Road Trips

US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway in Rochester, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

I was telling Brian the things I’ve learned about sniffing out the old alignments. I got interested in them at a good time, because online aerial maps sure make the job easier. But I’ve also discovered how helpful old maps and road guides can be. I had brought my 1924 midwestern Automobile Blue Book along and showed it to him. He seized upon it and studied the turn-by-turn directions from South Bend to Indianapolis. He asked about State Road 1, which the book mentions and which was US 31’s name before 1927. He observed that some of State Road 1’s path appeared to be different from the old US 31 that we were traveling.

We continued south into Fulton County, sometimes cruising less than 1,000 yards away from current US 31. When we entered Fulton County, I noticed that the road was signed Old US 31. I’m not sure that it was in Marshall County. This shoulderless road’s lanes were wide enough for oncoming semis to pass comfortably, suggesting that it was a fairly modern two-lane highway when it was replaced.

I had heard about a one-lane bridge on US 31 near Rochester. We came upon where it used to be, at the Tippecanoe River, about four miles north of Rochester.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

As we drove over this bridge, I saw an old stone abutment on the left, so we stopped. While I took photos from the current bridge, Brian walked out onto the old roadbed. A woman drove a tractor below, cutting the grass.

Bridge abutment, Rochester, Indiana

The abutment wasn’t in terrible shape, but it was also possible for stones to fall out or be pulled out. In 2011, a young man working toward being an Eagle Scout led a project to stabilize the abutment. Here’s the result.

Old bridge abutment

I was surprised to learn that the one-lane bridge lasted until 1982! Given that the road flows straight over the current bridge, but had to curve a bit to meet the one-lane bridge, I’d say that there was at least one earlier bridge here. It stood where the current bridge now stands. That bridge was built in 1916 and was a single-span Parker through truss. Courtesy Bridgehunter.com, here’s a photo of that bridge as it appeared in a 1980s South Bend Tribune article.

Somewhere along the way I came upon this photo of the bridge that preceded it, a two-span bowstring arch built in the mid-late 1800s. This photo faces west; the road coming in from the left in the photo, and the stone abutment where the bridge begins, is the road and abutment I photographed above.

I walked out onto the old roadbed and abutment to see the other side of the river. The bridge’s northern end wasn’t as plain to see.

Tippecanoe River bridge

On this map of Rochester, old US 31 is Main St. Old US 31, and Main St. with it, curve off to the southeast just north of 18th St. This is where old US 31 strikes out on its own, departing from the Michigan Road and the Dixie Highway. Those roads have to settle for being called State Road 25 the rest of the way to Logansport.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

The 1896 Fulton County courthouse is on Rochester’s square, on Main St. between 8th and 9th Streets. This Bedford limestone courthouse came 60 years after Fulton County was formed and Rochester was named the county seat. Rochester was here for about a year before a county formed around it.

Fulton County Courthouse

The courthouse is a real jewel among the buildings in downtown Rochester. These two photos are from the business district, which is near the courthouse.

Downtown Rochester

It’s sad to see all the boarded-up windows in the building at left below. I left downtown feeling like it was really too bad that Rochester’s downtown weren’t more like Plymouth’s, to go with its excellent courthouse.

Downtown Rochester

About eight blocks south of the courthouse, old US 31 veers left, leaving the Michigan Road and the Dixie Highway. We arrived as some rain clouds rolled in. In the photo, you can barely see the current US 31 overpass over State Road 25 in the distance.

Goodbye, Old US 31

We walked up and down the curve taking photos. A couple times, people stopped Brian to ask what we were doing. I guess Brian seems more approachable than me! Brian said to me, “We should tell them we’re building a traffic circle here!”

Beyond the curve, old US 31 flows straight out of Rochester. But we didn’t drive it.

Old US 31

After I told Brian about old State Road 1 and showed him my 1924 Automobile Blue Book, he started to turn into a crazed old-alignment maniac. He noticed that the ABB gave directions for driving through Rochester that differed from old US 31’s path, calling part of it “State Road 1,” and he was stoked to follow them. So we did. We backtracked to 14th St. and headed east. This map shows the route we took in green and the old US 31 route in blue. Based on my 1924 ABB and other resources I have, I’m only pretty sure that 14th St. was part of State Road 1 between Main St. and College Ave., which is where 14th St. bends south a bit. I’m sure that the rest of the route was State Road 1.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Here are the directions the ABB gave.

The very narrow road curved through a residential area. The houses appeared to be quite old, at least from the turn of the last century. The ABB said to jog right and then left at an “irregular four-corner.” We took that to mean the intersection of 14th and College, because we had to jog right there. But we never jogged left anywhere, suggesting that the road had been straightened at some time after the ABB was published. After the road passed College, we were stuck by the beauty of the scene.

State Road 1

We became confused when we reached 18th St., as 14th St. became CR 225 E and headed south. I thought we might be way off course as we drove, until we saw our road merge with what we correctly guessed was old US 31. Here’s a northbound photo of the merger. Old US 31 is on the left. Notice how much wider it is than old State Road 1.

Old US 31 and Original State Road 1

And then old US 31 intersected with current US 31.

Old US 31

Next: A lonely stretch of Old US 31 between Rochester and Peru.

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Road Trips

US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway in Argos, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

US 31 follows about 1,000 yards of its original path between Plymouth and Argos before curving away again, as this map shows.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

The turnoff looks like this from the west side of US 31.

Meeting US 31

As we turned in, we passed this freshly planted sign commemorating the Potawatomi Trail of Death, in which more than 850 Potawatomi were forcibly evacuated from land in this and surrounding counties. They were marched all the way to Kansas, and more than 40 Potawatomi died on the trip. Their journey followed the Michigan Road from about here to Logansport, which is ironic because it was a treaty with the Potawatomi that allowed Indiana to build this road in the first place.

Trail of Death marker

A great-great-grandmother, my mother’s mother’s mother, is said to have been full Potawatomi. My great-grandmother was born in 1898, so this great-great-grandmother was likely born between 1860 and 1885. That part of my family is from Rochester, which is in one of the counties from which the Potawatomi were evacuated. Did this woman’s parents somehow escape evacuation?

We would see these signs along the road until old US 31 left the Michigan Road on Rochester’s south side.

A short stub of old US 31 remains to provide access to a house. Every time I drive by here, trailers are parked on it.

Old road

I turned around from that spot to photograph the old highway southbound.

Southbound

Argos came quickly. US 31 didn’t bypass it by very much. The map shows old US 31 running through it at an angle, and US 31 running north-south just west of town.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Argos began with a tidy neighborhood. Lawns were mowed and edged and homes were in decent repair.

Argos residences

Brian and I noticed two 1800s homes in Argos, across the street from each other at the corner of Michigan and Smith Streets. Here’s the first, built in 1892.

Old house, Argos

Here’s the second, built in 1890. Both houses are on the national historic register.

Old house, Argos

It was apparent as soon as we hit downtown, however, that Argos had seen better days. The tall building has a Mason shield and the year 1905 on it above the top row of windows.

Downtown Argos

I once worked with a woman from Argos. She said that when she was a young adult there, most people in town worked “over to Ristan’s,” a wonderfully northern-Indiana way of saying that they all worked at the Ristan factory, which was just across US 31. Then it closed, she said, and Argos’s fortunes haven’t been as good since.

Next: Continuing south to Rochester.

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Road Trips

US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway in Plymouth, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

Thanks to old-fashioned nepotism, one college summer I landed a job with the courier service my aunt owned. One of my frequent destinations was a hospital on Plymouth’s main drag. I didn’t know then that Plymouth was on old US 31. Current US 31 bypasses Plymouth to the west; this map shows where the new and old roads split. US 6 is the east-west road at the top of the map.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

This southbound photo shows the split as two cars follow old US 31 southbound. It also shows the northbound flyover ramp from old US 31 to current US 31. Note: This is how it was in 2007. A new US 31 was subsequently built to the east, about 3/4 mile from here. The four-lane US 31 shown here was removed from about this point to about a mile southeast of here. All traffic here now follows the original US 31/Michigan Road/Dixie Highway alignment on the right in this photo. The bridge on the left was replaced with an at-grade road.

Southbound

Here’s another look at this split between old and new US 31, southbound.

Ramps

When we reached the top of the ramp, we noticed a road running parallel to it. Brian, who had the trip map, thought it looked to flow naturally from US 31 before it curved to bypass Plymouth, so he suggested we explore it. We drove it northbound until it made a sharp turn to the left.

End of the Michigan Road?

Sure enough, it appears to be old US 31. Brian walked past the end and a little bit into the yard there. He noticed some concrete there, heavily overgrown with grass, as the photo below shows.

Northbound

This southbound photo shows how this stub lines up with the end of the ramp, just before the stub veers to the right. It’s hard to see, but the stub hooks sharply to intersect at a T with old US 31.

Southbound

Pretty soon we came upon the Tri-Way drive-in theater and miniature golf course. The three-screen theater has operated since 1953 and was named because it was located (then) on US 31 between US 6 and US 30. The morning sun’s unfortunate angle made good pictures difficult, but here’s a fair shot of the sign, its colors fading.

Tri-Way Drive-In, Plymouth

After about three miles, we entered Plymouth. Here’s a map of the city to just before downtown. Notice US 30 near the top of this map and Jefferson St. near the bottom. Outside of town, Jefferson St. is called Lincolnway – US 30’s old alignment and the second major alignment of the Lincoln Highway.

Windows Live Maps 2007

After passing a few shops on Plymouth’s north edge, we entered a long residential section with trees shading the homes and the road, as this northbound photo shows.

Northbound

Homes are remarkably well kept along Plymouth’s Michigan St., a common name for old US 31 in northern Indiana because of its Michigan Road roots.

Residential Plymouth

I had no idea that this house was historically significant when I photographed it. It stands among many others along the Michigan Road on the north side of Plymouth. I took pictures of many of these houses, but lingered longest before this one. It had the strongest presence. Turns out it is the home of Plymouth’s first mayor, Judge Horace Corbin. I wrote about this in more detail here.

Corbin house

This was as far south as I’d ever been in Plymouth, and I never saw the hospital that was my aunt’s customer. They don’t just tear down hospitals, do they?

South of Jefferson St., residences faded in favor of businesses. We had reached downtown. Here’s a map of downtown and Plymouth’s south side.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Downtown Plymouth lasts all of about three blocks, but those blocks remain vital and well cared for. Both car and pedestrian traffic were heavy that Saturday – we happened upon a big sidewalk sale. This photo is of the west side of Michigan St. south of Washington St., which is the third street north of the Yellow River.

Southbound at Washington St

This is the next block south, at Garro St., again the west side of the street. The building at the left end is actually on the corner of LaPorte St., where old US 31 curves before it crosses the river.

Southbound at Garro St.

Someone far more experienced in the ways of the road than I pointed out to me that old banks open to the corner. I had never noticed it before, but now I see it everywhere.

Bank

Here’s another one, the former Marshall County Trust and Savings Co.

Marshall Co. Trust and Savings Co.

The Rees Theater has a lovely facade and sign.

Rees marquee

South of LaPorte St., the road curves slightly east as it crosses the Yellow River. Downtown ends, and residences begin again, south of the bridge and the railroad overpass.

Railroad underpass

The road heads southeast out of town. Past a cemetery, and then past any number of cul-de-sac neighborhoods, old US 31 ends at US 31, as this map shows.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

As usual, when the new road was built, highway engineers curved the old road to meet it at a T for safety.

Meeting US 31, Part 2

A stub of the original road remains, however, I presume to provide access to a house along it. Here’s the four-lane old US 31 northbound at where it curves to meet current US 31. I took the photo standing on the stub of old US 31.

Northbound

I turned around in that spot to shoot this two-lane stub of old US 31. Before US 31 bypassed Plymouth, it curved gently from here into the current roadbed.

Old road

Next: We didn’t drive on current US 31 more than 1,000 yards before old 31 split off again on its way to Argos.

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Road Trips

A walk through Burlington, Indiana, on the Michigan Road

On my recent day trip up the Michigan Road north from Indianapolis, I stopped in Burlington. This is a small town of about 600 people, 45 minutes north of Indianapolis and 15 minutes west of Kokomo.

Shortly after Carroll County was created in 1828, David Stipp, said to be a cold and stingy man, laid out Burlington. It was hoped to become the seat of a new county made partly from the Great Miami Reserve, which was two miles east. The Lafayette and Muncie Road crossed the Michigan Road here, but I’ve had no luck finding any information about that road. Burlington was an important stage stop, mill village, and trading center for both whites and Indians from the reservation. The town, named after a chief of the Wyandot native Americans, was incorporated in 1967.

The Burlington Methodist Church is the first major building you pass as you enter town from the south. It’s been expanded several times since it was built, probably in the early 20th century. The original church is made of cinderblock and the expansions are faced in limestone. The church’s original entrance was at the bottom of the steeple tower.

Burlington UMC

A little farther north is this building, which looks for all the world to me like a former fire station. I’ve seen historic photos of it containing the Burlington State Bank. I have photos of it (and the adjacent building to the left) containing a hardware store and later an antique store, but it’s currently vacant.

former Iron Rooster, Burlington

Across the street is Burlington Pizza, in this odd building. I’ve never seen a curved roof except on a Quonset hut before. This has been Burlington Pizza for at least 15 years.

Burlington Pizza

A little up the street on the west is this pair of buildings, which have contained a succession of restaurants. I remember the Dinner Bell, Treece’s, BJ’s, and now Hawg Heaven (which is closed) and Burlington Boathouse. The building on the right started out as Oyler and Huddleston’s dry goods store many, many years ago.

Burlington Boathouse

This handsome building was originally a general store, and was one for a very long time. But in the years I’ve been driving by, it’s been an antique store, a boutique, and now a coffee shop and cafe. It’s also been vacant at least once in my memory, and has undergone at least one renovation.

One More Cup Cafe

Across the street, the Burlington Church of Christ is mostly hidden behind that tree.

Burlington Church of Christ

This building’s unusual entrance features steep, curved steps and a cornerstone announcing 1908 and 1843, which must be the years the building was built and the church was founded, respectively.

Burlington Church of Christ

I’ve never had any idea what this building is, but it’s another one with an unusual roof.

Burlington

Finally, shortly before crossing Wildcat Creek and heading out of town, here’s the American House. It’s a former stagecoach stop and hotel. When I first started passing through Burlington, it was painted a golden yellow and was obviously in poor condition. It’s undergone a renovation in the last five years or so. We had a Historic Michigan Road board meeting in Burlington in 2017 and got to take a tour of the house during its renovation. I have no idea why I didn’t photograph the inside while I had the chance, but I didn’t. I do know that several of these windows were beyond repair, so they had a skilled craftsman build new windows to the same design.

American House

On my old Roads site you can see this page, which shows photos of my 2008 visit to Burlington. It also shows some historic photos of town that I scanned from a book commemorating the town’s 150th anniversary.

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Road Trips

Abandoned school near Middlefork, Indiana on the Michigan Road

When I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end in 2008, I stopped to photograph this abandoned schoolhouse near Middlefork, where State Road 26 intersects. The building faces SR 26; it’s actually on a short segment left behind when the highway was improved.

Abandoned school
Abandoned school

It was in sad shape, but it was intact. It was much the same in 2013 when I stopped to photograph it again. The upstairs windows were gone.

Abandoned school
Abandoned school

In the years since, every time I drove past here the school was in worse shape than the last time. When I drove by a couple weeks ago, I finally stopped to photograph it again. It’s not pretty.

Abandoned, dilapidated schoolhouse
Abandoned, dilapidated schoolhouse
Abandoned, dilapidated schoolhouse
Abandoned, dilapidated schoolhouse
Abandoned, dilapidated schoolhouse

I’m surprised this building hasn’t been razed by now. I wonder how much more of it will collapse before someone finishes the job and carts the bits away.

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Road Trips

US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway in Lakeville and La Paz, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

In my early days driving, I wished there were a way around Lakeville and La Paz and their 35 mph speed limits. I’ll be getting that wish when US 31 is rerouted between South Bend and Plymouth in the coming years.

On opposite sides of the St. Joseph/Marshall county line, bounded by State Road 4 on the north and US 6 on the south, these twin towns were built along the Michigan Road in the 1800s, probably hoping for commerce the road would bring.

This map shows US 31 (Michigan Street) from State Road 4 through Lakeville.

Windows Live Maps 2007

This northbound photo is taken from the corner just south of Newton Park. It shows the four-lane-undivided character of the road between South Bend and Lakeville.

Northbound from Lakeville

I’m sure Lakeville has made a lot of money over the years off people who don’t slow down in time for this town. A boldly colored LED sign in front of Newton Park used to warn people of the speed limit, saying that if they didn’t heed it, they would get to meet the town judge.

When Brian and I were kids, before you entered Lakeville you passed over a railroad track on a bridge. Several years ago, traffic was rerouted around US 31 while they removed the track and the bridge. Only a slight hill remains where the bridge was. I took this southbound photo of Lakeville from the crest of the hill.

Lakeville

Today, there is no sign that the railroad ever went through here. This easterly photo is from the hill where the railroad bridge used to be.

No more tracks

Somewhere along the way I found a post card, postmarked 1911, of Lakeville and this road. As you can see, this was a wide road even then. That’s because this is the old Michigan Road, an early state-funded highway, and it had a 100-foot right of way.

On Lakeville’s south side, Quinn Trail probably used to be US 31, based on how it could flow from and then back into current US 31, and how there’s a curve at the south end that lets this segment meet US 31 squarely. I can’t tell why 31 was rerouted here.

Windows Live Maps 2007

It looks like the northernmost segment of this alignment is currently a parking lot. This photo shows the southbound road south of there.

Quinn Trail

A small bridge on Quinn Trail is surprisingly wide, as you can see in this northbound photo from a 2009 visit. One railing is visible; the other is just out of the photo on the right. It suggests that there was a thought that someday this road might need to be a lot wider. Instead, the road was moved when it was widened.

St. Joe County Michigan Road bridge

Judging by the width and condition of this road, this hasn’t been US 31 in a long time. This northbound photo is from near the end of this segment.

Quinn Trail

Quinn Trail ends here. I took this southbound photo standing in the road’s direction at that point. Notice how it could flow easily into US 31 about where the guardrail curves out of sight.

Quinn Trail

Lakeville is in southern St. Joseph County near the Marshall County line. Shortly after crossing into Marshall County, we came upon La Paz. This map shows the town.

Windows Live Maps 2007

Like Lakeville in days gone by, La Paz begins on the north with a railroad bridge. This photo looks down into La Paz from the bridge.

La Paz

Looking over the railroad tracks from this bridge, we could see an eastbound train heading for us. As we watched it and took photos of it, Brian said, “He’s going to blow the whistle at us and wave.” Just as I shot the photo below, sure enough, the conductor did just that! I asked him how he knew. Turns out that my old friend has been keeping from me all these years that he’s a railfan. He knows the ways of the trains.

Train north of La Paz

From a 2009 visit, here’s a northbound view from within La Paz, leading toward the railroad bridge.

La Paz, Indiana

Next: The old alignment of US 31 through Plymouth, Indiana.

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