If you’ve ever read my blog before, you know about my fascination with the Michigan Road. It’s Indiana’s first state-funded road, built in the 1830s to connect southern Indiana to northern Indiana through the capital at Indianapolis. Amazingly, it is still mostly intact. With a couple minor detours, you can drive all of it still today.

Here’s the beginning of the Michigan Road, in Madison, Indiana, just north of the Ohio River.

The Michigan Road begins

Here’s the end of the Michigan Road, in Michigan City, Indiana, just south of Lake Michigan.

The End of the Road

In between these two bits of pavement lies Indiana itself – its biggest city, several of its small towns, and acres upon acres of its farmland. Driving this road gives you a comprehensive view of Indiana life both past and present.

I spent my spare time last summer slowly following the Michigan Road and photographing everything I found interesting – pavement, bridges, churches, cemeteries, schools, homes, drive-ins, theaters, courthouses, hotels, and motels, for over 1,000 photos. By themselves, these images tell quite a bit of Indiana’s history. But each photograph made me curious about these places’ backstories, and so I began researching. The more I learned, the more I wanted to tell some of the stories. So last fall I began writing about the road via the photos I took.

I’ve been publishing my work in progress to my personal Web site all along. But over the weekend I finished writing about everything I’ve learned. So I uploaded the last of the files to the server and now, no matter where you are, you can travel all 270 miles of the Michigan Road. To begin your journey, start here.

If you like what you read, keep checking back. My fascination with this road is as strong as ever, and I’m still digging for more stories of life along it. As I learn more, I’ll keep updating those pages.

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8 responses to “270 miles of history”

  1. Scott Palmer Avatar

    Thank you so much for this post!

    It helps me know a little bit of Michigan Road and makes me want to learn more. It must have taken you many, many hours (and required a lot of expensive 2008-priced gasoline) to do the research. I look forward to reading about all 270 miles.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks, Scott! Grab a big snack and something to drink, because it’s a long report.

  2. Ryan Avatar

    Jim, this is such a great service! I’m having a lot of fun reading through the pages. One of my favorites is probably Marshall Co. and Plymouth. I haven’t been there in forever, and when I was there, I was too young to understand how neat it is.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Ryan, Plymouth is a real gem among Michigan Road cities.

  3. tina Avatar

    I admire your dedication and enthusiasm for this topic. It makes it come alive for others – it’s infectious.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Muchos gracias!

  4. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    Jim, your Michigan Road pages are a real labour of love, and nicely and fully fleshed-out. It must have taken you ages to do that. In spite of never having seen the road myself, it’s a joy to move from page to page and have it become real through the words and images. :)

    1. Jim Avatar

      Writing those pages absolutely did take longer than driving the road and taking the photographs — and I averaged under 20 mph on the road. I figure I spent 20-40 hours per page.

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