Road Trips

The Michigan Road in Greensburg, Indiana

In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report.

The Michigan Road enters Greensburg from the southeast, where it meets Main St. This is State Road 46, which falls just seven miles short of crossing the entire state. It begins just two miles away from the Ohio state line and extends to the eastern edge of Terre Haute, about five miles from Illinois. The Michigan Road exits town along the same line on which it entered.

Greensburg was formed in 1822 to be the seat of Decatur County. The wife of Thomas Hendricks, an original settler in Greensburg, chose the town’s name in memory of her hometown in Pennsylvania. Although the Michigan Road certainly helped Greensburg’s prosperity, the completion of the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and St. Louis railroad in 1853 really made Greensburg boom.

The map below shows the Michigan Road entering Greensburg from the lower right and exiting at the upper left, southeast to northwest. Between Main St. and North St., I am not sure of the Michigan Road’s route through downtown. Regardless of how the Michigan Road passed through Greensburg, there’s lots to see downtown.

This southbound photo shows where the Michigan Road enters downtown Greensburg at State Road 46.

Greensburg

I’ve seen maps that label as “Michigan Ave.” the three blocks of North St. between East St. and Jackson St., so I  followed East St. north to North St. and then North St. west to Jackson St. If East St. was the Michigan Road, you can’t follow it northbound today as it is one way south.

East St., Greensburg

When I reached North St., I headed west. The street signs all said North St., giving no help in determining the Michigan Road’s original route through town. This house stands at the corner of Franklin St.

Old house in Grensburg

Post office, southwest corner of North and Franklin.

Greensburg Post Office

The former YMCA building stands just south of North St. on Broadway St.

Greensburg YMCA

Remarkably, a postcard photographer made a photo of this building from the same angle in the 1930s.

Across North St. from the YMCA stands the Greensburg United Methodist Church building.

Greensburg Methodist Episcopal Church

The building once had a bell tower and stained-glass windows, which both have since been removed. This postcard image from probably about the 1930s shows them.

Before we follow the Michigan Road out of Greensburg, lets backtrack a little to the town square. It is famous for the tree growing out of the bell tower of its courthouse. A tree has been growing here since the 1870s. The original tree died many years ago, but other trees have somehow found the tower fertile enough to support them. The current tree is a mulberry. This photo is taken from Main St.

Decatur County Courthouse

On the northwest side of downtown, at about Jackson and North Streets, the Michigan Road angles its way out of town. The former Greensburg City Hall, originally a Carnegie Library, stands on the right.

Michigan Road and former City Hall

This was the Greensburg City Hall until 2006, when the city adapted a former school building on Washington St. for the purpose.

Former City Hall

This postcard, probably from about 1910, shows the library as it stood in its neighborhood. The Michigan Road is in the foreground.

The few blocks of Michigan Ave. before it meets US 421 again are lined with lovely older homes, like this one.

House along the Road

Another older home on Michigan Ave.

Old house

This is probably the grandest older home along Michigan Ave. in Greensburg. Notice the porch and balcony at the rear.

Old house

From where US 421 rejoins Michigan Ave., this is the road southbound.

Michigan at Ireland

This is the road northbound from the same spot. The grand old homes disappear at this point.

Michigan at Ireland

This jerky handheld video follows this segment of the Michigan Road.

At State Road 3, Greensburg proper peters out. There’s a little light industry, but farms quickly take over

Since the aerial image above was taken, Honda bought land here and built an assembly plant. The state widened the Michigan Road to four lanes and built a new ramp system for I-74 to serve the new plant. Here, finishing touches are being put on the two new lanes.

Four lanes to be

This old house, which probably once anchored a farm behind it, remains. It’s for rent! You can see a brand new Hampton Inn behind it. (Sadly, since this road trip, this house was demolished.)

Old house

As part of beefing up I-74 access, this new bridge was built, and the Michigan Road was curved where it once ran straight to provide better access to the new exit. The map above shows the Michigan Road running straight over this creek.

Brand new bridge

Beyond the I-74 interchange stands this old house.

Old house

Outside of Greensburg, the road is signed Old US 421. It’s just a county road out here.

Next: St. Omer and the mystery of the old alignment.

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

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7 thoughts on “The Michigan Road in Greensburg, Indiana

  1. Out of all your extensive research and information presented here, you know I am going to latch onto one random thing. What happened to the stained glass and the bell tower? A fire? It looks impressive in that post card photo. How sad.

  2. Greg Clawson says:

    Jim, nice photos!
    With your encyclopedic knowledge of the Michigan Road, you should write a book about it. You have invested many hours of “sweat equity” on this project, I cannot this anyone better suited for this task.

  3. John Jones says:

    As the Michigan road heads west leaving Greensburg. An old road takes off to the west by the name of ” The Vandalia Road” it has a tricky path to the National road. I wonder how it lined up with Greensburg road on the eastside of Johnson county

    • I found both roads on the map. It’s odd to me that neither of these roads clearly lead somewhere! I wonder if the road system between the two towns changed at some point.

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