Imagining what a road was like in years gone by draws me out to find the old alignments and the old pavement. This is why I’ve recently shared photos of left-behind brick and concrete segments of Ohio’s National Road with you – photos, I’m sure, that were interesting only to readers with a healthy inner roadgeek.
I stumbled upon the Ohio Department of Transportation’s photo archive (which has since gone offline), a great cache of historic road images that includes an extensive set of early-1900s National Road photos. I killed most of a morning studying every image. I was in roadgeek heaven! Some of the images show things I have been writing about in these posts, and I want to share them with you.
This first image is from 1906, somewhere in Licking County along the National Road. Ohio’s Department of Highways hadn’t yet been formed; the National Road belonged to the counties through which it passed. The road was unimproved and maintenance varied. Imagine trying to drive this rutted road on a rainy day. More to the point, imagine needing help pulling your car out of a mud bog.
Compacting a dirt road by dragging a super-heavy roller across it helps avoid the ruts for a while. This 1905 photo from Muskingum County shows the road after what appears to be a good compacting.
Crushed stone and gravel were popular choices when the National Road began to be improved across Ohio, as this photo from Franklin County shows. ODOT dates the photo to 1917, but I think it might be even older.
This photo, which ODOT dates to 1912, shows a crew laying brick on the National Road in Franklin County. Laying a brick road is all manual labor.
This 1917 photo from Guernsey County shows more bricks being laid. Imagine how long the road had to be closed to get this job done. We wouldn’t put up with it today.
I really hoped to find construction photos from the concrete highway poured between 1914 and 1916 between Zanesville and Hebron. I didn’t have any luck, but at least I found this 1933 photo of the concrete highway in use in Licking County, in which Hebron is located.
I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.
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Last updated on 3 June 2020 by Jim Grey