Brick Lincoln Highway near Ligonier, Indiana

The Lincoln Highway is on my old-road bucket list. The 1913 coast-to-coast highway cuts two major alignments across Indiana. I’ve driven parts of it, especially the entire portion from South Bend to the Illinois line, but have never stopped to photograph anything along it. This Lincoln Highway visit was a minor exception. Margaret and I had a whole day to ourselves after our trip to Auburn and were just looking for a pleasant day together. There’s a well-known bypassed brick section of the Lincoln Highway near Ligonier, which was just 30 miles away. So we spent part of our day on the Lincoln.

Brick Lincoln Highway

The 1913 alignment as it heads northwest from Fort Wayne is mostly US 33 today. A few old alignments lurk about as US 33 was rerouted in improvements over the years.

Imagery ©2014 DigitalGlobe, IndianaMap Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency, Map data ©2014 Google
Imagery ©2014 DigitalGlobe, IndianaMap Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2014 Google.

This is probably the best-known old alignment along the 1913 Lincoln Highway route, if for no other reason that it’s the last brick pavement still serving on it.

As you can see on the map snippet, this was a pretty wicked curve. That’s where the township line runs, and the road was routed along it. Roads were also typically routed along farm property lines in those days. It made for a lot of awkward curves. Highway departments everywhere spent much of the 20th century smoothing out such curves for safety. That frequently left the older alignment behind so that homeowners could still reach their properties.

When I first heard of this alignment many years ago, a short section of brick remained on the west side of US 33 where you see that little clearing on the map. Those bricks, which served no practical purpose, are gone now. Too bad.

This northbound photo is from the north end of the old alignment, where it flows into modern US 30.

Brick Lincoln Highway

Incredibly, while researching these bricks I found a 1924 photograph of the brick road taken near this curve. I haven’t been able to confirm when these bricks were laid, but clearly it was no later than 1924. Most other Indiana brick highways I’ve encountered were laid in the 1910s.

“Packard on brick 2 miles east of Ligonier, Indiana.” University of Michigan Library Digital Collections. Accessed October 18, 2014.

Returning to today, here’s where the road curves as it heads south. The Lincoln Highway is an east-west road overall, but this segment lies along a brief north-south section.

Brick Lincoln Highway

I’ve seen a lot of old brick roads in my travels, but have never seen a curve constructed like this one. In both directions leading toward the curve’s center, the bricks were laid in parallel rows that edged along the curve’s radius. Where they met in the middle, a 45-degree cut was made.

Brick Lincoln Highway

Another thing I’ve never seen before is a brick gutter. And notice how the bricks are mortared. I’ve found few mortared brick roads in my midwestern old-road travels — most of the time, the bricks are tightly packed without mortar. These three features alone make this road segment worth preserving.

Brick Lincoln Highway

Here’s a view of the gutter from the other direction.

Brick Lincoln Highway

Given how the “old” looks hastily added, I wondered as I shot this whether this mailbox predates the realignment. Probably not: my research suggests that the Lincoln was realigned here as early as the late 1920s. I doubt this mailbox is pushing 90 years old!

Brick Lincoln Highway

Here’s the south end of the old brick road, which is about 800 feet long. Margaret was busy exploring too. She’s a good sport: old cars all day Saturday and old roads all day Sunday.

Brick Lincoln Highway

These Lincoln Highway markers are said to be a recent addition, but they don’t look to be rust resistant.

Brick Lincoln Highway

This is the only surviving brick segment of the Lincoln Highway in Indiana. I know of a 2-mile brick segment near East Canton, Ohio, and a 2.8-mile stretch near Elkhorn, Nebraska, said to be the longest along the entire route. There may be others. It’d be fun to find them all.

Here are some brick National Road segments in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

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10 responses to “Brick Lincoln Highway near Ligonier, Indiana”

  1. Kaitlin Avatar

    Love it! So glad you and Margaret have time to explore and then share with us east coasters. :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Kaitlin! You ought to make a road trip out here! Lots of old road stuff to see.

      1. Kaitlin Avatar

        I know, I’d love to! I haven’t been road tripping out that way in a while.

  2. pesoto74 Avatar

    It is interesting to see these parts of old roads that you find. I can’t think of any surviving sections of brick highway around here. My uncle told me that the part of the old Coast to Coast Highway(Rt 36) was once brick in this area. He actually remembered seeing the bricks being lain when he was young. However so far I haven’t been able to find any of that payment that survived.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s probably buried under the current US 36 pavement. They often just paved right over the brick and concrete. From time to time I see a story of rebuilding a road and they find 100-year-old bricks when they remove all the asphalt.

  3. Ward Fogelsanger Avatar
    Ward Fogelsanger

    Was back in Casey ,IL in September and took a look at old brick National road with a tape measure. The brick came out to be 15 ft wide with 18 inch concrete strips on the side..18 ft and the concrete east of Martinsville was 18 ft. I actually thought a lot of it was 16 ft wide. I googled the width of a Greyhound bus and their old coaches were 96 inches wide or 8 ft. So in a 9 foot wide lane they only had 6 inches room on each side. No wonder I would flinch when I met one on the old road between Casey and Martinsville when I first started driving.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Ward for measuring it! You might enjoy this that I found on Google Books – a few reports from the Illinois Division of Highways in the early 20s that share some details about roadbuilding methods in those days.

  4. Jan Caloia Avatar
    Jan Caloia

    Jim, if you haven’t yet read, “Alice’s Drive” about the first coast-to-coast drive completed by a woman on the Lincoln Highway in 1909, you should add it to your list. It’s available on Amazon and includes an update written by Gregory Franzwa where he searches out the original route and updates it with today’s routes. Lots of photos and harrowing stories. A great read!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve heard of this book and it’s on my “one of these days” list. I love stories of old road trips! I have one here called “Overland by Auto in 1913” about a family’s drive from California to Greenwood, Indiana. There weren’t roads in some Western states yet and they had to drive over terrain.

      1. Jan Caloia Avatar
        Jan Caloia

        I’ve read the Overland book and Alice’s Drive is much more detailed with lots of photos of the roads. One of Alice’s challenges was crossing over a railroad trestle but she first had to obtain permission on the other side of the trestle!

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