I’ve written about the National Road in Illinois many times before. But as I work to deprecate my old Roads site, I need to bring a few articles about the road in Illinois from there to here. This is one of them. This is based on recent research and several visits: two in 2007, one in 2009, and one in 2014.
As you drive west into Illinois on US 40, it’s easy to see sections of the 1925 brick alignment of this road lying abandoned alongside it. The road varies in condition. Some of it was removed and some of it is overgrown. The bridges were all removed so people couldn’t drive the old road anymore. Despite that, you can still reach some segments with your car, as this westbound 2014 photo below shows.
After you enter Illinois and get past where I-70 intersects with US 40, this is actually the first segment of the brick road that you see. Construction of the current US 40 in the 1950s disrupted what had been a curvy section. I’ve filled in where the brick road used to go. All that’s left here are three short segments — one at each end south of US 40, and one in the middle north of US 40. I’ve highlighted the missing road in green. Ignore where the map below shows “Old National Hwy” — it’s incorrect, except at the eastern end.
This eastbound photo from 2014 shows where the middle section ends at current US 40.
Here’s this segment westbound. This is probably the best-kept segment of this old brick road. The house at the end was, at the time, a radio studio. I got to visit the owner of this station on a trip in 2007, and he told me about the dangers of this old highway. Read the story here.
As this road approaches Crooked Creek, which is on the left end of the map excerpt above, the road is blocked with a mound of debris. It’s mostly chunks of concrete, which I suspect was taken from the road bed here. 2007 photo. I’m only pretty sure this photo is from Crooked Creek — I didn’t do a great job of taking notes, and I’m sure I’ve inaccurately geotagged some of my photos.Westbound photo.
The roadbed beyond leads to these two posts. I’ll bet at one time a “Bridge Out” sign was strung between them.
We walked to Crooked Creek’s bank and looked across. We could see evidence of the bridge that once stood here. Westbound photo.
Beyond Crooked Creek lie a couple segments of the old road still in use to access the farms they border. Eastbound photo.
On one of my 2007 trips, the Department of Transportation used a segment of the old road to store Jersey barriers. Westbound photo.
On the 2007 trip with my friend Michael, I drove a stretch of this old brick road while he filmed it. I’m pretty sure it was in or near this area. Michael filmed me coming in from the east.
Most of our driving was on modern US 40, which gave us a strong feeling of “westbound lanes.” The road looked like it had been built to be one way westbound. We wondered if Illinois had planned to make a US 40 expressway here, with the idea to build the eastbound lanes over the old brick road. I feel sure if that were the case that when I-70 went on the drawing board, Illinois realized that a US 40 expressway made little sense as that traffic should follow I-70 instead. As a result, historic brick pavement remains.
- Photos of this brick road being built in about 1925
- A story of how dangerous the old brick road was to drive back in the day