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