Road Trips

US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway east from Chrisman, Illinois

Let’s wrap up my 2007 road trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana (and a little into eastern Illinois, too).

After following current US 36 west to the Indiana/Illinois border, I kept going into Illinois until I met US 150/State Route 1. I headed north along that road until I reached little Chrisman, a town of fewer than 1,500 people. Here I’d find the original alignment of US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. The original alignment takes on a particular shape you can see in the 1915 TIB Guide excerpt and in the map snippet below.

Windows Live Maps 2007

This wasn’t my first visit to Chrisman. My stepdaughter’s dad’s family all live here and are probably the most prominent family in the region. Many years ago I came out here a couple times to pick up my stepdaughter from her grandmother’s. But I had never seen the town. The PP-OO enters town on 2300 N, which in town is Monroe St. and borders the town square to the south.

The First National Bank anchors the square’s southwest corner. You can’t see it in the photo, but above the awning over the door the word “BANK” is embossed into the stone. It was so common for old banks to be on corners, with the door facing the corner just like this.

Chrisman, IL, square

Just west of the bank was a John Deere dealership. You know you’re in a farm town when you can buy a Deere downtown.

Chrisman, IL

I was surprised to see not a courthouse on the town square, but a nice park.

Chrisman, IL, square

On the northwest corner were a couple restaurants, one of which has an old painted advertisement in nice condition.

Chrisman, IL, square

I enjoyed my brief visit to downtown Chrisman, but I was here to drive the PP-OO. Standing in the square’s southeast corner, I looked east down Monroe St., which would become the PP-OO a few blocks east of here at US 150/SR 1.

Chrisman, IL

Heading out of town, 2300 N was asphalt. But where the road curved to the north, the surface changed to some sort of chip and seal, the kind that kicks pebbles into your car’s undercarriage and makes your car feel a little floaty.

PP-OO in eastern Illinois

I took this photograph a short distance away, at 1725 E. It was quiet out here. As I considered how remote this area is today, I wondered how PP-OO travelers found it. This road was probably dirt in 1915. If it rained and you got stuck in the mud, the walk to a farmhouse to ask for help sure would be unpleasant.

PP-OO in eastern Illinois

When I reached Indiana, the chip and seal turned back into asphalt, and my car felt more planted on the road again.

PP-OO Illinois/Indiana line

Here’s the road somewhere in Indiana, before the road curves toward US 36. I passed through the north end of Dana so quickly I wasn’t even sure it was a town.

PP-OO in eastern Illinois

And here’s where the PP-OO rejoins the US 36 route, west of Montezuma and SR 63.

PP-OO in Indiana

It’s challenging to find good information about the Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway. I know that this was the road’s route in 1915. The road was realigned many times across the nation, including across Indiana. In 1915 it followed the National Road from Ohio to Indianapolis. If you go to my main National Road page here and scroll down to the Indiana section, you can see my reports of this segment of the PP-OO. From Indy, the PP-OO followed the route that became US 36, which I documented on this road trip writeup.

But I’ve seen a 1923 PP-OO map that shows the road realigned across Indiana from Muncie to Anderson to Crawfordsville to Covington, and from there to Danville in Illinois. On modern roads, that’s essentially State Road 32 west to US 136. I’ve not explored SR 32, but I have driven and documented the US 136 portion. That road was better known as the Dixie Highway. I’ve documented that trip beginning here.

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21 thoughts on “US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway east from Chrisman, Illinois

  1. Route66Fan says:

    Another good article! This is pretty much how the “1918 Official Automobile Blue Book” had described the route, although it had the route going around the Southwest corner of the park square, turning North from E. Monroe Ave & going North up N. Illinois St. up to W. Washington Ave (E. 2300 Rd).

  2. Thanks for the road trip. Strange question though- on the bank picture there is a sort of shield shaped sign to the left of the bank sign. Do you recall what that was for?

      • Gotcha. I’m always interested in banking symbols and couldn’t quite tell from the picture. When I googled it, I found an image where it has been removed but you can still see the outline on the brick.

        • Pro tip: 95% of my photos here are hosted at Flickr. Click any photo to go there, and then click the photo there to blow it up so you can see the details larger!

  3. The Edgar County Courthouse south of here in Paris is one of a handful I’ve been to in Illinois, and it’s incredible. Also, you may have explained this sometime, but what was the purpose of so many banks having corner entrances?

    • I’ve been to Paris, but not since the 1980s! The Paris Road between Paris and West Terre Haute is a nice drive if you ever get the chance.

      I think, but am not certain, that corner doors were for visibility. Anyone on or near that intersection could see the door, in case something was going wrong at the bank (i.e., robbery).

  4. Mike P says:

    Spent some time roaming the streets of Chrisman on Google Earth. The resemblance to a number of towns in rural eastern North Carolina is remarkable, didn’t realize that y’all had as many mobile homes as we do. And it looks like that the John Deere dealer that was on Monroe Avenue is no more, though you can still buy a Massey-Ferguson out by the US 150/SR 1/36 intersection.

    • You’d think a Deere dealership would have no trouble staying alive out there! Maybe they just moved to a new location.

      We do have mobile homes here. Some counties ban them, or restrict where they can be. But they’re common.

  5. Rush Rox says:

    Interesting, I see in Google Maps that a short segment of W Washington Ave in Chrisman, bounded by N Alabama St and the railroad crossing, is marked as “Ocean to Ocean Rd”. Google Maps is rife with errors, of course, but this instance of vestigial road nomenclature is noteworthy since we know the PP-OO was once routed on this section of Washington Avenue. I wonder how many Chrisman residents today are aware of the PP-OO.

  6. I worked in Chrisman for a few months in the early 90s. I enjoyed making that drive over to Dana once in a while. The old-timers there told me that going west out of Chrisman on Washington St.was another section of the Coast to Coast highway. It goes all the way to Hume. I looked today and that section of road is labeled both Coast to Coast and 2300 N on Google maps.

    • There’s plenty of emptiness to photograph in the midwestern US. Especially in northern Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, as during the ice age, glaciers flattened the terrain.

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