Seeing the National Road sights in Springfield, Ohio

By the time I reached Springfield, I was clearly on the tail end of my three-day journey across Ohio’s National Road. After all, Springfield is about three-quarters of the way across the state from east to west.

While speed is never my goal on any road trip, I was making very good time simply because US 40 is so straight across most of western Ohio – with only a couple exceptions, it was built directly on top of the National Road from Columbus to the Indiana state line. There was little to see in terms of old alignments and there were no old stone bridges to photograph. So I settled in and just enjoyed the driving.

I did stop frequently in Springfield, however, because there was so much to see there. This drive-in theater stands on Springfield’s eastern edge. The theater still operates. Here’s what’s playing now.

Melody Drive-In

The Drake Motel sign is a National Road landmark. Many of the photos I’ve seen of it (such as this one) showed it in some disrepair, its neon broken and its panels stained with rust. It appears to have been freshly repaired and repainted, but unfortunately its neon was removed. There used to be an almost identical Drake Motel sign (and accompanying motel) on US 40 in eastern Indianapolis, but it was torn down years ago.

Drake Motel

US 40 enters and exits Springfield along the Main Street corridor, but through most of town US 40 is routed onto two one-way streets to the north of Main. The Main Street alignment is highlighted in green on the map below.

There’s lots to like about the Schuler’s Bakery building, a few blocks west of where US 40 diverges from the National Road.

Schuler's Bakery

Props to them for keeping their neon lit during the day!

Schuler's Bakery

The neon is missing from the Tuttle Bros. Auto Supplies sign a couple blocks down the road. This business seems to be missing from the building, too.

Tuttle Bros Auto Supplies

There’s lots of great old signage in and on this building, which once housed Northside Appliances.

North Side Appliances

This building was once the Shawnee Hotel, but I don’t know how it’s being used today. It sure is striking, though.

Shawnee Hotel

This is the Bushnell Building, which was built in 1893. Its claim to fame is that patent attorney Harry Toulmin had his office here when he wrote the patent for the Wright Brothers’ invention of the airplane.

Downtown Springfield

Across from the Bushnell Building is Springfield’s Fountain Square, where this statue of Toulmin looks at the entrance to his former office.

Harry Toulmin statue

And with that, I rejoined US 40 on Springfield’s west end and and headed out of town. But I forgot to look for two things in Springfield. The first is Springfield’s Madonna of the Trail, which is a statue placed here and in 11 other locations along the National Old Trails Road in 1928 and 1929. The National Old Trails Road was a coast-to-coast road that mostly followed the National Road across its six states. I’ve seen all the other Madonnas of the Trail on the National Road; see photos here. The second is the beginning of the Dayton Cutoff, a road that crafty officials in Dayton built to siphon National Road traffic through their town. It worked, too. I’ve seen the other end of the road, which is in Richmond, Indiana; read about it here. I guess I’ll just have to go back to Springfield another day!

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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12 responses to “Seeing the National Road sights in Springfield, Ohio”

  1. Denny Gibson Avatar

    The Ohio Madonna is right on US-40 but it’s still easy to miss since there is no pull-off area or other indication that it’s there. The Cut Off start point is even easier to miss when driving west because 1) it is on the east bound one-way (which is the original NR) and 2) there is no marker and darned little awareness that it ever existed. But you missed an even cooler roadside attraction in the Pennsylvania House. It is a great old inn that sat in the ‘V’ between the real and fake NRs and is now a museum. You saw a lot but, as I know you are well aware, there’s plenty more to see when you come back.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Denny, I have it in my head to do a Dayton Cutoff trip one of these days, so I’ll be back to Springfield for that. I drove part of the Cutoff on a family trip to West Virginia in July and it whetted my appetite. At any rate, when I go back I can now catch the Pennsylvania House, which I didn’t know about! Also, I’m curious about your statement that the eastbound one-way is the original NR — all of the old maps I consulted seem to suggest the NR was Main St., which is why I traveled it.

      1. Denny Gibson Avatar

        I know better than to trust my memory but I keep forgetting that. Main is indeed the NR and while part of it is one way that portion is one way west bound and doesn’t even include the area where Pennsylvania House sits and where the cut off started. That area allows two way traffic. How’s that for screwing things up. Sorry. Also sorry for (I think) screwing up the flow of posts here. I think I must have commented when I should have replied or something like that.

        So you did go past the cut off and the PH. You just didn’t notice them. I bet you won’t miss the PH on your next pass and the cut off begins (I believe) two streets to the east at Dayton Ave. That is not where the NOTR went. By the time it came along, the road had been improved some distance west of the PH and the NOTR used Brandt Pike.

        1. Jim Avatar

          Thanks for the tip that the NOTR didn’t follow Dayton Ave. Now I have to see both roads when I go back. And I didn’t know about the PH at all so of course that’s one more thing to see!

  2. Denny Gibson Avatar

    I made that statement from memory and am not at home to check it. I’m pretty sure it’s the NR on the west side of town because of the Penn. House connection but not so sure further east. I’ll get back to you on that:-)

  3. vanilla Avatar

    Why, it’s almost as though I had driven through Springfield!

    1. Jim Avatar


  4. doon po sa amin Avatar

    hello, jim…

    i really like the pics and the narration as well. it’s like am taking a look at america’s old towns and old landscapes myself.

    hey, you must be having a grand time driving and taking pics… thanks for sharing :)

    1. Jim Avatar

      Yes, i do have a grand time on the road! I’m glad you enjoy riding along, albeit virtually!

  5. Tom Wikoff Avatar
    Tom Wikoff

    Jim, WHEN you come back to Springfield to view the Madonna statue, you’ll find it near downtown on Main St. It’s the center piece of a new park with plenty of parking and seating areas. Very attractive and more accessible.

  6. Tom Wikoff Avatar
    Tom Wikoff

    I forgot to mention the fantastic Heritage Center which now houses what used to be the Clark County Historical Society. The exhibits are world class and one of them early pioneers and the importance of The National Road. You won’t be disappointed!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks for the tips Tom!!

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