Marion County: Wall Street Pike

Today, I want to look at a road that most people wouldn’t know by the name. I will not share the name it has today until the end, so that I can keep my readers guessing throughout the article. But, suffice it to say, it is an important road on the westside of Marion County. It was also a toll road that led from the Crawfordsville Pike westward to the Hendricks County line. It would also keep the “Wall Street Pike” name until it was officially changed in 1968.

But I want to share a couple of stories about the road today.

Indianapolis Star, 7 July 1927. Wall Street Pike covered bridge over Eagle Creek burned to the ground.

In July 1927, a fire destroyed the Wall Street Pike covered bridge over Eagle Creek. The bridge according to the Indianapolis Star of 7 July 1927 was described thus: “After stubbornly fighting the onrush of civilization and modernity for more than sixty years, the covered bridge over Eagle Creek on the Wall street pike, about four and a half miles northwest of Indianapolis, was destroyed by fire yesterday afternoon.”

The Wall Street Pike Bridge was one of only four covered bridges left in Marion County at the time of the fire. The article goes on to locate the three remaining ones: White River near Southport, Indian Creek a short distance east of Fort Benjamin Harrison, and Williams Creek at 75th Street.

Arrival of the fire department, from Engine House #9 at 537 Belleview Place, was too late to save the structure. Before the first spray of water hit the bridge, it was was wavering on its foundation. It then fell into the creek. Hundreds of people watched as the bridge timbers sank into Eagle Creek. “The timbers seemed to recall the countless number of buggies, carriages, old farm wagons, oxen teams, pioneers on horseback, and others, that had passed over it since the day it was dedicated with speeches and music by the Indianapolis ‘town band.'”

The cost of the bridge, when it was built, was estimated at $15,000. It was estimated that it would cost three times that much to replace it in 1927 with the same materials. The structure had been built using black walnut and ash trees, often hewn by local farmers. Maintenance of the bridge, which mainly consisted of reflooring, had been done over time. The last time was about three weeks before the fire.

Wall Street Pike was closed for several weeks while a new $20,000 concrete bridge was built in the place of the old covered bridge. County commissioners would be asked to fund the new bridge…and the appropriation would be brought up at the next meeting.

“Until erection of the concrete bridge the open space between the banks of the stream where the old bridge once stood will reflect its memory and if creeks could talk, the waters would mourn the loss of a good, true and lasting friend.” (Source: Indianapolis Star, 7 July 1927)

The other story I wanted to share is that of the Pugh homestead. Jacob Pugh came to Marion County from Randolph County, North Carolina, in 1821, shortly after the creation of the county itself. He purchased hundreds of acres on the north side of the survey line that would become Wall Street Pike. A son-in-law purchased even more land to the northwest of Jacob Pugh. That land would later become Camp Dellwood.

Indianapolis Star, 20 December 1931.

The pictured house above was built by one of Jacob’s sons, Jesse, in 1846. It had been built from tulip wood. In the 1920’s, the house was sold to the Ashby family.

To tie this back to Indiana Transportation history, the beginning of the article in the Indianapolis Star. “Wall Street pike branches west from Crawfordsville road at the old toll gate which is still standing about six miles from the center of town. West from Eagle creek on this pike, which was one of the first gravel roads in this vicinity, stretches a double row of maple trees, forming a green avenue for about half a mile.”

Now comes the time I bring the Wall Street Pike into the present. From the public announcements in the Indianapolis Star of 9 March 1968 comes the following snippets:

“Pursuant to Section 20 of Chapter 283 of the Acts of the Indiana General Assembly for 1955, as amended by Chapter 380 of the Acts of the Indiana General Assembly for 1959, the Metropolitan Plan Commission of Marion County, Indiana, proposes the following Resolutions Establishing, Reestablishing or Changing The Names of Certain Streets in Marion County, Indiana:”

“68-ST-R-2 – That the name of the street presently known as WALL STREET PIKE from Cunningham Road continuing west to W. County Line Road, is hereby changed to, established as and will hereafter be designated as W. 21ST STREET.”

The Building of I-465

The building of the Indianapolis bypass, Interstate 465, involved a lot of pieces to fall together. Property acquisition was a big part of that. Then came the money involved in building the interstate in the first place.

The Indianapolis News, on 14 December 1959, published the above photograph showing the first section of Interstate 465 to be built. It was already under construction when the article was published. Two contracts, on for the 46th Street overpass ($149,968.03) and the 56th Street overpass ($168,178.51) had already been signed. It is mentioned in the caption that “design work hasn’t been completed on the Interstate 64-465 cloverleaf interchange, although a $582,836.95 bid has been received for part of the work.” One wonders where that cloverleaf might have been.

Even before that, it was announced in the Indianapolis News of 30 April 1959 that the contract had been let for the grade separation (bridge) for 34th Street over the new interstate. What is of particular note is the line “over west leg of new Ind. 100, to be renumbered Interstate 465.”

Late 1962 would be the planned bidding date for a contract to build a new interchange in the already completed northwest leg of I-465. At the time, 38th Street was being extended and improved across northwestern Marion County. It was decided by the Highway Commission to create a diamond interchange where 38th Street crossed over I-465. At the time, there were no interchanges on the northwest side between I-74/US 136 and I-65.

Indianapolis News, 08 August 1962, showing progress on I-465 construction through Beech Grove.

The end of November, 1962, saw the announcement of a $3,197,216.11 contract to build the interstate from Meridian Street to Carson Avenue on the south side of Marion County. This contract was let on the same day they were opened. This was to allow for quicker construction of the bypass. Also, this was to give the contractor as much time as possible to complete construction before the deadline on December 1963. The 2.3 miles of new road and five bridges involved in this section of interstate would bring the highway to almost the pending interchange at I-65.

Another contract had to be let in this section when it was realized that the banks of Lick Creek, with the interstate built on both sides near Carson Avenue, had to be reinforced. To the tune of $298,014.40. The creek, as of 21 April 1964, had eroded its bank the previous winter requiring the building of additional slope walls and revetments to keep the creek where it belonged between the two directions of I-465.

In 1963, a contract bid to build the large interchange on the south side of Marion County between I-65 and I-465 was one of the bigger contracts. The project involved eight bridges and two miles of pavement to connect two of the sections that were already under construction or completed. The low bid on that particular contract was $3,507,672.18 by McMahan Construction Company of Rochester and R. L. Schutt Construction Company of Indianapolis. This bid was announced publicly on 20 April 1963.

Indianapolis News, 24 July 1967, showing the construction progress of the 56th Street bridge over (future) I-465.

The first contract to be opened up after the Fall 1964 completion of I-465 between I-74 and SR 100 (Shadeland Avenue) was the bidding, starting 25 May 1965, of a single bridge over US 52 (Brookville Road) and the Baltimore & Ohio railroad tracks on the southeast side of the county. This contract, and the rest of them connecting I-74 to US 40 on the east side had been on hold due to right-of-way difficulties. Norman F. Schafer, executive director of the State Highway Commission, commented that the summer of 1965 would be the first time in more than four years that no major construction was underway on the beltway.

Indianapolis News, 24 August 1967. Construction underway on the north leg…and a proposed SR 100 connecting the west leg at I-65 to the north leg west of Zionsville Road. This section would be built as SR 100, but like the rest of the route, would become part of I-465, causing confusion for over two decades with the “dog leg.”

The north and northeast legs of I-465 would be the hardest to complete. So much so that in July 1968, the Noblesville Ledger ran photos of the construction of the interstate through the small section of Hamilton County through which it passes. It is mentioned that the “State Highway Department schedules call for ‘phasing out’ I-465 construction from it western link with I-65 east to White River by the first winter freeze. However, I-164 from just north of Fall Creek northwest to White River will not start this year.” I would share the photos from that newspaper, but they are very dark and hard to see.

Indianapolis News, 17 March 1960. Proposed new route for the north leg of I-465 through Boone and Hamilton Counties.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one “might have been” on this entry. I found this map of another proposal for the north leg of the bypass. On 30 Janaury 2020, I wrote “Alternate Routes for I-465 on North Side of Indianapolis,” but didn’t find this map. I thought it appropriate to share it here.

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 Road North

When the original State Highway law passed in 1917, the search was on for the first five Main Market Highways. Some of the highways chosen were not controversial at all. SR 2 was the original Lincoln Highway route across northern Indiana. SR 3 was the National Road, or at least most of the 1830s route was included. SR 4 and SR 5 would connect across southern Indiana. However, the one that raised questions was SR 1.

The idea was that SR 1 was to connect Louisville to South Bend through Indianapolis. South of Indianapolis, this was pretty straight forward. The route was mostly in place as the Madison State Road and the Jeffersonville State Road. Just like the railroads that went between these cities, they shared the same right-of-way (in this case road or trail) to Columbus, splitting there to go to the respective destinations.

But north was a different story.

Survey map of Marshall County, south of Plymouth. The circled survey section numbers are those that were part of the original Michigan Road survey, prior to the area being surveyed to match the system in the rest of the state.

This is where a little bit of Indiana history comes into play. When the state was young, there were state roads created to connect towns across Indiana. One of the first was the Michigan Road. This road would connect Madison (on the Ohio River) to Lake Michigan at a new town to be called Michigan City. The route north of Indianapolis would not be directly north because a large section of the land due north of Indianapolis was still part of the “Great Miami Reserve,” a large area that had belonged to Native Americans. So the original Michigan Road would leave Indianapolis to the northwest, skirting the Great Miami Reserve to the west to Logansport. At Logansport, the state would buy land from Native American tribes in one mile sections to build the road through what would become Rochester, Plymouth and South Bend. If you look at any map of the area which includes survey lines, it becomes obvious where the road was placed. The attached map shows the survey sections south of Plymouth in Marshall County.

Map of north central Indiana showing the 760,000 acres of the Great Miami Reserve (dotted line) set up in 1818. Thin black lines show the current Indiana county lines.

The other road north was the Range Line Road. This road started at what is now Broad Ripple as the Westfield State Road. Just south of the Hamilton-Marion County line, it would follow the dividing line between to survey townships, otherwise known as a range line. At the time of the creation of both the Michigan Road and the Westfield Road, the Great Miami Reserve, set aside in 1818, contained lands that were north of a line that was from a point 34.54 miles due south of Logansport east northeast to a point 34.54 miles due south of Lagro.

It would not be until 1838 when the land of the Great Miami Reserve would become government land, pending the end of all Native American titles to said land. In 1844, two of the last three counties in Indiana were created from the Miami Reserve: Richardville and Tipton. (The third of those counties was Ohio.) It turned out that a trading post on the Wildcat Creek in Richardville County would be on the range line as it was extended and surveyed north through the new lands. That trading post would be setup as the town of Kokomo.

The Range Line Road would be extended to the new town, which would become the county seat of Richardville County. In 1846, the name of the county would be changed to Howard. The road would then travel due north from Kokomo to just south of the Wabash River, where it would turn to go into the town of Peru. From there, it would connect to the Michigan Road at Rochester via Mexico. Most of this route is marked today as Old US 31.

Indianapolis News, 23 August 1917

Now that the general history is done, let’s get back to the 1917 decision of the route north of Indianapolis. I can’t say for sure why the decision was made, but the Indiana State Highway Commission decided that the Range Line would be used instead of the Michigan. Before the decision was officially made, there were many people on both sides of the argument. One of the people on the Michigan Road side of the article was none other than Carl G. Fisher, creator of the Lincoln and Dixie Highways. His arguments are shown in the attached article from the Indianapolis News of 23 August 1917.

As pointed out in the article, the number of towns, especially county seats, along the Range Line is higher than those on the Michigan before they join at Rochester. The travel distance between Indianapolis and South Bend doesn’t vary much between the two routes. Granted, in the time of horses, a two mile difference in distance was almost monumental. But in the time of the automobile, not so much.

I guess it should be mentioned that, at the time, the only direct railroad route between Indianapolis and South Bend would be the Indianapolis & Frankfort and the Vandalia South Bend line (both Pennsylvania Railroad properties). This would take train travelers through Lebanon, Frankfort and Logansport before heading north to Plymouth and South Bend.

As it turned out, the ISHC would decide the Range Line Road would be the official winner of the SR 1 sweepstakes. This would lead to what ended up being bypass after bypass being built to fix little problems that had plagued the Range Line Road. One that comes screaming to mind, and was corrected about a decade after the decision, was the area at Broad Ripple. Narrow and winding, that section of OSR 1 would be a thorn in the side of the ISHC until it was removed from the state system around 1968 (removed from US 31 in 1930, it would become SR 431 until the completion of Keystone Avenue to the new I-465).

This is far from the last controversial road decision made by the state of Indiana. But it was one of the first. After, of course, the constitutionality of even having to make the decision in the first place. In the end, the historic Michigan Road, one of the first state roads in Indiana, would be one of the last added to the inventory of state maintained highways.