The National Road crosses from Ohio into Indiana and almost immediately enters Richmond, founded in 1806 by Quaker settlers. So Richmond is one of the rare National Road towns in Indiana that predates the road. The National Road isn’t even the oldest road leading out of town – a road to Eaton, Ohio, was built in 1807, about 30 years before the National Road. It seems likely to me that the Eaton road was used as part of the Dayton Cutoff.
The road entered Richmond from the east on Main Street. Glen Miller Park was located along the road; in 1928, a Madonna of the Trail was placed on the southwest corner of the park at 22nd St.
Many lovely older homes line the road near the Madonna.
US 40 was widened to four lanes across Indiana in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Here’s the eastbound road on its way to downtown.
Along the way, it passes a McDonald’s that still sports an older sign. Dig those golden arches that touch the ground.
Richmond is a little smaller, at least in population, than Terre Haute at the other end of the road in Indiana. Yet somehow its downtown seems larger, with many more intact and cared-for buildings from earlier days. That’s especially remarkable given that an explosion leveled half of downtown Richmond in 1968. The blast killed 41, injured 127, and destroyed 20 buildings.
Fortunately, much of downtown remains. It was impossible to drive this section of the National Road starting in 1972 as Richmond closed it to traffic and built a pedestrian mall. Fortunately, the town came to its senses in 1997, tearing it all back out, repaving the road, and reopening it to traffic.
A few buildings have not been very well loved.
This building really stands out, the only one downtown with such a modern skin. I would not be surprised to find that an 1800s building lurks beneath this facade.
Many pleasing touches remain in downtown’s details, such as this neon sign.
Just beyond downtown stands the Wayne County Courthouse. It was built in the Romanesque Revival style in 1893.
I made this trip with a friend and she noticed that every door had this little notice on it. She was chuckling over it and I didn’t understand why. I guess my head was into taking photos, because she had to explain it to me. Do you see what’s funny about it?
The National Road was routed along Main Street west through downtown, passed by the courthouse, crossed the Whitewater River, and then jogged south a block and then headed west along National Rd. I haven’t been able to figure out exactly where the road transitioned from Main to National Rd.; perhaps a Richmond historian will happen upon this post and share.
I’ve visited three other Madonnas of the Trail, in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Illinois. Check out the photos.