Dandy Trail – Revisited

In the early days of the automobile, the Hoosier Motor Club created a scenic tour of Marion County. That tour, an 88 mile journey through the countryside around Indianapolis, was named the Dandy Trail. When one looks at a map, the only part of Dandy Trail that exists by that name is in the northwestern part of the county. And almost none of it was part of the original scenic tour route.

This particular route has been covered by me before in a post called “Dandy Trail.” Jim Grey, another blogger and co-admin of the Facebook companion to this blog, also covered it with his article “It’s 1921, and you’re taking a pleasure drive on the Dandy Trail.” But today, I want to put the Dandy Trail, and its changes, into a historical context.

Starting off with an overview of the section of the original Dandy Trail from about 65th Street south to its original connection with Crawfordsville Road from back in 1953. Above 56th Street, it wandered through the Eagle Creek valley on the west side of that stream. It crossed the creek at 56th Street, then followed the lay of the land on the east side of Eagle Creek. From 56th Street south, it was also mostly a dirt road…never having been improved over its 30+ years of existence.

The connection to Crawfordsville Road was made at what is now called Salt Lake Road, although, as one can tell by looking at the map, that name was actually applied to what is now 34th Street. The current westerly bend of the road, connecting it to the dotted line in the bottom left corner of the snippet, came later. I will cover that. That dotted red line is County Club Road.

The next snippet shows the next point of interest…crossing Eagle Creek. Now, I have shown this several times, but I have not been able to do so with maps that actually show the lay of the land before the reservoir was built.

The northern end of the interest area shows the town of Traders Point. The following snippet is from 1953, as well. Traders Point was located on the old Lafayette Road, just north of Big Eagle Creek.

Historical Topographic Map Collection

Several changes occurred in the path of the Dandy Trail between 1953 and 1967. First, the building of Eagle Creek reservoir. Second, the building of Interstate 74. And, as show in the following map snippet, the almost complete removal of Dandy Trail between 38th and 46th Streets. Also, the southern end was connected to Country Club Road, as it is today.

And as shown in this map, from 46th Street north to the northern end of this particular quad of USGS topo map, most of the original route was either placed in the flood plain, or in the actual reservoir. One can still see the outline of the old bridge over Eagle Creek near 56th Street in the topographical data. At this time, Dandy Trail didn’t connect between 46th Street and 56th Street.

Historical Topographic Map Collection

The northern end didn’t fair much better. Traders Point, a town prior to the building of the reservoir, was no more. But it wasn’t because it was in the reservoir…it was in the flood plain. I will post a link to that particular map to show exactly how much area the reservoir was expected to cover in case of emergency. This particular map shows the area in 1966. The road that is broken by Interstate 65 in the center of the snippet is the original Dandy Trail. Notice that it skirts the northern bank of the reservoir. It is still there today, although accessibility is questionable.

The last image I want to share is the 1967 topo map that had been updated showing conditions in 1980. The purple marks on this map show the updates. A new map was not made, just modifications to the old one. This shows the new Dandy Trail from 38th Street north to 56th Street.

In 1980, 46th Street became Dandy Trail as it turned north toward Eagle Creek Park. Today, that traffic situation is reversed, as 46th Street turns south to become Dandy Trail. Also, the intersection at 38th Street, which was 38th Street ending at Dandy Trail, has been changed over the years to become 38th Street westbound turning south to become Dandy Trail.

Very little of what is called Dandy Trail today is what was originally given that name. But the name survives…as if there is still a connection to the past. The name Dandy Trail seems strange on the Hoosier landscape. But it remains, even if we have to explain why it’s there.

The link to the Traders Point topo map showing the flood plain of the Eagle Creek Reservoir according to the United States Geological Service is this: https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/ht-bin/tv_browse.pl?id=16e9e185f52a80db3128924a7ab11716

Building I-465 at West 21st Street

When the interstate system worked its way to Indiana, the plan for a bypass around Indianapolis was on the books as part of the project. Even before the route numbers were nailed down, the destinations and relative locations were in place. What would become I-465 would take almost a decade to build – more if you count the section from I-65 to I-865 on the northwest side of Marion County. (For more information about that statement, see “The Beginning of I-465,” published on 16 May 2019.) But I-465 was contentious…and not entirely for the reasons one would think.

Indianapolis Star, 11 August 1961.

The first real bone of contention (other than the coming destruction of entire sections of Marion County) was the area where I-465 and 21st Street meet on the west side. The section of the current interstate from Crawfordsville Road south to almost 10th Street runs very close to Big Eagle Creek. The town of Speedway at the time suffered from flooding on a regular basis. The state planned for 21st Street to cross over the interstate. Local residents, and county government, wanted the opposite…the interstate to cross over 21st Street. Part of the argument was that the state had already planned to elevate sections of the road on both sides of 21st Street. Why not keep the elevation for the 21st Street section.

Part of the argument was flooding…or the potential for such. People in the town of Speedway were under the impression that running 21st Street under the interstate would form a valve to keep flooding to a minimum. As the Indianapolis Star pointed out in an editorial piece on 24 August 1961, “nothing could be further from the truth.” The interstate was graded far above the maximum flood level at Eagle Creek. The building of an underpass for 21st Street, it is pointed out, would require a complete new system of levees to be built to control the flooding of 21st Street. The problem for Speedway and flooding was not an interstate overpass, but major work needed on Eagle Creek.

It was pointed out in another article that the plans for I-465 included, in the embankment for the bridges, four channels for water to flow through the area not actually in Eagle Creek. The Indianapolis Star of 9 July 1961 reported that Joseph I. Perrey, chief engineer for the Indiana Flood Control and Water Resources Commission, stated that no matter what was built at I-465 and 21st Street, the problem with Speedway flooding was more controlled by the 21st Street bridge over Eagle Creek. “The construction of 21st Street either under or over Interstate 465 will have no affect in stopping flooding.” Mr. Perrey continued “but a new county bridge could alleviate the situation somewhat.”

Progress was made towards changing the state’s mind about the 21st Street overpass. Summer of 1961 saw a flurry of activity. The state agreed to change the project, if the county put up a $50,000 bond to cover any cost overruns due to the change. The deadline for the county agreeing to that provision, and thus the contract to change the plans, was 21 August 1961. County Commissioners agreed to sign the deal that day, if they could include a provision to delay the posting of the bond. By law, the county said, it would take five days to make the money available.

But the State Highway Commission was also in a bind at this point. Construction had reached a point where concrete was ready to pour. Any delay in that poring could have resulted in the contractor suing the state. In addition to the changing of 21st Street from an overpass to an underpass, the county was asking that 21st Street be built four lanes wide, instead of two, to “avoid a greater expenditure if 21st must be widened later.” (Source: Indianapolis News, 21 August 1961)

The whole thing was made worse when the county questioned the state about the current status of the contract. (Source: Indianapolis Star, 8 September 1961) “The State Highway Commission yesterday refused the ‘bait’ offered by the Marion County Board of Commissioners to cancel the contract obligating the county commissioners to pay for the time the state suspended operations on Interstate 465.” The state was expected to send the county a bill for the six day shutdown of construction on the interstate due to the county trying to raise the bond money. The county, for its part, wanted the contract to be declared cancelled…which the state wasn’t having.

Add to this, the county stating that they weren’t paying anything until a full accounting was relayed to them. They expected it to be, roughly, $1,000 a day, not the $25,000 the State Highway Commission expected.

Meanwhile, the whole decision to build a 21st Street bridge over I-465 was being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Public Roads. That investigation started when three local residents accused the Highway Commissioner of conflict of interest, and hinted that his three sons would benefit from the building of an overpass. Indications were that libel suits would start flying from the Commissioner’s sons once cleared by the Federal investigation.

“The controversy over the intersection of I-465 and 21st Street was started by Jules T. Gradison who owns the land around the intersection. He demanded that 21st Street pass under I-465 and the state agreed to the change when the county commissioners offered to pay the extra cost, estimated at from $150,000 to $200,000.” Mr. Gradison also pointed out that he would have given any extra acreage needed to change the plan free of charge.

21st Street crosses over I-465 to this day. The overpass is also, to this day, only two lanes wide. With the many reconstructions of I-465 through that area, the 21st Street overpass has allowed for the widening of 465 needed over the years.

Bicycling the Lafayette Road

Bicycle Routes as published on 02 May 1896 in the Indianapolis News. (image courtesy of newspapers.com)

The Indianapolis News, in its bicycling routes series, on 02 May 1896, covered leaving Indianapolis via the Crawfordsville Pike and the Reveal/Centennial Pike. This would bring the “wheelman” of the day through what is now Speedway out to and along the Eagle Creek valley to the town of Trader’s Point. That town was, before the building of the Eagle Creek Reservoir, was located at the crossing of Big Eagle Creek by the White River and Big Eagle Creek Pike, which was built as the Indianapolis-Lafayette State Road. Today, that name has been shortened to Lafayette Road.

After turning southeast along the road out of Trader’s Point, the road crosses the Big Eagle Creek then climbs a “stiff hill.” “After climbing this hill the road is undulating for some distance until the valley of the Big Eagle is left far behind.” Before leaving the hilly area, one half mile from Trader’s Point, is a “pump at the roadside all by itself. The water is very good.” One mile from “the Point” is a dirt road that crosses the Pike west to east. That dirt road, to the east, turns into the New Augusta Free Gravel Road, connecting to the town of that name, the Michigan Road and ending at the Spring Mill and Williams Creek Free Gravel Road.

Two miles from Trader’s Point “is a grocery store and blacksmith shop, where one dirt road turns north and another runs east and west. There is a little settlement at this cross-roads and a pretty white church with a green pump in the church yard.” The road to the north is now Shanghai Road. The east-west road, running from a road on the east side of Big Eagle Creek to the Michigan Road, first became Isenhour Road. That would be changed to 62nd Street with the renumbering of Marion County. There are no remnants of that “little settlement,” as the construction of Interstate 65 wiped out the intersection of 62nd Street and Lafayette Road.

From the settlement southeast, Lafayette Road is “much more level.” The first two roads encountered are the Kissell Road (became High School Road, now gone with the same I-65 construction) that heads south and the Centennial Road (running from the Reveal Road to the Michigan Road at Crooked Creek, now known as 56th Street). One half mile later, the Zionsville and Pike Township Free Gravel Road leaves heading north. That road is now Moller Road from north of 52nd Street to 62nd Street. When it was built, it was part of the Zionsville Pike.

Just southeast of the Zionsville Road junction is a post office town called Snacks. Here there is a white church, store, blacksmith shop, brick schoolhouse, and several houses. Next, the bicyclist would encounter the Russe Road, also known as the Reveal and Russe Free Gravel Road. The east end of this road is at the Lafayette Pike. The west end of this road is at the Crawfordsville Road, at a point one mile east of Clermont. The end at Lafayette Road is now known as 46th Street.

South of what is now 46th Street the Lafayette Pike jogs a little to the due south then more east than southeast, and back to the original line of the road. Those turns are shown in the 1941 aerial photograph to the left. (Image courtesy of MapIndy, a service of the City of Indianapolis.) The News mentioned, also, that the Little Eagle Creek comes very close to, and even parallels, the Lafayette Pike at this point.

The article reports that the road gets into better condition as it gets closer to the city. The next Post Office town encountered is Flackville, located at what is now Tibbs Avenue and Lafayette Road. Before that point, two schoolhouses, one with a green pump in the yard, and two uninviting dirt roads. Those roads, the first heading east, is now 38th Street, and the second heading west in now 34th Street.

At Flackville, several roads are encountered. The Guion Gravel Road turns north towards its end at New Augusta. The Flack Road, now 30th Street, crosses west to east. From here, the rider can follow the Flack Road east to the Michigan Road and back to the city. Continuing along the Lafayette Pike, what is now Tibbs Avenue crosses the road north to south. South of Pike is the Marion County Poor Farm.

Before reaching the Crawfordsville Pike at Emrichsville (now 16th Street), the Lafayette Road encounters the Cooper Avenue Free Gravel Road (now Kessler Boulevard) and the Meyers Free Gravel Road (now Cold Spring Road). The Meyers Road connects to the town of Brooklyn Heights and the Michigan Road near Mount Pleasant (Alliance Post Office).

At Emrichsville, the historic Lafayette and Crawfordsville Roads combine for the trip back to the center of Indianapolis. Both roads crossed the Emrichsville Bridge and followed what is now Waterway Boulevard (see The Lafayette State Road In Downtown Indianapolis). Historically, the Crawfordsville and Lafayette Roads both began at the Michigan Road.

The complete trip, as listed in this article was measured at 32 miles. This included the round trip that went out the Crawfordsville Pike, north along the Reveal and Centennial Roads, and back the Lafayette Road.

Bicycling the Reveal Road

In the Indianapolis News issue of 02 May 1896, the paper was continuing a series about traveling around Marion County, and beyond, on bicycles. At the time, that was the latest, greatest thing. Most people don’t realize that bicycles were the starting point to getting the government involved in making better roads, something that helped when cars and trucks started showing up in great numbers. That particular issue of the News started by covering the Crawfordsville Pike, which was covered again, and better, one week later on 09 May 1896. But it was the route back to the city that differed between the two.

The focus of today’s post is one part of the return trip. Most of the trip back was done on the Lafayette Pike, now known as Lafayette Road. But connecting the two major pikes was a gravel road that started at the Crawfordsville Pike as the Reveal Road. The Reveal Road is at the base of a large hill on the Crawfordsville Road one mile east of Clermont.

“The Reveal road soon gives evidence of what it is. The rider has an opportunity to test his coasting powers right at the start, for, after climbing a short hill, it wings down a lone, but not very steep, decline to Big Eagle creek.” This road no longer exists in the form it did then. It has been moved several times over the years, especially when Interstate 74 was built through the area. At the bottom of the hill, a bridge crosses over the Big Eagle Creek along what would become the 34th Street corridor. (This bridge, or its replacements, would disappear when I-74 was built and 34th Street was turned to the northwest to connect to Dandy Trail.)

“The bridge is a good one, but, as there had been fresh gravel placed on the road just beyond the bridge, it might be well to slow up a bit in going over.” From here, the road travels east for a little bit then turns north. Here, the road meanders its way through the Big Eagle Creek valley. It ran along a hillside, a short distance from the creek itself.

A mile and a half after crossing the bridge, a road turns due east to connect to the Lafayette Pike. While this road is now known as 46th Street, which ends at both Dandy Trail and Lafayette Road, in 1896 it was known as the Russe Free Gravel Road. It is noted that the Russe Road is in good condition, but very hilly.

The Reveal Road continues north and north west along the Eagle Creek valley until it met the Centennial Pike, which is now 56th Street. Between the Russe and Centennial Pikes, the Reveal is dirt. As with the Russe, the Centennial connects eastward to the Lafayette Road. The Centennial Pike ended at the Reveal Road, which crossed Eagle Creek heading north.

Much is made in the article about the beauty along the Reveal Road as it winds its way from basically 34th Street to near 79th Street through the Big Eagle Creek valley. The route is relatively flat, easy to ride, and plenty of shade along the way. The Reveal Road itself would connect to the Lafayette Pike along the north bank of the creek. Here, it entered the village of Trader’s Point. The village has been moved, this being a result of the creation of the Eagle Creek Reservoir.

For those that have been following Indiana Transportation History through this blog, you probably recognize the path of the old Reveal Road. It, like the original location of the village of Trader’s Point, has been long gone. Again, the creation of Eagle Creek Reservoir is to thank for this. But, before the making of the reservoir, some 30+ years after this bicycling article, this entire section was included in the driving tour around Marion County: Dandy Trail.