Vintage Dandy Trail photos

The Dandy Trail was a 1920s country driving loop around the city of Indianapolis. Monday’s post tells a little of its history and shows a map of its route.

It’s funny how connections get made in life.

I first learned of the Dandy Trail when I moved to Indianapolis almost 18 years ago. I was an avid cyclist then and liked to ride in Eagle Creek Park. The best route there from my Northwestside home involved a short stretch of road signed Dandy Trail. I thought it was a strange name for a road.

Later I joined a little church not far from the park that had “Traders Point” in its name. I wondered about the name, which suggested that the building stood in a place called Traders Point. But the church stood alone on a lonely road, with few homes and businesses nearby. It didn’t seem like much of a place. Old timers said that the church had moved up the road some years before from where Traders Point used to be. Used to be?

Some persistent Googling led me to the Historic Traders Point blog, which explained that Traders Point had been a small town just north of where Eagle Creek intersected with what was then US 52. Frequent flooding led to both the bulldozing of the entire town and, later, the construction of Eagle Creek Reservoir to finally fix the problem.

I also learned from the blog that one of the roads out of town was Dandy Trail, which placed the road considerably north of where it ends today. Then the blog showed a photo of the very map I showed in my last post, and I learned of the trail’s 88-mile route around the city.

Naturally, my inner roadgeek was highly excited and wanted immediately to drive the route. Frustratingly, extremely persistent Googling revealed absolutely nothing more about the Dandy Trail. I even searched eBay in hopes of perhaps finding a copy of the map or even an old postcard of the route, but no dice. I saved my Dandy Trail search and had eBay e-mail me any newly listed items, and renewed the search annually for several years. As quixotic projects go, at least this one required minimal effort! And then, finally, unbelievably, late last year the search returned a hit. A gentleman in Pennsylvania offered seven 4-by-6-inch glass negatives of scenes along the route. I was the only bidder.

I wanted to see positives of these images and share my great find with you. My photo and negative scanner isn’t equipped to handle negatives this large, so I turned to Joan Hostetler of Heritage Photo & Research Services to digitize these images. Here are all seven images.

On the Dandy Trail
On the Dandy Trail
On the Dandy Trail
On the Dandy Trail
On the Dandy Trail
On the Dandy Trail
On the Dandy Trail

Joan did a wonderful job bringing these images to life. She scanned them at super high resolution to reveal great detail. If you click any image, you’ll go right to Flickr where you can choose to see it at its full scanned size. The image at left, an enlargement from the photo above, gives you an idea of the detail Joan got out of these glass plates.

I don’t know when these images were made, but my educated guess is the late 1910s. Joan tells me that the photographic processes that produced glass negatives had fallen out of favor by the end of the 1910s. Yet named “auto trails” such as the Dixie Highway and the National Old Trails Road (both of which passed through Indianapolis and appear on the 1921 Dandy Trail map) didn’t come into being until the early 1910s. It would help considerably to know when the Dandy Trail was first signed, but I’ll guess it came after the major auto trails.

The auto trails era was short. States began to take over the building and maintaining of highways in the late 1910s. Indiana’s first state highway network was born in 1918. The modern US route system was born in 1927. Indeed, state and US highways tended to be routed along the old auto trails. Only the old timers clung to the roads’ former names.

But the Dandy Trail was different. Its purpose was not to connect this nation’s towns and cities; it was to provide a pleasurable country drive. Perhaps the Hoosier Motor Club continued to promote it, for a while at least. But at some point the Dandy Trail was quite forgotten.

Edit, 8 January 2018: Reporter Dawn Mitchell from The Indianapolis Star contacted me about these photographs to say that they were taken in 1936 by Star photographer Joseph Craven. The woman in the one image is Star reporter Mary Bostwick; the man is M. E. Noblet, secretary of the Hoosier Motor Club. Bostwick was doing a story for the paper revisiting the Dandy Trail. Mitchell explained that photographer Craven was “a renaissance man; if he could use glass plates to make his photos dramatic – he would. From what I’ve heard about him, he used glass plates for features at the Indy 500 into the 40s.”

The city demolished the bridge that led into Traders Point a few years ago.
I chronicled the demolition here, here, here, and here


30 responses to “Vintage Dandy Trail photos”

  1. Kurt Garner Avatar

    What a great find Jim. I can’t imagine those images have been viewed for nearly 100 years.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Pure blind luck that they found their way to me. Some of these are numbered, with numbers in the teens and 20s, suggesting there were more negatives in this series.

  2. Dani Avatar

    When you acquired the negatives, you acquired a treasure. The real Traders Point was located where the reservoir now resides? Next time I cross the 56th bridge, maybe I’ll think of Marion County’s own little Atlantis. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Traders Point was actually on Lafayette Road just north of the Eagle Creek bridge. They demolished the town thinking that the eventual reservoir would put the town (and Lafayette Road) underwater, but then it didn’t, and the demolition turned out to be utterly unnecessary.

      1. Dani Avatar

        What a shame.

      2. Tori Nelson Avatar

        Oh that makes me sad.

        1. Jim Avatar

          I’ve seen pictures of old Traders Point. It was a typical Indiana small town, with a grocery, a couple of gas stations, a couple churches, and some houses. I’m sad to know it could have survived, too.

  3. MaryB Avatar

    That photo of the intersection with Sargent Road…Do you think that’s the same as the current Sargent Road, on the northeast side of town west of Geist? Very cool historic find!

    1. Jim Avatar

      One and the same. And the other photo with a street sign in it, the one that says Dandy Trail — the cross-street blade looks like it says 46th St. Because of reconfiguration of the roads at that intersection, that street sign is where the reservoir begins today.

  4. Ted Kappes Avatar

    Thanks for saving a part of photographic history. Those glass plate negatives seem to be remarkably durable.

    This post got me to wondering if you had ever heard anyone refer to a road as the “hard road”? There is a section of road near here that people have always called the hard road. As I got older I learned that it was part of a project by Champaign County in the 20’s to connect all the towns with a one-lane concrete slab. So it was the first hard road for most people around here and the name has persisted. In a lot of rural areas in Central Illinois the first hard road is still called the hard road by old-timers.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Ted, my dad grew up in a small town in West Virginia, through which WV 61 passed. It was the only paved road in town when he was a boy. More of the town’s roads are paved today, but people there still call 61 the hard road.

      Does any of the single-lane concrete still exist in Champaign County?

      1. Ted Kappes Avatar

        There were some long stretches of it until the last ten years or so. Now most of it has been paved over. About all there is now are some short pieces. That pavement held up pretty well. I remember a lot of it was still in good shape when I started driving in the 70’s.

        One funny thing I remember is that people would still drive on the concrete part no matter which way they were going. And that was after a second asphalt lane had been added. When two cars met one would get into the lane that they were supposed to be in.

        1. Jim Avatar

          It just went on my list to come see those concrete roads!

  5. dennyg Avatar

    The pictures themselves were cool. Your plot of the trail was cooler. But the story of how this all came together through some luck and your efforts is the coolest.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks Denny! Luck played a big part in this, to be sure!

  6. zorgor Avatar

    Fascinating history Jim!

    1. Jim Avatar

      It was even more fascinating to uncover this history bit by bit in my research.

  7. Jennifer S Avatar

    I love these, too. Thanks for pointing me here. I’m really learning a lot from your blog. As it turns out, my first major project at the museum will involve cataloguing the photo collection. There also are some glass negatives in their archive, and it would be interesting to get a better look at them. Your images turned out so well, now I’m motivated to have them scanned.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m so glad, Jennifer. I hope the museum will invest in a good scanner for you, or pony up to outsource the work. Museums frequently place their photo collections online and I’ve done a fair bit of research using museum photo collections.

  8. Nancy McMillan Avatar
    Nancy McMillan

    I do remember portions of Dandy Trail that disappeared under the waters of the Eagle Creek reservoir. Had no idea that the trail went all around the city for 88 miles. Thank you so much for unearthing this historical delight. On another note, I have used the services of Joan Hostetler to restore some badly-damaged photographic slides–she did a great job. Nancy

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Nancy, can you imagine a time when the entire route was signed? Just unbelievable.

  9. Candy West Avatar
    Candy West

    I love this. My great grandparents live owned a farm on the corner of Dandy Trail and 136. I have photos of my grandfather in his early 20’s on the porch in the 1920’s. He talked about the area and I always had a fascination for it. I lived in Eagledale in the 60’s and was all over that area. I would live to have an old map and then see it again as it was in the 60’s.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Tip: The link below contains historic aerial imagery for many years going all the way back to 1937! At the link, click the Streets & Aerials button and choose the year you want to see. At the bottom of the list is a slider that fades the map away so you can see the historic aerials better.

  10. Evan Finch Avatar
    Evan Finch

    I’m very late to the party, but I just found a story in the Indianapolis Star of November 1, 1936 that was illustrated by several of your pictures. Writer Mary E. Bostwick was driving the Dandy Trail with M. E. Noblet to see how it was holding up, 16 years after its opening. They were only able to find two of the original directional signs showing “Dandy,” the Pomeranian. One was a partially split sign nailed to a gate outside a farm belonging to Paul Moffatt, and the other was on the abutment of the Vermont street bridge over Eagle Creek.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Evan, thanks for writing in. I have a copy of that article, forwarded to me by Star reporter Dawn Mitchell who, last I heard, was working on a follow-up article on the DT. That was a year ago; haven’t heard anything since.

  11. […] of SR 100 built closer to both the route of the Dandy Trail (see Jim Grey’s posts here, here, and here) and the county lines than the ultimate plan of SR 100 (and as such, I-465, which […]

  12. Harley Patterson Avatar
    Harley Patterson

    Growing up in the 1960s and 70s in that area, my father lived in the old trailer park where US 136 ends at Crawfordsville Road (US 74), he would take us kids fishing on the old abandoned Dandy Trail, (unknown to us it’s name), we would take county line road northbound from Clermont to 65th street, turn right (east), to where it dead ended at the reservoir, Dandy Trail ran along the edge of the water both ways. If you turned right, it only went about 100 yards before entering the water, not very good fishing, way too shallow. But if you turned left and went north, about 2 or 300 yards it ended at an iron bridge where we went a lot. I learned to drive on that road, today that bridge is still there, it can be seen from US 65 as you cross the Eagle Creek. Google Earth today shows the bridge but the floor has long fallen into the water. Back then you could stand on that bridge and look north, and see the road go under water and then resurface about 30 yards and continue. In the 1980s a gate was put up across 65th street at County Line Road. I recall many Saturdays fishing from that bridge, then dad taking us to Shakey’s Pizza Parlor at High School and 16th to see the silent films and eat pizza, then return to the old trailer park behind the old Time Oil gas station across the street. A few doors east of Shakey’s used to be Topps department store where I always wanted Red Ball Jets to make me run faster…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I know the spot you mean! I’ve never been over there – I really need to check it out one day. I see the iron bridge on Google Maps satellite view, and it looks pretty ragged.

      I grew up in South Bend and we had a Shakey’s too. It was where everyone went after the high school football games.

  13. Karen Rippy Carney Avatar
    Karen Rippy Carney

    Does anyone have pictures of 4100 Dandy Trail in the 60’s & 70’s ?

    My dad farmed all that bottom ground that became Eagle Creek Reservoir. We moved in 1965 when Eagle Creek reservoir under went construction.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I sure don’t have any such photos, I’m sorry.

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