SR 49 Bypass at Valparaiso

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indiana – Car Maker Capital of … Well, Part 1

1914 Polk Indianapolis City
Directory listing of Automobile
Manufacturers in the city. Not all
were included in this list.

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!

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.

US 52 at Lebanon

If you ask people that know (or even care), the Interstate system came into being in 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the plan to create a system of controlled access highways that would bare his name later in time. But what most people don’t realize is that the first part of what would become part of that system in Indiana predates that law by half a decade. Although not originally built to be a controlled access highway, the US 52 bypass of Lebanon started in 1948 would eventually be added to what is now I-65.

Lebanon would be the next relatively large town on what, in Marion County, was known as the Lafayette Road. The original road’s starting point in Indianapolis has been moved several times. In the Auto Trail era, the section from Lebanon to Indianapolis would be part of the Jackson Highway. It would become, in 1919, the first state road added after the original five 1917 Main Market highways, as OSR 6. The original state road north of Lebanon was not included in the state system until 1924.

With the Great Renumbering, the old Lafayette Road, in its entirety, would become US 52. Between 1934 and 1938, it would also carry the designation US 152. (US 152 didn’t last very long. There is still a small remnant of this highway as SR 152 in Hammond.) As an aside, originally US 52 north of Indianapolis ended at US 41 at Fowler. US 152, in its short lifespan, would be longer (at least north of Indianapolis) than its mother road, as it ended in Hammond.

The route changed very little around the Lebanon area. Entering from the south on Indianapolis Avenue, then following Main Street to then use Lafayette Avenue north out of town. As the (still) most direct route between Indianapolis and Chicago, this route would see way too much traffic for Lebanon to handle. With the State Highway Commission putting a lot of time and money into the expansion of US highways throughout the state (US 40 and US 31 come to mind immediately), the decision was made in 1947 to build a wider US 52 around Lebanon.

Construction would start in 1948. There was an article in the Indianapolis Star of 28 October 1948 concerning the auto accident death of a man that was employed by the construction company that was building the bypass at the time. The accident would involve three tractor-trailers, a dump truck and two passenger cars. The man killed was driving the dump truck.

1950 Indiana Official Highway Map showing the new bypass of Lebanon under construction.

The Indiana Official Highway Map of 1950 shows the Lebanon bypass under construction. The route taken would completely remove US 52 from the Lebanon corporate limits at the time. The bypass would be shown as complete on the 1951 map, although it still shows US 52 as part of the state highway system through Lebanon. It would be shown this way until 1953.

By 1960, this section of highway become I-65 and would join parts of I-74, I-80, I-90 and I-94 as the first officially completed additions to Indiana’s part of the future interstate system. This section of I-65 would be shown from the Hendricks-Marion County line to the end of the old US 52 bypass northwest of Lebanon.

1960 Indiana Official Highway Map showing the US 52 bypass and first sections of I-65 built.

The northern end of the original bypass would have an exit built to US 52 according to the 1961 map. This would be the location where I-65 would aim more north than the old road. I-65 would roughly parallel US 52 to north of Lafayette, listed as under construction starting in 1966.

There were no more real changes to the routing of US 52 around the Lebanon area since. This section of US 52 joins a small section of US 421 in Marion and Shelby Counties as the only US highways in Indiana that were to become directly part of the Interstate Highway system.


US Highways: They are actually State Roads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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