We were just two weeks into stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. I thought I was adapting okay, but as that second week drew to a close I felt myself going a little stir crazy. I felt a strong need to get away for a while. But where could I go?
My wife suggested I just take a long drive. “If you’re in your car, there’s nobody to infect you and you can’t infect anybody.” Brilliant. So that Saturday afternoon that’s just what I did.
The bare-tree months are my favorite time to visit this bridge because it’s so visible. In the middle of summer this is mighty overgrown. You can’t even see the bridge from modern US 40 then. But at this time of year it’s easy to see.
This bridge was built in 1923. It doesn’t look too bad for having gotten zero maintenance since it was abandoned, which was sometime between 1939 and 1941.
Iron’s Cemetery is just northeast of the bridge. Little spring flowers grew all along the path leading to it.
Inside the cemetery, you can see the other side of the bridge. At least you can during the bare-tree months.
Except for the sound of an occasional passing car, the only sound here is the wind. It was lovely to be out in the world in a peaceful place.
There are always lots of interesting details to photograph in an old cemetery. Gravestone letterforms of the 1800s fascinate me. They have such style!
Unfortunately, many of the markers here are in poor condition. Some of them are broken and lying on the ground.
I hate to see any old cemetery in this condition. It’s funny — I won’t be buried in one when I’m gone, it seems like a waste of good ground. Cremate me and scatter my remains to the wind. But for those who did choose burial, good heavens, provide for the maintenance of those graves!
But enough of that maudlin stuff. It helped me regain my internal footing to make this trip. I lingered here well past I stopped finding photographic inspiration, just to enjoy the quiet and the outdoors. Then I got into my car and drove back home.
When I was in college in Terre Haute, I had a friend who worked for a crappy little radio station. He invited me to come visit him one day while he was on the air. He gave me directions: “Take I-70 to the Darwin Road exit, then turn left on Old US 40. Then look for our tower and just follow the roads until you get to it.” What? “Yeah, the station’s out in Toad Hop, and the roads aren’t marked back there.” Toad Hop? What’s that? “That’s just what this area is called. And by the way, if you get lost, don’t stop to ask directions, because the locals aren’t too friendly.”
Toad Hop is west of West Terre Haute, which is across the Wabash River from Terre Haute. Even though Toad Hop was not the most welcoming place when I first visited, I remembered that my friend mentioned that “Old US 40” ran through it. So on our 2006 Indiana National Road trip, Dawn and I were off to Toad Hop.
Before we got there, just after we crossed the Wabash River and entered West Terre Haute, we encountered what looked like an old alignment of US 40 since it kept going straight where US 40 curved. You can see it in the upper right of the map above. That road was even made of concrete then, though it has since been paved over with asphalt.
This road is signed Paris Ave. as it leads to Paris, Illinois. I have wondered for years whether the National Road/US 40 originally followed Paris Road to the crossroad on the west side of town, Bennett Lane. Did it then follow Bennett south, curving to cross a now-missing bridge over Sugar Creek and flow right into Old US 40 leading to Toad Hop?
It’s not impossible that the National Road/US 40 always followed West Terre Haute’s main street, National Ave. It would have curved just east of Sugar Creek to cross that now-missing bridge and then continue on Old US 40.
Whichever way it ran, it ran that way until 1949 when the new four-lane alignment was built. It carried US 40 until 2011, when US 40 was rerouted along I-70 from east of Terre Haute to just inside Illinois.
To reach this segment, we turned left off National Avenue onto Darwin Road. We drove east in hopes of seeing where that bridge had been, but the road was lined with houses and trailers. The area looked no friendlier than it did when I was last there umpteen years before. To be safe, we took pictures from the Darwin Road intersection. This photo shows old US 40 eastbound from there, aiming right at that alleged bridge.
Here’s the westbound outlook. We didn’t know then when the four-lane US 40 was built, but we wondered, as this road looked awfully narrow.
We drove along this alignment almost as far as it went. We crossed a small bridge along the way that we did not photograph that day. I came back in 2009 to photograph it; here it is. It was built in 1919.
Except for the overgrown grass, this gives you a very good idea of what a major US highway looked like in the 1920s. The bridge itself is a concrete arch design.
Back to 2006, soon we could see we were about to run out of road. We wanted to drive all the way to the end, but there were several homes here and we would have been awfully conspicuous. So I made this through-the-windshield photo and we turned around.
The road ends because I-70 and National Ave. come together here. Check it out:
I-70 follows the original National Road alignment for about a mile into Illinois. It then veers away from the National Road alignment, and old US 40/the National Road emerges from the woods as a brick road! Illinois built a more modern US 40 alongside it and abandoned the older road. Read more about it here.
We doubled back and crossed over to Illiana Dr. on the other side of National Ave. We could see on the map that this road becomes US 40 in Illinois, so we felt confident that we were on the right track. As soon as we crossed over US 40 and made that left, we were immediately rewarded to see a Historic National Road sign.
It seems likely that this road was built at the same time as this segment of National Ave. (which used to be US 40 until US 40 was rerouted from the east side of Terre Haute to follow I-70). There needed to be some way to connect back to US 40 inside Illinois. The photo below looks from Indiana into Illinois.
This old US 40 alignment moved into Illinois as so many roads do — with a change in pavement. The speed limit also increased, from 35 MPH in Indiana to 55 MPH in Illinois. We wondered why the same road merited 20 extra miles per hour in Illinois. We drove into Illinois a little ways and found our answer — the road is signed US 40. This is curious, since US 40 is also multiplexed with I 70 just to the south.
This photo looks from Illinois into Indiana. The words “Start Race” are painted in orange on the pavement on the Illinois side where the Indiana pavement begins. My friend Michael explained that on the same day, the Ride Across Indiana (RAIN) started from that point and toured 161 miles of US 40 and the National Road all the way to the Ohio state line. This explained all the bicycles we saw heading eastbound on US 40 when we were west of Plainfield!
With this, our tour of the National Road in western Indiana ended. Little did we know, until we picked up from here a year later, how exciting the road would be in Illinois because of the abandoned brick highway there.
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.
For weeks now I’ve been sharing my photos of bridges in my Tuesday/Thursday “single frame” series. I’ve wanted to share one of the beautiful Jefferson Boulevard bridge in my hometown of South Bend. But I couldn’t choose just one. So I’m sharing a bunch of photographs of it in this post, to wrap up the series.
The Jefferson Boulevard bridge was built in 1906, carrying one of downtown South Bend’s main east-west streets across the St. Joseph River and forming a gateway with the east side of South Bend.
You can walk right under two of this bridge’s arches on a pedestrian trail that runs along both sides of the river.
When you do, you can see the telltale signs of the formwork that held this bridge’s concrete in place while it cured.
MIT-trained South Bend city engineer Alonzo Hammond designed this bridge. He used a cutting-edge construction technique known as the Melan arch, in which solid steel arch ribs, rather than iron rebar, were used inside the concrete.
490 feet long with four spans, with a deck 51.8 feet wide, it handled a twin-track street railway as well as vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Today the streetcar tracks are long gone. Hammond’s bridge easily handles two lanes of traffic in each direction, bracketed by sidewalks.
Hammond configured the east approach of the bridge to complement recent improvements in Howard Park. which is on the right in the photos above and below. I made the photo below from a onetime railroad trestle now used by pedestrians on the river trail system.
I’ve photographed this bridge more than any other. I enjoy its design and its setting. Every time I’m downtown in South Bend with a camera, I wind up around the bridge looking for a new angle.
But mostly, I like to shoot the bridge up close to consider its delightful details.
Sometimes the morning or afternoon light plays beautifully on its sides.
I made this photo from the LaSalle Street bridge one block to the north. It shows the orange di Suvero sculpture and shallow man-made waterfalls. It also shows part of Island Park on the right.
I made a similar photograph the first time I shot this bridge, on a downtown photo walk in 1988. At that time, the bridge was a dull brownish gray. It underwent a restoration in 2003-4 that strengthened it to serve another generation, and brought it to its current creamy hue.
The National Road and US 40 has been moved around several times near Reelsville in Putnam County, Indiana. Big Walnut Creek flows through here. As various bridges have come and gone, sometimes the road was moved. I sorted out the whole history in this post.
I say this bridge is on the National Road. It is, in that this was an alignment of that road used from 1875 to 1923. But this is not a National Road bridge, as it was not built until 1929. By this time, the National Road had become US 40, and US 40 had been realigned to a new road a quarter mile to the south.
This bridge was designed by Daniel Luten, whose pioneering design for concrete-arch bridges is patented. That’s why this bridge was restored in place after a new bridge was built next to it (in about 2006). If you can find a place to park, you can walk out onto this old bridge.
It’s remarkable to me that this old bridge out in the country was saved. Also notice the pitch of the new bridge. Its construction eliminated a wicked hill.
I’ve known my friend Debbie longer than anyone I am still in contact with — we met when we were in the fifth grade, in 1977. We’ve passed out of each others’ lives a few times, sometimes for many, many years. But when we reconnect we fall right back into our friendship.
She came to visit one overcast summer day in 2011 and since we both like cemeteries I took her to Crown Hill, the sprawling burial ground in northwest Indianapolis. The cemetery lies on both sides of 38th St., a major east-west artery.
This bridge carries 38th St. over a road that connects the two sides of Crown Hill. I’ll bet most drivers on 38th St. don’t know the bridge is there.
While Debbie and I were looking at grave markers here, she noticed this family of deer headed toward us under the bridge. I was able to bring my camera up to capture them before they ran away.
This beautiful open-spandrel concrete-arch bridge is out in the middle of nowhere, in Owen County, Indiana. It carries State Road 42 over Cagles Mill Lake (also known as Cataract Lake), which was created in 1953 as the state’s first flood-control reservoir. Mill Creek was dammed at Cagles Mill, creating the reservoir.
I visited this bridge and made this photograph in 2008 when I toured State Road 42 from end to end. I was still new to my road-trip hobby, and at the time I stopped for every bridge to see if I could clamber down the bank to find what kind of bridge it was, and photograph it.
It was sheer joy to discover what beauty lie beneath the deck, which is the only part motorists get to see as they pass over. In this case, my joy was doubled as a restoration had clearly recently been completed. Everything looked fresh and new.
According to bridgehunter.com, this bridge was built in 1951, two years before the dam was built to create the lake. State Road 42 was moved from a more northerly route to cross this new bridge. I’ve studied Google Maps and think I might see where the new route diverges from the old east of the bridge. But I can’t figure out anything else about the old route, which certainly went right through where the lake is now. If you’d like to try to figure it out yourself, click here to see the bridge’s location on Google Maps.