Let’s return now to my 2007 trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.
Some time ago I entered Rockville’s square from the road to Bridgeton and drove around the square twice looking for US 36 so I could head back to Indianapolis. I was surprised to find no US 36 shields anywhere. I saw a gas station west of the square on Ohio Street, so I drove that way after a soda and maybe directions. As I drew closer to the gas station, I began to make out a US 36 sign in the distance. I got the soda, turned around, and followed Ohio Street east towards home.
This time I knew my way around a little better, and besides, I entered Rockville from the east on US 36 so there was no chance I would not be able to find it in town. Like so many Midwestern small towns, Rockville has a courthouse square. This is the square from the northeast, at Ohio and Jefferson Streets. If you look close you can almost make out that Jefferson Street is paved in brick. So are the other two streets on the square.
Rockville appears to be making quite an effort to keep its square bright and tidy. I understand that this square is the center of the annual Covered Bridge Festival, a major tourist attraction here, so there’s ample reason for the town to invest here. I took the photo below from the southeast corner of Ohio and Market Streets, a block west of the previous photo.
Presumably, this is where the old Rockville State Road ended. It was one of Indiana’s early state roads from the 1830s, part of a network linking important towns. Both the Pikes Peak road and US 36 were laid out onto it from Indianapolis to Rockville.
Past the square, past some tidy older homes, US 41 quickly comes to signal the end of Rockville. This photo shows US 36 as it heads west into Rockville, taken from the southeast corner of US 36 and US 41.
And this photo is of the US 36/US 41 intersection northbound and westbound.
My camera’s battery died about here, so I had to turn around for home. I came back a couple months later to finish this trip. Next: another gravel alignment of the road.
Let’s return to my 2007 trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway.
It’s not clear to me whether outdoor history museum Billie Creek Village still operates. News of financial difficulties surfaced in the early 2010s, and the site went on the auction block in 2012. But it was open in 2007 when I passed through on my US 36 trip. Not that I stopped.
Billie Creek Village is just east of Rockville, sandwiched between the original and current alignments of US 36. The original alignment was also the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway and the Rockville State Road.
This old alignment begins about a mile west of the dirt and gravel segment I shared in the previous post.
Two cars wide on a good day, this asphalt road soon comes upon a little covered bridge built by J. J. Daniels in 1895, as was the covered bridge over Big Walnut Creek earlier in the trip. Curiously, though the village, this bridge, and the adjoining road (the right turn just before the bridge) are all named Billie Creek, the bridge crosses Williams Creek.
Here’s a view of the trusses inside the bridge. The curved members are Burr arches, a common truss style among Indiana wooden covered bridges.
From an earlier visit, here’s an eastbound photo of the bridge.
Let’s look westbound again. On the map, notice how High Street follows roughly the same line as Old US 36. High Street goes right into downtown Rockville. Could High Street have been part of the Rockville State Road? In the photo below, High Street is the left turn; Old US 36 continues ahead.
Slightly more than two miles in, this segment ends at US 36. This is a mighty tight squeeze for two vehicles.
For completeness’s sake, from an earlier visit here’s a view of this end of the alignment from current US 36.
Let’s return now to my 2007 road trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.
While driving US 36 a few months ago, my kids in the back seat as we came home from a Spring Break trip, I saw an Old 36 Rd sign I hadn’t seen on earlier trips. I turned in — and immediately went sharply downhill on a gravel road that ended quickly in a couple dirt driveways. It was pretty tight back there and it took considerable care to turn around and get out! My kids were so busy playing their Nintendo DSes that they never noticed the bumpy detour.
When I came home, I looked it up online, and decided I must have tried to take this segment of road:
I entered what the map shows as the short dead-end road at far right. I made the above map screen shot in 2020; in 2007, online maps showed this segment connecting with the rest of the road. But it didn’t, and it hadn’t in a very long time.
This old alignment is about 1¼ miles west of tiny Bellmore, which is about a mile west of the end of the Raccoon Lake alignment.
Here’s a photo of the entrance to this segment. If you squint, you can see the Old 36 Rd sign. Notice how the road drops off immediately.
I took a picture down this narrow gravel road. This used to be US 36?
The satellite map showed 500 E as a crossroad along this alleged alignment, so I drove to it and headed north until I encountered what was, even there, signed Old 36 Rd. I drove east to see if I could make the connection. The road was barely one car wide. Soon I came upon this scene warning that a bridge ahead was out. Not pictured is the “Private Property Keep Out” sign nailed to a nearby tree that kept me from exploring farther.
I had quite a time turning my little car around in here, fearing that I’d put one end of my car off the side of the road and get stuck. If you decide to explore this segment and drive something larger than my Toyota Matrix, or don’t have four-wheel-drive, I recommend parking back at the crossroads and walking back here. Here’s what the road looked like leading away from here. Back here, the road was more dirt than gravel.
I drove back the way I came, crossing 500E. The road widened a little bit and became more gravel than dirt. Somebody was keeping the grass cut back here.
As I drove this segment, I thought it so incredible that this could have been US 36 that I doubted it. But my research shows that, indeed, this was the highway. My 1928 Indiana State Highway Commission map shows that US 36 was paved from Indianapolis to Danville, but was gravel west of there. That map even calls out Bellmore just above the broken line that represents gravel US 36. My 1937 Rand McNally (Standard Oil) Indiana highway map shows US 36 as a first-class paved road from Indianapolis to Illinois. So sometime within those nine years, the state paved US 36. If this is truly old US 36, then the state chose to build a straighter alignment nearby and decommission this stretch.
Can you imagine seeing an old cutout US 36 shield along the road above? It seems absurd! Yet I’m certain that it seemed perfectly natural to drivers 75 years ago.
Old 36 Rd ended 1.7 miles from the Bridge Out sign. The reason I had never seen an Old 36 Rd sign to match the one at the other end of this segment is because Old 36 Rd ends at another county road, which connects to US 36. See the map below. There’s no evidence that the old road continued past this county road; rather, it looks like that county road could once have been old US 36. Maybe the north-south road used to end at old US 36, but at some point became important enough to be paved, and was extended to US 36 by co-opting that last bit of old US 36.
Looking south from this intersection, US 36 is about a tenth of a mile away. If you want to find this segment, look for that little brown shack, which you can easily see from US 36.
Here are the rest of the vintage postcards I collected showing images from the Michigan Road in Indiana. Last time I shared images from Madison to Indianapolis, the southern portion of the road. Now I’ll share images from Indianapolis to Michigan City, the northern portion of the road.
In Indianapolis, for many years the road on the northwest side of the city was called Northwestern Avenue. Today it’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd. from the northwest edge of Downtown to the old city limits, and then Michigan Road from there to the county line. This bridge, long since replaced, carried the road over the White River. Guessing, I think this postcard is from the 1920s. Back then, this was outside the city limits.
The next postcards I owned take us 66 miles north of that bridge to downtown Logansport. The road followed Broadway Street for a few blocks. This view looks east, which is northbound on the Michigan Road. This postcard bears a 1906 postmark.
This 1920s view of Broadway looks west, which is southbound on the Michigan Road.
This 1960s view also looks west on Broadway.
Finally, as the road leaves Logansport northbound it passes by Logansport Memorial Hospital. This hospital building isn’t visible from the road; perhaps it’s been razed in favor of the current set of buildings. Perhaps it was in a different location in the city; I don’t know. But I’m including it because the current hospital is very much on the Michigan Road
Next, a couple views of downtown Rochester. This view from the air is on a postcard postmarked 1911. The grand Fulton County Courthouse is just out of the photo to the right.
Here’s a 1960s ground-level view from the intersection with 8th Street, right in front of the courthouse.
Next I had this postcard from Plymouth, a little south of downtown from its grand avenue of lovely homes. Most of those homes still stand today, making this just as lovely a drive now as then. This postcard is postmarked 1911.
This view of downtown Plymouth is from a postcard postmarked 1958, but judging by the cars I’d say the image is from the early 1950s. This photo looks northbound.
This southbound photo of downtown Plymouth is also postmarked 1958.
This is easily the most interesting postcard in the set. It’s a view of Lakeville, a small town just south of South Bend. It is postmarked 1911. This is a southbound view. Notice how wide this dirt road is! The Michigan Road claimed a 100-foot right-of-way when it was built.
Next is South Bend. This card postmarked 1906 shows Michigan Street, but the city has changed so much that I couldn’t tell you where this is located and whether this is a northbound or southbound photo.
The same would be true for this card postmarked 1909, except that its caption clears things up very nicely.
This card is from the same place as the one above, taken sometime in the 1950s. I think the building second from the right edge of the photo is the same one that’s second from the right edge of the photo above, the building with the advertisement sign painted on the side.
Finally, we reach the end of the Michigan Road, in Michigan City. This vast sand dune is no more. It was carted off load by load, and used to make glass. A giant cooling tower for an electrical power plant stands here today.
Let’s return now to my 2007 road trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.
US 36 used to pass through the flood-prone land on either side of Big Raccoon Creek in Parke County. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers resolved to control the flooding, and so between 1956 and 1960 built what is commonly called Raccoon Lake. Along the way, they built a straight and modern new segment of US 36 over the new lake – and submerged a couple small towns and a segment of what had been US 36. This 1939 aerial image shows how the road used to flow. It’s not a great image but it’s the best available.
This map shows how the old road, marked CR 312, goes into the east side of the lake. Since current US 36 was built, old US 36 has been diverted a couple times so that it’s no longer a continuous road. But if you trace CR 312 back from the lake, you can see how it used to flow back into current US 36.
This photo below shows the curve in US 36 at the east end of the map above. I believe that before 1956, US 36 used to go through here, probably by the utility lines that come in from the left of the photo.
To access this segment, I drove a few hundred yards and turned left at a crossroads, shown in the photo below. Old US 36 cuts across where that road curves to the right.
I took this photo from that curve. I was surprised to find a short stretch of old concrete road that turns into a gravel path. Notice the utility lines along the north side of the road – these are the same lines that cut behind the ridge of trees two photos ago.
I walked westbound along old US 36 to the beginning of the CR 312 segment to take this photo.
Shortly, the road ends. It’s not a very auspicious ending – a mound of dirt was piled onto a short bridge. It is now overgrown with weeds.
I climbed the mound to take a photo. Now, I’m going to cheat here, because a photo I took on a recon trip through here a couple months earlier is much better than the one I took this day. You can see how the forgotten road continues a short distance beyond the mound, with Raccoon Lake at the end.
This map gives a clue of the road’s underwater path and shows where the road emerges on the west side of the lake.
On the west side of the lake, a boat ramp has been built along where old US 36 emerges from the water. I’ve heard tell that in the winter, when the U.S. Army lowers Raccoon Lake by a few feet, you can see more of the old road. Past the guardrail are some chunks of old pavement and then a dropoff to the lake below. This is an eastbound photo.
Down the road from here a bit there’s a gate and a sign warning of the road’s watery end. Eastbound.
Just west of the lake, old US 36, here signed Hollandsburg Boat Ramp Rd., snakes across current US 36 westbound.
This map shows old US 36 as it crosses US 36 and eventually flows back into current US 36. It shows how old US 36 once curved gracefully across where US 36 is now, but was rerouted so it would cross US 36 at safer right angles. The problem with this map is that, west of the creek that appears about 1/4 of the way across the map from the left, most of the road no longer exists.
Old 36 Rd is old pavement until reaches its intersection with CR 870E, the north-south road roughly in the middle of the map above. West of there, the pavement is covered in what looked and felt to me like oiled gravel. The road is not well cared for here as the grass and brush narrow the road on both sides. Suddenly, the road dead ends at the creek, no Dead End sign in sight. I guess they expect that if you’re driving back here, you must be local and know the bridge is out.
Current US 36 is visible several yards to the south as it spans the creek from on high.
I backtracked to 870E and drove over the creek on US 36. Last time I was through here, I couldn’t find the road leading to the creek from the other side. That’s because it was pretty well hidden. On the map above, a tiny connector road just east of where the map mistakenly shows old US 36 merging into current US 36, provides access to a tiny segment of concrete pavement that seems just to provide access to a couple homes. Here’s its east end.
I turned around and took this photo of the west end of this segment. US 36 is just steps to the left, which is south.
The terrain rolls a little bit in this part of Indiana, and US 36 hugs it pretty good. This eastbound photo shows it from the beginning of the Bainbridge segment.
I passed a number of older houses set close to the road, and then I came to downtown Bainbridge, all two blocks of it. Its old buildings are left from when this town was probably quite vital. I suspect that the big building at right, at the corner of Main and Washington Streets, was once a hotel. An old-style bank with its door facing the corner was behind me.
As quickly as I entered Bainbridge, I left it. Here’s how Main St. flows into US 36 westbound.