Road Trips

Old US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway in Plymouth, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

Thanks to old-fashioned nepotism, one college summer I landed a job with the courier service my aunt owned. One of my frequent destinations was a hospital on Plymouth’s main drag. I didn’t know then that Plymouth was on old US 31. Current US 31 bypasses Plymouth to the west; this map shows where the new and old roads split. US 6 is the east-west road at the top of the map.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

This southbound photo shows the split as two cars follow old US 31 southbound. It also shows the northbound flyover ramp from old US 31 to current US 31. Note: This is how it was in 2007. A new US 31 was subsequently built to the east, about 3/4 mile from here. The four-lane US 31 shown here was removed from about this point to about a mile southeast of here. All traffic here now follows the original US 31/Michigan Road/Dixie Highway alignment on the right in this photo. The bridge on the left was replaced with an at-grade road.

Southbound

Here’s another look at this split between old and new US 31, southbound.

Ramps

When we reached the top of the ramp, we noticed a road running parallel to it. Brian, who had the trip map, thought it looked to flow naturally from US 31 before it curved to bypass Plymouth, so he suggested we explore it. We drove it northbound until it made a sharp turn to the left.

End of the Michigan Road?

Sure enough, it appears to be old US 31. Brian walked past the end and a little bit into the yard there. He noticed some concrete there, heavily overgrown with grass, as the photo below shows.

Northbound

This southbound photo shows how this stub lines up with the end of the ramp, just before the stub veers to the right. It’s hard to see, but the stub hooks sharply to intersect at a T with old US 31.

Southbound

Pretty soon we came upon the Tri-Way drive-in theater and miniature golf course. The three-screen theater has operated since 1953 and was named because it was located (then) on US 31 between US 6 and US 30. The morning sun’s unfortunate angle made good pictures difficult, but here’s a fair shot of the sign, its colors fading.

Tri-Way Drive-In, Plymouth

After about three miles, we entered Plymouth. Here’s a map of the city to just before downtown. Notice US 30 near the top of this map and Jefferson St. near the bottom. Outside of town, Jefferson St. is called Lincolnway – US 30’s old alignment and the second major alignment of the Lincoln Highway.

Windows Live Maps 2007

After passing a few shops on Plymouth’s north edge, we entered a long residential section with trees shading the homes and the road, as this northbound photo shows.

Northbound

Homes are remarkably well kept along Plymouth’s Michigan St., a common name for old US 31 in northern Indiana because of its Michigan Road roots.

Residential Plymouth

I had no idea that this house was historically significant when I photographed it. It stands among many others along the Michigan Road on the north side of Plymouth. I took pictures of many of these houses, but lingered longest before this one. It had the strongest presence. Turns out it is the home of Plymouth’s first mayor, Judge Horace Corbin. I wrote about this in more detail here.

Corbin house

This was as far south as I’d ever been in Plymouth, and I never saw the hospital that was my aunt’s customer. They don’t just tear down hospitals, do they?

South of Jefferson St., residences faded in favor of businesses. We had reached downtown. Here’s a map of downtown and Plymouth’s south side.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Downtown Plymouth lasts all of about three blocks, but those blocks remain vital and well cared for. Both car and pedestrian traffic were heavy that Saturday – we happened upon a big sidewalk sale. This photo is of the west side of Michigan St. south of Washington St., which is the third street north of the Yellow River.

Southbound at Washington St

This is the next block south, at Garro St., again the west side of the street. The building at the left end is actually on the corner of LaPorte St., where old US 31 curves before it crosses the river.

Southbound at Garro St.

Someone far more experienced in the ways of the road than I pointed out to me that old banks open to the corner. I had never noticed it before, but now I see it everywhere.

Bank

Here’s another one, the former Marshall County Trust and Savings Co.

Marshall Co. Trust and Savings Co.

The Rees Theater has a lovely facade and sign.

Rees marquee

South of LaPorte St., the road curves slightly east as it crosses the Yellow River. Downtown ends, and residences begin again, south of the bridge and the railroad overpass.

Railroad underpass

The road heads southeast out of town. Past a cemetery, and then past any number of cul-de-sac neighborhoods, old US 31 ends at US 31, as this map shows.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

As usual, when the new road was built, highway engineers curved the old road to meet it at a T for safety.

Meeting US 31, Part 2

A stub of the original road remains, however, I presume to provide access to a house along it. Here’s the four-lane old US 31 northbound at where it curves to meet current US 31. I took the photo standing on the stub of old US 31.

Northbound

I turned around in that spot to shoot this two-lane stub of old US 31. Before US 31 bypassed Plymouth, it curved gently from here into the current roadbed.

Old road

Next: We didn’t drive on current US 31 more than 1,000 yards before old 31 split off again on its way to Argos.

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11 thoughts on “Old US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway in Plymouth, Indiana

  1. Tom DeJoy says:

    Kool. I have traveled the roads of northern Indiana for years as a salesman. I wondered about many things that you mention here. One thing you didnt mention in your article about Burlington is the 25 mile per hour speed limit through town. ( the sign is hidden by a tree). Cost me $80.00 for going 10 miles over the limit! Aside from that it is an interesting town. THANKS!

  2. Rush Rox says:

    Plymouth has been a lovely place for as long as I can remember. I believe it to be a sterling example of the classic Midwestern town or small city — with its many well-maintained older homes on tree-lined streets and a relatively vibrant downtown business district.

    The old hospital was on the north side of Novelty St about a block west of Michigan St. My mother was born there in the 40s. A short side story, if I may… In those days my mother’s family lived between Bourbon and Bremen on State Road 331, where my grandfather operated a country store/Cities Service station. Their family doctor had recently opened a practice in Bremen, a young man named Otis Bowen — I’ll bet you’ve heard of him. He DID make house calls and my mother distinctly remembers how gentle and nice he was as he attended to a minor burn she had suffered. He remained an esteemed friend of my mother’s family all his days.

    • My buddy lives just outside Plymouth and was on the city council for a while, and was county commissioner until recently. He tells me that Plymouth looks wonderful for about one block in either direction of the main drag, but then it falls off pretty fast. But I agree: as you drive through Plymouth, it’s just lovely. Other small towns wish they could be Plymouth!

      Otis Bowen made so many connections in that part of Indiana. He was beloved.

  3. NMDrew says:

    Looking at your photos in the Midwest always makes me nostalgic. I grew up in Illinois and your scenes of Indiana and other areas never cease to make me nostalgic for the beauty of these small towns and roads.

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