. This new road would be called the Michigan Road. One of the things that is constantly wondered about is why the road went through South Bend instead of directly to Michigan City. The reason for that was a very large swampy area known as the Kankakee River. The road was built to stay on dry land as much as possible, simply because it was easier than building across a swamp.

This caused the road to take a very strange detour to the north of a straight line between South Bend and Michigan City. The original path of that road is marked on the image above as the green line. (The orange spots on any of those lines show where the road can’t be followed because it has been moved over the years.) Later on, a road was added connecting South Bend to LaPorte. As was typical of the time with early “state roads,” it would use the then road that was in place until the new road would branch off to go to its new destination. This created the red line on the map above.

In the 1850s, with the coming of the railroads, a line was built from South Bend to Chicago roughly following the Michigan Road for the eastern portion. As is typical at the time, the railroad company basically built in the straightest, most level, line possible. And, being also typical, it didn’t matter to the railroad what they built through. This caused a very dangerous crossing northeast of Rolling Prairie of the old Michigan Road and the new railroad. The town of Rolling Prairie would be put in place to take advantage of both these routes.

1910 USPS map of rural mail delivery in LaPorte County in the area of Rolling Prairie. Image courtesy of the Indiana State Library, available here. (http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15078coll8/id/970/rec/4)

Fast forward to the 20th Century. The dangerous crossing of the (then) New York Central is still in place. Due to this crossing, even the post office planned their routes around it, as shown in the above map.

In the mid-1910s, with the beginning of the Auto Trail era, it was decided that the coming Lincoln Highway (original route) would traverse this area. The Lincoln entered Indiana on the west at Dyer, exiting on the east southeast of Fort Wayne. A close look at a map shows that there can be a (relatively) straight line between the two points. And, looking even closer, such a line exists as US 30. But it was decided that the road would be routed through Valparaiso, LaPorte, South Bend, Elkhart and Goshen, among other places. This brought the road along the old state road connecting LaPorte and South Bend, passing to the east of the railroad at Rolling Prairie.

With the creation of the original Indiana State Highway Commission in 1917, it was decided that the new “State Road 2” would follow this original Lincoln Highway route. Again, that would be the red line on the Google Map at the top of the page, then the green line leaving the image at the top right. In 1923, the old Michigan Road, completely, from South Bend to Michigan City, through Rolling Prairie, was changed to SR 25, with the Lincoln Highway’s original route becoming SR 42. (The SR 2 designation was moved to what would become the new route of the Lincoln Highway…aka what became US 30 in 1926.)

Things would change (again) in October 1924 (Source: South Bend Tribune, 03 October 1924), when it was announced that “the Indiana State Highway Commission has determined to relocate state road No. 25 on Division street extended and that maintenance has been withdrawn from state road No. 25 between South Bend and Rolling Prairie through New Carlisle and Bootjack and on state road No. 42 between New Carlisle and a point where Division street extended will connect with state road No. 42.” This was a fancy way of saying that the Lincoln Highway and Michigan Road was being from east of Rolling Prairie to South Bend was being returned to county responsibility. This is shown as the blue straight line from the east (current SR 2) that turns northwest at the original Lincoln Highway, connecting to Rolling Prairie’s Michigan Street (historic Michigan Road). According to the same article, this would shorten the distance between South Bend and either Rolling Prairie or LaPorte by 1.5 miles. The other thing at play with this removal from the state highway system is the pending desire to remove a dangerous grade crossing at New Carlisle. With the rerouting of SR 25 at this point, that makes that crossing a St. Joseph County problem, not one of the Indiana State Highway Commission.

It should be noted that the “straighter” SR 25 from South Bend to Michigan City was also determined, in part, by the desire of the Federal Government. That desire was “for the construction of what might be called a military road through this part of the country in as straight a line as possible.” The decision to use Division Street (now called Western Avenue, by the way) out of South Bend was made by an official of the Federal Government looking at the situation. One comment that made no sense is that “the decision was affected partly by a decision to keep as far away from the central business district of the city as possible.” In South Bend, that would be about 1/2 mile or so, really.

With the Great Renumbering of 01 October 1926, the replacement SR 25 would be recommissioned as US 20 through the area, with the old Lincoln Highway branching to the southwest becoming (once again) SR 2. Half a decade later, the original Lincoln Highway from east of Rolling Prairie to South Bend would be returned to the state highway system. In 1932, US 20 was rerouted to the old road. It was at this time that the US 20 and SR 2 routes would change at their intersection. US 20 would be moved again, from Rolling Prairie to the junction of SR 2, to the route shown on the map at the top as the yellow line, in 1940 or 1941. The old (blue line) route of US 20 through Rolling Prairie would become SR 220 in 1945. It would be that way until 1953.

1963-1964 Indiana Official State Highway Map showing the area of Rolling Prairie.

The final modification in this area would be the creation of the current intersection of US 20 and SR 2 in 1963. The map to the left is from the 1963-1964 ISHC official map. The following official map, of 1964, shows the completed, new, intersection of the two routes.

Let me say, personally, I have never understood why these routes were numbered the way they were. To me, it would have made far more sense to leave US 20 where it was, and make the old route SR 2. But that is not what happened. And now, with the construction of a “dog bone” interchange at that location, the road numbering makes even less sense.

The Crawfordsville Pike, and Its Change in Marion County

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.)”

1941 aerial photograph, courtesy of MapIndy (City of Indianapolis website) of the Crawfordsville Road area in Speedway. The thicker white line from the lower right to the upper left is the post-1923 route. In the upper left just below that, is the old road, which ran just south of the new road. The old road then turns south-southeast to connect to what is now 16th Street.

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.

The Hazelton Bridge

In the days of the Auto Trails, a second route adopted the name of “Dixie Highway,” this one being the “Dixie Bee Line.” In Indiana, much of this route followed what became State Road 10, and later US 41. In September 1921, work was started on a bridge over the White River north of the town of Hazelton, where the river forms the boundary between Knox and Gibson Counties. This bridge would replace the last ferry on the “Dixie Bee,” a ferry that had been in place for 40 years at the time of construction.

What makes this bridge special is its shear size. According to the Garret Clipper of 28 February 1924, “the bridge is said to be the largest on a state highway in the middle-west.” The massive size of this bridge is especially shown in its length. Including approaches, the bridge was nearly three miles long. The bridge consisted of a total of 29 spans: eight steel and 21 concrete.

Google Map image of the Hazelton Bridge. This image was snipped on 1 July 2019.

Built by the Stein Construction Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and costing $275,000, the bridge was 20 feet wide for its entire length, including approaches. It was rated to carry up to 20 ton (40,000 pound) vehicles. The bridge itself was 2002.5 feet in length, with approaches of 7448 feet (north) and 3800 feet (south). The bridge was “without draw,” or a non-moving bridge, that was 38.5 feet above the low water mark on the White River.

The steel spans had two different lengths: four were 198 feet; four were 84 feet.

The amount of construction material involved was massive: 1.5 million pounds of steel; 350,000 pounds of reinforcing steel in the concrete; 6,200 yards of concrete; and 13,000 linear feet of timber pilings. In addition, slightly more than 90,000 cubic yards of earth was used in building the northern approach.

The bridge had been longed for by residents of both Knox and Gibson Counties. As mentioned, the Hazleton Bridge replaced a ferry across the White River at this point. The problems with the ferry were typical when it came to Indiana weather. In the spring and fall, the amounts of rain received in the area caused the ferry to be put on hold for weeks at a time, suspending traffic flow at the same times. Again, according to the newspaper mentioned above, “traffic often was held in abeyance for weeks at a time.”

It was reported that this bridge “removes in Indiana the last obstacle on what is said to be the shortest motor route between Chicago, Florida and Gulf points.”

Google Map image of the Hazleton Bridge and southern approaches as of 1 July 2019.

All of the construction did have its problems later. The Indianapolis Star, of 15 January 1930, reports that “turbulent flood waters from White river threatened to destroy the three-mile fill leading to the Hazelton bridge on United States highway No. 41, late yesterday.” It was also stated that “the water was rising an inch an hour and highway officials expected the roadway to be covered before morning.” Members of the Indiana National Guard were sent to protect the Hazleton Bridge during this flooding incident due to reports of people wanting to blow up the bridge to alleviate the flooding problem.

The flooding in question affected not only US 41 at Hazleton, but points all along the White River south of Indianapolis. This especially affected areas around Newberry, Edwardsport, Spencer, Shoals, and Bedford. Highway officials were reporting that most state and county roads in these areas would not escape the flood waters.

The Hazelton bridge was in use from October 1923 until it was closed by officials of Knox and Gibson Counties on 03 April 1989. It had been in the state inventory until a bypass was built in 1961. Knox County officials wanted to close it for structural reasons in 1985, but work was done in 1986 to keep it open a little while longer. The weight limit on the bridge had been lowered in the 1970s to five tons for safety reasons. High water in April 1989, and parts of the bridge sinking six inches or more, helped make the decision to remove the bridge from use. According to the Vincennes Sun-Commercial of 6 April 1989, “the closing means an additional two miles for travelers coming to Vincennes from Hazelton.”

Vincennes Sun-Commercial, 06 April 1989

Now, as shown in the above Google Maps images, the bridge stands in a decaying condition, a testament to what had been one of the greatest bridge building projects in Indiana in the early days of the Indiana State Highway Commission.

Old US 52 in Franklin County

Indiana has a ton of old roads that are marked “Old whatever.” Some of them are really old. For instance, there is an “Old SR 34” in Indiana, although there is no SR 34…and hasn’t been one since 1951. But while roaming Google Maps, I found an old state road that never was…Old US 52 northwest of Metamora.

Old US 52 from Lake View to SR 121. Map courtesy of Google Maps.

The above image shows a Google Map that was snipped on 14 June 2019. It shows a road called “Old US 52.” This interested me. Those that have read this blog, or the Facebook group, know that when I glom onto something that grabs my interest, I stick with it to the best of my ability. Well, with a road name like this, I was going to be interested. And what I found was, well, enlightening.

As usual, I will start with a brief history. The road that became US 52 in 1926 was part of the original Brookville State Road from Brookville to east of Indianapolis. On the Marion County end, it is still called Brookville Road. This road connected in Marion County to the National Road almost three miles east of downtown Indianapolis. Most of the old road traveled through rural areas, with only two bigger towns on the route: Rushville and Brookville. And, so, the Brookville State Road was used for this purpose for around 100 years.

1919 Rand McNally Auto Trails map showing the section of the old Brookville State Road from Rushville to Brookville. The circled and highlighted section shows that is now called “Old US 52.”

In 1923, the old Brookville State Road became Original State Road (OSR) 39. It included part of the above highlighted section. The road shown as OSR 39 on this map appears to be completely gone at this point. But the 1924 Indiana Official Highway maps shows that this section of OSR 39 was rerouted to roughly the current route of US 52.

Indiana Official Highway Map, 1923, showing OSR 39 between Rushville and Brookville.
Indiana Official Highway Map, 1924, showing OSR 39 between Rushville and Brookville.

On 1 October, 1926, what was OSR 39 became part of the United States Highway system as Route 52. This was basically a sign change, as the route changed very little between 1924 and 1926. OSR 39/US 52 fulfilled the same purpose as the original Brookville State Road, albeit a bit shorter route. It still does to this day.

But this also begs the question: why is the subject road called “Old US 52” when it, apparently, never was part of US 52. My bet, and this is only a guess, is that it all stems from the old Brookville State Road. The rerouted version became US 52, so the original road was “old” US 52. Again, this is only a guess.

The original route connected again to the current US 52 at the junction of US 52 and SR 121.

US 36 in Indiana

Indiana has always been known as the “Crossroads of America.” For the most part, highways connecting Indiana to the rest of the United States have been through routes. But in the beginning of the US highway system (i.e. that on 1 October 1926, when it came to life in Indiana), there was one that ended near the western edge of the city of Indianapolis: US 36.

Let’s step back quite a bit before October 1926. What is now US 36 began life as the Indianapolis-Rockville State Road, basically a wagon trail connecting the capital city to the county seat of Parke County. Along the way, it also connected to the county seat of Hendricks County, Danville. What is currently US 36 west of Hendricks County is part of the original road. However, there were several sections that were straightened out by the state over the years.

When the Auto Route era started, the Rockville Road (now a series of county gravel roads) was included as part of the Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway. I have copies of maps spanning 1918 to 1920 showing this. Also, the Federal Highway Administration shows this in a series of strip maps. This link shows the section from Indianapolis to Chrisman, IL.: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/ppmap05.cfm

(East of Indianapolis, at this time, the PPOO followed the National Old Trails Road, including the Eaton Cut-off, towards Dayton, OH.)

By 1923, the PPOO had moved, according to the website http://www.ppoo.org. The 1923 route was moved to come into Indiana along what was original SR 33 across Indiana. OSR 33 became SR 34 (and, later, US 136) from the Illinois-Indiana state line to Crawfordsville, then became SR 32 through Lebanon, Noblesville, Anderson, Muncie and Winchester to the Indiana-Ohio State Line at Union City.

The old PPOO, Rockville Road, by 1923, became SR 31 from SR 10 (future SR 63) to its connection with OSR 3 (the National Road) at what is now Holt Road and Washington Street. (To use the original road, either east or west, requires a journey through a Steak ‘n Shake parking lot. This is a fact that I have repeatedly used throughout the existence of both this blog and the Facebook group that spawned it.)

Indianapolis News, 27 September 1926.
The “Great Renumbering” is about to occur in Indiana.
This snippet shows the pending US 36 description.

With the Great Renumbering of 1 October 1926, US highways were added to the state, and US 36 was among them. The route of the original PPOO, the one that became SR 31, became the route of US 36. However, the section that connected Chrisman, IL, to SR 63 was incomplete and under construction. Since, at the time, it had not been a section of the state highway system, the ISHC was playing catch up to get it up to speed. Also, at the time, the original US 36 connected to the National Road at the above mentioned Steak ‘n Shake (i.e. Washington Street and Holt Road). Holt Road originally came from the south and ended at this intersection. It would be many years later, even after the removal of US 36 to I-465’s south leg, that Holt Road would be built to the dead end (more or less) that it is today.

Indianapolis News, 28 April 1928.
Signs posted by the ISHC at the corner of
Meridian and Washington Streets
in Indianapolis.

That’s right. US 36 ended in Indianapolis. It followed US 40 downtown, but most maps I have seen from the era aren’t detailed enough to show that. The only proof I have of that is a picture from the Indianapolis News of 28 April 1928. It shows a “highway totem pole” at the corner of West Washington Street and Meridian Street. (That point was a multiplex consisting, in the order the state put them, US 40, US 52, US 36 and SR 29. US 36 stayed in that status for at least the next five years.

I am doing further research into the location of US 36 along the Rockville Road/Rockville Avenue corridor. For the longest time, the section that is Rockville Road now from Washington Street to what is called Rockville Avenue didn’t exist. As a matter of fact, official Indiana State Highway Commission maps show that Rockville Avenue was US 36 all the way up to 1930. What is now Rockville Road east of Rockville Avenue, apparently was the dream of the E. L. Cothrell Realty Company. In 1925, they started building a new neighborhood, which could be reached by going “out West Washington street to the 3500 block.” By 1927, it would finally list the Rockville Road as part of the marketing, as all houses would front either Creston (the name of the development) or Rockville. As shown in the map below, it would seem that the “new” Rockville Road was built expressly for the Creston development.

Map, courtesy of Google Maps, showing the Rockville Road from Washington Street to the original road now called Rockville Avenue. Creston Drive, the main side street of the Creston development started in 1925 is shown, as well. (Map was captured using Microsoft Snipping Tool on 1 April 2019.

By 1932, the extension of US 36 started. The signs marking US 36 were extended along what was then SR 67 (Massachusetts Avenue/Pendleton Pike) and, when near Pendleton, along SR 9/SR 67 to Huntsville, where a road was authorized to connect Huntsville to Ohio SR 200 at the state line west of Palestine, OH. At that time, the designation US 36 entered Ohio as the cross state line continuation of SR 32 at Union City. That US 36 connected Union City to Greenville, OH.

Indiana State Highway Commission official 1932 map showing US 36 both at Pendleton and in Ohio from Union City to Greenville. The red dotted line from Huntsville east through Sulphur Springs, Mount Summitt, Mooreland to the JCT SR 21 south of Losantville, and the red dotted line from JCT SR 21 north of Losantville, east through Modoc and Lynn to connect OH SR 200 show the authorized route of the extension of US 36.

By 1933, the state had under its jurisdiction the complete route that would be US 36 in Indiana. There were some changes along the way, with sections moved and bypassed here and there. The first bypass was being built in 1935, which would be a replacement for the section through downtown Indianapolis. By 1936, US 36, and SR 67, would be turned north along SR 29 (later US 421, today West Street/Martin Luther King Jr. Street) to 38th Street. Then east along 38th Street to its connection to Pendleton Pike. (BTW – officially, this is the beginning of what is now called Pendleton Pike. 38th Street, at the time, was the edge of the city most of the way. As such, inside 38th Street, the old Pendleton Pike is called Massachusetts Avenue. That will be the subject of a later post…I promise.)

The major bypass would also be in Marion County. In the late 1970’s, the Indiana Highway Department, and its successor, the Indiana Department of Transportation, would start handing state roads back to the counties. In Marion County, as far as US 36 was concerned, that would mean that the designation US 36 would turn onto I-465, using the road from Rockville Road on the west side, along the south leg, to Pendleton Pike on the northeast side.