Road Trips

The original alignment of US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Parke County, Indiana

Let’s return to my 2007 road trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.

West of Rockville the map showed two places where a road diverged from US 36 only to return to it. That’s a sure sign of an original alignment.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

This looked to me remarkably like the shape of the road at this spot in the 1915 TIB Guide strip map that I saw at the Federal Highway Administration’s Web site where they were tracking the route of the old Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway.

About 3½ miles past Rockville I came upon where this road split from US 36.

US 36 alignments

I turned in, and the road immediately turned to gravel. This westbound photo was taken several feet away from US 36, and you could hear the traffic whizzing by. But doesn’t this photo seem to be miles away from anything? Doesn’t it look like it ought to be pin-drop quiet?

PP-OO in Indiana

I checked my old state maps, which go back to 1936. They aren’t detailed enough to accurately render the shape of US 36 through here, but they do say that US 36 was paved. It’s possible this segment was never US 36, but it was certainly the PP-OO.

After about a quarter mile this road became paved and its name changed from W 25 N to N 350 W. A couple houses appeared. Another quarter mile later, it deposited me back onto US 36. This eastbound photo shows the old road’s ascent to the highway.

PP-OO in Indiana

Another quarter mile or so down US 36 the next segment began. The map suggests to me that this segment used to flow smoothly from the previous one, and that it came in from the gravel driveway on the left in this photo.

PP-OO in Indiana

Off the road goes westbound. The presence of utility poles suggests that rural electrification reached here before US 36’s current alignment did.

PP-OO in Indiana

Soon this old alignment meets Arabia Road. The Phillips covered bridge is a couple hundred feet down this road. It was built by J. A. Britton in 1909.

Phillips Bridge

There wasn’t much along this old PP-OO alignment but soybeans.

PP-OO in Indiana

Shortly I came upon the 1883 Sim Smith Bridge, a Burr arch truss bridge also built by J. A. Britton. I didn’t think much of the “Warning Flooding Possible” sign as it blocked this, the best angle I found of the bridge.

Sim Smith Bridge

Here’s a better look at those curved Burr arch trusses.

Sim Smith Bridge

After crossing the bridge the land deepened into a mild valley overgrown with weeds. US 36 came into view on my right. I could see that the road made an unusual jog to the left up ahead, and when I reached it I felt a mild bump and heard my tires make a different sound, as if I had just changed roads. I pulled right over to have a look. I could see a faint double yellow line on the road.

Mystery US 36 alignment

The road had a shoulder on its north side, and it looked like the road and its shoulder were summarily chopped off beyond a certain point, as this photo shows. The little red, white, and black sign at right says “Danger Flooding Possible.”

Mystery US 36 alignment

The only evidence I found of the road’s former path was a drainage trench. It hugged the road’s shoulder to where the road was cut off, and then it snaked around the ridge.

Mystery US 36 alignment

I drove on, and soon the old road was blocked by these gates. Fortunately, a curve had been built here to connect the road to current US 36.

Mystery US 36 alignment

It looked to me like the road used to go through where these gates are now. This land looks built up like a roadbed.

Mystery US 36 alignment

From this evidence, I conclude that a former US 36 bridge over this creek was built in the flood plain. That became enough of a problem that the state built a new bridge nearby, raising it far above flood levels, and rerouted US 36 onto it. The blue line on this map shows where I think old US 36 used to go.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

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Road Trips

US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in Rockville, Indiana

Let’s return now to my 2007 trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.

Some time ago I entered Rockville’s square from the road to Bridgeton and drove around the square twice looking for US 36 so I could head back to Indianapolis. I was surprised to find no US 36 shields anywhere. I saw a gas station west of the square on Ohio Street, so I drove that way after a soda and maybe directions. As I drew closer to the gas station, I began to make out a US 36 sign in the distance. I got the soda, turned around, and followed Ohio Street east towards home.

This time I knew my way around a little better, and besides, I entered Rockville from the east on US 36 so there was no chance I would not be able to find it in town. Like so many Midwestern small towns, Rockville has a courthouse square. This is the square from the northeast, at Ohio and Jefferson Streets. If you look close you can almost make out that Jefferson Street is paved in brick. So are the other two streets on the square.

Parke County Courthouse

Rockville appears to be making quite an effort to keep its square bright and tidy. I understand that this square is the center of the annual Covered Bridge Festival, a major tourist attraction here, so there’s ample reason for the town to invest here. I took the photo below from the southeast corner of Ohio and Market Streets, a block west of the previous photo.

US 36, Rockville, IN.

Presumably, this is where the old Rockville State Road ended. It was one of Indiana’s early state roads from the 1830s, part of a network linking important towns. Both the Pikes Peak road and US 36 were laid out onto it from Indianapolis to Rockville.

Past the square, past some tidy older homes, US 41 quickly comes to signal the end of Rockville. This photo shows US 36 as it heads west into Rockville, taken from the southeast corner of US 36 and US 41.

Eastbound US 36

And this photo is of the US 36/US 41 intersection northbound and westbound.

US 36 at US 41

My camera’s battery died about here, so I had to turn around for home. I came back a couple months later to finish this trip. Next: another gravel alignment of the road.

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Road Trips

US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway at Indiana’s Billie Creek Village

Let’s return to my 2007 trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway.

It’s not clear to me whether outdoor history museum Billie Creek Village still operates. News of financial difficulties surfaced in the early 2010s, and the site went on the auction block in 2012. But it was open in 2007 when I passed through on my US 36 trip. Not that I stopped.

Billie Creek Village is just east of Rockville, sandwiched between the original and current alignments of US 36. The original alignment was also the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway and the Rockville State Road.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

This old alignment begins about a mile west of the dirt and gravel segment I shared in the previous post.

Old US 36

Two cars wide on a good day, this asphalt road soon comes upon a little covered bridge built by J. J. Daniels in 1895, as was the covered bridge over Big Walnut Creek earlier in the trip. Curiously, though the village, this bridge, and the adjoining road (the right turn just before the bridge) are all named Billie Creek, the bridge crosses Williams Creek.

Old US 36

Here’s a view of the trusses inside the bridge. The curved members are Burr arches, a common truss style among Indiana wooden covered bridges.

Old US 36

From an earlier visit, here’s an eastbound photo of the bridge.

Billie Creek Covered Bridge

Let’s look westbound again. On the map, notice how High Street follows roughly the same line as Old US 36. High Street goes right into downtown Rockville. Could High Street have been part of the Rockville State Road? In the photo below, High Street is the left turn; Old US 36 continues ahead.

Old US 36

Slightly more than two miles in, this segment ends at US 36. This is a mighty tight squeeze for two vehicles.

Old US 36

For completeness’s sake, from an earlier visit here’s a view of this end of the alignment from current US 36.

US 36 at Billie Creek

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Road Trips

Gravel alignment of US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in Parke County, Indiana

Let’s return now to my 2007 road trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.

While driving US 36 a few months ago, my kids in the back seat as we came home from a Spring Break trip, I saw an Old 36 Rd sign I hadn’t seen on earlier trips. I turned in — and immediately went sharply downhill on a gravel road that ended quickly in a couple dirt driveways. It was pretty tight back there and it took considerable care to turn around and get out! My kids were so busy playing their Nintendo DSes that they never noticed the bumpy detour.

When I came home, I looked it up online, and decided I must have tried to take this segment of road:

Imagery ©2020 IndianaMap Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2020 Google.

I entered what the map shows as the short dead-end road at far right. I made the above map screen shot in 2020; in 2007, online maps showed this segment connecting with the rest of the road. But it didn’t, and it hadn’t in a very long time.

This old alignment is about 1¼ miles west of tiny Bellmore, which is about a mile west of the end of the Raccoon Lake alignment.

Here’s a photo of the entrance to this segment. If you squint, you can see the Old 36 Rd sign. Notice how the road drops off immediately.

Old US 36

I took a picture down this narrow gravel road. This used to be US 36?

Old US 36

The satellite map showed 500 E as a crossroad along this alleged alignment, so I drove to it and headed north until I encountered what was, even there, signed Old 36 Rd. I drove east to see if I could make the connection. The road was barely one car wide. Soon I came upon this scene warning that a bridge ahead was out. Not pictured is the “Private Property Keep Out” sign nailed to a nearby tree that kept me from exploring farther.

Old US 36

I had quite a time turning my little car around in here, fearing that I’d put one end of my car off the side of the road and get stuck. If you decide to explore this segment and drive something larger than my Toyota Matrix, or don’t have four-wheel-drive, I recommend parking back at the crossroads and walking back here. Here’s what the road looked like leading away from here. Back here, the road was more dirt than gravel.

Old US 36

I drove back the way I came, crossing 500E. The road widened a little bit and became more gravel than dirt. Somebody was keeping the grass cut back here.

Old US 36

As I drove this segment, I thought it so incredible that this could have been US 36 that I doubted it. But my research shows that, indeed, this was the highway. My 1928 Indiana State Highway Commission map shows that US 36 was paved from Indianapolis to Danville, but was gravel west of there. That map even calls out Bellmore just above the broken line that represents gravel US 36. My 1937 Rand McNally (Standard Oil) Indiana highway map shows US 36 as a first-class paved road from Indianapolis to Illinois. So sometime within those nine years, the state paved US 36. If this is truly old US 36, then the state chose to build a straighter alignment nearby and decommission this stretch.

Can you imagine seeing an old cutout US 36 shield along the road above? It seems absurd! Yet I’m certain that it seemed perfectly natural to drivers 75 years ago.

Old 36 Rd ended 1.7 miles from the Bridge Out sign. The reason I had never seen an Old 36 Rd sign to match the one at the other end of this segment is because Old 36 Rd ends at another county road, which connects to US 36. See the map below. There’s no evidence that the old road continued past this county road; rather, it looks like that county road could once have been old US 36. Maybe the north-south road used to end at old US 36, but at some point became important enough to be paved, and was extended to US 36 by co-opting that last bit of old US 36.

Old US 36

Looking south from this intersection, US 36 is about a tenth of a mile away. If you want to find this segment, look for that little brown shack, which you can easily see from US 36.

Old US 36

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Road Trips

Postcard views of the Michigan Road, Indianapolis to Michigan City

Here are the rest of the vintage postcards I collected showing images from the Michigan Road in Indiana. Last time I shared images from Madison to Indianapolis, the southern portion of the road. Now I’ll share images from Indianapolis to Michigan City, the northern portion of the road.

In Indianapolis, for many years the road on the northwest side of the city was called Northwestern Avenue. Today it’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd. from the northwest edge of Downtown to the old city limits, and then Michigan Road from there to the county line. This bridge, long since replaced, carried the road over the White River. Guessing, I think this postcard is from the 1920s. Back then, this was outside the city limits.

The next postcards I owned take us 66 miles north of that bridge to downtown Logansport. The road followed Broadway Street for a few blocks. This view looks east, which is northbound on the Michigan Road. This postcard bears a 1906 postmark.

This 1920s view of Broadway looks west, which is southbound on the Michigan Road.

This 1960s view also looks west on Broadway.

Finally, as the road leaves Logansport northbound it passes by Logansport Memorial Hospital. This hospital building isn’t visible from the road; perhaps it’s been razed in favor of the current set of buildings. Perhaps it was in a different location in the city; I don’t know. But I’m including it because the current hospital is very much on the Michigan Road

Next, a couple views of downtown Rochester. This view from the air is on a postcard postmarked 1911. The grand Fulton County Courthouse is just out of the photo to the right.

Here’s a 1960s ground-level view from the intersection with 8th Street, right in front of the courthouse.

Next I had this postcard from Plymouth, a little south of downtown from its grand avenue of lovely homes. Most of those homes still stand today, making this just as lovely a drive now as then. This postcard is postmarked 1911.

This view of downtown Plymouth is from a postcard postmarked 1958, but judging by the cars I’d say the image is from the early 1950s. This photo looks northbound.

This southbound photo of downtown Plymouth is also postmarked 1958.

This is easily the most interesting postcard in the set. It’s a view of Lakeville, a small town just south of South Bend. It is postmarked 1911. This is a southbound view. Notice how wide this dirt road is! The Michigan Road claimed a 100-foot right-of-way when it was built.

Next is South Bend. This card postmarked 1906 shows Michigan Street, but the city has changed so much that I couldn’t tell you where this is located and whether this is a northbound or southbound photo.

The same would be true for this card postmarked 1909, except that its caption clears things up very nicely.

This card is from the same place as the one above, taken sometime in the 1950s. I think the building second from the right edge of the photo is the same one that’s second from the right edge of the photo above, the building with the advertisement sign painted on the side.

Finally, we reach the end of the Michigan Road, in Michigan City. This vast sand dune is no more. It was carted off load by load, and used to make glass. A giant cooling tower for an electrical power plant stands here today.

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Road Trips

Postcard views of the Michigan Road, Madison to Indianapolis

As I researched the Michigan Road back in about 2008, I bought a number of vintage postcards of scenes from the road. They gave some good 20th-century views of the road and the places on it.

I sent those postcards to a road-loving collector not long ago; a man can keep only so much. But I scanned them all first.

The Michigan Road begins in Madison, on the Ohio River. This 1960s postcard shows Madison’s Main Street at West Street. While the Michigan Road actually begins six blocks north of this intersection, Main and West is the spiritual beginning, if you will, of the Michigan Road.

Madison is in the Ohio River valley. As you begin your Michigan Road journey north from Madison, you climb out of that valley on a winding section of the road. This is what part of it looked like in the 1940s.

North of Madison the Michigan Road splits in two. The original 1830s alignment is a narrow country road that leads directly to the small town of Napoleon. But in the early 20th century, the road was rerouted to the east through Versailles and Osgood and then back to Napoleon. This 1970s postcard shows a motel in Versailles that still operates.

The road soon reaches Greensburg. It’s clear how the road originally entered and exited this small city, but it’s anybody’s guess how it passed through its downtown. This impressive YMCA building is near where the road picks up again on the northwest edge of downtown. It still stands and is senior apartments today.

This Methodist church still stands, as well, and is around the corner from the YMCA. Its bell tower was removed somewhere along the way.

Greensburg’s Carnegie Library stands where the Michigan Road leads out of town. It was used as city hall for some years, and I gather now it is a private residence. It was a popular postcard subject.

In Shelbyville, the Michigan Road makes a right turn at Harrison Street downtown. This theater still stands on that corner, although it hasn’t been used as a theater in a long time.

The back of this postcard is a hand-typed advertisement for a film the theater was showing. Notice the 1912 postmark!

A couple blocks later the Michigan Road reaches Shelbyville’s Public Square. In those days, streetcar tracks crisscrossed the square.

Today, the a parking lot sits at the center of the Public Square.

Finally, this image in Downtown Indianapolis shows Washington Street, which carried both the Michigan Road and the National Road. The photo looks to the east, which is southbound on the Michigan Road. I’m pretty sure that the Michigan Road turned north one block east of here at Meridian Street, but when we routed the Michigan Road Historic Byway it was much more practical to let it continue west on Washington a few blocks to West Street, where the byway turns north and soon rejoins the original Michigan Road path.

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