Road Trips

There's a place actually called Toad Hop on Indiana's National Road

When I was in college in Terre Haute, I had a friend who worked for a crappy little radio station. He invited me to come visit him one day while he was on the air. He gave me directions: “Take I-70 to the Darwin Road exit, then turn left on Old US 40. Then look for our tower and just follow the roads until you get to it.” What? “Yeah, the station’s out in Toad Hop, and the roads aren’t marked back there.” Toad Hop? What’s that? “That’s just what this area is called. And by the way, if you get lost, don’t stop to ask directions, because the locals aren’t too friendly.”

Toad Hop is west of West Terre Haute, which is across the Wabash River from Terre Haute. Even though Toad Hop was not the most welcoming place when I first visited, I remembered that my friend mentioned that “Old US 40” ran through it. So on our 2006 Indiana National Road trip, Dawn and I were off to Toad Hop.

Imagery ©2020 Indiana Map Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2020 Google.

Before we got there, just after we crossed the Wabash River and entered West Terre Haute, we encountered what looked like an old alignment of US 40 since it kept going straight where US 40 curved. You can see it in the upper right of the map above. That road was even made of concrete then, though it has since been paved over with asphalt.

This road is signed Paris Ave. as it leads to Paris, Illinois. I have wondered for years whether the National Road/US 40 originally followed Paris Road to the crossroad on the west side of town, Bennett Lane. Did it then follow Bennett south, curving to cross a now-missing bridge over Sugar Creek and flow right into Old US 40 leading to Toad Hop?

It’s not impossible that the National Road/US 40 always followed West Terre Haute’s main street, National Ave. It would have curved just east of Sugar Creek to cross that now-missing bridge and then continue on Old US 40.

Whichever way it ran, it ran that way until 1949 when the new four-lane alignment was built. It carried US 40 until 2011, when US 40 was rerouted along I-70 from east of Terre Haute to just inside Illinois.

To reach this segment, we turned left off National Avenue onto Darwin Road. We drove east in hopes of seeing where that bridge had been, but the road was lined with houses and trailers. The area looked no friendlier than it did when I was last there umpteen years before. To be safe, we took pictures from the Darwin Road intersection. This photo shows old US 40 eastbound from there, aiming right at that alleged bridge.

Old US 40 through Toad Hop

Here’s the westbound outlook. We didn’t know then when the four-lane US 40 was built, but we wondered, as this road looked awfully narrow.

Old US 40 through Toad Hop

We drove along this alignment almost as far as it went. We crossed a small bridge along the way that we did not photograph that day. I came back in 2009 to photograph it; here it is. It was built in 1919.

Old US 40 near Toad Hop

Except for the overgrown grass, this gives you a very good idea of what a major US highway looked like in the 1920s. The bridge itself is a concrete arch design.

Old US 40 near Toad Hop

Back to 2006, soon we could see we were about to run out of road. We wanted to drive all the way to the end, but there were several homes here and we would have been awfully conspicuous. So I made this through-the-windshield photo and we turned around.

Old US 40 through Toad Hop

The road ends because I-70 and National Ave. come together here. Check it out:

Imagery ©2020 Indiana Map Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2020 Google.

I-70 follows the original National Road alignment for about a mile into Illinois. It then veers away from the National Road alignment, and old US 40/the National Road emerges from the woods as a brick road! Illinois built a more modern US 40 alongside it and abandoned the older road. Read more about it here.

We doubled back and crossed over to Illiana Dr. on the other side of National Ave. We could see on the map that this road becomes US 40 in Illinois, so we felt confident that we were on the right track. As soon as we crossed over US 40 and made that left, we were immediately rewarded to see a Historic National Road sign.

Toward Illinois on old US 40

It seems likely that this road was built at the same time as this segment of National Ave. (which used to be US 40 until US 40 was rerouted from the east side of Terre Haute to follow I-70). There needed to be some way to connect back to US 40 inside Illinois. The photo below looks from Indiana into Illinois.

Illinois line on US 40

This old US 40 alignment moved into Illinois as so many roads do — with a change in pavement. The speed limit also increased, from 35 MPH in Indiana to 55 MPH in Illinois. We wondered why the same road merited 20 extra miles per hour in Illinois. We drove into Illinois a little ways and found our answer — the road is signed US 40. This is curious, since US 40 is also multiplexed with I 70 just to the south.

Illinois line on US 40

This photo looks from Illinois into Indiana. The words “Start Race” are painted in orange on the pavement on the Illinois side where the Indiana pavement begins. My friend Michael explained that on the same day, the Ride Across Indiana (RAIN) started from that point and toured 161 miles of US 40 and the National Road all the way to the Ohio state line. This explained all the bicycles we saw heading eastbound on US 40 when we were west of Plainfield!

With this, our tour of the National Road in western Indiana ended. Little did we know, until we picked up from here a year later, how exciting the road would be in Illinois because of the abandoned brick highway there.

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 20 April 2020 by Jim Grey

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14 thoughts on “There's a place actually called Toad Hop on Indiana's National Road

  1. Very interesting “tour” this morning. Tracing these on Google Map, the “old town” sure looks to be more along Paris Ave than the current alignment. Was there interurban service out here?

  2. It appears to me as though the TH!&E line passed between the courthouse and the current jail, towards the river, along what I gather is Wabash Avenue extended though Google doesn’t name it. It seems like the trees along the river thin out there; maybe there are some abutments left. An extremely comprehensive Google Map made by Indiana rail fans indicates that an interurban bridge may’ve gone right down the middle of the two US-150 bridges. I’d be happy to send you the link if you’d like.

    From there it looks to have traveled along National Ave, splitting off to E. Paris Avenue through West T. before it veered north around the present-day McQuiklin Pl. If you look immediately east of Lee Fields Park in Ferguson Hill, you can see the right-of-way sneak through the trees until it reaches Interurban Road. I believe the line followed that until just north of the current CSX line, which it paralleled to Sandford and then, presumably, Paris.

    • Thanks for doing that sleuthing. I’d love to see that map.

      The two US-150 bridges were built in the 1990s. Before that there was a single bridge, and Wabash Avenue went through past 3rd St right to it. Looking at historic aerials I can see how maybe an interurban line ran along US 150 (then also US 40) along its north side. I don’t know how the tracks crossed the river though. Maybe on the old bridge? I drove on that old bridge before it was demolished but unfortunately have no memory of how wide it was, whether it was wide enough for 2 lanes of auto traffic plus tracks.

  3. Martin says:

    I am looking for pictures of US 40 at the State Line prior to I-70 being built. I known Indiana Side was four lane then it went down to two lanes at the state line. I know there were many accidents there.

    • I don’t know about any photos from the ground but there are historic aerial images of the area. Go here https://www.historicaerials.com/viewer and search on West Terre Haute, and scroll over. Click Aerials and choose a year. Look especially at 1949 and 1963. In 1949 the old brick highway was still in use, by 1963 the new highway was built and the brick road was abandoned. They reconfigured the end of 4-lane 40 to match it.

  4. Christopher May says:

    My cousin used to work for a company whose headquarters was in Conway, Arkansas. They had t-shirts made up that said “Where the heck is Conway? Halfway between Toad Suck and Pickles Gap!” This was a pretty large data company, so it seemed a bit incongruous for a technology corporation to be proclaiming that. They sponsored a NASCAR truck team, too, though.

    Toad Hop made me think of that.

    • Hilarious! When Larry Bird took Indiana State (in Terre Haute) to the NCAA finals there were shirts made that said, “Where in the hell is Terre Haute?” They were quite popular for a while.

  5. Darts and Letters says:

    Our neighbor kitty corner across the street is an early-aughts graduate of Rose-Hulman in Terre Haute, is that where you went to school or was it Indiana State? One of these days I’ll have to find out how the heck he ended up there……he’s from Lima, of Peru. I think I asked him once but it was a long, circuitous story, there were so many details I just forgot everything. Nowadays he’s a software engineer at Dropbox. Before that I think he was at Microsoft.

    I enjoy these roadway jaunts of yours. They remind me a lot of some of the country drives I’ll take when I’m visiting family, up north in western mid-Michigan. I moved away when I was pretty young so there are a lot of places I end up discovering each year, for the first time.
    -Jason

    • Jason, Rose grads are fairly common here in Indiana, a little less so in surrounding states, and rarer the farther away you go. It’s remarkable someone from Peru ended up there! I’m a Rose grad, class of 1989.

      I’m happy you enjoy these road trips!

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