A couple weeks ago, when I walked you through the old railroad town of New Augusta in northwest Indianapolis, I mentioned nearby Augusta. It came first, in 1832, built on the then-new Michigan Road. When I shared this post on Facebook, someone commented there, “Whatever became of Augusta?”
It’s still there. Welcome to downtown Augusta, Indiana.
The photos above and below are from the same spot, first northbound, then southbound. Yes, it looks a lot like aging suburbs, as that’s what it’s become. Augusta flourished through the early 1850s thanks to the Michigan Road, but floundered afterward thanks to the Indianapolis and Lafayette Railroad a mile and a half to the west. But in the early 1900s, automobiles made roads important again. The old Michigan Road became a part of the Dixie Highway in about 1915, and then was added to a new network of state-maintained highways in 1917. It was first State Road 6, and then State Road 29, and finally US 421.
In the 1990s, the state routed US 421 around the city on an Interstate beltway and turned Michigan Road over to the city. By this time, it had become a critical artery in northwest Indianapolis, but was just two lanes wide from Augusta north. I moved to Indianapolis at about this time and remember mile-long backups through Augusta. In the late 1990s, the city widened Michigan Road to four lanes all the way north, and traffic flowed more easily.
But that widening further damaged whatever character was left in Augusta. Fortunately, traces of Augusta remain, if you look quickly as you zoom through. These two buildings are the most prominent remnants.
The building on the right is the Boardman House, built in 1832 by the town’s founders. This house has been for sale for a few years now.
This little house stands across the street. To me, it shows all the signs of being a log cabin beneath that modern siding. The length and width of the house’s front portion, the central door with windows on either side, and the roof’s height and pitch are all strong signs. The rear portion with its long, sloping roof is a typical style of addition to a log cabin. Anybody who built a log cabin expanded and modernized it as money to do so was available.
Another subtle sign of Augusta is that the cross streets are perpendicular to Michigan Road, which cuts through Indianapolis at an angle. Most other Indianapolis streets that cross the Michigan Road do so at angles.
Even though I live only a few miles away, I’ve never strayed off Michigan Road deeper into Augusta. I ought to someday; there’s a one-lane concrete-arch bridge over Crooked Creek on 76th Street that I’d like to see. And who knows what old houses lurk on these old streets.
I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.
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