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.

By the time I reached Clark County, I was clearly on the tail end of my three-day journey across Ohio’s National Road. After all, Springfield is about three-quarters of the way across the state from east to west. While speed is never my goal on any road trip, I was making very good time simply because US 40 is so straight across most of western Ohio – with only a couple exceptions, it was built directly on top of the National Road from Columbus to the Indiana state line. There was little to see in terms of old alignments and there were no old stone bridges to photograph. So I settled in and just enjoyed the driving.

Amusingly, when the road reaches itty bitty Brighton, the westbound lanes go through town while the eastbound lanes bypass it.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, State of Ohio/OSIP, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

But US 40 entirely bypasses slightly larger South Vienna.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, State of Ohio/OSIP, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

This old house, which looks abandoned, stands on the road on the west end of town. (It has since been demolished.)

Old house

Soon I reached Springfield. I stopped frequently because there is so much there. It was to be my last major stop on the road. This drive-in on the east end of town, which opened in 1947, still operates. (In 2022, this theater was demolished so that a 1,250-unit housing development could be built on the land.)

Melody Drive-In

The entrance has seen better days.

Melody Drive-In

The Drake Motel sign is a National Road landmark. Many of the photos I’ve seen of it (such as this one) showed it in some disrepair, its neon broken and its panels stained with rust. It appears to have been freshly repaired and repainted, but unfortunately its neon was removed. There used to be an almost identical Drake Motel sign (and not-identical accompanying motel) on US 40 in eastern Indianapolis, but it was torn down years ago.

Drake Motel

Here’s the sign in perspective with the motel itself.

Drake Motel

US 40 enters and exits Springfield along the Main Street corridor, but through most of town US 40 is routed onto two one-way streets to the north of Main. The Main Street alignment is highlighted in blue on the map below.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, State of Ohio/OSIP, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

There’s lots to like about the Schuler’s Bakery building, a few blocks west of where US 40 diverges from the National Road.

Schuler's Bakery

Props to them for keeping their neon lit during the day! (In 2022, this building is closed, as it is in need of major repairs. Schuler’s has two other locations in Springfield that still operate.)

Schuler's Bakery

The neon is missing from the Tuttle Bros. Auto Supplies sign a couple blocks down the road.

Tuttle Bros Auto Supplies

This business seems to be missing from the building, too.

Tuttle Bros Auto Supplies

There’s lots of great old signage in and on this building, which once housed Northside Appliances.

North Side Appliances

This building was once the Shawnee Hotel, but I don’t know how it’s being used today. It sure is striking, though.

Shawnee Hotel

This is the Bushnell Building, which was built in 1893. Its claim to fame is that patent attorney Harry Toulmin had his office here when he wrote the patent for the Wright Brothers’ invention of the airplane.

Downtown Springfield

Across from the Bushnell Building is Springfield’s Fountain Square, where this statue of Toulmin looks at the entrance to his former office.

Harry Toulmin statue

And with that, I rejoined US 40 on Springfield’s west end and and headed out of town. It is said that federal funds for building Ohio’s National Road ran out here. Indeed, the major road out of town here is State Route 4. To stay on US 40 and the National Road means taking a dogleg exit.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, State of Ohio/OSIP, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

I forgot to look for two things in Springfield. The first is Springfield’s Madonna of the Trail, which is a statue placed here and in 11 other locations along the National Old Trails Road in 1928 and 1929. The National Old Trails Road was a coast-to-coast road that mostly followed the National Road across its six states. The second is the beginning of the Dayton Cutoff, a road that crafty officials in Dayton built to siphon National Road traffic through their town. It worked, too. I guess I’ll just have to go back to Springfield another day!

Next: The Dayton Cutoff, a sly detour off the National Road that let Dayton in on the action.

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10 responses to “The National Road in Ohio: Springfield”

  1. brandib1977 Avatar

    There’s a terrific antique mall in Springfield that I love going to. It’s always a treat because there are so many interesting things to see there!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I love antique malls! We have a good one here just east of Downtown Indianapolis in an old factory building.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        I rarely pass up the opportunity to browse! If it’s still there, I recall a really nice one in Plainfield.

  2. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Every time I read these entries, I always see a lot of defunct and seemingly abandoned brick real estate in these towns. With the cheap property taxes in some of these communities, I always think about buying one of these and working on it to restore…

    1. Pat Avatar

      Andy. Buy one and fix it up. I bought one in Knightstown and it has worked out quite well.

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve sometimes wondered what it would take to buy and renovate an old building in a small town, and then run a coffee shop or something out of it and rent out the rest. Would it replace my current income well enough?

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        I’ve actually run those types of figures on and off over the years, and always come up short…it really depends on how the expenses are in your neck of the woods. Wisconsin and Milwaukee’s unnaturally high property taxes, and all the untracked “call-outs” for fees and expenses that are no longer covered by property taxes, as well as high utility costs, have basically killed what I refer to as the “candy store business” in this town. You really have to have a business that performs re:income, to cover all those costs and that’s why you don’t find small neighborhood businesses here any more. Indiana on the other hand, has super cheap property taxes, as well as co-op energy companies like Duke. You might be able to renovate a decent brick building in a smaller town, on the cheap, and have expenses be such that you could rent to smaller business and artist, who could cover all overhead. Might be “doable”.

        I have a one-off, stand alone, coffee shop/craft beer place in my neighborhood, and they strictly survive by roasting really high end, odd beans, from exotic locations, and shipping all over the country (for a lot of money a pound, like double Starbucks, and quadruple grocery store coffee), and really custom, small batch, beer brews. They also have store/bars hours from 6am and 10pm. I think that’s the only way they make it, and if it was just simple coffee, it might not be doable. But, the chances are different in every different place in the country….

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          That’s what I worried about. I don’t think I’d mind running a coffee shop day to day but I don’t know how interested I am in more than that. I kind of hoped that rent income for the rest of the building would cover it!

  3. Sarah Avatar

    Really enjoy your blog. In 2021 we moved to an old house on the National Road in Springfield. It took me a while to realize why our driveway is laid out in such a strange way; it’s because it is actually an old alignment! I’ll try to attach a picture from google earth.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh how cool! There’s no way to attach an image here, but if you link to the lat/long coordinates to your driveway I can look it up. To do this, on Google Maps, right-click the location. A menu appears. At the top of the menu is the lat/long coordinates. Click it; it copies to the clipboard. Paste it in a comment. For example, here are the coordinates to the entrance of my nearby Meijer.

      39.95130614714878, -86.34280600381103

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