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.
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.
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.
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.
Strangely, at some point someone replaced the tail end of this strip with fresh concrete.
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.
Just north of 86th St., a road veers off to the right. It’s another old 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.
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.
That’s it for Marion County. On Wednesday, we’ll look at the old alignments — one abandoned — in Boone County.
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Last updated on 8 April 2020 by Jim Grey