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. 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.
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.
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!