One reason I wanted to bicycle across Indiana was because when I drive it in my car, I whiz by things too fast to notice them. Even when I do notice them, frequently there’s no place to put the car so I can stop and photograph it. A bicycle stows neatly on even the narrowest shoulder.
The National Road is one of Indiana’s oldest roads, originally built in the 1830s. It opened travel into what was then considered the West from the East. As such, people settled on it. A number of homes from the 1800s still stand on the National Road all the way across Indiana. Here are a bunch of them. Each photo is geotagged on Flickr; click the photo to see it there and to access Flickr’s map.
You’ll find this beauty just west of Richmond.
This house is across the street and slightly west of the one above.
This house, a former inn, is on the east side of Centerville.
These two old brick houses are in the same block as the house above.
This large frame house is on the west edge of Centerville.
I found this sturdy brick house in East Germantown, in Wayne County.
This incredible beauty is on the east side of Cambridge City.
This is the Huddleston Farmhouse, which I toured some years ago and blogged about here and here. Those shutters need some maintenance.
This looks like two adjacent structures to me. They’re commercial businesses now, but I’ll bet they were originally residences. They’re in Dublin.
This house is also in Dublin. It looks newer than any of the others I’ve shared so far, late 1800s or even very early 1900s.
This old house is at the main crossroads in Lewisville.
You’ll find this house on the original National Road alignment west of Dunreith.
I’m no architectural expert but I’ve learned some things over the years that help me date houses. I’m stymied by this one — could be anywhere from 1850 to 1920. It’s in Knightstown.
This beauty is also in Knightstown.
As is this one.
This stylish frame house stands west of Charlottesville in Hancock County. All the times I’ve driven the National Road across Indiana, and I’ve never noticed this house before. Bicycling my way across helped me see it.
Many interesting old houses face the road in Greenfield, but this one looks the oldest to me.
There’s a dot on the National Road map called Philadelphia, and you’ll find this house there.
This grand house in Indianapolis’s Irvington neighborhood has been adapted into a church. It’s not actually right on the National Road, but it’s incredibly visible from it.
We’re now on the west side Indiana’s National Road, in Plainfield.
This one is also in Plainfield.
This house is west of Plainfield and serves as the main building on a golf course. It’s just east of the abandoned US 40 bridge.
This is Rising Hall, right on the Hendricks/Putnam County line. I will likely write a longer post about this house alone.
This house stands alone on the road in Putnam County.
This is the McKinley House, which stands near Harmony in Clay County. I’ll certainly do a Then and Now post about it, as I photographed it many years ago when it wore a different paint scheme.
This appears to be among the newer homes in this collection, but I like it. It’s on State Road 340, the original alignment of the National Road, near Cloverland.
These are the interesting old houses that I photographed. I’m sure I missed some, including several in Vigo County that I didn’t photograph because it was raining. I’ll have to go back and get them another day!
When my friend Dawn and I made our trip along the National Road in eastern Indiana in 2015, we came upon an audacious toy store in downtown Richmond. Family owned, Veach’s had been selling toys in Richmond for more than seven decades. We were astonished and delighted that the store had survived all of the changes in retail since the 1980s. Unfortunately, when I rode across Indiana this year, Veach’s was gone.
On US 40 (aka the National Road) in Richmond, Indiana, you’ll find a McDonald’s on the southwest corner of 18th Street. It features a classic Golden Arches sign from around 1970. Here’s a photo I made of it on my first visit in 2009. The restaurant was a classic red Mansard-roofed design, with a giant PlayPlace tacked on.
When I next visited, in 2015, I hoped the classic sign would still be there. I wasn’t disappointed. But the red roof had been reshingled in a dark color.
On my Ride Across Indiana, the sign was still there (yay!) but the restaurant looks to have been razed and rebuilt. McDonald’s architecture is so generic now.
I’ve documented Richmond before, on a 2009 trip by car down the National Road in eastern Indiana. Read about it here.
As you head west on the National Road, when you enter Indiana you immediately meet Richmond. Since the 1940s, the National Road and US 40 have been a four-lane highway here.
After you push through the suburban-style strip malls, you come to Glen Miller Park. Named for Colonel John Ford Miller rather than the famous big-band leader, it’s been a Richmond city park since 1885. Two elements of the 185-acre park face the National Road: the sprawling Richmond Rose Garden and Indiana’s Madonna of the Trail statue.
At Glen Miller Park, the National Road passes through a section of large older homes. Most of them are well cared for, but a few are not.
As US 40 heads toward downtown Richmond, it diverges from the original National Road route for several blocks. Westbound it follows Main Street to 16th Street, then 16th north to N. A Street, then west to N. 3rd Street, then south to S. A Street. Eastbound, it follows S. A Street to S. 11th Street, then 11th north to Main Street, then Main Street east. The National Road follows Main Street westbound all the way across the White River, where it then turns south on 1st Street, and then west on National Road West.
Downtown Richmond looks typical for a downtown of this size in Indiana. For many years, the National Road here was closed to traffic as the area was a pedestrian mall. Today, the road in the heart of downtown offers one narrow lane in each direction for vehicles.
On a National Road trip I made in 2015, I discovered Veach’s, a family-owned toy store in downtown Richmond. Sadly, it closed after 79 years in 2017. Here are photos before and after.
After coming through downtown, the National Road passes by the imposing Wayne County Courthouse.
The National Road then crosses the White River on a grand bridge completed in 1920. Before this bridge was built, a steel bridge crossed the road here. Before that, the road curved south here and crossed the river over a large wooden covered bridge. See a photograph here.
Just beyond the bridge, the National Road turns left onto 1st Street and then right onto National Road West. On its way out of town, the road passes by Earlham College. In the late 1980s I went to engineering school at Rose-Hulman, at the other end of Indiana’s portion of the National Road in Terre Haute. We were in the same sports conference as Earlham then, and played them often. They usually beat us in every sport.
Shortly past Earlham, the road exits Richmond proper and takes on a country feel.
This is the Big Green Road Sign of its era — a humble highway milestone.
When the National Road was new in the early 1830s, milestones were posted in several states. You’ll still find lots of old milestones along the road in Maryland and Ohio. I’m not aware of any in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Illinois has none.
I don’t know how many milestones were posted in Indiana, but two remain. This is one of them. It’s west of Richmond on the north side of the road, in someone’s front yard. It reads: SL 9M, R 4½, C 1 — that is, State Line 9 miles, Richmond 4½ miles, and Centerville 1 mile. You have to just know that the first two are to the east, and the last is to the west.
The other milestone is three miles west of Centerville, also on the north side of the road in someone’s yard. I looked for it but didn’t find it as I bicycled by on my Ride Across Indiana. I found it on a 2009 road trip, however; see both milestones here.