Road Trips

Postcard views of the Michigan Road, Madison to Indianapolis

As I researched the Michigan Road back in about 2008, I bought a number of vintage postcards of scenes from the road. They gave some good 20th-century views of the road and the places on it.

I sent those postcards to a road-loving collector not long ago; a man can keep only so much. But I scanned them all first.

The Michigan Road begins in Madison, on the Ohio River. This 1960s postcard shows Madison’s Main Street at West Street. While the Michigan Road actually begins six blocks north of this intersection, Main and West is the spiritual beginning, if you will, of the Michigan Road.

Madison is in the Ohio River valley. As you begin your Michigan Road journey north from Madison, you climb out of that valley on a winding section of the road. This is what part of it looked like in the 1940s.

North of Madison the Michigan Road splits in two. The original 1830s alignment is a narrow country road that leads directly to the small town of Napoleon. But in the early 20th century, the road was rerouted to the east through Versailles and Osgood and then back to Napoleon. This 1970s postcard shows a motel in Versailles that still operates.

The road soon reaches Greensburg. It’s clear how the road originally entered and exited this small city, but it’s anybody’s guess how it passed through its downtown. This impressive YMCA building is near where the road picks up again on the northwest edge of downtown. It still stands and is senior apartments today.

This Methodist church still stands, as well, and is around the corner from the YMCA. Its bell tower was removed somewhere along the way.

Greensburg’s Carnegie Library stands where the Michigan Road leads out of town. It was used as city hall for some years, and I gather now it is a private residence. It was a popular postcard subject.

In Shelbyville, the Michigan Road makes a right turn at Harrison Street downtown. This theater still stands on that corner, although it hasn’t been used as a theater in a long time.

The back of this postcard is a hand-typed advertisement for a film the theater was showing. Notice the 1912 postmark!

A couple blocks later the Michigan Road reaches Shelbyville’s Public Square. In those days, streetcar tracks crisscrossed the square.

Today, the a parking lot sits at the center of the Public Square.

Finally, this image in Downtown Indianapolis shows Washington Street, which carried both the Michigan Road and the National Road. The photo looks to the east, which is southbound on the Michigan Road. I’m pretty sure that the Michigan Road turned north one block east of here at Meridian Street, but when we routed the Michigan Road Historic Byway it was much more practical to let it continue west on Washington a few blocks to West Street, where the byway turns north and soon rejoins the original Michigan Road path.

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10 thoughts on “Postcard views of the Michigan Road, Madison to Indianapolis

  1. I love old postcards. My father collected them as a kid and my stepmom gave them to me several years ago – probably a hundred or so. I need to do what you did, scan them and find new homes for them.

  2. Darts and Letters says:

    They just don’t make postcards like they used to. These are really cool. Seeing the pictures of the libraries makes me wonder when the earliest Carnegie libraries started to be built, I’ll have to look that up.

  3. I wonder how people typed messages on the back of postcards. A special typewriter? Otherwise the card would get badly damaged.
    I looked up “coon shouter” after reading the name of the next show. Yikes. I guess that was acceptable in 1912.
    The address is interesting. The person just wrote ‘city’ at the end. Perhaps it meant an address in the city where the card was posted.

    • I have to assume they used a regular typewriter, but it would curl the card, wouldn’t it? I just don’t know.

      I do know that “City” was a common way to send letters within the same city rather than writing out the city and state and zone or ZIP code. People don’t do it anymore, but I remember my mom doing it some in the 1970s.

  4. These are very interesting, Jim. I need to look for some postcards for my Dixie Overland Highway (US 80) project. Possibly Library of Congress has some in the public domain. Cheers!

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