1920-1960: Allen County Roads

Today is the second of the series covering state roads in Indiana’s counties in alphabetical order. Today, I will cover, as the title states, Allen County. And, just like the last post of this series, it will be done with a lot of maps, and start with the history of the formation of the county.

The creation of Allen County happened on 17 December 1823, when the Indiana General Assembly issued the following news: “Formation by statute, effective April 1, 1824. The formation affected Randolph and Delaware counties.”

“Beginning at a point on the line dividing this state and the state of Ohio, where the township line dividing townships twenty-eight and twenty-nine north, intersects the same; thence north with said state line twenty-four miles; thence west to the line dividing ranges ten and eleven east; thence south to the line dividing townships twenty-eight and twenty-nine north, thence east to the place of beginning.” (Revised Laws of Indiana, 1823-1824, pp 109)

One month after the creation of the county, Fort Wayne was made the seat of the county’s government.

1920 Indiana Official State Highway Map

Allen County is one of those few counties that actually acquired its first modern state road with the original creation of the Indiana State Highway Commission in 1917. One of the five Main Market Roads, as they were called at first, connected Fort Wayne to near Chicago. Of course, it was built as the Lincoln Highway. That Auto-Trail would be given the number Main Market Road 2.

In 1919, Main Market Road 2 would become State Road 2. By 1920, four more state highways would be added to Allen County’s landscape: OSR 11; OSR 13; OSR 21; and OSR 44. OSR 11 would connect Fort Wayne to Huntington, ultimately ending in Greenfield at the National Road. OSR 13 would be the road from Fort Wayne to Bluffton, again ending at the National Road, this time at Lewisville. As mentioned in the Adams County entry, OSR 21 travelled from Fort Wayne, through Decatur, Portland, Winchester and Richmond to end at Liberty in Union County.

1923 Kenyon Map of Allen County, Indiana

Due to location, and the fact that Fort Wayne had, for decades, been one of the largest cities in the Hoosier State, the city, and Allen County, would find itself along quite a few Auto Trails during that era. In 1923, as shown on the map to the left, the following Auto Trails crossed Allen County: Hoosier Highway [B]; Yellowstone Trail [N]; Wabash Way [O]; Ohio, Indiana, Michigan Way [S]; Lincoln Highway [X]; and the Custer Trail [BB].

The Hoosier Highway has been covered numerous times in this blog. It started in Evansville, ultimately winding its way through the entire state to Fort Wayne on the way to Detroit, Michigan. Coming from the south, it was given the designation OSR 13 to Fort Wayne, but no state highway number was assigned to it leaving Fort Wayne to the northeast.

The Yellowstone Trail and Lincoln Highway would be intertwined, even though the only place they multiplex was east of Fort Wayne. Both of them would meet again at Valparaiso. The Lincoln Highway left to the northwest of Fort Wayne, with the Yellowstone heading more west. In 1920, as mentioned above, Lincoln Highway was OSR 2, and Yellowstone Trail was OSR 44.

The Wabash Way left Fort Wayne to the southwest, winding its way through Huntington, Wabash, Peru, Logansport, Delphi, Lafayette, and Attica, crossing the Illinois State Line to end at Danville. The ISHC gave it the number OSR 11 in 1920.

The Ohio-Indiana-Michigan Way was mentioned in the Adams County entry. It was OSR 21 into Fort Wayne from the south. Leaving to the north, it wasn’t part of the state highway system. Neither was the Custer Trail, which started in Fort Wayne, leaving to the north for Auburn and Angola on a winding trail through Steuben county to enter Michigan.

1923 Indiana Official State Highway Map

In the fall of 1923, the ISHC decided to rearrange state highway numbers to make them easier to understand and follow. This led to numerous changes in Allen County. The Lincoln Highway, which had been OSR 2 for the previous six years was now OSR 46 heading northwest out of Fort Wayne. The OSR 2 label, while maintained on the Lincoln Highway east of Fort Wayne, became attached to the Yellowstone Trail west of the city. OSR 11, the Wabash Way, was changed to OSR 7. OSR 13 and 21 remained the same south of Fort Wayne, but a new addition to SR 31 was added north of the Allen County Seat. It encompassed neither the OIM or the Custer Trail. It was a “new” road, without any special designation prior to its addition to the state highway system.

1926 Indiana Official State Highway Map

Allen County became the home of quite a few United States Highways with the Great Renumbering of 1 October 1926. The 1923 version of SR 2, leaving Fort Wayne along State Boulevard and Leesburg Road, was rerouted to connect to the new SR 2, which was the route of the original Lincoln Highway, at what is now Lincoln Highway and Washington Center Road. From that connection, SR 2 continued its journey across the county to Churubusco. East of Fort Wayne, the OSR 2 that had existed since 1917 was changed to US 30.

The OSR 11 (1920)/OSR 7 (1923) was practically abandoned in Allen County. The old State Road 7 route was moved north, and would be changed to US 24. East of Fort Wayne, a new route US 24, one that had not been part of the state highway system before, was in the process of being added. It would connect to Ohio’s US 24 after leaving east-northeast from New Haven.

OSR 13 was given two designations. South of Fort Wayne, it became SR 3. North of the city, it became, along with OSR 21 south of Fort Wayne, US 27. This left Allen County with two state roads (SR 2 and SR 3) and three US highways (US 24, 27 and 30)..

September 1930 Indiana Official State Highway Map

With the number of additions that were made to the state highway system in 1930, the September map of that year showed many changes. Not in the way of the routes that had been established in 1926. No. The old OIM Way north out of Fort Wayne was added to the state highway system as an extension of State Road 3. The old Custer Trail route was also added, becoming the northern State Road 1. There was also an authorized addition shown on the map. It would come into Allen County from the west, travel through Fort Wayne, and leave to the northeast. The western end of that authorized addition was at State Road 15 at Silver Lake. A look at the map shows it to be an extension of State Road 14.

January 1932 Indiana Official State Highway Map

When it was finally added to the state highway system in 1931, that’s what it was: an extension of SR 14 across Allen County. SR 14 connected to Ohio State Road 18 at the state line. But the early 1932 map showed two more authorized additions the ISHC wanted to make. First, a road connecting to SR 1 north of Fort Wayne, heading due east to Leo, then roughly along the St. Joseph River heading northeast.

The second left SR 3 south of Fort Wayne, heading southwest through Nine Mile and Zanesville.

Other than that, still no real changes had been made to the 1926 highways that Allen County had been originally given.

1933 Indiana Official State Highway Map

Three “new” state roads were added in 1932 for the 1933 official map. First, the authorized addition through Zanesville and Nine Mile, which turned southwest off of SR 3 from Waynedale, was officially added, and given the number SR 3. The old SR 3, which had that number since the 1926 number shuffle, became the new SR 1 south of Waynedale.

But that wasn’t the only change in SR 1. The ISHC changed their minds, instead of routing a new state road due east into Leo, it was decided to use what is now Clinton Street toward what were the separate villages of Cedarville and Leo. This was given the number State Road 1. The old SR 1, that ran north along what is now Tonkel Road, was given the number State Road 427, another daughter route to US 27. Both routes connected at Auburn, with US 27 coming in from the west, and SR 427 coming in from the south.

1937 Indiana Official State Highway Map

Travelling east across Allen County, from New Haven to Edgerton, along what is now Dawkins Road, was a daughter route to US 30, State Road 230. SR 230 connected to Ohio State Road 113 at the state line.

The period between 1932 and 1936 saw very few changes. The Indiana State Highway Commission decided to authorize the building of an extension of SR 101, north and south, through eastern Allen County. At the time, SR 101 did exist in Adams County, but ended at the Adams-Allen County Line. The new SR 101 would directly connect to State Road 1 in Dekalb County at State Road 8. Although it was an authorized addition, State Road 101 was not, at least according to the maps of 1937, located. The route shown on the map was pure conjecture…and hoping. Also, SR 14 was then connected to both Ohio State Road 18, but a new Ohio State Road 2. The multiplexed route from the Ohio State Line connected to Hicksville, before Ohio 2 and Ohio 18 went separate ways.

1938 Indiana Official State Highway Map

There were two changes made in 1937, as shown on the 1938 map to the left. First was the building of SR 101 from the Adams-Allen County line to US 30. Second, US 33 came to Indiana. From Decatur, US 27 and US 33 used the same road to connect to Fort Wayne. But leaving Fort Wayne, the road that had been State Road 2 was then called US 33. This eliminated the State Road 2 designation east of South Bend. Both Lincoln Highways were now part of the US Highway System in Allen County. The original was now US 33, the replacement (marked in the mid to late 1920’s) had been marked US 30 since 1926.

1939 Indiana Official State Highway Map

1938, as shown by the 1939 Official Map, saw the completion of SR 101 through the county.

1941 Indiana Official State Highway Map

Changes made in the 1939-1940 time frame included the extension of SR 37 to Fort Wayne and beyond. SR 37 had ended at Indianapolis to this point, coming up from southern Indiana. It replaced, in Marion and Hamilton Counties, the original Indianapolis-Fort Wayne State Road, known as Allisonville Road in that area. It entered Allen County multiplexed with US 24. The designation SR 37 then replaced the SR 14 designation northeast of Fort Wayne. At the Ohio state line, it connected to only Ohio SR 2, as Ohio SR 18 was removed from that section of road in that state. But that wasn’t the end of SR 14 east of Fort Wayne. What was formerly SR 230 became the new SR 14.

1942 Indiana Official State Highway Map

1941 added another state road to Allen County. In the extreme northwest corner of the county, SR 205, which had ended at the county line, was extended as far as the Allen-Noble county line at Ari. SR 205 would eventually be extended into Dekalb County to end at what is now SR 327, but was, at the time, US 27.

1949 Indiana Official State Highway Map

Another state road was added in 1948, and showed up on maps in 1949. Connecting US 30/US 33 northwest of Fort Wayne to SR 3, US 27, SR 1 and SR 427 to end at SR 37 northeast of Fort Wayne was State Road 324. It would appear that the route of SR 324 is what is now Coliseum Boulevard.

1956 Indiana Official State Highway Map

The next change is shown on the first available map that has it. It seems that Indiana did not issue, that I can find, Official Highway maps for the years 1954 or 1955. I can not find them if they exist. I do not have any in my personal collection, nor does the state library have them in their digital collection.

There were two changes between 1953 and 1955. One was the continuation of SR 324 as a bypass to the east of Fort Wayne. That state road ended at New Haven Avenue, which was given the designation State Road 230 from SR 324 to the junction of US 30/US 24/SR 14 less than a mile east of the junction with SR 324.

1957 Indiana Official State Highway Map

The following year, 1956, saw the end of both State Road 230 and State Road 324. SR 324 was replaced with the US 30 designation. SR 230 was completely removed from Allen County.

The 1960 map, which I can not share here, shows the beginnings of Interstate 69 under construction from SR 3 in the north to US 24 in the south. (I can not share this map, as the one on the state library site has a big section missing through Steuben, Dekalb and Allen Counties. And I can not scan my personal copy since my scanner is not working properly at this time.)

1961 Indiana Official State Highway Map

I do want to share one last map, showing the state highway situation in Allen County according to the 1961 official map (meaning 1960 changes).

Interstate 69 is officially under construction at that time from US 24 in the south to the Allen-Dekalb County line. Also, a replacement for US 30 west of Fort Wayne is under construction.

Thus are the state highway changes in Allen County from 1920 (or, actually, 1917) to 1960.

End of Year 1940: ISHC Projects and Contract Bidding

On 13 December 1940, it was announced that the Indiana State Highway Commission was about to open some bidding on projects, and that the bidding would be received by 31 December. These projects included four grade separations, eight bridges and thirty miles of paving and resurfacing.

Sherman Drive and Big Four, 1937
Sherman Drive and Big Four, 1962

One of the biggest projects on the bidding list involved a city street in Indianapolis. Sherman Drive, a major thoroughfare three miles east of the center of Indianapolis, crossed the Big Four Railroad northeast of the railroad’s major yards at Beech Grove. That yard is just over one mile southeast of the Sherman Drive. According to the press release from the ISHC, “among the grade separations to be built are a 13-span structure on Sherman Drive southeast of Indianapolis, to carry traffic over the CCC & St. Louis Railroad yard.” As shown in the picture to the left, this was an at grade crossing of multiple tracks. The picture at the right shows the same area of Sherman Drive in 1962.

Another bridge project opened for bidding at this time was grade separation on the Marion State Road 9 Bypass, crossing over the Chesapeake & Ohio and the Pennsylvania Railroads. That bridge was planned to be a seven span structure. Another bridge to be built in the Marion area was a 392-foot structure over the Mississinewa River on the same SR 9 bypass. The bridge was to have a 28 foot roadway and sidewalks.

Paving projects included in this round of bidding were: 1.291 miles of US 50 realignment in Washington, Daviess County; 4.938 of SR 1 paving from Leo north to Allen-Dekalb County Line in Allen County; and paving 2.391 miles of SR 9 bypass (Baldwin Avenue) from Second Street in Marion, Grant County.

Another SR 9 project in Grant (and Huntington) County included widening and resurfacing 21.30 miles of SR 9 from 1/2 mile north of Marion to Huntington. The road was to be widened to 22-foot wide. Also in Madison County would be the widening of three miles SR 9 from SR 67 north to the Anderson city limits.

The last road project would be the widening and resurfacing of US 31 from the north edge of Franklin to the south edge of Greenwood, through Whiteland and New Whiteland. This contract would include 9.1 miles of highway.

Guard rail projects were also part of the bidding. Those installations would be in Adams, Allen, Dekalb, Elkhart, Floyd, Franklin, Grant, Hamilton, Hancock, Henry, Huntington, Jackson, Jennings, Johnson, LaGrange, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Miami, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, Randolph, Steuben, Union, Wabash and Whitley Counties. These were on roads 3, 6, 9, 13, 15, 18, 20, 22, 24, 27, 29, 31, 37, 44, 50, 52, 67, 109, 128, 150, 209, 327, 427 and 434.

Getting to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (1940 and before)

Today’s entry will be graphics heavy. This is going to be a very strange Memorial Day weekend in the Hoosier Capital. The “Greatest Spectacle In Racing” has been postponed. But I wanted to look back at how newspapers covered getting to the track…especially before 1940.

Indianapolis Star, 30 May 1919

A look at the Indianapolis Star of 30 May 1919 shows some of the old road names that existed at the time on the west side of Indianapolis. Waterway Boulevard was still Crawfordsville Road in 1919. And that Crawfordsville Road crossed White River on the old Emrichsville Bridge. The Big Eagle Creek Gravel Road is now Cossell Road and Winton Avenue.

Indianapolis News, 29 May 1923
Indianapolis News,
29 May 1923
Indianapolis News, 29 May 1928
Indianapolis News, 29 May 1928
Indianapolis Star, 29 May 1940

Farmers Ferry

Greene County, 1989. A ferry across the White River, owned by Greene County, is sold to private interests. The ferry had been in roughly the same location for over 120 years. The Greene County Commissioners decided that the cost of maintenance and insurance was getting too much to keep giving the free service to the public. Slowing use didn’t help much. With no income, and an outlay of between $10,000 and $15,000 annually, the county sold the ferry, ending a service that had seen its fair share of tourists and mishaps over its history.

1950 USGS Topographical Map of Farmers and Farmers Ferry.

Farmers Ferry began life crossing the White River at the unincorporated town of Farmers, an Owen County community 12 miles south of Spencer on both the Indianapolis & Vincennes Railroad and the Indianapolis-Vincennes state road (which would, eventually, become SR 67). The town was named after a merchant in the area. The railroad, which had commenced construction in 1867, built a station at the town called Farmers Station. A post office there opened in 1869. That post office was changed from Farmers Station to Farmers in 1882, and closed in 1931.

The ferry was used, once the railroad was in operation, to move cattle and hogs across the White River to be loaded onto trains to be sold in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis Stock Yards were located close to the Indianapolis end of the I&V, making this railroad convenient for farmers in the area. The ferry service chugged along its merry way until 1918, when a change of course of the White River caused the service to migrate downstream by about one half mile into Greene County. The wooden ferry boat was replaced with a steel one in 1930. The moving of the river caused the town of Farmers, which at the turn of the 20th Century, had “three doctors, two drugstores, three groceries, and ice plant and a feed mill,” (Source: Indianapolis News, 3 August 1977) to become, by 1977, a place described as “although you can find Farmers on the official Indiana highway map, there is nothing here but a pump with no handle.”

Local residents were working on replacing the ferry as early as 1940. According to the Linton Daily Citizen of 28 February 1940, petitions had been filed with the Greene County Board of Commissioners asking for the old SR 54 bridge across the White River at Elliston be moved to replace the ferry near Farmers. Dirt approaches had been built, but the cost of moving and maintaining the bridge were too much for the county to bear. At the time, the ferry cost around $6,000 yearly.

One of the best descriptions of the Farmers Ferry was published in the Indianapolis Star of 1 February 1948. “Just south of the Owen-Greene County line a winding country road branched off Indiana Highway 67, meanders through cornfields and woodland and after a mile or so comes to an abrupt end in front of a cottage-like dwelling on the west bank of White River. Tied up at a rude landing below the little house is the Green (sic) County Navy – an unimpressive two-craft fleet but, nonetheless, the only county-owned navy in all Indiana.” The ferry operator at the time was George Baker, referred to, jokingly, as “Admiral Baker.” At the time of this article, “the officials of Greene County presently are engaged in modernizing their fleet. They have on order, with delivery promised soon, a new flagship – an all-metal 10 feet longer than the present ferry.” “I ought to get a new uniform to go with the new boat,” Baker says.

Over its history, the ferry had seen its share of mishaps. In 1957 or 1958, due to poor loading of the ferry, two loads of cattle were dumped into the river. Clyde W. Thompson, local resident, stated recalled the story that happened to his father. The cattle swam back to the bank and climbed out of the river “after their dip.” (Source: Indianapolis Star, 2 July 1989). “One ferryman had the distinction of sinking the same truck – his own – twice: once when it slipped off the ferry, and again when it rolled into the water from the bank.” A truckload of lime slipped from the ferry on 17 April 1956. (Source: Linton Daily Citizen, 18 April 1956) The truck was declared a total loss, and the load of lime was swept away by the swift currents of the White River.

The South Bend Tribune of 1 November 1981 interviewed the ferry operator at the time, Bernard Calvert. With the $700 a month he was paid to run the ferry, he was helping support poor families in Malaysia and the Philippines. His personal history was covered in that story. I don’t plan on going into it here. Suffice it to say after losing almost everything, he decided that it wasn’t going to happen again.

By the time an article was published in the Princeton Daily Clarion on 14 May 1965, there were only two intrastate ferries left in Indiana. One was Farmers. The other was southwest of Bloomfield, which had began operation in 1957 to replace a 400-foot long covered bridge built in 1889. The bridge approaches were undermined by the 1957 spring floods, forcing the county to decide a ferry was cheaper than building a new bridge. This made Greene County unique in that it operated two toll-free ferries, as the Linton Daily Citizen of 20 June 1960 pointed out, “across a stream that’s considered ‘not navigable,’ White River.” The two ferry boats were referred to as the “Greene County Navy.”

Martinsville Reporter-Times, 27 June 2004, picture showing the Farmers Ferry in 1987, two years before it was closed. The article attached to this photo is a “this week in history.”

The Farmers Ferry, by 1987, had dropped to an average usage of six people a day. The ferryman at that time, Jesse Burton, made roughly $7,000 a year to run the facility. Those people worked the fields in the area. They used the ferry to avoid the 26 mile journey to cross the river otherwise.

The Greene County Commissioners sold the ferry to Carter M. Fortune, who had just purchased a ranch along the river. The ranch, known by locals as the “Flying-T,” who sold to Fortune by the family of Clyde W. Thompson, mentioned above. Fortune’s goal was to keep the ferry active, but due to insurance concerns, only for private use. At that point, the Farmers Ferry had been listed in tourist brochures as the “last passenger ferry in Indiana.” With the closing of the Farmers Ferry, crossing the White River required travelers to either go south to Worthington, where SR 157 crosses the river, or to Freedom where the CR 590 bridge allows passage. These crossings are ten miles apart.

Aviation Around South Bend/Mishawaka

A journey on the Lincolnway West out of downtown South Bend brings one to the South Bend International Airport. The airport has become so important to the area that it required the movement of that very same road…one that had been in place since the 1830’s as the Michigan Road.

But what is currently called South Bend International Airport didn’t actually start life as South Bend Airport. The current airport was originally Bendix Field, also called the St. Joseph County Airport. The original South Bend Airport was actually northeast of the city, north of SR 23 and west of Fir Road. In the late 1920’s, the difference between the two were massive. According to the South Bend Tribune of 01 April 1973, South Bend Airport consisted of “four hangars, fairly good runways for that era, and was the principal air terminal for South Bend.” Bendix Field, in contrast, was just being built, and hence only consisted of a horseshoe shaped driveway to a grass runway “and little else.”

St. Joseph County bought the airport from Bendix in 1937, while the name was retained for some time afterwards. This made Bendix Field the first publicly owned airport in the area. But getting to that point was a struggle. There were reports of fraud and political gamemanship in trying to get the purchase not to happen. Bendix Corporation actually owned the field. Part of the reason for starting the airfield was that Bendix manufactured systems for both automobiles and airplanes. The company had been started in 1924 in South Bend, and became a very important local business. The Vice President of the company mentioned the offer from the county for the airport, also making mention of how South Bend was important to the company. The county voted for the purchase of Bendix Field in July 1936, making a bond issue of $210,000.

The South Bend Tribune of 27 October 1940 published an aviation related article, under the title “Airfax,” about what South Bend, a few weeks earlier, felt was a slight to the city. Both South Bend and Fort Wayne had been lobbying for an Army Air Corps base at their municipal airports. South Bend lost. People for aviation in the city were “feeling sorry for ourselves” because the Army passed up South Bend. But those in South Bend felt better when they found out that when the Army took over, “private operators have been ordered to cease their activities there.” Using the hangars was fine, “but must conduct student instruction and other activities at least six miles from the army air base.”

The writer, John H. Magill, makes the point that without the private pilot, the very thing that keeps South Bend’s airport the busiest airport in the region. “Its private operators are still making fliers. The federal government, through the civil aeronautics administration, relies on our private operators to carry out the private pilot training program which is destined to play a large part in the national defense scheme.”

The original South Bend Airport would change its name to Cadet Field. This is where research gets a little interesting. According to the South Bend Tribune of 09 August 1942, “Today will mark the official opening of Cadet field, formerly known as the old St. Joseph county airport, located six miles northeast of the city near the Edwardsburg road.” This is in direct contrast to the mention of the South Bend Municipal Airport quoted two paragraphs before. The new purpose of the airfield was to train pilots. It had been used for that purpose before, and was outfitted for such. Now, with the change of the name, and management, it would be more so.

The name Cadet Field becomes somewhat telling with the reports in the South Bend Tribune of 23 March 1942. “The possible location here of a huge naval air training base in the near future was revealed today after a conference involving Mayor Jesse I. Pavey and members of the county board of commissioners.” The plan was to temporarily use South Bend Airport pending the construction of a naval flying field near South Bend. The plan was to create 30 such bases. One had already been awarded to Peru, Indiana.

The problem is that the South Bend Tribune seems to get a bit confused about which airport is which. The St. Joseph County Airport, aka Bendix Field, after the name change at Cadet Field, seems to be called South Bend Airport interchangeably with the other two, official, names in that newspaper.

Labor Day 1934 marked the beginning of another airport in St. Joseph County. At Dragoon Trail and Elm Road, the opening ceremonies of Mishawaka Airport included an air parade and parachute jumps. In January 1935, the airport was listed in he federal bulletin, and described as follows: “Mishawaka – Mishawaka airport, commercial rating. Three and seven-tenths miles southeast of town on Elm road. Altitude, 700 feet. Rectangular, 3,960 by 1,320 feet, sod, level, natural drainage, entire field available. Houses and trees to southwest; wood to north; hangar in southeast courner. Facilities for servicing aircraft, day only.” (Source: South Bend Tribune, 29 January 1935) The last references I have seen to this Mishawaka Airport is in May 1948, when part of the hangar was destroyed in a storm.

The next reference to a Mishawaka Airport is in September 1949, when Sportsmen’s Park, an air facility on Day Road, was dedicated as the “new Mishawaka airport.” (Source: South Bend Tribune, 25 September 1949) It is safe to assume that the old facility that served that purpose, and was named accordingly, didn’t last long after the personal problems of one of the owners of the airport. That person was part owner of a flying service based at Cadet Field and part owner of the Mishawaka Airport. The company’s assets were listed in the South Bend Tribune classifieds as a “business opportunity” shortly after the personal problem was resolved.

Sportsman’s Airport, one of several referenced names for the field, is listed in the South Bend Tribune until at least 01 October 1968, when it is listed a business property for sale. “50 acres, with 2-2,000 ft. runways. 2 large hangars, plus large brick office building and 3 bedroom home. Aircraft dealership could be available with purchase.” In 1974, St. Joseph County Commissioners voted to rezone a tract of land from residential to manufacturing. That tract of land, at 12801 Day Road, had been part of the old Sportsman’s Airport. Plans included using some of the old airport buildings for spaces to manufacture pickup truck enclosures and boat trailers.

Another airport in the area between Crumstown Highway and Grant Road on Pine Road is the Chain O Lakes. The earliest reference I have found to this airport is in 1946, although officially it was activated in November 1945. Today, it is a private airport with grass runways. It is officially listed as a private use airport, requiring landing permission to use. It is listed as only having attendants on site between March and November, and even then only from dawn to dusk. It is still shown on Google Maps as an airport.

According to the South Bend Tribune of 20 Jun 1947, requests were made to bring a sixth airport to St. Joseph County. This one was to be located .25 south of Edison Road on the west side of Snowberry Road. This location was already listed in a Civil Aeronautics Authority airport list “with a ‘civil commerce airfield.’ which identifies it as an emergency landing field.” This was called Gordon Airport, after the owners of the land.

The major airport in the area went from being Bendix Field to St. Joseph County Airport, then it became Michiana Regional Airport. Now, it is South Bend International, with the runways on Bendix Field. A recent expansion caused the historic Michigan Road/Lincoln Highway to be removed. That road is now rerouted around the expansion.

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 Indiana Toll Road(s)

Indiana, due to its location, has always been a vital cog in the transportation facilities of the United States. This is obvious when it comes to the Auto Trails age and the highways age. Indiana has been connected to the east coast, Florida, the Mississippi Delta, the Great Plains, and beyond, due to its location on the Auto Trail/US Highway system. But one road in the state shows a connection dependence like no other in Indiana: The Indiana Toll Road.

Any discussion of the “Indiana East-West Toll Road,” its official title, must start with a highway hundreds of miles to the east that opened on 01 October 1940: The Pennsylvania Turnpike. If there ever was a more telling transportation facility of the triumph of cars and trucks over railroads, the “Pike” (what locals call the Pennsylvania Turnpike) is it. Heck, the original section was built on an old railroad right-of-way! The Pennsylvania Turnpike would connect to the Ohio Turnpike in December 1954. The following October, the Ohio Turnpike was completed from the Indiana state line to the Pennsylvania state line. Next came Indiana.

The law creating the Toll Road Commission was passed in 1951, as “Chapter 281, Acts of 1951, page 848.” There was some question about the constitutionality of the law creating the commission. The Indiana Supreme Court settled the question with an unanimous decision handed down on 17 November 1952. The stated reason for the act was to allow Indiana to create a new type of high speed, safer highway: “emboying safety devices, including center division, ample shoulder widths, long-sight distances, multiple lanes in each direction, and grade separations at intersections with other highways and railroads.” (Source: Angola Herald [Angola, Indiana], 03 December 1952, pp 15) Also included in the law was the fact that the Governor must approve the location, with the Indiana State Highway Commission approving alignment and design. The act specifically stated that the Toll Road Commission (ITRC) was “authorized and empowered to construct, maintain, repair and operate toll road projects at such locations as shall be approved by the Governor.” This sounds like the ITRC was allowed to build more than one such road. Since this would happen before the creation of the interstate system in 1956, with basically the same design standards, this makes sense.

It was reported in the Munster, Indiana, Times of 23 October 1953 that the route for the toll road had been set, encompassing 156 miles across northern Indiana. The total cost of the project was expected to be $218 million. The details of the road were reported as “it will be dual lane, separated by grass strips, 156.06 miles long connecting the state lines (Ohio and Illinois) north of Angola and in northwest Hammond. It will be between the Michigan border and U.S. 20.” This route was not without controversies. Some of these included the closing of county roads along the route.

Groundbreaking at South Bend was celebrated 21 September 1954. The Ohio Turnpike had already turned into a successful venture. With the completion of the road, at least to South Bend, it was hoped it would be more so. And, yes. Yes it was. When the Indiana Toll Road opened in 1956, traffic in Ohio skyrocketed.

As mentioned above, the law creating the ITRC allowed for more than just the northern Indiana extension to the Ohio & Pennsylvania Turnpikes. The first such project was a “north-south toll road proposed to begin in the Calumet and end within five miles of Lizton in Hendricks County.” This project was, ultimately, surveyed by the ITRC. But the law creating this project had even more constitutional battles. Mainly, the requirement that the ITRC also improver both SR 100 and US 136 as freeway feeders to the new route. It was that specific requirement with which some legislators had problems. Before the 1851 Constitution, the General Assembly passed hundreds of these “special acts.” Those led to the constitutional rewrite.

The second proposed toll road would have connected Vincennes to Lawrenceburg across southern Indiana. Basically, a limited access replacement for US 50. There was a third proposal for a toll road, connecting Fort Wayne to the East-Wet Toll Road with a 45 mile highway. In the end, these roads were eliminated by the pending interstate system. The US 50 route would never be built as it was not considered for part of the interstates. The closest that came to being is I-64, but that actually was more an upgrade for US 60 for most of the route.

The Terre Haute Star of 28 October 1960 reports that, at the time, there were 85.8 miles of interstate highways in Indiana, with the 157 mile East-West Toll Road to “become a part of the interstate system, but it was built with bonds before the federal interstate program was started.” It should be noted that the toll road from Chicago to Philadelphia was originally designated some form of I-80. In Indiana, and most of Ohio, it was I-80. West of Youngstown, Ohio, it became I-80S. That designation would be replaced with the number I-76.

I have decided to end the discussion of the Toll Road with the building of the facility. Many changes have happened over the 60+ years since it was opened. It still seems fairly busy, at least that what it looks like when I visit South Bend. South Bend also has one of the longest interchange ramps I have ever seen on a limited access highway. The connector from the toll road to (now old) US 31 comes in at about one mile. I have no idea why…one would assume it has to do with the University of Notre Dame, which is right across SR 933 (Business 31) from the end of the ramp. I don’t know. If any of you are privy to such information, I would LOVE to know. You know…that whole curiosity thing.

As an aside, I find it ironic that the Indiana East-West Toll Road, with its counterparts in Ohio and Pennsylvania, would almost directly rival, and help end, the state named railroad based in Philadelphia. With the three state toll road, it was possible to compete directly with the Pennsylvania Railroad “Broadway Limited” that ran from Philadelphia (actually, New York City…but that’s not on the turnpikes) to Chicago. And I would bet do it both faster and cheaper. Just another nail in the coffin of the railroads in the United States, or at least the passenger railroads.

US 31 at Columbus

I can’t think of any highway in Indiana that has been bypassed and/or moved more that US 31. Part of this, honestly, was because the original route left something to be desired when it came to turns, curves and other hazards. Keeping in mind that US 31 came into being on 1 October 1926, there were a lot of changes before the coming of 1946, its twentieth anniversary.

At Columbus, it changed quite a bit over the years. At one point, there was a US 31 and a US 31A, an extended following of the old Madison State Road, a take over of both SR 9 and SR 9W, and a removal and replacement of a section of SR 7 (which would later become part of SR 46!).

1939 Indiana Official Highway Map of Bartholomew County

Let’s start with the original US 31, as marked on 1 October 1926. Coming from the north, US 31 followed the old Madison State Road, and the Jackson Highway Auto Trail, into Columbus along what is now Indianapolis Road to its junction at 8th Street (yes, I know, that intersection is gone). The road then turned south on Brown Street to Second Street, where the bridge crossed the Flatrock River. US 31 then exited Columbus on what is now SR 11.

1941 Indiana Official Highway Map of Bartholomew County

The first change in the routing of US 31 happened in the time frame of 1940-1941 (as shown in the 1941 Indiana Official Map), when the road was routed, from Second and Brown Streets, along SR 7 to the junction that, in 1939, was listed as SR 9W. That routing is the current path from what is now SR 46 south to Seymour. (SR 46 was rerouted over a decade ago to take over what was SR 9.) In 1939, there was SR 9W, which ran south from SR 7 to Bartholomew County Road 475S. At that time, CR 475S was SR 9, which then turned south on what is now US 31 (National Road). National Road would be the same as CR 400E. Old US 31 became US 31A with the moving of the official US 31 route. The 1941 map also shows that the current bypass from north of Columbus to SR 7 was under construction.

1942 Indiana Official Highway Map of Bartholomew County

As a side note, I mentioned that the original US 31 entered Columbus from the north on the original Indianapolis-Madison State Road. That old road left Columbus along what is shown on these maps as SR 7. Now, it would be SR 46 before it becomes SR 7.

The 1942 official map shows that the US 31 bypass of Columbus was complete. With this completion, not only was SR 9 removed south of Columbus (replaced by US 31), it was rerouted to the road that is now SR 46. At Newbern, SR 46 and SR 9 met for 70 years. INDOT would move SR 46 to the route of SR 9 south of that point, ending SR 9 at the same place.

1979 Indiana Official Highway Map of Bartholomew County

The 1979 official map shows something that I don’t remember ever seeing before: SR 31A. What was US 31A is marked on the 1979 as SR 31A. This makes sense, given the way Indiana does state road numbers. There have been very few “A” routes in Indiana history. Usually, if a bypass is built, Indiana gives the old route a “daughter” number. It was unusual that this route was given an “A” number, even more so that it remained officially a US route for 36 years. In 1983, the road would again be labelled, on maps anyway, as US 31A.

1985 Indiana Official Highway Map of Bartholomew County

The last official change made to US 31 in the Columbus area was in 1985, when the old US 31A was recommissioned as SR 11. This made the old road a continuation of SR 11 which connected at the end of US 31A at Seymour.

1999 would be the last year that the old US 31 leaving Columbus to the north would be part of the state highway system. In 2000, not only was that section of SR 11 removed, but SR 46 was rerouted along what was SR 9, and SR 7 ended at US 31. That would end 82 years of Indianapolis Road in Columbus being a state road. It all started by being part of State Market Highway 1 in 1917. Then original SR 1 in 1919.