The National Road

The National Road is one of my favorite subjects, and I’ve driven it from one end (in Maryland; Baltimore if you’re not a purist, Cumberland if you are) to the other (Vandalia, Illinois). Here are my posts from the road, sorted more or less geographically from east to west. Click a state to see a list of posts from there:

Maryland • Pennsylvania
West Virginia • Ohio
Indiana • Illinois

A few general posts:

Scenes from the National Road in 1920 — I bought some little cards showing scenes from the road in 1920.

Then and now on the National Road — Vintage postcard views of the road compared with more recent photos.

Madonnas of the Trail — Five statues of pioneer mothers stand on the National Road, as part of a larger initiative in 1928 along the coast-to-coast National Old Trails Road. (See an older post about the Madonnas here.)

Maryland

Ellicott City, MD

The National Road in Maryland — A preview of my trip along the road.

Ellicott City — A very old town along the road.

New Market — The antiques capital of Maryland.

Antietam Creek bridges — Three bridges on and near the National Road that cross Antietam Creek.

The Wilson Bridge — This big stone bridge is named for its builder, but it crosses Conococheague Creek.

Abandoned 1930s National Road pavement — Curiously, a short stretch of old pavement was left behind when US 40 was widened and straightened.

The view from Polish Mountain — A stunning landscape from the road’s original alignment.

Three bridges over the Casselman River — One stone, one steel, and one concrete.

Pennsylvania

This post is brought to you by the letter S — An S bridge.

Addison Toll House — After the US government got out of the National Road business, it became a toll road. Here’s one of the toll houses.

West Virginia

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge — I always swore I’d drive the bridge, and I finally did.

Ohio

The S Bridge at Blaine

And so ended our vacation — I wrecked my car after entering Ohio on the road. Whee.

Clinching the National Road — Two years later, I returned to Ohio to try again. I succeeded.

Saying goodbye to the old bridge at Bridgeport — When I wrote this, the bridge still stood. Not anymore.

Bricks and bridges at Blaine — An 1828 bridge, with its brick deck, preserved alongside a more modern bridge.

Then there was the time I-70 jumped out in front of my car — Seriously. I about pooped my pants.

The disrupted National Road — I-70 clings to the National Road so closely over these 18 miles that sometimes they’re the same road.

They say the old S bridge is crumbling, but it held up my car just fine — An 1828 S bridge that you can still drive on, or at least you could when I wrote this.

The last drivable National Road S bridge closed due to heavy trucks — That driveable S bridge? Yeah, it’s closed now.

The house on Best Road — On an old alignment high over current US 40 stands a gorgeous 1870s home.

Old buildings in Old Washington — A National Road town so well preserved it’s like stepping back in time.

Crooked little bridges, well preserved — Two bypassed S bridges that have been restored.

When someone tells me to hit the bricks, I take it literally — Several still-driveable sections of brick National Road laid in about 1917 remain in eastern Ohio.

A quick tour of Zanesville — A well-preserved downtown, the famous Y bridge, and an unexpected sight.

Concrete evidence — In 1914, 24 miles of experimental concrete were laid down on the National Road. Little bits of it remain.

Improving the rutted road — Historic National Road photos from across Ohio.

Stepping back in time for an overnight stay — 1950s-era motels still in operation in Columbus.

Landmarks and historic architecture in Columbus  Seeing the sights along the National Road as it passes through town.

The Main Street Bridge — There’s a new bridge over Main Street in Columbus. It’s a beauty.

Serving the National Road traveler — Historic inns from the time when covered wagons were the road’s usual traffic.

Seeing the sights in Springfield — I lingered in Springfield for a while because there was so much to see.

Whatever happened to Tadmor? — It used to be a town on the National Road, at least until just after the flood of 1913.

I stopped at McDonald’s on my last road trip — But not the McDonald’s you’re thinking about.

Indiana

1931 gas station building

A survey of all the old National Road and US 40 alignments in Indiana — Lots and lots of old pavement.

The end of the Dayton Cutoff — Dayton, Ohio was bypassed by the National Road. Ticked locals built a successful competing road. It merged with the National Road just inside Indiana.

Old McDonald’s sign on the National Road in Richmond, Indiana — Just like the title says!

Richmond — One of the few Indiana towns along the road that was founded before the road came through.

Classic motels on US 40 in Wayne County, Indiana — Several old motels still operate on the road near Richmond.

Neon sign, lost — A neon sign for a store on the road in Richmond ended up in an antique store in Centerville.

Arch city — Centerville is known for five arches that front its buildings along the road. The town has a colorful history, too.

Suddenly, it’s 1860 — A return visit to Centerville, six years after the previous post.

Indiana National Road milestones — Only two milestones remain on Indiana’s National Road.

The Huddleston Farmhouse — A restored and lovingly cared-for 1841 inn and family residence that’s open for tours.

Touring the Huddleston farmhouse, part 1: the exterior and grounds — I made a return visit to the Huddleston property and photographed the exterior more extensively.

Touring the Huddleston farmhouse, part 2: the interior — Photos from inside the Huddleston farmhouse, which is set up much as it would have been when the Huddlestons lived here.

The one old alignment of the National Road in eastern Indiana and the mystery of Star Blvd. — I had puzzled for years about the history of this old alignment between Dunreith and Raysville. Could Star Blvd. have once been US 40? I investigated.

Lifting a blighted neighborhood: The Angie’s List campus — This company headquarters where the Michigan Road and the National Road meet on Indianapolis’s Eastside. They transformed a decaying, crime-ridden neighborhood.

The McOuat building — A blighted building, restored. in downtown Indianapolis.

The bridges that carried the National Road and US 40 over the White River in Indianapolis — A look at the 1916 bridge that is now part of a state park, and the bridges that came before it to carry the National Road here.

Single frame: Washington at Addison — A photo of an Odd Fellows building on the National Road on Indianapolis’s Near Westside.

The Central State Hospital for the Insane — Indiana’s first state insane asylum opened in 1848 on the National Road in what is now the Near Westside of Indianapolis. Its ruins remain.

US 40 and the National Road in western Indiana, 2006 — A preview of some posts I brought over from my old Web site, of my first ever road trip, along US 40 and the National Road from Indianapolis to the Illinois state line.

Philosophical questions along the National Road — How many times must a road’s path change before it’s no longer the same road?

US 40 and the National Road at Six Points near Plainfield, Indiana — From my 2006 road trip, a look at an old alignment.

Straightened, widened, and moved — Realignments of the road as it leaves Indianapolis headed west.

Abandoned US 40 bridge west of Plainfield, Indiana — From my 2006 road trip, a look at an abandoned early-1920s bridge that once carried this road.

Nature always wins — A bridge and some concrete pavement abandoned since at least the early 1940s.

Visiting my favorite abandoned bridge — A return to the bridge in the previous post, four years later.

Iron’s Cemetery — An almost-forgotten cemetery, along the highway but hidden from view.

Stilesville — Many tiny towns dot the National Road in western Indiana. This one, with a small “downtown,” is a giant among them.

Grand old homes along Indiana’s National Road — If you keep your eyes open as you drive, you can take in some classic architecture along the road.

A forgotten brick segment of US 40 — Bricks laid about 1923 are on private property today.

Old US 40/National Road alignment in Putnam County, Indiana — From my 2006 road trip, a look at an alignment paved in concrete in about 1923.

Behind the Walker Motel — A 1923 concrete alignment of the road, plus a bridge, lay quietly behind an old motel.

The Cooper Iron Bridge — A bridge that used to span Deer Creek on the National Road was moved around the corner when a newer bridge was built.

Found: Hidden old National Road alignment — The alignment that led to the original site of the Cooper Iron Bridge is hidden in the woods.

Old US 40/National Road at Pleasant Gardens in western Indiana — From a 2006 trip, my first look at a confusing set of old alignments of the road in Putnam County.

A kink in the Road — A gravel alignment and an abandoned bridge in Putnam County.

Captured: Gravel National Road alignment — A brief second look at the Putnam County gravel alignment.

The old road at Reelsville, part 1 — The original alignment of the road near this small town, plus a 1929 Luten bridge.

The old road at Reelsville, part 2 — The 1923 realignment of the road near Reelsville.

Puzzle solved: The National Road at Pleasant Gardens and Reelsville in Indiana — Other roadgeeks’ research laid out the timeline of the various National Road alignments here.

1933 photographs of US 40 at Harmony, Indiana — Rare historic photographs of US 40 here while it was a two-lane highway.

The most dangerous highway in Indiana — Well, it was. In 1967. The opening of I-70 ended that.

Return I will to old Brazil — A visit to Brazil, a small city built along the National Road. Several 1800s buildings still stand along the road.

State Road 340, an original alignment of US 40/National Road in Clay County, Indiana — When US 40 was upgraded to four lanes, this segment of the original road was bypassed.

Abandoned bridge abutment on US 40/National Road in Vigo County — When US 40 was four-laned here, a bridge over a railroad track was removed but its abutment left behind.

Captured: National Road gas station — A tiny brick house was once a gas station in Terre Haute.

A visit to Rose-Hulman — My alma mater is on the National Road on the eastern edge of Terre Haute. I share some autumn campus photos.

Roadside relics — Vigo County and Terre Haute are rich in 20th-century roadside sights.

US 40 in downtown Terre Haute, Indiana (as it was in 2006) — When I made this trip, US 40 still ran through downtown Terre Haute. Here are some photos.

There’s actually a place called Toad Hop on Indiana’s National Road — Near the Illinois border you’ll find this unincorporated town and an original alignment of US 40 and the National Road.

Where the National Road fades away — Modern US 40 and I-70 merge over the National Road’s original path near the Illinois border.

The National Road in western Indiana — Provides a link to my full writeup of my August, 2009 trip.

Illinois

Abandoned National Road

A brief history of the National Road in Illinois — Just what the title says.

The National Road in Illinois — Twenty miles of abandoned brick highway.

The abandoned brick National Road in Illinois — I had more to say about this old brick road.

Road trip season is almost here — More photos of the abandoned brick highway.

Building the Illinois National Road — Photos, ca 1925, of the brick road being built.

Bursting the nostalgia bubble — Confronting a false fantasy while exploring the road.

A famous row of buildings in Marshall, Illinois — A view of the same corner in 1950, 1980, and 2014.

Captured: The Archer House — A photo of an 1841 inn on the National Road.

The last stone-arch bridge still in use on the Illinois National Road — Just like the title says. It’s on the edge of Marshall.

Neat creatures, 2 cents — A wooden cover over a modern concrete bridge near Clark Center makes for a good photo opportunity.

The ten-foot-wide highway — A very narrow strip of concrete road east of Martinsville that is about 100 years old.

The beautiful homes on Main Street in Casey, Illinois — Casey’s Main Street is filled with great old homes. It’s worth pulling off US 40 to follow the old National Road so you can see them.

The Village of the Porches — Greenup’s downtown features striking New Orleans-style balconies on all the buildings.

The covered bridge over the Embarras River — A modern wooden covered bridge carries the National Road over this river, and it’s a must-see.

Are there two alignments of the National Road in Effingham, Illinois? — I vote yes. And I vote that the older alignment gets no props.

Drunken road striping — The highway department clearly uses this old alignment for striping practice.

A confluence of roads near Vandalia — A later alignment of US 40 and, later, I-70, left behind some old pavement east of Vandalia.

The end of the National Road — Where the National Road ends in Vandalia, you’ll find evidence of Abraham Lincoln.

The National Road revisited — Links to a long-form writeup of a late-2007 trip I made to explore the old alignments in Clark, Cumberland, and Effingham Counties.

Captured: Senate chambers — The Senate chambers inside the former statehouse at Vandalia.

20 thoughts on “The National Road

  1. Anita Monson says:

    I enjoyed your blog post, “The Dixie Highway in Western Indiana”. Do you know if there are any old alignments of Dixie Highway in Illinois?

  2. Hello, Jim. Enjoying your blog on National Road articles. I just took a few shots of the abandoned bridge just west of Plainfield, IN, and will have a post on them later next week.

    [I, too, am a Rose grad – class of ’78!]

  3. John Alan Rogers says:

    Hi Jim I’m from Brazil Indiana, and wondered if you knew about Paul Pickett’s book Soul Balm. He was born in 1869 and lived right by the old national trail just west of Reelsville. In fact he would have lived close to the old U.S. 40 bridge that crosses Big Walnut Creek. I guess before the August flood of 1875 there was a toll bridge that crossed the creek just a little north of this bridge. Paul loved the road, and the creek. I know this area well, and even kayak and swim in the creek. Really like your blog Alan Rogers

    • Alan, Reelsville is one of my favorite places on the entire National Road because of all the old-alignment and old-bridge goodness happening there. I don’t know of Paul Pickett and his book, but will definitely look it up. Thanks for stopping by!

      • John Alan Rogers says:

        Jim Thought i would also tell you about the 46 steel bridge over ell river at Bowling Green. Their going to build a new bridge, and they want to use the old bridge in Brown co. Indiana. Locals here want it to stay alongside of new bridge, and are trying to save it.

  4. Dave says:

    Being Canadian, I had never heard of the National Road before I stumbled across your blogs. I must say I’m now hooked on the old road! Now there are two roads I have to drive someday: Route 66 and the National Road!

      • Dave says:

        Thanks! I was wondering how much time I should allow for the drive. I was thinking about starting in Baltimore and heading west from there. I want to take my time and see all the historic bridges, buildings, old alignments, etc.

        • I did MD and PA in one day and wish I’d spent 2-3. I did Ohio in 3 days; that was about right. You could do Indiana in 1-2 days and Illinois in 1 day, 2 if you go all the way to St Louis. (The NR was built to Vandalia but was surveyed to StL; US 40 is said to generally follow the survey.)

  5. Hi Jim. Thanks for your sharing your love of the National Road with us. I though you would be pleased to know that the National Road Heritage Foundation is in the processing of opening an official National Road Museum in Boonsboro, Maryland. We are moving into the fabrication phase of exhibits. http://nationalrdfoundation.com/

  6. Joyce Stotts says:

    Hi Jim, I am still laboring on my 1856 novel which starts out on the National Road and continues on Boones Lick and the Santa Fe Trail. As an “old” history teacher I like for things to be as authentic as possible. Here’s a couple of questions: Do you know the age of the beautiful Congregational Church you photographed and posted in your blog? Also, what year did the brick begin to be used on the Illinois section of the road? BTW, your articles are giving me just the historical background I need to write my Illinois chapters. Thanks for such a straightforward and interesting site. JAS

  7. Pingback: single frame: North toward the circle : Down the Road

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.