Let’s return to my May, 2007, trip along US 36 and the Pike’s Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.
After it leaves Marion County for Hendricks County, and after passing through the traffic nuthouse that is Avon, US 36 reaches Danville. It’s a four-lane divided road. But just east of Danville, where US 36 curves gently to the south, Old US 36 continues straight, as the map shows. Before the modern expressway was built, US 36 used to go straight through where storage facility lies today.
But on this trip I missed something important: an older alignment of this road, the path the Rockville Road followed before anybody had heard of US 36 or the PP-OO. Check it out on the map below.
You can drive some of this older road, but not all of it. The section east of County Road 625 E, which is the rightmost north-south road on this map snippet, no longer exists. The section west of there to Whipple Lane is a pedestrian path. You’ll find an 1875 Whipple through truss bridge on the pedestrian path. You can drive the road west from Whipple Lane. It’s signed as Broyles Road, although it has been slightly diverted to meet County Road 550 E rather than meet and cross US 36. You can’t turn onto the westmost section of Broyles Road from current US 36. To reach it you must go to Old US 36 and reach it from where Broyles Road ends.
I don’t know when the original US 36 alignment was built. Richard Simpson researched US 36’s 1926 alignment and found it to be this road (see it on his excellent blog here). I’ve found this 1924 map that shows the original US 36 alignment not built yet, and this 1929 map that shows it built.
Let’s go back to the original alignment of US 36. The storage facility was built right on the old roadbed. This eastbound photo shows the southerly curve of US 36 — and a mound that picks up in a straight line from where the road begins to curve. Notice how the utility poles at left run along this straight line, too, converging with the road in the distance. That’s always a tell.
I turned around from this point and saw that the mound continued, utility poles planted right alongside. The yellow sign on the left announces the intersection of Old US 36, also known as Main St. in Danville.
The storage facility’s fence kept me from walking this old roadbed, so instead I drove to the west side of the storage facility. The utility poles in this eastbound photo tell the tale: The road once went here.
And here’s this segment of Old US 36 as it heads west towards Danville. It feels like a typical old highway: two lane, scant shoulders.
Right turn lanes appear at entrances to subdivisions and churches. The road is smooth even though it hasn’t been repaved in a while. About 2 miles along this alignment, at the Danville city limits sign, the pavement is even older, and the striping becomes more faded, as the eastbound photo below shows. A few old rectangular Do Not Pass signs still stand here. About 3.5 miles in, the road curves gently to the south and ends at the current alignment of US 36.
Old US 36 meets current US 36 at a T intersection as the map below shows. I’ve marked in green how the road originally flowed here.
Here’s westbound Old US 36 as it approaches current US 36.
This road, signed Phi Delta Kappa Drive, is all that’s left of US 36’s original path here. Notice how the utility poles follow this little segment. This is an eastbound photo.
I followed US 36 west into downtown Danville. The road’s four lanes soon narrowed to two lanes with a center turn lane. Like so many small Indiana towns, a courthouse square is at Danville’s heart. The trees made it challenging to get a good photograph of the courthouse.
Danville’s downtown business district lies around the courthouse. Here’s a photo of the shops and restaurants along the US 36 side. The Mayberry Cafe is on this block, well-known for its theme of The Andy Griffith Show. They usually have a black and white 1962 Ford Galaxie police cruiser parked out front, but it was missing this day.
Past downtown, US 36 narrowed to two lanes on its way out of town. Outside Danville, US 36 becomes a standard two-lane highway with thin shoulders. It remains a two-lane highway way all the way to Illinois.
To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!