1951: US 421 – A Third “Michigan Road” Route

In 1950, a series of new United States highways were voted upon by the organization that controlled such things at the time, the American Association of State Highway Officials, or AASHO. That organization is not one of the Federal government, but one that is actually the states (and Washington DC and Puerto Rico) getting together to set standards and keep track of interstate and US highway numbers. (There is a lot more to it, but I want to get to the point!)

Whenever a highway is added or removed to the interstate or US highway system, it has to have approval of AASHTO (the successor to AASHO, with the words “and Transportation” added in 1973). When US 33 was removed from Indiana and Michigan, while the two states agreed, it had to be approved by AASHTO. The same for US 460 when it was truncated at Frankfort, Kentucky, leaving the rest of Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri without that highway that was basically replaced by Interstate 64.

So, in 1950, some new US highway was added to the system. These highways were “daughters” to other routes. For instance, US 136 would be the first branch off of US 36, with 136 starting in Indianapolis, and US 36 originally starting there. But today, I want to look at another road that came through Indianapolis for a time…US 421.

When the Indiana State Highway Commission was created (the second time) in 1919, the first state road added to the highway system after the first five Main Market roads was the Michigan Road Auto Trail, slightly different from the Historic Michigan Road, from Madison, through Versailles, Greensburg, and Shelbyville to Indianapolis. The original State Road 6 continued north from Indianapolis via the Lafayette Road, but that is not part of this profile.

On the northern end, original SR 15 connected Michigan City to Logansport via Laporte, Knox and Winamac. In 1923, with the first Renumbering, the Historic Michigan Road from Logansport to Indianapolis was added as an extension of OSR 15. This created a route that connected the same destinations without going the same direction. The Historic Michigan Road connected Logansport to Michigan City via Rochester, Plymouth and South Bend. The new original State Road 15 used a direct course between the two.

Meanwhile, the original State Road 6 from 1920 would come into this story by connecting Frankfort to Monticello through Rossville and Delphi. With the renumbering of 1923, that route would be given the number 44, the original number of what would become the rerouted Lincoln Highway (and US 30).

With the Great Renumbering of 1 October 1926, entire route of the old Michigan Road Auto Trail from Logansport to Madison was given the number 29, as was the original State Road 15 from Logansport to Michigan City. The old state road 6/44 that connected Frankfort and Monticello was given the number 39.

To other roads that would become part of this story were shown as authorized additions to the state highway system. First was the road that connected the Michigan Road near Boylestown to Frankfort was to be added as State Road 28, which at the time connected US 31 west of Tipton to SR 9 north of Alexandria. The other was to be added as SR 43 north from Reynolds along the new US 24 due north to Michigan City.

Meanwhile, the original Michigan Road route from Logansport to Rochester was an authorized addition to the state highway system as SR 25. The rest of the route, from Rochester to Michigan City had been part of the system since 1923, most having been part of the system since 1917. Original State Road 1 (later US 31) from Rochester to South Bend was an original Main Market Road, as was Original State Road 2 from South Bend to Rolling Prairie. The section from Rolling Prairie to Michigan City would be added as OSR 25, and the section from Rolling Prairie to South Bend would be given the number 25 as well, since the number 2 was moved to what would later become US 30.

So now that we have the history of the route nailed down, let’s get to the topic of this post.

On 25 January 1951, it was announced that road markers had arrived from the renumbering of several state highways to a new number: US 421. At the time, US 421, a daughter of US 21 that connected Cleveland, Ohio, to Hunting Island, South Carolina, ended at Bristol, Tennessee. The road itself had been truncated to Bristol, as it had previously connected to the Cumberland Gap in Virginia. And once again, it would cross Virginia, on its way to Lexington and Milton, Kentucky, to cross the Ohio River into Madison, Indiana.

Once in Indiana, it would follow the Michigan Road Auto Trail route (again, not entirely the Historic Michigan Road) to just south of Boylestown. This would take the new US highway through Versailles, Greensburg, Shelbyville and Indianapolis. This was the route of SR 29.

At the point south of Boylestown, US 421 turned west for seven miles to enter Frankfort along SR 28. At Frankfort, the new highway would turn north along SR 39 to US 24. West along US 24 to SR 43, then north along SR 43 to Michigan Road.

On 13 March 1951, the new US 421 was officially marked along the route mentioned above. All official press releases for the marking of the route made sure to point out that the old route numbers would be used along the new route until 1 July 1951 to avoid confusion. Thus from Boylestown to Madison, the road would have two numbers: US 421 and SR 29. At least for a while. It would seem that the only two road numbers that would removed would be SR 29, located as above, and SR 43 from US 24 to Michigan City. SR 28 is still, to this day, labelled as such along the US 421 route. And SR 39 is multiplexed with US 421 from Frankfort to Monticello.

From Indianapolis, this new US highway would create the third route with a Michigan City end. And all three followed the Historic Michigan Road out of the city. At Boylestown, US 421 separated from the historic road to follow the route above. At Logansport, SR 29 left the historic route by travelling northwest across the old swamp land that caused the road to turn toward Rochester in the first place. Meanwhile, the original road continued along its old path, connecting to Rochester as SR 25, then to South Bend as US 31, and on to Michigan City as US 20.

The SR 29 route would be changed, as well, to a US Highway from Logansport to Michigan City…when it would become part of the US 35 route. By 1935, the number US 35 was multiplexed with SR 29 from Burlington (west of Kokomo) to Michigan City. In 1942, the section from Burlington to Logansport would go back to being just SR 29, as US 35 was rerouted along the new SR 17 connecting Kokomo to Logansport directly. The SR 29 designation would be truncated to Logansport, thus removed from the US 35 route, sometime in either late 1957 to 1958. The Indiana Official State Highway Map of 1959 shows no multiplex of US 35 and SR 29.

Over the 170 years of its existence, the Michigan Road has been an important route. The city of Michigan City was created to be a point of destination for the road. As technology improved, this important route would be replaced and shortened. Today, the US Routes of 20, 35 and 421 are the ends of the different routes connecting Indianapolis (more or less) directly to Lake Michigan at Michigan City.

Celebrating The “Greenwood Line” For Johnson County’s 150th

1 January 1900. The first electric traction car runs into Indianapolis. More importantly, however, according to the Daily Journal of 6 March 1973, it ran into Greenwood. “Townsfolk cheered and applauded as the orange-colored passenger car screeched to a halt at the end of the line.” Thus was the beginning of the interurban era in Central Indiana. “At that proud moment, none of the overjoyed citizens had the slightest idea that the flashy monster called interurban would die some 40 years later – only a few miles down the track.”

Daily Journal photo, 6 March 1973

Greenwood, when it was created, found itself astride two important forms of transportation at the time: the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad and the Madison State Road, later the Madison Toll Road. Both of these facilities connected the little village, called Greenfield starting in 1825, to the state capital directly. The railroad ended at South Street, between Pennsylvania and Delaware Streets. The Madison State Road ended at the end of Meridian Street at South Street.

The idea started in 1894 when $150,000 was invested to construct a 12-mile line from Indianapolis to Greenwood. In 1895, the plan was laid out by Henry L. Smith to create an electric traction company to connect Greenwood to both Indianapolis and Franklin. The route would follow the Madison State Road (then known by the names of either the Madison Free Gravel Road or the Indianapolis-Southport Road depending on where you were). From Greenwood, it would run along the east side of the Madison Road right of way, switching over to the west side of the road just south of Union Street (now Southport Road) in Southport. The route would turn north on Shelby Street when it connected to Madison…connecting to the Indianapolis Street Railways just south of Troy Avenue.

While riding the new electric traction in the rural areas of Marion County, between Greenwood and Southport, “a passenger, Charles Coffin took out his pocket watch to check the interurban’s speed. In that brief stretch the motors of the car had propelled it nearly 38 miles per hour.” That was extremely fast for the time. Interurban stops were 1/2 mile apart at the time. Stops 13 and 14, numbered from Indianapolis, allowed passengers to partake of a popular picnic grounds on the north end of Greenwood – Greenwood Park. Rural stops 10, 11 and 12 were mainly for rural residents to go shopping in downtown Indianapolis. Southport did not have a stop number. Towns and/or housing additions were later built at stops north of Southport: Stop 9 (Homecroft – Banta Road); Stop 7 (Edgewood – Epler Avenue); Stop 6 (Longacre – Thompson Road); and Stop 4 (University Heights – Hanna Avenue).

By June 1900, with the financial success of the Greenwood line, the electric traction route had been extended to Franklin. And that success kept growing, for by September 1902 the interurban crossed all of Johnson County as it headed off to its end at Columbus. By 1910, the interurban had become part of the lives of thousands of people across Indiana. And that is when the wheels started coming off.

Between Bluffton and Fort Wayne, on 21 September 1910, the “worst wreck in the history of traction operations” occurred. More than 40 people were killed in the crash. On 2 February 1924, another tragic accident, caused by two interurban cars meeting head-on, killed 21 people. But nothing would hurt the interurban more than the car and the bus.

The interurban had teetered on the brink of financial failure for years. Then the Great Depression occurred. Many of the Indianapolis-centric traction routes would be consolidated. But 1933 came, and that consolidation was taken out of the hands of its owners, and placed in receivership. Many of the lines were closed at that point – either outright, or replaced with the very busses that helped seal their downfall.

But the Greenwood line soldiered on. For almost another decade. The first line into Indianapolis was also the last when a crash occurred south of Columbus. 8 September 1941 spelled the end of the interurbans along the Greenwood line. “In the end the interurban system had one weary passenger car remaining out of a mighty army of 700 as the hearts and minds of the public turned to other marvels.”

Daily Journal photo, 6 March 1973

The article in the Daily Journal is actually two parts. The top of the page covers the Greenwood line, in parts. The bottom talks about the electric street cars in Indiana, and the birth, life and death of the interurban. The best quote in that part of the story is this: “Before the interurban craze was over – and it hit like a meteor and died a painful death – there were about 200 operating companies; 250 with incorporation papers filed; and another 250 companies which tried to start. Just like canal companies and steam railroad companies, they went big in Hoosierdom.” They sure did. But in Central Indiana, it started with rumbling its way to a point south of the Hoosier Capital.

Lafayette Rail Relocation

Cover photo courtesy of Justin L. Grayson, as was the idea for the post.

When the railroads started coming to towns across the United States, it was a sign of prestige to have a railroad company build a line through the middle of a city street. While the towns thought it was something to be proud of, crossing the tracks was almost impossible. Lafayette was a town of rail crossings…and street running. As I have written about before, Lafayette was the home of several railroad lines. But toward the middle of the 1990’s, this was going to change…with the help of a lot of federal, state and local tax money.

1941 USGS Topo Map of downtown Lafayette, IN.

The actual beginning of discussions about relocating railroad tracks through the city of Lafayette occurred in 1926, when the city first proposed such relocations. Between 1963 and 1973, a series of engineering studies were commissioned by city officials to look at the possibility.

The idea of moving the railroad tracks through Lafayette started moving forward in 1974, when a study was conducted by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). It was announced by Mayor James Riehle, on 11 July 1975, that a project director was named for the relocation. That director would be Herbert Thomas, vice-president of transportation at Kaiser Engineers, Inc. His local resident manager would be James Ellis.

It was also announced that day that the first two phases of the project would be completed in about ten months from that time. Phase one included the above mentioned SRI study. Phase two would consist primarily of engineering. The final two phases, design and construction, were not put on any schedule as of July 1975.

Mr. Thomas said “relocation plans here are not the biggest he has seen in the country, but said ‘the Lafayette project would be a major one for any city,'” as reported in the Lafayette Journal and Courier of 12 July 1975. He also referred to the “railroad-motor vehicle situation in Lafayette ‘a serious problem,’ noting that on a previous visit he was stopped by a train while hurrying to reach Weir Cook Airport.”

According to the Journal and Courier, “one important aspect of the Kaiser work will be to determine if the negative impact on the Monon Avenue area can be lessened.” Thomas said that “the alignment developed so far can only be reguarded (sic) as preliminary.”

One year later, in July 1976, Kaiser Engineering was set to begin look at the various alternatives to the new railroad location. Project Manager Ken Knevel said that the company would concentrate its work on the riverfront corridor since it received the most support locally. “Everything we’re doing now is just in response to individuals’ comments. The riverfront has been indicated as the preferred corridor.” (Source: Lafayette Journal and Courier, 24 July 1976.) Paul Stitt of the Norfolk & Western and Jack Smith of the Louisville & Nashville both agreed that the riverfront corridor would be best for both their companies’ operations. Conrail’s representative, John Partridge, said “otehr alternative corridors – bypassing the city and using the current N&W and L&N lines – is less satisfactory than the riverfront.”

The Louisville and Nashville, by way of their purchase of the Monon, was running trains through the middle of Fifth Street at the time. However, they did own a stub line that started just north of Main Street (and the Main Street bridge across the Tippecanoe River) traveling northeast to connect to the the street running route, and railroad yards, northeast of Fifth Street. Connecting this stub to the Nickel Plate and Wabash two blocks south along the riverfront would not be that much of a stretch.

Funding was going to be a constant problem, especially from the mid-1970’s to 1980. Washington had become very tight fisted when it came to money. The mayor of Lafayette had gone to Washington DC in March 1977 to ensure that funding would be available for the project through 1980. There were no guarantees.

There were as many as 19 railroad relocation projects in some sort of process in the late 1970’s. Lafayette had gained national attention because it involved consolidating three railroad companies into one line through the city.

Between 1976 and 1978, two neighborhoods were the focus of studies for the relocation plan. Those neighborhoods, the Wabash and the Monon, were going to be directly affected by the moving of the tracks.

The first construction phase finally started in October 1984, when Congress appropriated $7 million. Less than a year later, in September 1985, five homes were torn down to prepare to place Wabash Avenue 23 feet below the relocated train tracks. Things started looking bad again in 1987 when a pending Presidential Veto threatened $20 million in funding over five years for the project…and the insistence from Federal officials that state and local governments pony up 20% of the cost. Something in which INDOT said they weren’t really keen on participating. That veto was overridden by the House and Senate.

The next phase of construction after the override of that veto included a replacement for the Main Street bridge over the Wabash River, new approach ramps to the Harrison Bridge (now Old US 231) and a rail corridor between Ninth Street and Wabash Avenue to replace the Fifth Street street running tracks. A new $11 million North Ninth Street rail underpass was scheduled to being construction in late 1987.

Construction photo of the Lafayette Railroad Relocation, date unknown. Photo courtesy of Justin L. Grayson.

By 1994, the street running along Fifth Street had come to an end. According to the Journal and Courier of 22 July 1994, those were “crossings eliminated today.” Also according to the same newspaper graphic, phase 5 was to be completed in 1998-99 that would relocate the Norfolk Southern’s Wabash double-track corridor to the riverfront route, eliminating 24 crossings from Kossuth Street to Underwood Street.

Lafayette Courier & Journal, 2 August 2003,
announcing the end of the Railroad Relocation
Office in Lafayette.

The project’s offices would finally closed down on 1 August 2003. There were a lot of behind the scenes work that needed to be finished by the office, but the relocation was done. There was also one thing, historically, that was brought up when construction was occurring in 1993. While digging up the foundation of the old Big Four Station in Lafayette, some timbers from the Wabash & Erie Canal were found. The officials with the Railroad Relocation sent those timbers to Columbia, SC, for preservation. They were returned to Lafayette and given to the Tippecanoe County Historical Society for display.

The project would cost a grand total of $186 million in the end. It would not only affect rail transport through the area, but road transport changed as well. The old Main Street bridge in downtown Lafayette was changed to a pedestrian facility. Ultimately, all INDOT facilities in the city itself would be removed…leaving no state or US roads to downtown.

Beech Grove Traction

1906. A rural station stop on the Big Four Railroad, originally called Ingalls (or Ingallston), has just been incorporated as a shop town for the same Big Four Railroad. It’s official name at this point became Beech Grove. The new town that grew from the building of the railroad shops, covered in my blog entry “Beech Grove,” found itself barely accessible by anything other than the very railroad that built it. It wouldn’t be long until that would change.

First, the town was actually accessible by route of an old toll road that had been built to reach the farm of a local resident, a Mr. Churchman. That road, for the longest time, had been called the Churchman Pike, even after the county bought it back from the toll road company. The Churchman Pike connected to the town via what would become Albany Street, a survey section line that also acts as the separator between all of the southern townships and the central townships in Marion County. Dirt roads along the other survey lines – which would later become Troy and Emerson Avenues – also led to the area that would become Beech Grove. The old train station, Ingalls or Beech Grove, was at the survey line (Emerson Avenue) and the railroad track. Today, that would be under the Emerson Avenue bridge over the railroad.

But it wouldn’t be long before another method of transportation would make its presence known, and try to work its way into the railroad city. Electric Traction, also known as the interurban, had made its way into Indianapolis, officially, with the opening of the Greenwood line on 1 January 1900. After that, companies started popping up all over the United States. And Indianapolis became a hub for the new transportation form.

But this would create a problem. Steam railroads, which all standard railroads were called at the time, saw the new Traction companies as direct competition. Even though the gauge (width between the tracks) was the same on both, traffic interchange was one of those things that the steam roads were going to keep to an absolute minimum. And since the Traction companies specialized in moving people, this was even more reason for the steam roads to dislike the interurbans.

And now someone wants to add an interurban route to a town BUILT by the railroad? The short answer…yes. The reason for this was actually based in the nature of the steam railroad itself. Passenger trains, taking people from Beech Grove to downtown Indianapolis, weren’t scheduled at very convenient times for citizens of the new town. While the company that had invested in, and created, the town, the Beech Grove Improvement Company, tried running its own special trains to downtown Indianapolis, it was at the whim of the very busy Big Four line from Indianapolis to Cincinnati. In comes the planners of the electric traction.

It started in 1909. A company called the Shore Line Traction Company applied for a franchise to run a traction line from the Indianapolis city limits (point unknown) to Beech Grove. Louis McMains, a real estate agent, put in the petition to the County Commissioners. In October 1909, the petition asked that the Shore Line Traction Company be allowed to use the Churchman Pike from the city limits near Keystone and Churchman Avenues to the corporation limit of Beech Grove. It also asked for some straightening work along the road, and the right of way be widened by 27 feet (adding 13.5 feet on each side). “The petition signifies that the property owners on each side of the pike are willing to part with the necessary land to widen the road.” (Source: Indianapolis News, 14 October 1909)

The county had problems with the widening…especially when it came to the Churchman Pike bridge over Bean Creek (between Walker and Southern Avenues today). The bridge had been in disrepair for years, listed as such as early as 1891. Whether the bridge had been repaired or replaced at this point is unknown. Suffice it to say, the county wasn’t really likely to spend money to replace the bridge.

The petition mentioned that the plan for the Churchman Pike is to widen it to 66 feet, allowing two tracks to be built in the center, with only one track being built to start the company. The new company already had a franchise in hand for the route inside Beech Grove itself.

The Shore Line Traction Company found itself trying to come up with a new route to Beech Grove when the county balked at the Bean Creek bridge. With that, the company was not heard from again.

But shortly after the above petition was filed, a new company would be incorporated – the Beech Grove Traction Company. This company was officially started on 30 December 1909. It had the same goal as the Shore Line Transit Company – connect Beech Grove and downtown Indianapolis.

There was more progress with the Beech Grove Traction than there was with Shore Line. The Indianapolis News of 2 April 1910 reported that the Beech Grove company had elected its corporate officers and announced that grading work would begin soon on the line. Rails, ties and cars had already been ordered. Work on the new Churchman Pike bridge over Bean Creek had begun on 28 March 1910. Officials of the traction company were negotiating with the Indianapolis Traction and Terminal Company “for use of the tracks of the latter company in Shelby Street and Virginia Avenue for entrance to the business district.”

The franchise rights had been awarded by Marion County and the town of Beech Grove. When construction was to begin in April, the company had no agreement with the city of Indianapolis about using the city street railway tracks to enter the downtown area. This agreement would not have been reached until September 1910. This caused construction to be delayed until November 1910.

Even before the track was complete, the first train run over part of the line happened on 20 March 1911. Seven days later, regular service began. The Beech Grove end of the line was on what became Garstang Avenue east of First (Emerson) Avenue. The track then ran north on First Avenue to Main Street. Following Main Street west, it turned north on 17th Avenue (Sherman Drive) for one block, to turn northwest on Churchman Pike (Avenue). The route then turned west on LeGrande Avenue to connect to the city street railway system at Shelby Street.

1917 Map of the route of the Beech Grove Traction Company.

At first, the company found itself very popular. The Beech Grove Traction only owned, at the start, four cars to travel between the two ends. But there were so many people that wanted to use the new train that the company found itself running trains every 40 minutes from daybreak to midnight. The time table showed that first car left for Indianapolis at 0530, with the first car from Indianapolis arriving at 0610. A nickel would get a rider from Beech Grove to Shelby Street and LeGrande. A dime would get you all the way to the Traction Terminal.

Now, one might ask about why someone would get off the interurban at Shelby Street. Rightly so. But a trip to Garfield Park would require a change to a city street car. Or, one could catch the interurban to Greenwood, Franklin, Columbus and even Louisville at the end of the city Shelby Street line…which was at the Greenwood Line Stop 1 at Perry Street, south of Troy Avenue, on Shelby Street.

But business along the Beech Grove Traction line would start falling off rather quickly. The Big Four, with the completion of the traction line, stopped issuing passes to employees and families to ride the steam train. This made the interurban the best way to get to downtown Indianapolis. In the early days, most traffic was Big Four shop employees coming to and from work from their homes in Indianapolis. Due to the success of the town of Beech Grove, these employees were moving to the town. This caused a drop in traffic on the traction line. And due to shops being built along Main Street, the traffic drop wasn’t made up for in shopping trips to the stores of downtown Indianapolis.

By 1914, an average of 24 round trips ran each day along the line, with a schedule of 1 hour 10 minutes between trains. That had slowed down to 16 round trips a day by March 1916. And, as is typical of Indiana railroads of the time, the Beech Grove Traction Company found itself falling into receivership in December 1917, caused by increased costs without the subsequent increase in revenue.

Lawsuits were filed. Newspapers reported that the traction line wouldn’t be necessary for much longer, since with the improvement of city streets, bus service between Beech Grove and Indianapolis would replace the electric traction line. In a strange twist of fate, the operator of the bus competition to the Beech Grove Traction ceased his bus company and took over the traction line as railway superintendent. Fortunes improved…for the time being.

One of the things that the line started was carrying mail from the Fountain Square post office to the post office in Beech Grove. This started shortly after completion of the line until it was discontinued in the late 1920s.

The little line lumbered on for almost two decades after receivership…barely. It was recommended in November 1923 that the line be closed and sold. Revenues increased with the permission given to raise fares. But the company found itself sold to make up $30,000 in debt due to maintenance and new rolling stock in 1925. The new buyer made a condition – if a bus line was approved, the sale would be null and void, and the line would be junked. Again, lawsuits were filed, and a bus line was granted an injunction to operate. And the bus company was purchased by the traction line…and both were operated at the same time. It found itself teetering financially, yet still managing to survive.

The Great Depression hurt the line, just like it did almost everything else at the time. But it managed to survive…for a while. The Public Service Commission of Indiana, on 7 January 1937, officially told the company that it was to close the line. Indianapolis Railways, the power provider for the line, complained to the PSCI that Beech Grove Traction owed in the neighborhood of $20,000 for power…which Indianapolis Railways turned off at 0100 on 8 January 1937. And hence, the end of the Beech Grove Traction line. Some people hadn’t seen the notices about the end of service, and were waiting at stops on a cold 8 January morning.

The last vestiges of the traction company would last until 21 August 1973. The company’s car barn, at First and Garstang, would last until demolition started that day.

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.