Preservation, Road Trips

Is old road pavement worth preserving?

I’ve shared photos of this concrete road segment many times on this blog as a great example of early American hard pavement. It was probably poured in the early 1920s. But sadly, it no longer exists.

Old SR 37

The 1910s and 1920s were a time of great experimentation as roadbuilders figured out that right intersection of road-surface durability and cost. This was the era of brick roads, but builders also experimented with asphalt and Portland cement concrete. Early concrete roads were continuous ribbons. Natural expansion and contraction caused the concrete to crack, and often to crumble. This photo shows this road’s crack pattern better:

Concrete road

Roadbuilders soon figured out that regularly-spaced expansion joints helped concrete roads last longer. My experience has been that this happened by about 1925. Continuous concrete roads were built for a short time in modern road history, and most concrete roads will have expansion joints. When you come upon a continuous concrete road, you’ve found a rarity that is nearly a century old.

08_Map_Hacker_Creek_segmentYou can thank the construction of I-69 for this segment’s destruction. This road was a segment of old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway, about five miles south of downtown Martinsville. Modern SR 37 has bypassed it for years, mere feet to the west. As the modern road is upgraded to Interstate standards, an exit is being built here. The plan maps (here and here) show the details. This map segment is from the old Windows Live Maps site; I captured it in 2007 when I wrote up my first trip along this old road (here). This concrete is the segment labeled W Hacker Creek Rd north of Liberty Church Rd on the map. The section south of Liberty Church Rd had been covered with asphalt. I made these photos from the north end of the road, where a bridge had been removed.

Abandoned SR 37

I have no photos from my recent trip along this road because the exit here is substantially complete and construction closures and restrictions blocked access. As we moved past here on the new highway I could see a ramp exactly where this concrete used to be. A new bridge was even built over this gap.

And it’s too bad. I’m sure people who live down Liberty Church Road will be happy for easy access to their properties from I-69. But they get it at the cost of losing an interesting and well-preserved example of road history.

Old bridges and old buildings are obvious choices for historic preservation, especially when they are of a style or type of dwindling number or are part of a historic resource. But I think old pavement should be as well.

Just like any candidate for preservation, you can’t save them all. But I’m pretty sure this was the last section of continuous concrete highway on Indiana’s Dixie Highway, and as such this destruction was a real loss.

Like this post? Share it on social media with the buttons below! And subscribe to get more in your inbox or reader six days a week.    Click here to subscribe!
Advertisements
Standard

5 thoughts on “Is old road pavement worth preserving?

    • Thing is, I wonder if anybody even knew that this was a loss. To most people, even to most road engineers and builders, this was just pavement. They probably had no idea of its history.

      Like

  1. Such a good topic and preservation question! I always like spotting segments of road with old pavement. Of course they’re almost always sections of road that aren’t used anymore! Utility vs. history.

    Like

  2. Roger Meade says:

    The first ever section of concrete pavement in the nation (according to the plaque) was a short section of Woodward Avenue in Detroit, probably paved at the behest of Henry Ford. Of course the pavement is long since buried under new layers, if it was not dug up in resurfacing. Only the historical marker lets us know about it.

    I have to admit I never thought much about historical roads or surfaces, but what is more important to modern America? The call of the open road is compelling.,

    Like

Share your comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.