Road Trips

Standing in the middle of the old Brookville Road

I’ve made much on this blog about the Michigan Road, which was commissioned by the Indiana state legislature in 1828. I routinely call the Michigan Road the state’s first highway. With its 100-foot right-of-way and 270-mile length, it was the grandest and most important road Indiana built in its early years. But the state did fund and build other roads before the Michigan Road.

In 1821, the legislature set money aside to build ten roads from Indianapolis to various points around the state. One of those roads was to stretch 78 miles to the Ohio state line near Cincinnati via the little town of Brookville, for which the road was named. It was built starting in 1828. You can still drive the Brookville Road today; it is US 52 (and old US 52 in Indianapolis and near the Ohio line). It’s still called Brookville Road in Indianapolis.

As is the story with so many old roads that became modern highways, it has been straightened, widened, and moved in many places. Just before US 52 leaves Indianapolis to the east, a tiny strip of old pavement stands by, a segment of the road’s older alignment there. It’s in the upper left corner of this map segment, but it’s not hard to trace its original arc from there.

My buddy Sherrel and I were returning from our fried-chicken adventure in Morristown when we saw this abandoned segment. I know I can wear out my friends with my roadgeekiness, so I didn’t say anything. But then Sherrel said, “Hey, you wanna stop and take a look at that?” He didn’t have to ask me twice! I made a quick U turn and pulled right up onto the old road.

Abandoned Brookville Road

According to historical aerial imagery at MapIndy, this segment of road was in service until sometime between 1956 and 1962. The new alignment was lower than the old, making it necessary to dig out this chunk of the old alignment so a property owner’s driveway could connect.

Abandoned Brookville Road

The historic aerials show that the old road surface was removed east of this segment. But as this eastbound shot shows, few trees have grown up in the old roadway.

Abandoned Brookville Road

Sherrel wanted to walk the old roadway, but I was worried we’d be trespassing on private property. But looking at the property lines on MapIndy, this strip is still in the state’s right-of-way, and we could have explored it. Sorry Sherrel!

Check out some of the other abandoned roads I’ve known and loved. Read about it here.

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13 thoughts on “Standing in the middle of the old Brookville Road

    • It wouldn’t take long to follow it to its end. If you look on the map above, there’s a creek on the east end. The old road used to cross a former bridge there and then it merged with the current road’s path.

  1. I’ve been on Brookville Road and it was really cool — even to a non-“roadgeek.” What I remember most vividly was how much it wound around in hilly and wooded areas before finally arriving at Brookville.

    About 10 years ago, The Indianapolis Star listed Brookville as the “least diverse” town in Indiana, and I wanted to see what it was like. Driving there was like being in an old “Twilight Zone” episode about a lost town that wasn’t on any maps. I suspected that Brookville was “non-diverse” because it was so hard to reach. The dominant forces of our era had left it alone instead of pulverizing it and plowing it under.

    • I drove Brookville Rd. to Cincy once and had the same experience you did, wondering how I stepped back in time. It was a fun drive, though.

    • I considered mentioning the “textured tarmac” but thought that would be too roadgeeky. But I have noticed on Indiana and Ohio roads that stretching back to probably the 1920s and 1930s, aggregate used to make pavement was not crushed to standard size. So you’d find rocks of various sizes in the pavement. I’m not sure when crushed, standard-sized aggregate started to be used. But it is possible that this stretch of highway was paved as early as the 1930s.

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