US 40 was widened from two to four lanes across Indiana in the 1930s and 1940s. Old photographs of any road can be hard to come by, but especially when the road changed so dramatically so early.
Fellow roadfan Roger Green has been researching US 40 for several years now. He grew up in a small western Indiana town called Harmony, which is on US 40 in Clay County. The photos he found are from Harmony in 1933, and they show a road of very different character from today. This eastbound photo is from just west of Harmony Barnett Street. The building at left is Rohrig’s Texaco.
This Google Street View capture shows the same scene as Google recorded it in 2018. The Texaco station is now a diner.
Here’s a closer look at the diner. I made this photo in 2009; the diner’s changed hands and names at least once since then.
The photo below is from a little east of the photo above. The house in the picture still stands; see it here.
This westbound photo, which has to be from N CR 200 E, shows Rohrig’s Texaco on the right. It’s a little hard to see but farther down the road on the left is Finley’s General Store.
When I made my 2009 trip documenting US 40 in western Indiana, Finley’s was still standing, but it’s not clear to me whether it was still operating. The same is true today.
What’s most fascinating to me is the roadway itself — it’s a continuous ribbon of concrete. Indiana didn’t start inserting expansion joints in its concrete highways until about 1925, as best as I can figure. Also, travel lanes were much narrower in the early 1920s than now. This highway is probably only about 12 feet wide.
One segment of continuous-concrete US 40 remans, on a short old alignment about seven miles east of Harmony, in neighboring Putnam County, near Manhattan. As you can see, this old road cracked pretty severely. Expansion joints help prevent cracking.
This photo gives a pretty good feel of just how narrow this road is. Can you imagine encountering an oncoming truck here at night? Harrowing! The modern four-lane US 40 was a giant improvement in safety and speed. Here’s a 2009 eastbound photo of the modern road just east of Harmony.
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.
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Last updated on 17 April 2020 by Jim Grey