Work on an old road sometimes reveals old surfaces. A project in Downtown Indianapolis along Washington Street, the city’s east-west main drag, cut this groove into the center of the road and revealed a former brick surface, and perhaps an even older surface beneath it.
Washington Street has quite a history. It was part of Indianapolis’s original plat upon the city’s founding in 1821. It was made part of the National Road when that historic early highway reached Indiana in about 1829. In the early 20th century, things really heated up for Washington Street: it was made part of the National Old Trails Road in 1912, part of Indiana State Road 3 in 1917, and then part of US 40 in 1927. All of those designations are historic now; this road’s only name today is Washington Street.
It’s hard telling for sure when those bricks were laid, but my experience has been that the 1910s were brick’s pavement heyday. Those revealed bricks are probably 100 years old.
What lies immediately beneath those bricks, though? Could that be an even earlier surface, perhaps macadam? Or is it a base layer installed to support the bricks? I’d love to know more about Washington Street’s improvement history.
I took this photo from the window of my car, eastbound while stopped at the light at East Street. Indianapolis’s original plat was a mile square, bounded by North, South, East, and West Streets. So I took this photo at the edge of Washington Street’s oldest portion. Oh, the stories this pavement could tell!
I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.