Old and abandoned alignments of Indiana’s Lafayette Road, part 1

I loves me some old road alignments! Especially when their original pavement remains. And in Marion and Boone Counties, the Lafayette Road really delivers. As I explained last week, the Lafayette Road was built in the 1830s to connect Indianapolis to Lafayette. It was paved in hard surfaces early in the 20th century, and later improvements left old alignments behind. I’ll show you what I found in Marion County (Indianapolis) in this post, and in neighboring Boone County in an upcoming post.

In Marion County, Lafayette Road was paved in concrete in about 1925, and was widened to four lanes in about 1935. In the process, a couple curves in the road were smoothed out, leaving behind a couple stretches of glorious concrete. The first is north of 38th St. and just south of Pike Plaza Rd./Georgetown Rd. It fronts a little strip mall. It’s circled on the map below.

Imagery and map data ©2016 Google.

You’ll appreciate this little road snippet even more when you see this aerial image from 1956 that shows its entire original path. Hard to believe this is the same place, isn’t it? This part of town started shifting from rural to suburban in about 1970. In the early 1990s it exploded into a major shopping destination.

Courtesy MapIndy, http://maps.indy.gov/MapIndy/

Here’s the old road in its narrow glory. I didn’t measure it, but I bet it’s only 16 feet wide, which was a typical road width in those days. This is a hodgepodge of concrete, actually. The first 15 feet or so contains expansion joints, which means it was probably poured at some time after the original 1925 concrete, which lacks expansion joints. It was in the mid-1920s that road builders started using expansion joints, and shortly nobody was laying down concrete roads without them.

Abandoned Lafayette Road

Here’s some of the 1925 concrete, with the cracking characteristic of a road with no expansion joints. I’ve known about this strip of concrete for at least 20 years, but didn’t know what it was until my inner roadgeek awakened several years ago. I just thought it was a curious place for the strip-mall developer to place a strip of concrete.

Abandoned Lafayette Road

Strangely, at some point someone replaced the tail end of this strip with fresh concrete.

Abandoned Lafayette Road

Shortly past all the shopping, just beyond 56th St., Lafayette Road crosses over I-65 and I-465 and the scenery changes to rural. An occasional subdivision meets the old highway, but otherwise this is how the route looks. This is one of the least-developed areas in the city. There’s very little traffic on Lafayette Road out here; you can get an empty-highway photo here anytime.

Lafayette Road

Just north of 86th St., a road veers off to the right. It’s another old alignment.

Concrete alignment

Here’s how it looks in the air today, versus how it looked in 1956. A subdivision built about 20 years ago truncated this loop.

Left: Imagery and map data ©2016 Google. Right: Courtesy MapIndy, http://maps.indy.gov/MapIndy/

When you drive up on it, you see it’s paved in that glorious 1925 concrete. I shared this road segment last year in this post.

Concrete alignment

That’s it for Marion County. On Wednesday, we’ll look at the old alignments — one abandoned — in Boone County.

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13 responses to “Old and abandoned alignments of Indiana’s Lafayette Road, part 1”

  1. The Trailhead Avatar

    This is interesting! (Especially since this is my part of town.)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh cool, I didn’t know you lived here! I’ve lived within a few miles of this road for more than 20 years now.

      1. The Trailhead Avatar

        Yep, born and raised, moved elsewhere for a decade, then came back. I’ve been on the northwest side for almost eight years. It’s cool to read about this aspect of it.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Well, howdy neighbor!

  2. Dennis Wagoner Avatar

    I had seen the strip at the strip mall and never realized what it was. We used to sit at the outdoor movie parking lot that filled the triangle between Georgetown, Lafayette Rd and 38th Street to watch July 4th fireworks. That was before the mall was built and all the development took off from there.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Dennis, I’m kind of a latecomer to the area, having moved here in 1994 — this is the only way I’ve ever known this part of town!

      1. Dennis Wagoner Avatar

        Yeah, back in those days (mid-60s) there was no one driving on 38th Street because there was nothing there. It really piled up fast though once the mall got there.

    2. Charlie Hart Avatar
      Charlie Hart

      Last movie I remember being on the board, was “Apocolypse Now”

  3. Susie Avatar

    This is so cool! I feel like I’ve been seeing old road alignments more and more lately. There must be a lot out there and I wasn’t looking closely before!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Out where you are, there are still old wagon trails to follow! A roadfan buddy of mine lives out that way and still sometimes explores them.

      Old road alignments is one of my favorite things to write about. Type “old alignment” into the search box and see!

      1. Susie Avatar

        Yes! There are definitely some cool visible spots of the Oregon Trail and things out here. So amazing they’re still visible in places!

  4. Dawn Avatar

    It is interesting what you can find when you go out exploring with your old cameras.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Or my new cameras! :-)

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