Road Trips

The National Road and US 40 in Livingston, Illinois

I’ve written about the National Road in Illinois many times before. But as I work to deprecate my old Roads site, I need to bring a few articles about the road in Illinois from there to here. This is one of them. This is based on recent research and several visits: two in 2007, one in 2009, and one in 2014.

Shortly US 40 and the National Road reach Livingston, a very small town just east of Marshall. I’m not sure why the National Road Historic Byway considers the road through Livingston a spur route. All of my research indicates that the road through Livingston was the National Road.

Livingston

I wasn’t so sure of that when I first researched the road here. The aerial maps, and the labels placed on the roads, confused the heck out of me. But after looking at historic aerial imagery (the only source of which I could find is copyrighted, and would cost to be able to share here) I’m pretty sure that the original routing through Livingston and on into Marshall followed the route I added in green, to include what the map labels Hill Top Orchard Road in Livingston. The western (left) edge of this map is the eastern outskirts of Marshall. Modern US 40 disrupted the original National Road route a little here, but you can trace where it would have been easily enough. Click the map to see it larger.

Bing Maps, 2021.

The eastern end of this alignment is covered in grass. I made this eastbound photo in 2007.

Abandoned National Road

Westbound, the old road heads into the woods.

Abandoned National Road

Shortly the road emerges from the woods, bricks intact. Eastbound.

Abandoned National Road

It heads on into tiny Livingston, the bricks covered in asphalt. Westbound.

National Road, Livingston, IL

There isn’t much to show about Livingston; it’s just a handful of houses. After it passes through Livingston, the road curves to rejoin US 40. The old brick highway continues straight. Westbound.

Abandoned National Road

The bricks end on the banks of Big Creek. The bridge here was removed. On our 2007 trip, Michael and I found the road on the other side of this creek. I didn’t get a good photo of the bridge’s remnants, but Michael did. He made this eastbound photo from the creek’s west bank.

Michael A. Ray photo, used with permission

Here’s the road leading away from the creek, westbound. 2014 photo. The curve at the end is not part of the National Road; it was added to connect this segment to US 40. The National Road originally kept going straight from here.

Illinois National Road

I’m not sure why, but the roadway is covered with earth from that point. 2007 photo, westbound.

Abandoned National Road

We found a state right-of-way marker along this path, confirming for us that we were still on the National Road. Later, I found concrete consistent with the edge of the U-shaped roadbed into which the bricks were once laid.

Abandoned National Road

I found a few bricks like this one, all broken, some in the ground. Is that a date on the brick? February 12, 192x? The bricks along the road so far had all been plain-faced and in shades of red, so I wasn’t sure whether this was a road brick or not.

Abandoned National Road

Fallen trees blocked our path. We felt like we’d seen enough anyway, so we walked back to the car and drove US 40 the short distance to where the National Road crossed 40 on its way to Marshall.

Abandoned National Road

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Road Trips

The brick National Road and US 40 east of Marshall, Illinois

I’ve written about the National Road in Illinois many times before. But as I work to deprecate my old Roads site, I need to bring a few articles about the road in Illinois from there to here. This is one of them. This is based on recent research and several visits: two in 2007, one in 2009, and one in 2014.

As you drive west into Illinois on US 40, it’s easy to see sections of the 1925 brick alignment of this road lying abandoned alongside it. The road varies in condition. Some of it was removed and some of it is overgrown. The bridges were all removed so people couldn’t drive the old road anymore. Despite that, you can still reach some segments with your car, as this westbound 2014 photo below shows.

Abandoned brick road

After you enter Illinois and get past where I-70 intersects with US 40, this is actually the first segment of the brick road that you see. Construction of the current US 40 in the 1950s disrupted what had been a curvy section. I’ve filled in where the brick road used to go. All that’s left here are three short segments — one at each end south of US 40, and one in the middle north of US 40. I’ve highlighted the missing road in green. Ignore where the map below shows “Old National Hwy” — it’s incorrect, except at the eastern end.

Bing Maps, 2021

This eastbound photo from 2014 shows where the middle section ends at current US 40.

Abandoned brick road

Here’s this segment westbound. This is probably the best-kept segment of this old brick road. The house at the end was, at the time, a radio studio. I got to visit the owner of this station on a trip in 2007, and he told me about the dangers of this old highway. Read the story here.

Abandoned brick road

As this road approaches Crooked Creek, which is on the left end of the map excerpt above, the road is blocked with a mound of debris. It’s mostly chunks of concrete, which I suspect was taken from the road bed here. 2007 photo. I’m only pretty sure this photo is from Crooked Creek — I didn’t do a great job of taking notes, and I’m sure I’ve inaccurately geotagged some of my photos.Westbound photo.

Abandoned National Road

The roadbed beyond leads to these two posts. I’ll bet at one time a “Bridge Out” sign was strung between them.

Abandoned National Road

We walked to Crooked Creek’s bank and looked across. We could see evidence of the bridge that once stood here. Westbound photo.

Abandoned National Road

Beyond Crooked Creek lie a couple segments of the old road still in use to access the farms they border. Eastbound photo.

Driveable brick National Road segment

On one of my 2007 trips, the Department of Transportation used a segment of the old road to store Jersey barriers. Westbound photo.

Jersey barriers on the abandoned National Road

On the 2007 trip with my friend Michael, I drove a stretch of this old brick road while he filmed it. I’m pretty sure it was in or near this area. Michael filmed me coming in from the east.

Most of our driving was on modern US 40, which gave us a strong feeling of “westbound lanes.” The road looked like it had been built to be one way westbound. We wondered if Illinois had planned to make a US 40 expressway here, with the idea to build the eastbound lanes over the old brick road. I feel sure if that were the case that when I-70 went on the drawing board, Illinois realized that a US 40 expressway made little sense as that traffic should follow I-70 instead. As a result, historic brick pavement remains.

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Road Trips

The National Road and US 40 at the Indiana/Illinois line

I’ve written extensively about the National Road, especially in Indiana and Illinois. See everything I’ve written here. As I work to deprecate my old Roads site, I need to bring a few articles about the road in Illinois here. Here’s the first of them, about the many changes at the Indiana/Illinois state line. I’ve updated and expanded it. This is based on recent research and a bunch of visits: one in 2006, two in 2007, one in 2009, and one in 2014.

The National Road and US 40 have changed dramatically at the Indiana-Illinois state line thanks to repeated improvements in this corridor. I’m going to try to explain the changes and show the various alignments. It gets confusing, so strap in.

The Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index (IHAPI) at the Indiana Geological Survey shows these roads’ progression. Click any of these maps to make them larger. This first image is from 1946, showing the original two-lane US 40 running from upper right in Indiana to lower left in Illinois. The thick white line at about the ¼ mark from the left is the state line.

Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index image

In about 1949, in Indiana the road was moved slightly north and improved to four divided lanes. On the Illinois side, sometime during the 1950s the original road was abandoned and a new two-lane alignment built immediately to the north. This 1958 aerial images shows it all. In the bottom left corner of this image, you can see a trace of the original National Road alignment just below the new US 40.

Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index image

I-70 was built here in the mid-late 1960s. About a mile and half of it on either side of the state line was built directly onto the US 40/National Road alignment. This 1966 aerial image shows I-70 under construction. When I-70 was finished, US 40 was routed onto it for about three miles. Also under construction here is a two-lane road that connects US 40 in Indiana to what would shortly become old US 40 in Illinois.

Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index image

Finally, this is what the scene looks like today. Click this map to make it larger. I’ve widened the view a bit to show the interplay between US 40 and I-70, placing the state line near the middle. In 2011, US 40 was rerouted onto I-70 to bypass Terre Haute, placing the 1949 alignment of US 40 here under county maintenance. Notice especially Illiana Drive, which branches off W. National Dr. in Indiana and flows into the old alignment of US 40 in Illinois.

Bing Maps, 2021

From a road trip I made in 2009, here’s what the original National Road/US 40 alignment looks like in Indiana. This is a westbound photo. This bridge over Clear Creek was built in 1919.

Old US 40 near Toad Hop

Shortly past that bridge is the last opportunity to turn off the original alignment before it ends. This is the last 200 feet of the original National Road in Indiana. The 1949 alignment of US 40 is about 200 feet to the north (right) of here, and I-70 is about 200 feet to the south (left). The turnoff is immediately to the right of where I stood to make this photo, and it connects right to Illiana Drive. If you squint, you can see it on the map above.

Old US 40 near Toad Hop

If you make that turn and cross the 1949 alignment of US 40, Illiana Drive curves hard to the left and heads toward Illinois. While this road was never the National Road or US 40, the Indiana National Road Historic Byway was routed along it by necessity. You can see a National Road guide sign just beyond the speed limit sign in this 2006 photo.

Toward Illinois on old US 40

Shortly you come upon the Illinois state line. On my 2006 visit, I drove into Illinois a little bit and found US 40 shields on this section of road, even though US 40 was officially routed onto I-70. On this visit in 2007, the US 40 shields were gone. I’ve heard, but can’t confirm, that Illinois maintains this road and counts it as part of US 40. Beyond this curve, Illiana Drive flows into the 1950s alignment of US 40.

Into Illinois

This was the day of the annual Ride Across Indiana (RAIN), a bicycle tour across Indiana that follows US 40 all the way. This was the starting line, just inside Illinois. That’s my friend Dawn standing near my car; she’s been a frequent road-trip companion for many years.

RAIN

Shortly after you curve onto the 1950s alignment of US 40, you can see the original alignment standing abandoned alongside. In this aerial image, two roads are marked E US Highway 40. The lower segment is the original National Road alignment.

Bing Maps 2021

This eastbound view shows the road as it emerges from the woods. 2014 photo.

Abandoned brick road

If you walk into those woods, the old roadbed is largely still there. The bricks are just an inch or so into the soil, and you can easily reach them by clearing soil away with your foot. 2007 photo.

Abandoned National Road

As you emerge from the woods you see that the road had a noticeable grade. That’s my car at the top. 2007 photo.

Abandoned National Road

On one of my 2007 visits, turning my car around there I accidentally backed it off the access road and got it stuck. A woman who lived nearby came out to help, as did a passing motorist. My friend Dawn was with me too. We ended up lifting the front end of the car and pushing it back into the ditch, right onto the brick National Road. It must have been 50 years since anyone had driven on those bricks! I backed my car up to get a good running start and then made a break for it up the hill. The bottom of my car scraped the lip at the top of the hill as it went over, but no fluids or parts trailed behind me so I hoped all was well.

Abandoned National Road

The woman asked why we were out on that hot morning. When we pointed excitedly and said, “We’re driving the National Road all the way to Vandalia!” she said, “Oh, that.” I suppose if the National Road runs through your front yard, you take it for granted. She did mention that the neighbor from whom she and her husband bought their property had helped build the brick road, watched US 40 go in ten yards to the north, and lived long enough to watch I-70 start to be built on what used to be some of his land. The neighbor told her that when US 40 was built, all the bridges and culverts along the National Road were torn out. That meant no long drives on the brick.

Incredibly, some years ago I found a set of photographs showing this road being built, in about 1925! Here’s one; you can see more in this article. Notice that this road is a shallow U-shaped concrete pad with a layer of sand laid in, and then the bricks laid on.

Building the Illinois National Road

This diagram from a 1923 report of the Illinois Department of Highways shows this construction. I wonder why Illinois bothered with the bricks; why not just pour a concrete slab and be done with it? But these were experimental days in highway construction, and highway engineers were figuring out what worked best. It didn’t take long for road-builders to give up on brick. I’d say that after about 1925, nobody was building brick highways anymore.

Looking west from Dunlap Road, you get a better sense of the brick road (despite the equipment stored on it). 2007 photo.

Abandoned National Road

This road is in poor condition here. I brought my friend Michael along to see it on the second 2007 visit and we walked this segment until it ended, near where I-70 intersects. Here he is standing on it, in a place where most of the bricks have been removed to reveal the concrete pad below.

Abandoned National Road

On the 2007 trip with Michael, we found an intact bridge on the old road. It would probably be more accurately characterized as a box culvert. I’m pretty sure this culvert spans Hawks Creek. Unfortunately, I’m not 100% sure thanks to my poor note-taking. But given where these photos fall in order the day I made them, if I’m off, it’s not by far. This eastbound photo shows the road, bricks removed, ending abruptly.

Abandoned National Road

The place where the road used to be continues, rather obviously.

Abandoned National Road

Here’s the culvert. It’s an odd affair: the culvert is topped with earth, which is topped with a concrete slab.

Abandoned National Road culvert

This is a sizeable culvert. Here you can see my friend Michael having a closer look at it.

Abandoned National Road culvert

At the I-70 intersection, US 40 exits I-70 and follows the 1950s alignment. But large sections of this brick road continue to appear all the way to Marshall, about 5½ miles away, and then from the other side of Marshall about another 5½ miles, almost to Martinsville.

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Road Trips

US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway east from Chrisman, Illinois

Let’s wrap up my 2007 road trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana (and a little into eastern Illinois, too).

After following current US 36 west to the Indiana/Illinois border, I kept going into Illinois until I met US 150/State Route 1. I headed north along that road until I reached little Chrisman, a town of fewer than 1,500 people. Here I’d find the original alignment of US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. The original alignment takes on a particular shape you can see in the 1915 TIB Guide excerpt and in the map snippet below.

Windows Live Maps 2007

This wasn’t my first visit to Chrisman. My stepdaughter’s dad’s family all live here and are probably the most prominent family in the region. Many years ago I came out here a couple times to pick up my stepdaughter from her grandmother’s. But I had never seen the town. The PP-OO enters town on 2300 N, which in town is Monroe St. and borders the town square to the south.

The First National Bank anchors the square’s southwest corner. You can’t see it in the photo, but above the awning over the door the word “BANK” is embossed into the stone. It was so common for old banks to be on corners, with the door facing the corner just like this.

Chrisman, IL, square

Just west of the bank was a John Deere dealership. You know you’re in a farm town when you can buy a Deere downtown.

Chrisman, IL

I was surprised to see not a courthouse on the town square, but a nice park.

Chrisman, IL, square

On the northwest corner were a couple restaurants, one of which has an old painted advertisement in nice condition.

Chrisman, IL, square

I enjoyed my brief visit to downtown Chrisman, but I was here to drive the PP-OO. Standing in the square’s southeast corner, I looked east down Monroe St., which would become the PP-OO a few blocks east of here at US 150/SR 1.

Chrisman, IL

Heading out of town, 2300 N was asphalt. But where the road curved to the north, the surface changed to some sort of chip and seal, the kind that kicks pebbles into your car’s undercarriage and makes your car feel a little floaty.

PP-OO in eastern Illinois

I took this photograph a short distance away, at 1725 E. It was quiet out here. As I considered how remote this area is today, I wondered how PP-OO travelers found it. This road was probably dirt in 1915. If it rained and you got stuck in the mud, the walk to a farmhouse to ask for help sure would be unpleasant.

PP-OO in eastern Illinois

When I reached Indiana, the chip and seal turned back into asphalt, and my car felt more planted on the road again.

PP-OO Illinois/Indiana line

Here’s the road somewhere in Indiana, before the road curves toward US 36. I passed through the north end of Dana so quickly I wasn’t even sure it was a town.

PP-OO in eastern Illinois

And here’s where the PP-OO rejoins the US 36 route, west of Montezuma and SR 63.

PP-OO in Indiana

It’s challenging to find good information about the Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway. I know that this was the road’s route in 1915. The road was realigned many times across the nation, including across Indiana. In 1915 it followed the National Road from Ohio to Indianapolis. If you go to my main National Road page here and scroll down to the Indiana section, you can see my reports of this segment of the PP-OO. From Indy, the PP-OO followed the route that became US 36, which I documented on this road trip writeup.

But I’ve seen a 1923 PP-OO map that shows the road realigned across Indiana from Muncie to Anderson to Crawfordsville to Covington, and from there to Danville in Illinois. On modern roads, that’s essentially State Road 32 west to US 136. I’ve not explored SR 32, but I have driven and documented the US 136 portion. That road was better known as the Dixie Highway. I’ve documented that trip beginning here.

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Road Trips

US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in Vermillion County, Indiana

Let’s return to my 2007 road trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.

The TIB Guide showed a pretty jagged route for the PP-OO west of the Wabash River.

US 36, not surprisingly, followed a much smoother path. If the shape of the road on the TIB Guide map is accurate, it looks like a portion of the little sliver of road near the top of the map below was the old PP-OO route. It’s currently called E 600 S. I can’t tell how the PP-OO got up there after crossing the Wabash.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

The PP-OO sliver runs into a segment that dead ends at both ends, which made my old-alignment radar go, “Ping!” So I drove over there for a look. Its east end looks like this.

Stubbed segment

I hoped I’d see concrete, but no luck. Here’s what the road looks like westbound. A drought in the area has trees unceremoniously shedding leaves in August; hence the brown leaves on the road. This road provides access to two homes, both of which are on the north side of the road. The trees and grass on the north side are trimmed back from the road, while on the south side they grow over.

Stubbed segment

The alignment ends just west of the road that allows access to it. As you can see, the State Road 63 overpass is visible. My guess is that the road was realigned when State Road 63 was moved there and made a four-lane divided highway – its previous alignment is the first road east of this segment. This road provides access to nothing here.

Stubbed segment

The PP-OO and US 36 follow the same route again starting about here, but it lasts only about ¾ mile. A railroad track begins to parallel the road just beyond SR 63, PP-OO stays with the tracks, but shortly US 36 curves to pass over the tracks and the old PP-OO.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Here’s what the split looks like.

100_2084
PP-OO in Indiana

This map shows the routes of US 36, the railroad tracks, and PP-OO. US 36 is the southernmost road on the map. The railroad curves off and heads west. PP-OO stays on its trajectory a little longer before heading straight west, and is the northernmost road on the map.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

From here I drove current US 36 into Illinois. I followed US 150/Illinois State Route 1 north to Chrisman and then drove the PP-OO back to the place in the map above where the PP-OO and current US 36 diverge. I’ll explain why I went to Chrisman in my next post.

I was so excited about this PP-OO business that as I finished driving US 36 I failed to get the obligatory photograph of the Indiana-Illinois state line. There was even some roadside historic site about Ernie Pyle that registered in the corner of my eye only as it was almost past. No matter; I was on a mission to drive a segment of a very old coast-to-coast highway!

Just take my word for it that this segment of US 36 is a straight, unremarkable two-lane highway.

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Road Trips

US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in Montezuma, Indiana

Let’s return now to my 2007 road trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.

When I worked for a rock radio station in Terre Haute many years ago, once an hour we read a liner that said, “107-5 ZZQ rocks <insert name of town> with <insert name of band>.” It was supposed to make us sound like a regional station. I knew and had visited many of the towns I named — Farmersburg, Poland, Sullivan, Seelyville, Rosedale, Allendale, Riley, Newport, and good old Toad Hop. I occasionally shouted out to a town I didn’t know, such as Prairieton, Pimento (pronounced Pie-men-to, a caller hastily corrected me), Carbon, Fontanet, and Montezuma. Today was my day to meet Montezuma.

The TIB Guide shows the PP-OO taking some hard corners as it made its way to Montezuma.

US 36 makes a much smoother path through this region today. But given the way the existing side roads fall, I was able to make a guess at the PP-OO’s route, where it’s different from US 36. I drew it in blue on the map below. I didn’t actually drive any of that route, though. You’d think those roads would be obvious as I approached from the west, but I found the curve strangely disorienting.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

As I entered Montezuma, I immediately recognized that US 36 had been rerouted by several feet to the south at some time to replace a bridge. The approach to the old bridge was still there. I find it interesting that the old bridge was lower than the current bridge.

Old US 36 next to current US 36

You can see how the curve into town was made just a little tighter to accommodate the new alignment.

Montezuma, IN

On the other side of US 36 at this cross street was a building proudly proclaiming it was built in 1903. I wouldn’t be surprised if another old brick building did not at one time share its north wall. If so, it might have been demolished to make way for the current US 36 alignment.

Montezuma, IN

Where old US 36 approaches the bridge that is no longer there, the road is concrete, and thus probably dates back to the 1920s or 1930s.

Approach to former US 36 Wabash River bridge

Here’s a 1951 postcard (sourced from Bridgehunter.com) showing both bridges open. The older bridge was built in 1892 and demolished in 1951, and the newer bridge was built in 1949. So these two bridges coexisted for about two years.

Compared to the current bridge, the old bridge looks to be little more than a single lane wide.

US 36 Wabash River bridge

There was no traffic, so I walked out onto the bridge.

US 36 Wabash River bridge

When I lived in Terre Haute, we sometimes said the word “mighty” before Wabash with a nudge and a wink. The only thing mighty about the Wabash is that it’s mighty brown.

US 36 Wabash River bridge

Next: Vermillion County, where US 36 and the PP-OO follow different paths.

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