Road Trips

Old US 31 in southern Fulton and northern Miami Counties in 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.

We crossed current US 31 south of Rochester.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

As soon as we did, the road’s demeanor changed. Where we had seen shoulders, the road now lacked them. Where the pavement had been dark and in recent repair, we now saw the silvery gray of old asphalt. Where the road had been striped, only faint striping now occasionally appeared. The road seemed narrower. If it weren’t for the Old US 31 signs at every crossroad, we might have thought we’d taken a wrong turn.

Old US 31, Fulton County, IN

We passed a few houses right away, but after that it was just Brian, me, the corn, and the soybeans. My 1916 Automobile Blue Book said we’d come upon a place called Green Oak, where the road would be “rather sandy in spots.” While the map below shows two spots where Green Oak might have been, there was no evidence of it along the road. As the map suggests, there wasn’t much evidence of anything along the road.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

After six miles, we again approached US 31. This sign, with its fading letters, greeted us, an artifact of this road’s heyday. A similar, but newer and brighter, sign stood several feet east of us on US 31.

Old sign on Old US 31

Across E 650 S, and then across US 31, old US 31 continues. Current US 31 is the county line. I stood in Fulton County to make this photo, but old US 31 is in Miami County.

Looking across to Old US 31

This map shows this intersection.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

This was the most excitement we would have for another 6½ miles. Except for itty bitty Perrysburg, for which we did not stop, this road was as empty as it had been for the past six miles, shoulderless and unstriped. Here’s what it looks like facing northbound.

Old US 31 NB

After about 5½ miles, old US 31 pulled up alongside current US 31. And then a half-mile later, there was a dead-end sign and we could see old US 31 fade off into nothing.

End of Old US 31

Brian asked the owner of the last house on the road if we could walk out along the road. She said her property ended where the fence did, and we were welcome to go out that far. We went for a closer look. If it is possible, the road seemed even narrower as we drew closer to the end. I squatted for this shot, which shows the condition of this asphalt, ignored for probably 30 years.

End of Old US 31

Here’s what the end looks like from the air. We turned around and drove to the US 31 access road, and then headed south on the big slab.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Next: Old US 31 and Original State Road 1 in Mexico, Indiana.

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Road Trips

Old 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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Photography

The round barns of Fulton County, Indiana

I can’t believe that when my friend Dawn and I made our tour of Fulton County’s round barns ten years ago that I didn’t upload all of my photographs to Flickr. I uploaded photos of only one round barn, the one below. Dawn and I got to tour it. I wrote about it here.

Round barn

Fulton County has eight round barns, though I’m sure it used to be far more. Several of the barns are easily seen from county roads.

Round barn

A few of the barns are on the Fulton County Museum site. This is one.

Round barn

This is another. On the day we visited, they were celebrating old tractors and there was a bit of a fair/flea-market atmosphere.

Round barn

A couple round barns were partially hidden from the road. We weren’t about to trespass to get better photographs, but that didn’t prevent one property owner from driving out to warn us away.

Round barn

This final round barn is the pro shop for the golf course in Rochester’s Lakeview Park. It was built in 1910, but received extensive renovations when it was moved to the park.

"Round barn"

Most of these barns were built in the 1910s after Purdue University began recommending them. They were efficient and economical in their time. For an explanation of why, check out this article at the Fulton County Historical Society.

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Preservation, Road Trips

The mystery of the former one-lane bridge on the Michigan Road in Fulton County, Indiana

It was exciting to come upon this abandoned bridge abutment when my old friend Brian and I explored old US 31 in northern Indiana in 2007. (That whole trip is documented here.)

Bridge abutment, Rochester, Indiana

Standing on the old abutment it’s easy to see where the old bridge used to meet the Tippecanoe River’s north bank. It’s just right of where the current bridge, built in 1982, meets it.

Tippecanoe River bridge

My dad remembers driving the old bridge. He said it was just one lane wide, and there was a stoplight at either end. Traffic on US 31 would often back up at either end waiting to cross here. The mother of an old friend, who grew up in Fulton County, remembers a time before they installed the stoplight — and the games of chicken oncoming drivers played with each other.

My research turns up only the photo above, circa 1910, as possibly a bridge at this location. Those stone abutments look right, and the rise of the left approach looks to me to match the abandoned approach and abutment. The river is awfully full, though, fuller than I’ve ever seen it. This photo could have been made during a flood.

Current bridge and old abutment from the air. Imagery © 2019 DigitalGlobe, Indiana Map Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2019 Google.

But this two-span bowstring through truss bridge is not the bridge my friend’s mother remembers. She specifically remembers a single-span bridge with a squarer truss design, probably a Pratt through truss

If that bowstring truss was ever at this location, it had to have been replaced with the one everybody remembers, sometime after the 1910 photograph was made. The Great Flood of 1913 destroyed a lot of bridges; perhaps it did this one in.

By the early 1970s, US 31 was rebuilt as a four-lane expressway about a mile to the west, relieving the traffic burden on the old bridge here.

By the way, this bridge is on the Michigan Road. When US 31 was commissioned in Indiana, it used the Michigan Road from about 3½ miles south of here in Rochester, to about 42 miles north of here in downtown South Bend.

In 2010, an aspiring Eagle Scout stabilized this abutment, mortaring in the stones and laying in concrete pavers where the old road bed had gone missing. I made this photograph of it in late 2011 and wrote about it here.

Old bridge abutment

Here’s the same scene the day after Christmas in 2018. The mortar’s color has neutralized with age, making the abutment look more natural.

Old bridge abutment, north of Rochester

Three historic markers stand on the old abutment. The third, which is the shorter stone, was placed sometime since 2011. I never think to photograph it because I forget it’s newer and that I’ve not already photographed it. I can’t remember what it commemorates. The larger stone commemorates a village of Potawatomi Indians that was once here, and how those Indians were removed to lands out west in a forced migration now known as the Trail of Death. You’ll find a wealth of information about the Trail of Death here. I have a Potawatomi ancestor, I am told, though I can’t confirm it.

Old bridge abutment, north of Rochester

The final marker on this abutment honors the Michigan Road itself. Two other state markers like this one honor the road: one in Ripley County at US 50, and one in Boone County about three miles north of I-465.

Historic marker

Every time I stop here, the Tippecanoe River is tranquil.

Tippecanoe River

Here’s hoping that someday confirmed photographs of the old bridge here emerge.

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

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