Preserving the old bridge abutment on the Michigan Road

I’ve made many, many trips down US 31 between South Bend (my hometown) and Indianapolis (where I live now). It’s a dreadfully boring 4-lane affair all the way. This hasn’t always been the case, as until about 40 years ago US 31 was a two-lane highway, much of it on a different alignment. 45 miles of that earlier alignment between Rochester and South Bend followed the old Michigan Road. This road also carried the Dixie Highway.

Until 1982, a one-lane truss bridge carried traffic over the Tippecanoe River just north of Rochester. It is said to have dated to the late 1800s. This abutment is all that remains.

One-lane bridge approach

This is how it looked in 2007 when my friend Brian and I explored US 31’s old alignments in northern Indiana. (That’s Brian walking away on the old road bed.) I wrote about the trip; read about it here. Some time later I received an e-mail from a woman who read my report. Jean owns the property around this abutment and was worried that the abutment’s stones were loose and falling out. She wondered if I knew of anyone who would take up the preservation mantle for this landmark. I didn’t. But that didn’t stop Jean. She found an Eagle Scout candidate looking for a service project and convinced him to take it on. He mortared the stones to secure them, and laid some pavers down where the old road bed had crumbled away.

Old bridge abutment

The Eagle Scout finished his work in late 2010, but it took me until late 2011 to drive by here with my camera in hand. I’m glad to see this old abutment preserved for another generation.

175 miles south of here on the Michigan Road, a stone bridge built in the early 1900s still carries traffic. Check it out!

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

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13 responses to “Preserving the old bridge abutment on the Michigan Road”

  1. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    Nice work replicating the angle on that shot, Jim. :) That’s a great story, too. What a great project for someone. Ah, but you left me itching for two things… to read that plaque, and to see a photo of the bridge from days gone by! :)

    A highway, with a one-lane bridge as late as the 80s? Man. :)

    1. Jim Avatar

      I have searched the entire Internet in vain for a photo of the bridge. My dad remembers it; he always calls it a “pain in the pratt” because you had to wait at either end for traffic to pass.

      US 31 was moved a mile or so to the east on a new four-lane alignment by 1972, so this wasn’t really a highway anymore after that!

      And you’d better believe I have photos of the plaques.

      Historical marker


      1. James Gutknechtjim Avatar
        James Gutknechtjim

        I have a pic of the bridge my dad took…my uncle had a head on wreck in about 1950 on the bridge…..I remember if u went across following a truck…u could hear the old girl groan

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Thanks James! If you ever scan that photo into a computer I’d love to see it.

  2. ryoko861 Avatar

    That’s wonderful! Someone who’s as passionate about preserving those old bits and pieces of the old road as you! And an Eagle Scout who was probably more that happy to tackle the job! And did a pretty good job!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Jean, the owner of the neighboring property, was delighted to have this done!

  3. Tori Nelson Avatar

    Love to see these old structures being preserved. I grew up around Belle Mead in Nashville and the whole town is still lined with old, stone walls. It’s a casual piece of history: less showy than some antebellum mansion, but cool all the same :)

    1. Jim Avatar

      I’ll bet those stone walls are wonderful. Touches like that really lend character.

  4. mj monaghan Avatar

    I love these gems of history! Great that a scout took on the project. Great recapture of the same shot from 2007.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks MJ! The Michigan Road is a passion of mine – I’ve photographed it extensively.

  5. Kaitlin Avatar

    I love old bridge abutments and roadway alignments. It’s nice to see others do too.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks Kaitlin! There are tons of posts here about bridges and roads; they’re two of my favorite subjects! Come back Monday for a post about two preserved S bridges in eastern Ohio.

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