Vintage map of the Dandy Trail, a 1920s pleasure drive around Indianapolis

Ten years ago I explored the Dandy Trail, an 88-mile automobile pleasure loop that encircled Indianapolis in the 1920s. I’ve been interested in it since I moved to Indianapolis in 1994; I lived near a short road signed Dandy Trail and was curious how it got such an unusual name. Long story short, I discovered the onetime auto trail, organized by the Hoosier Motor Club to encourage motoring for pleasure.

When I investigated the road, I discovered that the Indiana State Library had a map in its collection. I went to the ISL and photographed the map, which I shared here.

For more than a decade now I’ve had a saved search on eBay for “Dandy Trail.” It emails me every time someone lists something for sale with those two words in the title. It has emailed me exactly twice in all these years. The first time was in 2012, when someone listed a set of seven 4×6 inch glass plate negatives from the road. I had the negatives scanned, and I shared them all in this article.

It turns out the negatives were from a 1936 story in The Indianapolis Star looking at what happened to the by-then-defunct trail. I’ll share more about that in an upcoming article.

The second time that search emailed me was just recently. Someone had a Dandy Trail map for sale! I bought it immediately.

The map at the Indiana State Library is from 1921; the date is printed on the map. My map lacks a date imprint. Someone penciled in “1925” on the map, so I’ll date the map to then unless I find stronger evidence to the contrary. It features a few detail changes from the map at the ISL. I shared the map’s cover above. Here’s the map fully open.

Here’s the inside cover:

Here’s the back cover. Notice the ultra-low Indianapolis speed limits! The 1921 map featured a sign-up form to join the Hoosier Motor Club here instead.

You can still drive the entire Dandy Trail today, except for a portion that is submerged within Eagle Creek Reservoir, a flood-control project. I laid out all the roads on Google Maps here:

I made some videos of driving the Dandy Trail in 2012; view some of them in this article.

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24 responses to “Vintage map of the Dandy Trail, a 1920s pleasure drive around Indianapolis”

  1. J P Avatar

    Wow, the older northeastern suburbs are almost unrecognizable on that map, with Allisonville Road being one of the few area roads that existed then.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Things were probably 25 years from starting to build up out there then!

  2. brandib1977 Avatar

    What a treasure! The map and photos are incredible. I also love that the Dandy Trail is hidden in plain sight, a route for leisurely driving as the modern world speeds by.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      A lot of the trail is still rural, which does make for a nice drive.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        I wish more people still went on leisure drives or a Sunday drive as my family used to call it.

  3. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    This is a great story, and ready for a resurgence! Time for new Dandy Trail signs around town…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’d be a fun project!

  4. Steve Bryan Avatar

    Interesting read. I did not know the history of the Dandy Trail. I only knew it from the portion that is still signed by Eagle Creek. I only knew it from occasional drives as I never lived and only occasionally visited the westside of the city.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I was in the same boat. When I moved here I lived at 46th & High School, not far from that little segment of the still-signed Dandy Trail.

  5. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    I like the rule that you shouldn’t make U turns except in the middle of intersections!!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Seems incredibly unsafe, but what do I know about conditions in 1925?

  6. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    BTW, Dandy is a dandy name for a dog, and the dog silhouette on the signs are great!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Here’s one of the signs, as photographed in about 1936 by the chief photographer for The Indianapolis Star. He shot glass plates!

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        He must have been a real analog guy, against that “modern technology” flexible film strata those ‘whipper-snappers’ were trying to make him change over to! Most sources show glass plates about over with by the late 1920’s, the late 30’s would have made you “eccentric”. Have to say, zero film flatness problems though!

        I used to print glass plates for a company I worked for back in the mid-70’s; they had a photo collection they housed for a company that had historic work photo’s back for decades. Most of their glass plates were from the turn of the last century, including Teddy Roosevelt at the Panama Canal!

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          From email correspondence with Indianapolis Star reporter Dawn Mitchell a couple years ago:

          “Joe Craven was a renaissance man, if he could use glass plates to make his photos dramatic – he would. From what I’ve heard about him, he used glass plates for features at the Indy 500 into the 40s.”

          She found my blog as she researched the Dandy Trail, and got my permission to use the scans of the glass plate negs in a story about the road. How strange, that she had to ask my permission to use images in her newspaper that originally belonged to that newspaper!

        2. Andy Umbo Avatar
          Andy Umbo

          Jim, this is great additional information! First hand narrative! Golden!

  7. marcusterrypeddle Avatar

    Looks like a lovely place. Is it still a pleasurable drive at modern car speeds? When I had a car and lived out in Inje County (Korea), I would take nice drives through valleys at the speed limit of 40km/hr. Unfortunately, everyone else was in a mad rush to get somewhere !QUICKLY! to !RELAX!. It was a bit sad to see people fly through beautiful scenery to get to some well-known restaurant or location they read about on the Internet.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It varies. Some areas along the old trail are very much in the city now, and some remain quite rural.

  8. Denny Gibson Avatar

    Well, that’s just d… elightful. It’s very cool that you have a physical copy of the map and extra cool that it shows the Dandy Trail was around long enough to require revisions. The seventh anniversary of my own drive of the Dandy is less than a month away, and just last June I posted a Trip Peek (flashback thumbnails that you suggested to deal with content supply line issues) for it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, the DT was at least active 1921-1925. By 1936 it was no longer being maintained. I’m working on an article about that.

      I still haven’t driven all of the Dandy. I started at Michigan Road and Westlane Road on Indy’s Northwestside, and finished at Southeastern Ave. and Troy Ave. on the Southeastside. I need to pick up from there and complete the loop!

  9. Relles / Ray Nevarez Avatar
    Relles / Ray Nevarez

    Hello Jim G. and greetings from Texas! Just want to say I have been enjoying your post about the Land you’re from & of course cameras, thanks for all the info you have posted! How far south have you traveled? Have you ever been too TEXAS?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You’re welcome!

      I have been to Texas. I had the best cheeseburger of my life in San Antonio.

  10. Russ Ray Avatar

    I’ve lived here 20 years and didn’t know that Dandy Trail went beyond the short stretch that is left. What a great find!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Crazy, right? I was blown away when I discovered this.

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