Road Trips

US 50 in Lawrence County, Indiana

On three Saturdays in the summer of 2010, I drove as many old alignments of US 50 as I could find in Indiana, from Ohio to Illinois. I wrote about that trip on my old Roads site, but now I’m bringing that material to this blog.

Lawrence County must be proud of its old-road heritage, because it signs Old US 50 as Old US 50.

Old US 50

The road snakes around quite a bit in Lawrence County.

Old US 50

This is my favorite shot from along this old alignment — a winding, sun-dappled old road.

Old US 50

We soon came upon a bridge with a steel deck. It’s a pretty recent replacement for an older bridge, but I think steel decks are cool.

Old US 50

All too soon, this great old alignment came to an end. Back on modern US 50, we came upon this great motel sign.

Plaza Motel

It stands before this motel, which still operates.

Plaza Motel

Just before we came to Bedford, we followed another old alignment. I marked it on this map in blue. It wasn’t very picturesque, so we didn’t stop.

And then came Bedford. In 1926, US 50 entered from the east on 16th Street. When it reached downtown, it turned south on Washington Avenue.

This is the Lawrence County Courthouse, on the town square. I made this photo from 15th Street, which carries US 50 westbound through downtown today.

Lawrence County Courthouse

This is 16th Street from the southwest corner of the town square. Through downtown, 16th Street carries US 50 eastbound.

Bedford, Indiana

I really liked this garage on 16th St. The sign says it’s been here since 1927, one year after US 50 was established.

Garage

Bedford has done well for itself, thanks in no small measure to being at the crossroads of US 50 and State Road 37. These major highways attract heavy through traffic, so much so that they have been realigned in and around Bedford several times. But once upon a time, back when US 50 was still Original State Road 4 and State Road 37 was Original State Road 22 (and before that the Dixie Highway), these roads converged in downtown Bedford and followed the same path southwest out of town. This image shows how these roads leave town today, with numbers next to various old-road remnants. I believe it shows remnants of at least three former alignments, but I can’t confidently stitch them all together. I do know that the 1926 path of US 50 turned after 1 below to cross the river on the same alignment as US 50 today.

1: Washington St. once carried Original SR 4 and Original SR 22. Perhaps they diverged here; who knows. But today both roads dead end; the right road is private property.

Road split

2: If you study the aerial image closely, you can see a two-track road that is on the same line as the left fork of Washington St. I believe I see two utility poles along it, which is a good sign. I can’t explain the little abandoned pony truss bridge that crosses the creek where it bends. It’s near the bottom of the image below.

3: I think the old road continued through what is now a farm field. I detect a faint line across the field where the road would have gone. Then it would have curved to cross the White River. Remarkably, two piers from the old bridge remain. They’re plainly visible from the air.

You can also see them from the current US 50 bridge. There wasn’t a good place to stop there, but my travel companion noticed a nearby boat ramp road. We waded into inch-deep mud and were eaten alive by mosquitoes to bring you this shot of one pier.

Old bridge pier

4: A narrow gravel road begins just where drivers would have come off the bridge. It is signed something like “Old Highway Road” on the ground, but it’s perpendicular to the former bridge. The gravel road ends at Old US 50 and Old SR 37, which assumes the gravel road’s line at that point. So before this point, the road labeled Old US 50 and Old SR 37 must be a newer old alignment. Old SR 37 is the road on the left.

Old US 50 veers right

My 1916 Automobile Blue Book sends drivers down the road on the left to the next town, Mitchell. Then it has the driver follow a road that later became State Road 60 west to where it merges with modern US 50. In contrast, my 1924 ABB sends drivers down the right fork in the photo above. Modern US 50 soon rejoins its path. This resolves one piece of this puzzle – US 50′s path west from here to where it meets SR 60 about 10 miles away was built sometime between 1916 and 1924. (I have since learned that in 1926, US 50 followed the road on the left. I haven’t been able to find when US 50 was rerouted over the road to the right.)

US 50 passes through the Hoosier National Forest before leaving Lawrence County. There were a few possible old alignments along the way, including one through the tiny town of Huron. We drove it, but it wasn’t interesting enough to photograph.

Next: US 50 in Martin County.

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2 thoughts on “US 50 in Lawrence County, Indiana

  1. Miles Flynn says:

    Fascinating trip through my home county. :)

    The abandoned pony truss bridge over Leatherwood Creek just outside of Bedford is what carried a county road called Sandpit Road. It now has a new bridge to the east and joins Mitchell Road just a little east of there.

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