Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, my dog Gracie and I explored the National Road all the way across Ohio. That road is now US 40 in most places. I’m bringing the long trip report over from my old Roads site.
As the automobile age dawned at the turn of the 20th century, the nation’s network of mostly dirt roads was passable only in good weather. The clamor for “good roads” paved in hard surfaces for all-weather travel led to the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916, which created state highway departments and provided money to them for road improvements. Additionally, the United States’ entry into World War I in 1917 highlighted the need to be able to quickly move military equipment and troops across the nation.
And so Ohio began to improve much of its National Road, by now also known as State Route 1, in about 1918. Military needs during World War I caused it to lay bricks on much of the road between the Ohio River and Zanesville.
I’m always excited to find an intact road surface from this era, as few remain. Along the National Road, I’ve seen one brief brick segment in Indiana (see it here) and a long one in Illinois (see it here), plus two still driveable concrete segments in Indiana (see the first; see the second), all laid in the 1920s. But I was especially excited to make my Ohio trip because I knew I’d encounter a few segments of pavement that were even older.
The first brick segment was at Blaine in Belmont County. I expected the second to be just west of Old Washington, as it was clearly an old alignment and Google Maps labeled it Brick Road.
Apparently the evil asphalters got to it before I did. Indeed, Ohio covered most of its brick National Road with asphalt in 1932.
But check out the difference between the old alignment on the left with its narrow roadway and blind hill, and the flat, wide current alignment on the right. Highways continued to be improved during the 20th century for greater safety.
When I made this trip in 2011, I didn’t know that there was a short, hidden brick alignment about ½ mile west of the west end of Brick Road.
I’m pretty sure the portion of Arrowhead Road that parallels current US 40 is part of this old alignment, although it is paved in asphalt today. I’m sure that Periwinkle Lane is part of this old alignment, however. When you zoom in to the max on Google Maps satellite view, you can see that the road is paved in brick.
I think it’s possible that a short road segment a bit west of Periwinkle Lane is also part of this older alignment. What is now Wardeska Lane is routed over a large portion of it. Brick pavement is not evident, but this road’s placement roughly lines up with where this old brick alignment might have gone.
The brick road segment that I describe next, as I resume my 2011 trip report, has got to be the continuation of this alignment.
I knew the next old alignment would still be brick because fellow National Road fan Christopher Busta-Peck tipped me off about it on his blog. It lies a bit west of the previous alignment but east of Cambridge, the next town.
It starts off as gravel, but bricks emerge west of Steele Lane. (It’s possible that the gravel portion of this road was not originally part of the National Road but was built from current US 40 to provide access to this brick segment. It’s also possible that the gravel merely covers up some badly deteriorated brick pavement.)
Though busy US 40 is 100 yards away, Peacock Road has a remote, secluded feel. I had an strong urge to go to a hardware store, buy an edger, a weed whacker, and some Roundup, and come back here to clean up the overgrowth so the road would be visible edge to edge.
Peacock Road emerges from the woods just before it ends. This road is just 17 feet wide, although its effective width is less because of overgrown grass.
I didn’t notice it when I made this trip, but a historic marker is placed at the east end of Peacock Road. It notes that this brick road was built in 1928 as part of an improvement project that flattened some hills and smoothed out some curves of the National Road’s original alignment. But Wikipedia claims that Peacock Road (and thus likely the entire brick alignment described in this article) was built in 1918. RoadsideAmerica.com agrees with the 1918 date and says the road was built by prisoners from a nearby prison to make the former dirt road passable in all weather for military trucks carrying heavy equipment during World War I. These sources agree that the current US 40 alignment was built in 1936 or 1938. The reduced traffic on the old brick road after that time very likely contributed to this road’s continued good condition.
About 1,000 feet after Peacock Road ends, another old alignment begins. Unfortunately, this one’s covered in asphalt. This segment is likely also part of this onetime all-brick alignment.
Just before its west end the alignment crosses a small creek. I was surprised to find an abandoned bridge there, next to the current bridge. Check out the sway of the old road bed here – it looks like this could have been an S bridge.
Here’s the arch from the south.
And from the north.
Next: The National Road in Cambridge, Ohio.