Road trips

Driving the old road before it becomes the old road

Indiana, like most states, began improving its roads in the early part of the 20th century and has never stopped. You’d think that every highway in the state would have been improved to perfection by now! But the thirst for wider, straighter, and faster roads seems never to be slaked. In a few cases, towns on major highways that were bypassed with expressways 50 years ago are set to be rebypassed with freewaysI’m talking about you, Kokomo!

And so it’s refreshing to this old roadgeek when a US highway still passes through a town, especially a town with a well-preserved old downtown. Such is the case with US 50 when it reaches North Vernon, a small city in southeastern Indiana. This eastbound photo is of an intersection where US 50 makes a right turn on its way out of town.

US 50 in North Vernon

As you make that corner from the other direction, you pass by a brick street on your right, on which stands this theater.

Park Theater

I was drawn to this attractive building but puzzled over the name atop its facade. It didn’t take much Internet sleuthing to find out about the Improved Order of Red Men, the nation’s oldest fraternal organization.

US 50 in North Vernon

This library, so typical of those I’ve seen all over the state, stands a couple blocks away.

North Vernon library

I love it when I come into a town or small city and find it to be quite alive and well as I did with North Vernon on this rainy afternoon. People were coming and going from the shops along US 50 and enough cars passed by that I had to wait several minutes at this corner before I could take this unobstructed eastbound photograph.

US 50 in North Vernon

I enjoyed my brief walk through this classic Indiana downtown, but I wondered as I photographed it how North Vernon had managed to go unbypassed. I didn’t know until I came home and started researching for this post that the Indiana Department of Transportation is studying several routes that will finally take US 50 around North Vernon. One day this street will be Old US 50.

You might think I’d lament this bypassing, but I accept it as the way of the world. I’m just glad I visited with my camera while the highway still passes through town. I visit lots of towns through which highways once passed and I wonder what they were like when they got all of the highway’s traffic. It’s satisfying to have experienced North Vernon while US 50 still passed through it. I’m sure I’ll visit again one day after the bypass is built and remember when I took this photo of the US 50 shield while it still stood along the road.

US 50 in North Vernon


Check out some other Indiana downtowns I’ve visited: Richmond, Brazil, and Logansport.

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4 thoughts on “Driving the old road before it becomes the old road

  1. ND Envirochick says:

    I am glad that INDOT is considering a rebypass of Kokomo on US 31. Coming from central KY to South Bend can be described in three legs of approximately equal distance: my town to Cincinnati on I-75, Cincinnati to Indianapolis on I-74, and Indy to SB on US 31. Despite the fact that US 31 is only 1/3 of the trip distance-wise, it takes 1/2 of the travel time, predominantly because of Carmel and Kokomo and their stop-and-go-and-stop-some-more traffic.

    BTW, I have enjoyed US 231 around Putnam County, IN; US 36 around Hendricks County, IN and US 18 around Grant County, IN. If you’re in the Indy area, US 36 will probably be the closest trip for you.

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    • The plan is to elevate all of US 31 from Indy to South Bend to Interstate-level highway. Various projects are underway now. One of them involves a new-terrain US 31 from Plymouth to the bypass in South Bend.

      I’ve done US 36 — http://jimgrey.net/Roads/US36West/index.htm. There are lots of old alignments! I have driven a lot of US 231 but never seem to enjoy it. I’ve been on some of SR 18 but can’t remember much about it.

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