Preservation, Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

Grand old houses along Indiana’s National Road

One reason I wanted to bicycle across Indiana was because when I drive it in my car, I whiz by things too fast to notice them. Even when I do notice them, frequently there’s no place to put the car so I can stop and photograph it. A bicycle stows neatly on even the narrowest shoulder.

The National Road is one of Indiana’s oldest roads, originally built in the 1830s. It opened travel into what was then considered the West from the East. As such, people settled on it. A number of homes from the 1800s still stand on the National Road all the way across Indiana. Here are a bunch of them. Each photo is geotagged on Flickr; click the photo to see it there and to access Flickr’s map.

You’ll find this beauty just west of Richmond.

Old house, US 40, west of Richmond

This house is across the street and slightly west of the one above.

Old house, US 40, west of Richmond

This house, a former inn, is on the east side of Centerville.

The Mansion House, Centerville

These two old brick houses are in the same block as the house above.

Centerville
Centerville

This large frame house is on the west edge of Centerville.

Centerville

I found this sturdy brick house in East Germantown, in Wayne County.

Brick house, US 40

This incredible beauty is on the east side of Cambridge City.

Cambridge City

This is the Huddleston Farmhouse, which I toured some years ago and blogged about here and here. Those shutters need some maintenance.

Huddleston Farmhouse

This looks like two adjacent structures to me. They’re commercial businesses now, but I’ll bet they were originally residences. They’re in Dublin.

Dublin, IN

This house is also in Dublin. It looks newer than any of the others I’ve shared so far, late 1800s or even very early 1900s.

Dublin, IN

This old house is at the main crossroads in Lewisville.

Lewisville

You’ll find this house on the original National Road alignment west of Dunreith.

National Road west of Dunreith

I’m no architectural expert but I’ve learned some things over the years that help me date houses. I’m stymied by this one — could be anywhere from 1850 to 1920. It’s in Knightstown.

Knightstown

This beauty is also in Knightstown.

Knightstown

As is this one.

Knightstown

This stylish frame house stands west of Charlottesville in Hancock County. All the times I’ve driven the National Road across Indiana, and I’ve never noticed this house before. Bicycling my way across helped me see it.

Old house, Hancock County

Many interesting old houses face the road in Greenfield, but this one looks the oldest to me.

Greenfield

There’s a dot on the National Road map called Philadelphia, and you’ll find this house there.

Old house, US 40

This grand house in Indianapolis’s Irvington neighborhood has been adapted into a church. It’s not actually right on the National Road, but it’s incredibly visible from it.

Irvington on old US 40

We’re now on the west side Indiana’s National Road, in Plainfield.

Old house, Plainfield

This one is also in Plainfield.

Old house Plainfield IN

This house is west of Plainfield and serves as the main building on a golf course. It’s just east of the abandoned US 40 bridge.

Old house on US 40 W of Plainfield

This is Rising Hall, right on the Hendricks/Putnam County line. I will likely write a longer post about this house alone.

Rising Hall on US 40

This house stands alone on the road in Putnam County.

Old house on US 40, Putnam Co.

This is the McKinley House, which stands near Harmony in Clay County. I’ll certainly do a Then and Now post about it, as I photographed it many years ago when it wore a different paint scheme.

The McKinley House

This appears to be among the newer homes in this collection, but I like it. It’s on State Road 340, the original alignment of the National Road, near Cloverland.

Old house on SR 340

These are the interesting old houses that I photographed. I’m sure I missed some, including several in Vigo County that I didn’t photograph because it was raining. I’ll have to go back and get them another day!

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36 thoughts on “Grand old houses along Indiana’s National Road

  1. It is hard to imagine the level of prosperity that would have supported homes like these in small communities during or before the Civil War.

  2. Andy Umbo says:

    This certainly speaks to the relative wealth of farming communities in the past! We have a recent historic understanding of the struggle of family farms, many owned by multiple generations of the same families, but if you go back, especially in the mid-west, many of these operations were prosperous for decades and decades, including the great depression, where our viewpoint is based mostly on anecdotal information from city dwellers. Had a pal that produced a documentary that covered wide spread areas during the depression, and she said the information from rural farm families was far more benign than city dwellers.

    I’d be interested in hearing if a lot of these houses were built in the same age range, and see what was going on economically in the area for the same time period. Where I live, I can go into small rural communities that have some fantastic Victorian housing stock, whole neighborhoods that are now historic districts; and you find out there was a lot of farm based industry going on back in that era, and the town was in the running for a rail head, which then ended up going to a different community ten miles down the road, freezing any more development.

  3. Michael says:

    Since I’ve had to travel 40 to Indy a couple times recently, I made 2 observations. The first is that you must have had very observant and courteous drivers on your trip as the shoulders are quite narrow in many spots. I can imagine cruising along and cresting a hill only to find a bicyclist riding the line and there’s a car next to you so you can’t swerve to the left lane. :)
    A second was noticing some of the old homes I figured you would stop at to photograph. The bus goes too fast to see what was on the sign at Rising Hall (now I know the name!) so I’ll look forward to that future post. I am surprised you didn’t stop at the 1880 one east of the Plainfield golf course though I am somewhat partial to turrets. Perhaps you didn’t since it has decayed (windows were boarded) since (before?) a hospital bought the property in 2017, but the pic on the GIS site shows it in much better shape.
    https://beacon.schneidercorp.com/Application.aspx?AppID=109&LayerID=1134&PageTypeID=4&PageID=2318&KeyValue=32-10-33-300-024.000-012

    • One reason I did this trip (rather than not doing it) was because 40 was designed to have great sightlines. Old 40 had lots of blind hills, but “new” (since the 1940s) 40 eliminated them. Also, because traffic is light except in the cities, it only happened about twice that there was so much traffic that people couldn’t easily change lanes early to be out of my way.

      It was surprising how much I missed seeing on the trip because I needed to focus on pedaling. However, I do remember that house east of the Plainfield golf course. There was no good angle to photograph it that I could find, so I let it go. To be fair, I made that judgment quickly as I pedaled by. I didn’t stop to really search for a good angle.

  4. Greg Clawson says:

    I have always loved these grand old homes, but I cringe at the amount of money and labor it takes to maintain them like they deserve.

      • I was mistaken, it was the house next door that was up for sale this summer – but Zillow has some good pictures of the interior of both of those houses. They are both gorgeous inside and probably worth the $400-450K they asked for.

        • Andy Umbo says:

          Was nosing around on the webs recently, when I ran across the three bedroom apartment I was raised in for 10 years, in the West Uptown neighborhood of Chicago (now known as Sheridan Park). They went condo in the late 80’s (when I was again living in Chicago), with the upshot being the exact apartment was now assessed at $455,000. Three bedroom, one parking space in back. Ouch!

  5. DougD says:

    That frame house reminded me of the Waltons. Goodnight John Boy!

    Lovely homes alright, there must be a demand for period correct maintenance and restoration, and I’d imagine it would be expensive..

  6. For what it’s worth, the twentieth house (incorporated into a church) was the Thomas Carr Howe home, built when he was President of Butler University when the college was located in Irvington (that you’ve discussed before, about 6 miles east of downtown Indianapolis)). Howe High School (which can be seen from the National Road just west of Emerson Avenue, south side of East Washington Street (National Road) was named for him. Hilton U. Brown, who gave land from his estate for the school, refused attempts to name it after him, but wanted it named after Dr. Howe, his Irvington friend. Just trivia I’m sure you’re aware of! I graduated from “Howe”, so that history was drilled into us there!

  7. Dan Cluley says:

    That first house in Knightstown is interesting. The porch, dormers, and windows look very much like the teens or twenties, but the brickwork and overall proportions don’t seem quite right. My guess would be a 19th Century house that was heavily remodeled early in the 20th. You can see that the brickwork under those small windows looks like a longer window was replaced at some point.

  8. I don’t like brick buildings except when they are old brick buildings. The photograph of the building “west of Richmond” is my favourite, followed by the Mansion House “on the east side of Centerville” and the then the building “east of the abandoned US 40 bridge”.

  9. These old homes always turn my head and I would absolutely love to live in one if I ever win the lottery. Alas, the maintenance and electric bills have to be astronomical. Sigh. But they sure do lend character to a community and a road trip!

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