The Michigan Road

The Michigan Road is an early Indiana highway. Built during the 1830s, it connected Madison on the Ohio River to Michigan City on Lake Michigan, via Indianapolis.

Michigan Road, Decatur County, Indiana

I’ve been fascinated with the Michigan Road for years. I drove it from end to end in 2008 and documented the trip on my old-fashioned HTML Roads site. I also worked with Kurt Garner from Plymouth, another town on the road, to build a grassroots organization across Indiana that got the road named a State Historic Byway. We formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that now promotes and protects the road.

I write about the road on this blog from time to time. Here’s a catalog of all of those posts. It’s broken into four sections:

General posts | Southern counties | Central counties | Northern counties

General posts

The Michigan Road — The first post I wrote on the subject.

A historic byway — A post announcing the project to get the road named a State Historic Byway.

270 miles of history — A post announcing my complete trip report on my creaky old HTML site.

Mysteries solved, puzzles revealed in the route of the Michigan Road through Indiana — I got access to maps drawn from the original road surveys and found out a few places where I guessed the route wrong.

The historic Michigan Road — Announcing our Web site.

The Michigan Road: Indiana’s newest historic byway — Announcing the Michigan Road Historic Byway!

Signing the historic Michigan Road — Describing the project to place guide signs along the Michigan Road Historic Byway.

Following the signs on Route 66; dreaming of signs on the Michigan Road — A trip down Route 66 convinced me of the need for signs on the road.

Michigan Road sign update — The entire route, minus the portion through South Bend, is signed.

Adding the Michigan Road to the modern Indiana highway system — A history of the Michigan Road as it was added to Indiana’s highway system in the 20th century.

A new Web site for the Historic Michigan Road — Announcing our fresh and new Web site.

Southern counties

Fairmount House

The beginning of the Michigan Road — A plaque on a stone sits where the Michigan Road begins in Madison.

Strolling through Madison — Downtown Madison is a step back in time, to the late 19th century.

Climbing Michigan Hill in Madison, Indiana — Most of the Michigan Road is flat and straight. But it doesn’t begin that way.

The Fairmount House — A grand 1872 house stands at the top of Michigan Hill in Madison.

Stone bridge on the Michigan Road — A great one-lane stone bridge still stands on a rural alignment in Ripley County.

Crossing the Shepard Bridge — Shaky handheld video of driving over this bridge.

Under the bridge — Visiting that bridge another day, I found the creek was dry, so I took photos from underneath.

The Shepard Bridge on the Michigan Road — Returning to the stone bridge ten years later.

The last department store? — Remembering Minear’s in Greensburg.

Scenes from the Michigan Road in southern Indiana — Pictures and video from the road in Decatur and Shelby Counties.

Sights and signs in Versailles and Osgood — These two towns are on the “auto trails” alignment of the road in Ripley County, and have some great roadside architecture to see.

Log cabins on the Michigan Road — One confirmed and one suspected log cabin, found on the road.

Exploring Napoleon, Indiana — There are some pretty old buildings in Napoleon and this post looks at some of them.

Elias Conwell may have been a rascal, but he sure had a nice house — A big, sturdy house on the road in Napoleon was built by quite a character.

Central counties

Michigan Road Toll House

Save the Middletown Bridge! — A stone bridge on a one-lane alignment in Shelby County partially collapsed and we rallied to save it.

Goodbye Middletown Bridge — We failed to save this bridge and it was demolished.

Movies on the Michigan Road: The Skyline Drive-In in Shelbyville — An inside look at a drive-in theater.

Inside St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Shelbyville, Indiana — A stunningly beautiful church on the Michigan Road in Shelbyville.

Pleasant View — A tiny town sits on a short, cut-off segment of the road in Shelby County.

Lifting a blighted neighborhood: The Angie’s List campus — This company once headquartered where the road meets the National Road on Indianapolis’s Eastside. They transformed a decaying, crime-ridden neighborhood.

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

For sale: Michigan Road Toll House — A little house in northwest Indianapolis built in 1866 to collect tolls on the newly privatized road is for sale.

The Michigan Road pedestrian trail in Indianapolis — The city built a bicycle and walking trail along Michigan Road in northwest Indianapolis. I biked it and took photos along the way.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but welcome, Walmart — A Walmart Neighborhood Market was going to be built on the road near my Indianapolis home, and I was pretty excited.

Tracking the changes at Kessler Blvd. and Michigan Road in Indianapolis — I lived near this intersection for most of 24 years. See then-and-now photos I took along the way.

The arch at Crooked Creek School — A school has stood on the road here, in northwest Indianapolis, since about the same time the road opened.

Historical structures on the Michigan Road in northwest Indianapolis — If you’re not looking for them, you might miss the very old homes and other structures on the road here.

Decline and growth, close to home on the Michigan Road — Some photos of the decaying suburban strip of the Michigan Road near my home.

Driving your livestock down the Michigan Road and lodging at the Aston Inn — If you’ve ever driven by this house, you probably didn’t even notice it.

Old houses on the Michigan Road, preserved and lost — Several old houses, most in Indianapolis, on the road — sadly, some of them no longer with us.

I love the Michigan Road, but I don’t always like living near it — I lived near Michigan Road in northwest Indianapolis for nearly 24 years. It wasn’t all wine and roses.

The Boardman House — It’s one of the oldest houses in Indianapolis, built in 1832 on the road.

For sale: The Boardman House — Just like the title says: this house was put on the market.

Peeling back the layers of time — Looking at historic aerial images of what is now one of the busiest intersections on the entire road, at 86th St. in Indianapolis.

The Pyramids, an Indianapolis landmark on the Michigan Road — Three pyramid-shaped office buildings, impossible to miss in northwest Indianapolis.

Whither Pittman Farms? — A couple old barns sit on the road in Boone County, with new development encroaching. How long will these barns last?

Northern counties

Michigan City Lighthouse

Double abandonment — An old schoolhouse stands abandoned on an abandoned section of State Road 26 where it intersects the road.

Old Michigan Road photos — Photos of the road from the 1910s and 1920s in Burlington.

Sycamore Row — A narrow old alignment sandwiched between rows of sycamore trees — with a backstory.

A visit to the sycamores — Some autumn photographs of Sycamore Row, when the trees are at their most interesting.

A new historic marker for Sycamore Row — The famous row of sycamore trees gets a new historic marker after its old one was damaged in an accident.

Stopping to see the sycamores — A personal visit to Sycamore Row after it received an updated historic marker.

Logansport at twilight — Neon signs at dusk, on the road in Logansport.

Captured: Stained glass, Logansport City Hall — Just like the title says.

Lunch at the White House — A great diner in Logansport that served a super tasty cheeseburger.

Goodbye, Whitehouse Restaurant — And… it closed.

A 360-degree view — In which I tell the story of the time I spun my car through most of tiny Fulton on the road.

US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway in Rochester, Indiana — From a 2007 survey of US 31, a look at the Michigan Road in Rochester.

A lot of deterioration can happen to something neglected for ten years — 2008 and 2018 photos of the big marquee and neon sign of the Times Theater in Rochester. The 2018 photos are truly sad.

The lovely old homes on the Michigan Road in Rochester and Plymouth — If you geek out on old houses you’ll love this drive.

Preserving the old bridge abutment — A stone abutment remains from bridge removed long ago, just north of Rochester.

The mystery of the former one-lane bridge over the Tippecanoe River in Fulton County — A return to this abutment, with a photo of what is possibly the bridge that used to be here.

A monument to Menominee — A Potawatomi chief, memorialized near the road in Marshall County.

US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway in Argos, Indiana — From a 2007 survey of US 31, a look at the Michigan Road in Argos.

Captured: Felke Florist — In Plymouth, a great neon sign on the road.

Reflecting Hoosier Reborn — I met with my buddy Kurt to tour the road in his home stomping grounds, Fulton and Marshall Counties.

The Corbin House — In Plymouth, this house was built in 1865 by the town’s first mayor.

US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway in Plymouth, Indiana — From a 2007 survey of US 31, a look at the Michigan Road in Plymouth.

US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway in Lakeville and La Paz, Indiana — From a 2007 survey of US 31, a look at the Michigan Road in Lakeville and La Paz.

Lit neon at the South Bend Motel — In my hometown, a mile from where I grew up, this neon motel sign still lights up every night.

Old US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway on the south side of South Bend, part 1: Southbound — From a 2007 survey of US 31, a look at Main Street in South Bend. For many years, the actual Michigan Road was one way northbound in South Bend. To travel southbound, you had to move one block to the west and follow Main Street. This is a look at the Main Street alignment.

Old US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway on the south side of South Bend, part 2: Northbound — From a 2007 survey of US 31, a look at Michigan Street in South Bend. For many years, the actual Michigan Road was one way northbound in South Bend. It’s again open to two-way traffic, but these photos show it in its former one-way configuration.

The Peanut Shop — Remembering a store that stood on the road in South Bend.

Remembering South Bend’s River Bend Plaza — South Bend actually closed the road to traffic downtown and built a pedestrian mall. It failed.

Only the State and the Palace remain — The story of South Bend’s grand old theaters, most of which were on the road.

Captured: The Palace — A photograph of a grand theater on the road in South Bend.

Old US 31, the Dixie Highway, and the Michigan Road in downtown South Bend, Indiana — From a 2007 survey of US 31, a look at the Michigan Road in downtown South Bend.

Lincolnway Foods burns — A couple days after photographing a grocery store on the road in South Bend, the store burned to the ground.

Welcome to New Carlisle — A pictorial tour of charming New Carlisle, with an explanation for the crazy S curve at the edge of town.

Clinched! — I “clinched” the road when I reached its end, in Michigan City.


13 responses to “The Michigan Road”

  1. karlsulac Avatar

    Hi Jim
    I am pleased to discover and follow your blog. Do you know what happened to the KODAKKEROUACS?
    I ask because I found their work very very good and inspired….
    Your comment “Summer misses you…” was also inspired.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I just finally unsubscribed from their blog the other day in a routine cleanup of my feed reader. I don’t know what happened to them, and I miss them too. They had such a fun project going on.

  2. Gigi Avatar

    Hi Jim
    I am not real good with my new phone and have never commented on anything before now Came across either your Corbin House or Reflecting Hoosier Reborn About your summer job delivering for your aunt to a hospital in Plymouth u couldn’t find If i’m right it was the old Parkview Hosp. as i was born there in 1949 and it looks like all the big old houses in town

    1. Jim Grey 📷 Avatar

      I’m sure it had to be Parkview, Gigi! It was 30 years ago this summer that I had that job, and my memories that far back just aren’t detailed enough to call up what the place looked like.

  3. Sue Rice Avatar
    Sue Rice

    I would like to see some mention of hill climbing on Michigan Road north of White River and south of the Toll House. Wonderful articles about these events in old Indy newspapers. ” Over 100 cars lined up at the bottom of the hill to take their turn. Surface was dirt or mud! Top time 36 seconds.”

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I know that hill, but not of the hill climbing – looks like you know much more about it than I do!

  4. Susie Johnson Avatar
    Susie Johnson

    Jim, hello, I love your history lesson, we live on Southeastern ave. between Bethholm and Thompson. Across the road is farmland. We are in a battle with developers to keep out 111 dwelling units. There is a creek that runs through our property (New Bethel Creek?), the flooding is unbelievable. My point the developers do not have any maps of tracts where there iis tiles, can you help? I (we) appreciate anything you can find. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Hi Susie, and wow, what a challenge you face. Unfortunately, I don’t have any information whatsoever about your part of the road or the land on it. I wish you luck as you work this through.

      1. Susie Johnson Avatar
        Susie Johnson

        Bless your heart Jim, we appreciate your time and sincere wishes!

  5. Samuel Melson Avatar
    Samuel Melson

    Do you remember the Hilltop Inn? It was a couple miles south of Kessler. It was around in the 70s when I attended Butler. Just north of the big hill. I didn’t see it when I drove up Michigan road last summer so it is probably long gone. Many happy memories of Michigan Rd between 38th and 71st. McDonalds was on the north side of Kessler. Been back to that part of town few times since my college days.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Samuel, I moved to the area in 1994, so I sadly have no memories of the Hilltop. I do remember when the road was just two lanes north of 71st — wow, the backups on NB Michigan Road at rush hour as everyone squeezed down to one lane! People tell me that the McD’s was torn down in the early 90s and the Walgreens was built in its place. That Walgreens closed a few years ago, about the same time a new McD’s was built south of Kessler on Michigan, in front of a brand new Walmart Neighborhood Market!

  6. Nick Campbell Avatar
    Nick Campbell

    We used to live at 140 South Michigan Avenue in Greensburg, Indiana, during the Fities. We were told that Indians used to follow a trail that ran right by our house. I can’t remember now what Indian chief was claimed to have ridden by. Is there any evidence of this having occured? All of the houses in our old neighborhood have been torn down. Ours burned when Mac’s Feedmill that lay across a gravel lot, burned, perhaps during the Seventies. We moved to California in 1961 and remain here.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      There are so many stories like yours related to the road that it’s impossible to sort which ones are true.

      140 S Michigan would have put you just off the square. Looks like there’s a little glass shop there now. I see the gravel lot; the spot where Mac’s was remains a vacant lot.

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