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.

Peru was next, just a couple miles down the road from Mexico. Some pronounce it PEE-rue and old maps sometimes spell it Perue, but I understand most locals agree it’s spelled and pronounced like the South American country. Built on the Wabash River, with a railroad and US 24’s original route running east-west through it, Peru is wider than it is tall, as this map shows.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Just outside this map to the north is US 24, so Peru has been bypassed by two US highways. Business US 31 enters from the north on Broadway St., then turns west onto Main St. (Business US 24), and then crosses the Wabash on the little yellow-highlighted road in the lower left corner of the map.

The first thing we encountered on old US 31 in Peru was the Mr. Weenie restaurant. The sign struck me funny, so I stopped for a photo.

Mr. Weenie

When we reached the edge of downtown at 6th St., we found old US 31 closed. We parked to find out why.

Peru, Indiana

As we neared the Miami County courthouse, we could see that a classic car show was being held in front of it. Wow!

Miami County Courthouse

I love old cars! Brian indulged me as I walked among them and photographed them. I shared the car photos in this post.

Car show

I had been through Peru once before and I remember seeing US 31 and US 24 shields guiding the way through town. I suppose I was too intoxicated by the vintage iron to look for them that day. Because of the car show we couldn’t drive Business US 31 to Business US 24 anyway, so we took a side street. At any rate, Business US 31 turns right onto Business US 24 and stays there for several blocks. The two split again on the west side of town, where Business US 31 heads south. Here’s a northbound photo from Business US 31 of the intersection.

Old US 31

The road led directly to a triple-span steel truss bridge crossing the Wabash River.

Old US 31

This map shows this portion of Old US 31 and this bridge.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

The sun shone brilliantly through the bridge’s beams and trusses.

Old US 31

This unusual Business US 31 shield awaited on the guardrail after we crossed the bridge.

Business 31 shield

Brian, whose curiosity about old alignments was growing, wondered where the previous bridge might have been, and went off to search for clues. Unfortunately, he found very little, but his sleuthing gave me time to take more photos of the bridge, this time northbound.

Old US 31 NB

When I first published this article on my original Roads site, the Miami County Engineer found it and sent me some scans of documents from when this bridge was built, which was in 1939. This excerpt shows the location of the previous bridge. If you scroll up to the previous map excerpt, the old road ran along the line of trees just west of the 1939 bridge. The old road north of the Wabash River is Kelly Street.

He also sent this excerpt from the documentation that shows a drawing of the previous bridge. It, too, had three spans, but they were Pratt trusses rather than the current bridge’s Parker trusses. It looks like it also had a wood floor!

The Miami County Engineer also sent me an excerpt from this 1935 map showing Old US 31’s original alignment south of the bridge. It followed what is now Airport Road as it curves to become Plothow Road. It’s not clear to me when the newer alignment was built.

Here’s where the later alignment ends at current US 31.

Old US 31

From here, US 31 follows its original corridor all the way to Kokomo. Somewhat reluctantly, we returned to the big slab. But we’d see a few snippets of an older US 31 roadway immediately to the east of the four lane highway.

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13 responses to “Old US 31 in Peru, Indiana”

  1. Michael Avatar

    On the old bridge, it’s interesting they had 2 layers of wood apparently (plank and blocks) and then covered with thin layer of black top. I also wonder why 1 of the 4 supports was concrete instead of stone. Perhaps that was a repair.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I would bet that the wood was the road surface for some time, but wood can be slippery, so they blacktopped it for better traction. You’re probably right that the concrete support was a repair/replacement.

  2. Paul Hoppe Photography Avatar

    These little place are so fascinating to me. I love steel bridges…something industrial about them

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      They’re my favorite kind of bridge. The symmetry makes me happy, and I love the shadows the members cast.

  3. Kurt Ingham Avatar
    Kurt Ingham

    This is great stuff- historical info. that would probably be lost otherwise..Thanks!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      So much of this stuff is in every county engineer’s office! I’d love to get in and see.

      1. Roger D Plothow Avatar
        Roger D Plothow

        So fun to stumble upon this! My father grew up on Plothow Road, my grandparents’ farm being on a hill above the Wabash. The bridge is a short drive from the farm. I caught my first fish on a cane pole there. — Roger Plothow, Idaho Falls, Idaho

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          One of the reasons I write this stuff is so people with memories of the area might find my articles!

  4. Kurt Ingham Avatar
    Kurt Ingham

    Gathering dust (figuratively and maybe even literally) So, maybe not physically lost, but disappearing from consciousness (unless rescued by Jim Grey..)

  5. brandib1977 Avatar

    That Mr Weenie sign is the best!

    Isn’t stumbling into a car show the greatest feeling? It’s like finding lost treasure!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Absolutely on both counts!

  6. James Lewis Avatar
    James Lewis

    That section of highway that is that truss bridge cannot be widened. There are Sycamore Trees that were planted years ago by, I want to say, some organization like the DAR, and they cannot be removed. There are Sycamore trees that have been recorded to be 700 years old in that area.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Hi James – thanks for this info! Fortunately US 31 bypassed the truss bridge long ago and so widening the area is probably not as important. Sycamores can really live a long time!

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