Road trips

A forgotten brick segment of US 40

Before I make any road trip, I trace the route along the aerial images on Google Maps or Bing Maps to see if I can find any old alignments. Even though I’ve visited US 40 in western Indiana more than once and thought I knew it well, I’m glad I still traced the route this time. I noticed an old alignment I’ve missed every time before. It’s in Putnam County at CR 400 E, about a mile and a half west of Mt. Meridian. The image below shows it. I’ve marked it with green arrowheads because much of it is hard to make out.

BrickNRinIN

When I got there, I found an old road, all right – brick! Woohoo, a brick US 40 and National Road alignment in Indiana!

Brick National Road/US 40 alignment

Unfortunately, it’s on private property, so I couldn’t walk it. I sure wish I could have, because what looks like an old motel is standing along the old road. You can see bits of it through the trees from US 40. (Update 5 Sept 2009: This was indeed a motel, the Cedar Crest. I’ve seen a photo of the sign taken in 2008, but I didn’t notice it while I was out this day; is the sign gone, or did I just miss it? Here’s a postcard image of the motel in its happier days.)

I have a 1922 Automobile Blue Book, a route guide that gives turn-by-turn directions between cities. It says that the National Road between Indianapolis and Terre Haute was “pavement and concrete [from Terre Haute east] to Brazil; [then] 31 miles gravel.” The guide places Mt. Meridian at 21.7 miles east of Brazil, well within the gravel section.

1922ABBTHtoIN

This strip map from a 1925 Mohawk-Hobbs guide to the National Old Trails Road (which followed the National Road across Indiana) shows that the road was paved in brick from about Mt. Meridian to Putnamville. Indeed, it shows that the whole road had been paved in concrete, brick, or asphalt by then, except for about a mile of gravel near Putnamville. (Thanks to fellow roadgeek Dave Paul for the image. Check out some of his other historic maps and road guides.)

MohawkHobbs1925

So these bricks were laid between 1922 and 1925. They didn’t see many years of use, though, as the current alignment of US 40 was built here by 1939. I’m sure that has a lot to do with their good condition today.

Brick National Road/US 40 alignment

ReadMore Several miles of abandoned brick pavement remains along the National Road in Illinois. I’ve written about it twice: here and here.

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6 thoughts on “A forgotten brick segment of US 40

  1. Lone Primate says:

    A brick road — good eyes on the map there. :) It seems an unusual idea to me; I’m more used to them bricking over former traffic roads for pedestrian use in cities than as surfaces for automobile traffic. I guess they were experimenting back then.

    A 1922 travel book… what a find! And I was jazzed when my buddy found me a gas station road map of Toronto c. 1955! I can barely imagine what a treasure trove that must be for someone of your interests. Is it for the whole US at the time, or mainly for Indiana?

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    • Brick was a common roadbuilding material through about the 1920s. Concrete was common in that period, too. But asphalt became king and remains such, although asphalt has evolved over the years.

      My hometown has a number of brick streets still. Here’s a photo of one: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mobilene/2769156927/. Bricks wear like iron. Brick roads tend to be rumbly, or at least create a fair amount of tire noise, though.

      There were a number of road guides published before the numbered highway system; they helped make sense of an unmanaged road network. The Automobile Blue Book was a multi-volume set that covered the entire US and some of Ontario. You might do eBay searches for the northeastern editions of the ABB; I think those are the ones that contained southern-Ontario routes, too. Very cool. eBay is a pretty amazing resource for old maps, too. I’ve built a utility collection of Indiana maps going back to about 1920 thanks to eBay purchases.

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