Road Trips

On the Dandy Trail in Indianapolis: Abandoned bridge in what is now Eagle Creek Park

Along what was the Dandy Trail in what is now Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, you will find an abandoned bridge. It’s hard to reach on foot. Jayson Rigsby recently contacted me to say he made photographs of it on a recent kayaking trip along Eagle Creek.

The Dandy Trail was a 1920s pleasure-drive loop in what was then the country surrounding Indianapolis. I’ve written many times about the Dandy Trail and have driven about half of it; read all about it here. Since the Dandy Trail’s heyday, Indianapolis expanded greatly, and now most of the land around the old Dandy Trail has been heavily developed.

Eagle Creek cuts across northwest Indianapolis and intersects the Dandy Trail near where the town of Traders Point used to be. Read Traders Point’s story here. In short, frequent flooding of Eagle Creek in this area led to a flood-control project in 1967 that created Eagle Creek Reservoir, which led to the creation of an enormous city park surrounding it. It also led to the demolition of almost every building in Traders Point, as it was thought the flood-control work would permanently flood the town. That didn’t happen and Traders Point was destroyed in vain.

Here’s an aerial image of Eagle Creek Park. I’ve pointed out the bridge’s location, and have roughly drawn in the now lost portion of the Dandy Trail. The lost road’s north end empties out into what was Traders Point.

2021 aerial image courtesy MapIndy

Zooming in for a closer look, you can clearly see the bridge. It’s at about the vertical center, and a little left of horizontal center.

2021 aerial image courtesy MapIndy

It’s interesting to me that no trace remains of the Dandy Trail as it led to and away from this bridge. Here’s an aerial image from 1956 that shows the bridge and the road.

1956 aerial image courtesy MapIndy

Jayson first made this image of the bridge from the air, from just west of the bridge.

Jayson Rigsby photo

Then he got into his kayak and rowed in for a closer look. This is the north end and west side of the bridge. This bridge appears to have a pony girder truss design. The Central States Bridge Company of Indianapolis specialized in those, so this bridge might be one of theirs.

Jayson Rigsby photo

Here’s a closer look at the north end of the bridge.

Jayson Rigsby photo

This is the west side of the bridge.

Jayson Rigsby photo

I have heard that at some times of the year this bridge is submerged. I’m happy Jayson kayaked out to this bridge and gave me permission to share his photos.

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Photographs

12 truss bridges

Casselman River bridge
Garrett Co., MD; Kodak EasyShare Z730
Chicago Skyway Bridge
Cook Co, IL; Olympus XA, Kodak T-Max 400
Canadian River Bridge
Blaine Co, OK; Canon PowerShot S95
Washington Road Bridge
Knox Co, IN; Canon PowerShot S80
George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge
Louisville, KY; Pentax K10D, smc PENTAX-DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL
Hibbs Ford Bridge
Putnam Co, IN; Canon PowerShot S80
1880 bridge
Paoli, IN; Canon PowerShot S95
Bridge at Devil's Elbow
Devil’s Elbow, MO; Canon PowerShot S95
Pony trusses
Morgan Co, IN; Canon PowerShot S95
Bridge on Prince William Road
Carroll Co, IN; Canon PowerShot S80
Holliday Road Bridge
Boone Co., IN; Olympus OM-4T, 40mm f/2 Zuiko Auto-S, Fujicolor 200
Old US 31 Bridge, Peru, IN
Miami Co, IN; Kodak EasyShare Z730

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Road Trips

The Michigan Road in southeastern Shelby County, Indiana

In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report.

Shelby County was organized in 1821. Because so many early Shelby County settlers were said to be from Kentucky, the county was named after Kentucky’s first governor, Isaac Shelby, who was a General in the Revolutionary War. Early settlers cut farms and towns out of “an unbroken and almost impenetrable woodland.” It also appears that a road known locally as “The Old State Road,” made as early as 1821, went from the Ohio River at Lawrenceburg to Napoleon, then through Shelby County from southeast to northwest. Given that through human history we’ve preferred to use and improve existing roads rather than build new ones, it seems likely to me that once the Old State Road got to Napoleon, it followed what became the Michigan Road’s route to Shelby County. (It also seems likely that the Old State Road followed Napoleon’s Main St, State Road 229, which becomes State Road 48 just outside of town and leads directly to Lawrenceburg.)

Not quite a mile inside Shelby County on the Michigan Road, just past Middletown, lies a one-lane bridge on a one-lane former alignment of the road. It’s labeled E 425 South on the map.

The bridge on the newer alignment looks like the kind of concrete bridge the state was building between the late 1910s and the 1930s. So I wager that the new alignment was built about the time the state took control of the road in the 1920s to provide a two-lane bridge over this creek. For whatever reason, they decided it was better to realign the road than to widen the old road and build a new bridge. I thank them for that!

Stone bridge, one-lane alignment

Here’s what it looks like to drive over the bridge and along this alignment.

Several homes and at least one farm lie along this short segment.

Stone bridge, one-lane alignment

The rutted pavement over the bridge is heavily patched. It looks to me as though several layers of pavement have raised the bridge’s deck.

Stone bridge, one-lane alignment

Sadly, this bridge collapsed in 2015 and was removed. Read the story here.

This is the road northbound just past the bridge. This is a two-way road, so I suppose that oncoming cars drive slightly off the road to pass each other.

One-lane alignment

A bit north of the one-lane alignment, the Michigan Road meets State Road 244.

South of SR 244 stands St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, its parsonage, its school, and its cemetery. This is the church, which was established in 1836. I didn’t find a cornerstone that dated this building, but the church’s first building was built here in 1839. This was one of the earliest Catholic parishes in Indiana. Until 1846, there were no Catholic churches in Indianapolis, and so the priest from St. Vincent’s traveled to Indianapolis to serve the Catholics there. This page shows a photo of an earlier building here.

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church

This school stands just south of the church.

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School

This appears to be the church’s parsonage.

Parsonage, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church

Behind the church, a cemetery stretches most of the way to I-74.

Cemetery, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church

This building stands just north of SR 244. It appears to be somebody’s home today, but it probably wasn’t built to be a private residence. The plaque above the middle second-floor window says “1909 St. Vincent’s Hall,” which suggests this building was at one time connected with the church. Above the cornice it reads, “Y.M.I. Bauer No. 574,” whatever that means.

Y.M.I Bauer No. 574

The Skyline Drive-In with its one screen stands a bit north of SR 244. (In 2020, my wife and I got a tour of the Skyline; read about it here.)

Skyline Drive-In

Next: The Michigan Road in Shelbyville.

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

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Road Trips

The original Michigan Road in Ripley County, Indiana

In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report.

Most of the Michigan Road in Ripley County was never added to the modern state highway system. US 421 leaves the Michigan Road shortly after entering Ripley County and doesn’t rejoin it until shortly before leaving the county. Just before the road leaves Jefferson County, it curves to the east a bit; just after it enters Ripley County, to stay on the Michigan Road you have to follow a side road, as this map shows. I highlighted the Michigan Road as a green line on the map.

This excerpt from an 1870 atlas suggests that a fork once existed where the road now curves east, and the Michigan Road ran straight north and briefly through what is now the Jefferson Proving Ground. The map shows the east fork, now US 421, running through Rexville and the west fork, the Michigan Road, running more northerly. The only hitch is that the fork actually would have been just south of the county line in Jefferson County. But if this is a simple matter of mapmaker error in locating the fork, then that at some point about two miles of the original route were abandoned for the current configuration. If you view an aerial map of this area at maximum zoom, you can see spots of what might have been the road along the line where the road would have been.

New topographical atlas and gazetteer of Indiana, Indianapolis, Higgins & Ryan, 1870, via The David Rumsey Collection

US 421 continues straight towards Versailles and Osgood. During the early 20th century, somehow the US 421 route became the modern Michigan Road, and was even signed as such. The real Michigan Road gets very little notice today as it provides an intimate view to a great deal of farmland and passes through a very small town. I’ll share the US 421 alignment of the Michigan Road in a future post.

Here’s where the Michigan Road turns off US 421.

Michigan Road from US 421

Turning onto the “old” Michigan Road, you immediately feel like you’ve stepped out into the country. Except for the road having been widened to two lanes and paved, this landscape has probably changed little in 100 years.

Michigan Road, Ripley County

Shortly after turning onto this segment, but before the Michigan Road turns north, a stone one-lane bridge appears, as this video shows. Sorry it’s so shaky – I held the camera in one hand as with the other I steered and shifted my stickshift car.

I found nothing on the bridge that tells when it was built. According to Bridgehunter.com, it was built in 1913. I’ve written about this bridge a few other times: here, here, here, and here.

Stone bridge, Michigan Road

Here’s the view from the bridge. Notice JPG’s perimeter road just inside its fence. This photo is a bit misleading that it makes the road look as wide as the bridge. In reality, two cars can pass on the road, but would more than rub elbows on the bridge.

Stone bridge, Michigan Road

About five miles north of the bridge, the JPG fence pulls away and disappears, and then the road enters little New Marion, as this map shows.

On the northeast corner of 3rd and Main stands the St. Magdalene Catholic Church. Its original building stood a few miles away inside what is now the Jefferson Proving Ground. When the Army took over in 1941, the church’s cemetery moved to the Michigan Road north of Madison, while the congregation rebuilt here.

St. Magdalene Catholic Church, New Marion, Indiana

This interview with a woman who lived in New Marion during World War II tells of when the church was moved:

There was a big catholic church, it was St. Magdalene and they moved that, all the cemetery, all the plots, dug them all up, the stone and everything, and the people had no say so, they were just told we’ll give you so much money for your land and you get out, and you had a certain amount of time to do it, and so neighbors, who had knew each other for years and generations were scattered everywhere.

She also talked about what it was like living next to JPG during the war:

When we were in high school, and when we, after the war started, and they used this area, this Jefferson Proving Ground to test ammunition. They dropped bombs from airplanes, so it was a very noisy time. It was uh, we could sit on our back step at home and it was like fireworks all the time, and you could see them dropping the bombs, and flares would go up, and the noise was so bad that it would break windows in our house and in the town where we lived, and it would knock flowers out of windows, and you could hear the bombs go off, so you were always aware that there was a war going on…

Just north of 1st St. stands the New Marion Baptist Church. Its building has two dates on it, 1835 and 1868.

New Marion Baptist Church, New Marion, Indiana

Just north of town lies the New Marion Cemetery, which some sources say is associated with the Baptist Church.

New Marion Cemetery, New Marion, Indiana

After driving so many miles in the country, it’s a bit of a surprise to come upon US 50, one of the original U.S. highways running over 3,000 miles from Maryland to California. A Michigan Road historical marker stands on the southeast corner of the intersection. It needs to be restored.

Michigan Road historical marker at US 50

Just past US 50 the Michigan Road crosses the Ohio and Mississippi railroad track, where the town of Dabney once stood.

A bit north of the tracks is the Dabney Baptist Church, the only reminder of the old town. The church started in nearby Otter Village in 1852, but moved here in 1854 to be near the railroad. This building was completed in 1885.

Dabney Baptist Church

Here’s a southbound shot of the road just north of Dabney, to give a flavor of the road as it passes through this countryside.

SB Michigan Road

As the road nears Napoleon, somebody spray-painted “St. Maurice 2008 CYO Champs” on the roof of this log cabin, which once stood on the southeast corner of 700N. The very next time I drove through here, it was gone.

Under restoration?

This stone culvert (or is it a very small bridge?) is just beyond 700N.

Stone bridge

I wonder if this side used to be as tall as the other, but the stones above roadway level were removed at some point.

Stone bridge

Shortly the Michigan Road entered the small town of Napoleon. This is where US 421 rejoins the road.

Next: The Michigan Road Auto Trail alignment in Ripley County, better known today as US 421.

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

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Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

The original paths of the National Road and US 40 in Putnam County, Indiana

The National Road, aka US 40, in Putnam County, Indiana, is an old friend. I first documented it in 2006 and have visited several times in the years since. What I like about it is all of the old alignments of the road you’ll find there, with pavement that’s now pushing 100 years old.

The first is about halfway between Mt. Meridian and US 231. You can’t drive it anymore, as it’s on private property. It’s a short segment of brick pavement, the only such pavement left that was part of US 40 in Indiana. I failed to find it on my recent bike trip across Indiana, but I found it on an earlier trip and documented it here.

The next is between US 231 and Putnamville at Deer Creek. There you’ll find a bridge over the creek, and leading away from it a long stretch of concrete pavement. I documented this segment in detail here and here, and shared a 1928 photo of the bridge here. This photo is westbound from the bridge.

Old US 40 concrete alignment with bridge, Putnam Co.

This photo is eastbound towards the bridge

Old US 40 concrete alignment with bridge, Putnam Co.

The next old alignment is just west of Putnamville, and it runs through the grounds of the Putnamville Correctional Facility. Here’s where it emerges from under current US 40, its concrete face still showing.

Old alignment US 40/NR at Putnamville Correctional Facility

This road is used within the prison and was covered over with asphalt at some point.

Old alignment US 40/NR at Putnamville Correctional Facility

A little west of Manhattan is a short concrete road signed as CR 775 S.

Short concrete old alignment

You’ll find a confluence of old alignments near Reelsville. One of them is gravel, and I didn’t want to ride my bike on it. The rest is concrete. I’ve documented the Reelsville alignments extensively here. The paved portion is in two segments. Here’s a photo from the east segment. This was originally a concrete road but it was paved over in asphalt.

Old US 40/NR alignment near Reelsville

Concrete remains on the west segment. It gets very little use and is well overgrown. It looks abandoned.

Old US 40/NR alignment near Reelsville

There’s a bridge back here, over Big Walnut Creek.

Old US 40/NR alignment near Reelsville

This is quite a difference from the character of the modern highway in Putnam County!

US 40 WB Putnam Co.

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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