Road Trips

The National Road and US 40 in Livingston, Illinois

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.

Shortly US 40 and the National Road reach Livingston, a very small town just east of Marshall. I’m not sure why the National Road Historic Byway considers the road through Livingston a spur route. All of my research indicates that the road through Livingston was the National Road.

Livingston

I wasn’t so sure of that when I first researched the road here. The aerial maps, and the labels placed on the roads, confused the heck out of me. But after looking at historic aerial imagery (the only source of which I could find is copyrighted, and would cost to be able to share here) I’m pretty sure that the original routing through Livingston and on into Marshall followed the route I added in green, to include what the map labels Hill Top Orchard Road in Livingston. The western (left) edge of this map is the eastern outskirts of Marshall. Modern US 40 disrupted the original National Road route a little here, but you can trace where it would have been easily enough. Click the map to see it larger.

Bing Maps, 2021.

The eastern end of this alignment is covered in grass. I made this eastbound photo in 2007.

Abandoned National Road

Westbound, the old road heads into the woods.

Abandoned National Road

Shortly the road emerges from the woods, bricks intact. Eastbound.

Abandoned National Road

It heads on into tiny Livingston, the bricks covered in asphalt. Westbound.

National Road, Livingston, IL

There isn’t much to show about Livingston; it’s just a handful of houses. After it passes through Livingston, the road curves to rejoin US 40. The old brick highway continues straight. Westbound.

Abandoned National Road

The bricks end on the banks of Big Creek. The bridge here was removed. On our 2007 trip, Michael and I found the road on the other side of this creek. I didn’t get a good photo of the bridge’s remnants, but Michael did. He made this eastbound photo from the creek’s west bank.

Michael A. Ray photo, used with permission

Here’s the road leading away from the creek, westbound. 2014 photo. The curve at the end is not part of the National Road; it was added to connect this segment to US 40. The National Road originally kept going straight from here.

Illinois National Road

I’m not sure why, but the roadway is covered with earth from that point. 2007 photo, westbound.

Abandoned National Road

We found a state right-of-way marker along this path, confirming for us that we were still on the National Road. Later, I found concrete consistent with the edge of the U-shaped roadbed into which the bricks were once laid.

Abandoned National Road

I found a few bricks like this one, all broken, some in the ground. Is that a date on the brick? February 12, 192x? The bricks along the road so far had all been plain-faced and in shades of red, so I wasn’t sure whether this was a road brick or not.

Abandoned National Road

Fallen trees blocked our path. We felt like we’d seen enough anyway, so we walked back to the car and drove US 40 the short distance to where the National Road crossed 40 on its way to Marshall.

Abandoned National Road

Related reading:

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!

Standard

13 thoughts on “The National Road and US 40 in Livingston, Illinois

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    I would never advocate theft, but you should have nabbed that roadway marker and cobble for the Jim Grey Museum of Defunct Roadways, soon to open post-pandemic.

    • Having been a big part of the project to sign the Michigan Road in Indiana, I just couldn’t do that to the Illinois National Road Association — who had to pay for that sign!

  2. Michael says:

    I think Andy meant the ROW marker rather than the sign.

    My photo is actually westbound from the east bank, and the shadows confirm it. I might have an eastbound one though I think I had given you all of them already.

      • Ah! Yes. That would have been fun to steal. Except they’re anchored deep into the ground and are quite heavy! But if I could have gotten it out of the ground, I could easily have carried it home in the car I had at the time, it was a little wagon.

  3. Nancy Stewart says:

    Well Jim, you did it again … I thought that I would take a quick minute and see what you had going on here today. And of course I end up going back to Marshall to check it out ( I wonder if that old inn is still standing … so sad ). And the bridge …. I think the grotto at Notre Dame is built the same way.

    • I should update my blog’s tagline to include “rabbit hole finder!”

      I’m pretty sure the inn in Marshall still stands. I’m not sure it’s in use, however.

  4. Pat Chase says:

    You need to put your National Road information in book form. I would think that it would sell. But more importantly, then information and research would be available to a wider audience and would most likely be preserved for future generations. Please consider publishing this. I have done research on Jonathan Knight(my home town of Knightstown is named for him). He was employed by the government to survey in 1827 the National road through Indiana and Illinois. I know that he actually did the stretch through Indiana. He had previously surveyed the road from Cumberland, MY to Wheeling, Va. I have discovered that his survey records/notes are at the Indiana State Library. I live in Texas and I am hoping to visit this summer to study this most valuable record and ascertain some of his route and landmarks.. I have spoken whit the staff there and it is to large to scan so I am going to have to see it in person.
    Pat Chase 903-348-1971

    • That might be an interesting project one day. I’d want to drive the whole road again end to end, because many of my photos are now more than 10 years old and a lot has changed.

  5. Pat Chase says:

    I have a few old books on the National Road. My most interesting one is a Englishman named Beste that wrote about his travels on the road in the 1840s going from Indianapolis to Terre Haute.

    • Fascinating. I’ve mostly been interested in the NR in the 20th century. Someday I’ll take a dive into the 19th century part of its history.

  6. Hello there! Just stumbled across your blog (via the camera reviews) and loved this post. I had never heard of The National Road, but plan to look into it :-) By the way, we live at the very, very east end of I40 here in NC.
    Thanks for the info!

    • Wellllllll….I-40 and US 40 are different roads. Drive up to Baltimore and head west on US 40 to see America and the old National Road unfold before you!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.