Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

Then and now: McDonald’s with classic sign in Richmond, Indiana

On US 40 (aka the National Road) in Richmond, Indiana, you’ll find a McDonald’s on the southwest corner of 18th Street. It features a classic Golden Arches sign from around 1970. Here’s a photo I made of it on my first visit in 2009. The restaurant was a classic red Mansard-roofed design, with a giant PlayPlace tacked on.

Old McDonald's sign

When I next visited, in 2015, I hoped the classic sign would still be there. I wasn’t disappointed. But the red roof had been reshingled in a dark color.

Old McDonald's sign

On my Ride Across Indiana, the sign was still there (yay!) but the restaurant looks to have been razed and rebuilt. McDonald’s architecture is so generic now.

McDonald's on US 40, Richmond

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Road Trips

Indiana State Road 42 in Terre Haute

On October 18, 2008, I explored Indiana State Road 42 from end to end. It begins southwest of Indianapolis in Mooresville and ends in Terre Haute. This is the last article in this series.

I lived in Terre Haute for nine years in the 1980s and 1990s. When I needed to go to Indianapolis I liked to to drive SR 42 to the I-70 exit in Brazil because SR 42 was more fun over that distance. Except, that is, at the Vigo-Clay county line, where the road made two 90-degree turns around a church. I was surprised to find that the road had been curved gently on the Clay County side and the double-90 removed. This change is new enough that Google Maps hasn’t updated the route yet!

©2008, Google Maps

The church is in the photo at right; the road used to run on its right side.

Former double-90

The people who own this house, I’m sure, let out whoops and hollers when they learned that the state was removing the double 90 – because the first turn going west happened right here. While I lived in Terre Haute, this house got clobbered a couple times by people screaming down SR 42 at night and failing to negotiate the turn.

House where the left turn used to be

Shortly inside Vigo County, SR 42 curves northwest. I have old maps that suggest that this curve did not always exist, and that Sugar Grove Dr. used to run straight and connect with what is now SR 42. Sugar Grove Drive ends west of here where the Indiana Air National Guard base (and the stunningly overnamed Terre Haute International Airport) begins, and picks up on the other side as Hulman Ave., which goes through Terre Haute. But notice little Otter Road just below the center of the map image. Do you see the abandoned strip of road near it?

©2008, Google Maps

Here’s what it looks like, eastbound.

Abandoned Bloomington Road

My old map suggests that what is now Sugar Grove Rd. used to fork here headed east. The left fork is what is now SR 42, and the right fork, which is now Otter Rd., was the road to Bloomington. This road is interrupted by I-70, but you can detour over it on another road and pick the road back up again on the other side. It still goes to Bloomington. It joins with State Road 46 inside Clay County to finish the journey.

Speaking of State Road 46, State Road 42 ends there today, just past the optimistically named Terre Haute International Airport. Here it is on the map. Notice how US 40 converges. I went to college about where US 40 enters the image.

©2008 Google Maps

And here it is in living color.

West end of SR 42

SR 46 is Terre Haute’s eastern boundary. Beyond the stoplight, the road becomes Poplar St. and cruises laterally through Terre Haute. At one time, SR 42 went along for the ride as far as US 41, and so did I this day. Not far into town stands the Sycamore Farm, which has been there since about 1860. Fifty years ago, Sycamore Farm was still way out in the boonies. Eastbound photo.

Sycamore Farm

Terre Haute is a decaying town, its best days so far behind it that nobody who remembers them is left. But somebody along the way made sure its park system was well funded. Say what you will about Terre Haute, but it has wonderful parks. Old SR 42 is the southern border of Terre Haute’s crown jewel, Deming Park. This is an eastbound shot.

Deming Park

In 1971, Vigo County tore down its five old high schools and built three sprawling, boring, characterless modern buildings to replace them. It’s a shame, because this is the kind of school building Terre Haute used to build. This is the view from 25th St.; the school’s south edge is on old SR 42.

Woodrow Wilson Jr. High

This map shows old SR 46’s trip from about here to its end at 3rd Street, which is US 41. It also shows the Wabash River for perspective.

©2008, Google Maps

At 12th and Poplar stands Headstone Friends, which sells CDs and records, posters, incense, and hand-dyed tie-dye shirts. They also sell scales and rolling papers, or at least they did when I was in college in the late 1980s; I failed to check when I visited this day. This is one of my favorite places on the planet. Headstone’s has been in business since 1970, and in this location since the ’70s sometime. They’ve been burning incense in there for so long that the whole joint has a distinctive sweet smell that always makes my nose run. I bought a tie-dyed T-shirt here on this trip and all the way home my car smelled like Headstone’s, which I suppose is better than it smelling like my dog, who was along for the ride. If you’re ever in Terre Haute, put Headstone’s on your itinerary. They’re open noon to 8, Monday through Saturday.

Headstone Friends

Here’s a westbound shot from in front of Headstone’s, toward downtown. Terre Haute is not a city of tall buildings.

Westbound

At 9th St. stands the former E. Bleemel Flour and Feed building. Most of the time I lived here, this was an auto repair garage, and a dump of one at that. But in the early 90s somebody restored it. It was, for several years, an antiques store, but now it’s a restaurant. I think that’s a better use of the building.

Bleemel Flour and Feed

The section of old SR 42 between 9th and 9½ St. – Terre Haute is known for its half-streets – is rich with old buildings, like this one, which housed the former Terre Haute Brewing Company. It really needs some love.

Terre Haute Brewing Company

This was once a livery stable. It’s a steakhouse today.

Old building

This CVS drug store is neither old nor historic, but it was surprising to see its facade torched.

A crackling good CVS

I wasn’t sure when I made this trip whether SR 42 originally ended at 7th Street (old US 41) or 3rd Street (US 41). I guessed 7th Street and was wrong. On the right, just out of the photo, is the Vigo County Public Library, the very one that Steve Martin mentioned in his movie Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.

Former western end of SR 42

This trip proves that you don’t have to drive the truly historic roads (like the National Road or the Michigan Road) to find plenty of good, interesting things to see and do. Just get out there and go!

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Road Trips

Beautiful old bridges on Indiana State Road 42

On October 18, 2008, I explored Indiana State Road 42 from end to end. It begins southwest of Indianapolis in Mooresville and ends in Terre Haute.

As I drove west from Eminence, the road became lined with trees as it approaches Mill Creek. This photo is eastbound.

Eastbound

In 1939, the state built a steel truss bridge over Mill Creek. A similar bridge up the road made the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, but this one has not. I hope somebody in Putnam County picks up the mantle!

Steel truss bridge, Mill Creek

I thought it was standard that these bridges be painted green, but word has apparently not reached Putnam County. (This bridge completed a renovation in 2015, at which time it was painted baby blue, the new standard color for Indiana highway truss bridges.)

Steel truss bridge, Mill Creek

The view of Mill Creek is lovely. I took this photo off the south side of the bridge. But wait – what’s that in the photo’s lower left?

Steel truss bridge, Mill Creek

See it there? That neat row of cut stones?

Steel truss bridge, Mill Creek

Please consider the following:

©2008 Google Maps

Just beyond the bridge is a road that pulls away and then turns to be right in line with current SR 42 after it completes the curve west of the bridge. This fairly screams “old alignment.” Notice how the suspected old alignment, if extended southeast, would cross Mill Creek directly, instead of at a bit of an angle as it does today. In the olden days bridgebuilders’ bags of tricks were fairly limited, leading them to build bridges straight across creeks and rivers. That row of stones has to be part of an older bridge’s foundation, and the stones around it probably bits of the demolished former abutment here.

Incredibly, here’s a small photograph of the previous bridge alongside the newer one, taken at about the time the newer one was built. It was a wooden covered bridge! This would have to be an eastbound photo from the west end of these two bridges.

Courtesy bridgehunter.com

In the excitement over all this, I forgot to drive the suspected old alignment. I did, however, think to take a shot of some of the fall color just west of the bridge.

Fall on SR 42

State Road 42 skirted Cloverdale on its south edge and then the terrain became more challenging. The road stopped the 90-degree-curve nonsense and began to curve around the terrain. At Doe Creek, a narrow concrete bridge awaited.

Old concrete bridge

My experience is that bridges only as wide as the road, with concrete railings like this, were built in the 1910s and 1920s. I could see a clear path down the bank, so I walked down to see what the old girl looked like in profile. Sadly, she was a bit ungainly.

Old concrete bridge

Shortly I came upon Cagles Mill Lake, also known as Cataract Lake, one of many lakes the US Army Corps of Engineers built to control flooding. Here, SR 42 makes a brief dip into Owen County.

©2008, Google Maps

The bridge over the lake did not disappoint.

Bridge over Cagle Mill Lake

As I approached the bridge, there was a traffic signal flashing yellow, and cones everywhere. Clearly, this bridge had just been renovated, and the finishing touches were still being put on. It was built in 1951, when the lake was created.

Bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

I’m not sure how such a minor road warrants such a major bridge, but this one is a real gem.

Bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

I passed through the remainder of the lush lake area and into Clay County. I zipped through the little town of Poland without even slowing down because I knew another steel truss bridge awaited on the other side – but it turns out I missed an old church on the National Register of Historic Places in so doing. I guess my consolation is that the steel truss bridge over the Eel River is on the Register, too.

Steel truss bridge near Poland, IN

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy steel truss bridges? (This bridge, too, has received a coat of baby blue paint since I photographed it.)

Steel truss bridge near Poland, IN

A sure sign of autumn is how low the sun is at midafternoon.

Steel truss bridge near Poland, IN

Next: Vigo County and Terre Haute.

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Road Trips

Indiana State Road 42 in Monrovia and Eminence

On October 18, 2008, I explored Indiana State Road 42 from end to end. It begins southwest of Indianapolis in Mooresville and ends in Terre Haute.

As I headed west on SR 42, the first little town I encountered was Monrovia.

©2008, Google Maps

Where SR 42 makes its 90-degree curve into town there’s a football field, and I was fortunate to find a game in progress.

Saturday morning football

The 90-degree curve here is not how this road always was, of course. In this case, the original T intersection remains for local access.

Overlooking football

Monrovia has a few old buildings in its downtown.

Monrovia, IN

This building started its life as a bank. Notice the depository drawer. I think that vent-like thing is an alarm.

Monrovia, IN

Most of the buildings showed the year they were built up high in the brick facade, and all of the dates were after 1900.

Monrovia, IN

Most Indiana towns and cities have an Odd Fellows building, and here’s Monrovia’s. It’s sad that the second-story windows are boarded up.

Monrovia, IN

SR 42 rolls gently through Indiana farmland as it leaves Monrovia. That’s my little red wagon on the right.

Now leaving Monrovia

West of Monrovia, SR 42 goes through its most intense series of 90-degree curves, as this map shows. The last time I drove SR 42, which was the first time I drove it, probably 20 years ago, I reached this mess and became so frustrated that I bailed onto I-70 at Little Point. Clearly, my roadgeek seeds had not yet sprouted.

©2008, Google Maps

Indiana is dotted with little old white churches, and there’s one where the road turns south at Crown Center.

Old church

Little Point is just a couple truck stops that serve I-70. Perhaps it was more a long time ago. Those truck stops are on the only I-70 exit in Indiana that drops you onto a county road. Just beyond the truck stops, SR 42 curves out of I-70’s right-of-way. Wanna bet that this was a 90-degree turn once?’

A view of I-70

On the left in the photo above is a joint called Koger’s. You can see its sign from I-70. I don’t know what they do there – if their sign explains, it’s too faded to read – but they do have a bunch of old cars in their yard. The green car at left looks like a ’71 Plymouth Satellite, except that the wheel wells are wrong. The next car is a ’66 Ford Galaxie 500, and then there’s a 1964 Mercury Comet, a 1962 Ford Galaxie, and a Mustang II of indeterminate year.

Koger's

There isn’t much to tiny Eminence, but when I stopped at a gas station for a soda, I was surprised to find it quite busy with people. The grand old Eminence High School building looks like it belongs in a much larger town.

Eminence High School

There’s less to Eminence’s downtown than to Monrovia’s, but clearly the rivalry between the towns is strong. Somebody spray-painted “Monrovia Sucks” on the side of this crumbling building that once housed Gash & Co. (This building has since been demolished.)

Gash & Co.

I’m including this shot of the Gash & Co. building’s doors just because I like how it turned out. If you squint, you’ll see me in my cameo appearance in this trip report. I needed a shave.

Gash & Co. entrance

State Road 142 has its western end in Eminence. Across SR 142 from Gash & Co., Eminence’s Odd Fellows building houses a bank. I’ll bet it’s Indiana’s only Odd Fellows building with a drive-through.

Odd Fellows Building, Eminence

Next: The steel truss bridge over Mill Creek.

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Road Trips

Indiana State Road 42 west from Mooresville

On October 18, 2008, I explored Indiana State Road 42 from end to end. It begins in Mooresville, just southwest of Indianapolis, and ends in Terre Haute. This isn’t a historic, or even an important, road. But SR 42 made for a fascinating road trip anyway, because it passes through some classic Indiana small towns and features two classic steel truss bridges.

I’m going to make this long ago road trip the site’s focus this week.

Go west, but only indirectly

There’s little reason to drive State Road 42 if you’re on your way to Terre Haute from the Indianapolis area. Both US 40 and I-70 do the job much faster. I-70 will get you there in an hour, where State Road 42 takes more than two.

State Road 42 is a narrow, minor highway. It was stitched together from a series of farm roads, and since the route has only seen minor improvements over the years, it makes many 90-degree turns around farm boundaries. But two steel truss bridges still stand on the road, as does a magnificent open-spandrel concrete arch bridge over a man-made lake. State Road 42 also takes you through some rolling Indiana farmland and several very small towns that still have some vigor in them.

If you’re not in a hurry, as I certainly wasn’t on an autumn Saturday, State Road 42 is a satisfying scenic drive that represents rural Indiana well.

I took this trip on what I figured would be my only chance to see some fall color in 2008. I might have had some better views in southern Indiana, but everybody goes to southern Indiana when the leaves pop, making for crowded roads. I was in the mood for some quiet time by myself, and after driving and carefully documenting the Michigan Road all summer I was ready for a pleasure drive. I’ve had sleepy little State Road 42 on my to-drive list for years, so this seemed like the perfect day.

State Road 42 begins at State Road 67 on Mooresville’s east side. Mooresville is essentially a southeastern suburb of Indianapolis.

©2008, Google Maps

Here’s where SR 42 begins, on the east side of Mooresville, at State Road 67.

State Road 42 begins

Until 1994, SR 42 began at (what was in 2008) the intersection of SR 267 inside Mooresville. Here’s a westbound photo of that intersection. (In 2021, SR 267 was relinquished to Mooresville and Hendricks County from here north to I-70.)

Original start of SR 42

Mooresville is a typical small Indiana town except that, at least on this Saturday, it was busy. Check out all these cars. The traffic didn’t let up while I was in town.

Westbound, Mooresville

SR 42 in Mooresville is lined with lovely older homes.

Old house, Mooresville
Another old house, Mooresville

On the western edge of town, the road took on its rural character.

Western outskirts of Mooresville

The Hoss Farm, just outside of Mooresville, looked pretty desolate. (The barn is gone now.)

Hoss Farm

The road curved just beyond the farm. Broad curves like these are rare along SR 42, except for a section in Putnam County. SR 42 was stitched together from a series of farm roads that naturally followed farm boundaries. A feature of roads built like this is that you make a lot of 90-degree curves, and even some hard rights and lefts, around farms. If SR 42 had become a more major road, the interests of speed and safety would have led the state to buy portions of the farmers’ land and smooth and straighten the road. But with US 40 not that far to the north, providing a fine link between Indianapolis and Terre Haute from before the advent of the state highway system, SR 42 stayed a minor road that never saw those kinds of improvements.

Curve

The West Union Friends Meeting has gathered on what is now SR 42 since 1832. They’ve been burying their dead there that long, as well.

West Union Cemetery
West Union Friends Meeting
West Union Friends Meeting

Next: The small towns of Monrovia and Eminence.

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Road Trips

Old US 31 in Indianapolis

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.

Because US 31 is a critical artery in the northern half of Indiana, and for a long time US 31 was Meridian Street in Indianapolis all the way north to the county line, I was surprised to learn that Meridian Street hasn’t always gone all the way north out of the county. The digital collections of the IUPUI University Library used to include several Indianapolis and Marion County maps from the 1850s to the 1950s. The maps disagree about where Meridian St. actually ended at various times around the turn of the century, but it’s clear that the road ended well inside the county. A 1905 map from the collection shows Meridian St. ending at Westfield Blvd., or about 57th St. I’ve excerpted it here and highlighted Meridian St. in blue.

1905 Indianapolis map, excerpt, from the digital collection of the IUPUI Library

No wonder my 1916 and 1924 Automobile Blue Books sent drivers down what is now Westfield Blvd. into Indianapolis. Meridian St. had likely not yet been built to Carmel! (When we made this trip, we did not know that Westfield Blvd. was the first alignment of US 31.)

Here’s a map of northern Indianapolis along Meridian St. today (2007). Indianapolis begins at 96th St., which is the east-west street just south of I-465. The map incorrectly labels Meridian St. as US 31 in Indianapolis. Today, US 31 follows I-465 around the east side of town until it reaches the exit for US 31 on the Southside. Westfield Blvd. is still there, of course, and still runs through the Nora neighborhood.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

We stopped for no photos for the first few miles of old US 31 in Indianapolis not only because we were running out of time, but also because the five-lane road lacks shoulders, leaving few good places to park. So we made for the White River, south of which Meridian Street’s character becomes more residential, which made parking possible.

Compare the map below to the 1905 map above. The area is much more built up now, as you’d expect. But Illinois St., which is one block west of Meridian St., no longer crosses the White River. Kessler Blvd. gets that honor now. The road the old bridge connected to was what is now Kessler Blvd. there, but it wasn’t called that then.

A historical note. Kessler Blvd. was named after George Kessler, a leader in the City Beautiful movement. Kessler was supervising construction of this road in Indianapolis when he died, and the road was then named for him. If you’ve read this report through, you may remember that the Leeper Park bridge in South Bend was designed in the City Beautiful style.

Also, in Broad Ripple, Westfield Blvd. runs one block north of Broad Ripple Ave. Since the days of my two ABBs, the block of Westfield Blvd. along the canal just east of College Ave. has become one way east. Broad Ripple Ave. is a much better road today anyway, so everybody coming south on Westfield Blvd. drops down to Broad Ripple Ave. and then rejoins Westfield Blvd. again on the other side of College Ave.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Brian and I should have made the time to explore the Westfield Blvd. route. Another day.

One more map before I get to the road photos. At the White River, there’s evidence of three Meridian St. and/or US 31 alignments. I suspect the oldest is the road labeled N. Meridian St. West Dr. It flows perfectly from Meridian Street’s alignment from the south. My guess is that it is the oldest Meridian St. alignment here, and that it never crossed the river. The big green space north of the river is Holliday Park. This 94-acre park was donated to the city in 1916 by John Holliday, who founded The Indianapolis News, now defunct. So no roads were built on that property. The next oldest alignment is the stub labeled N. Meridian St. just east of the current road. I’m pretty sure that the bridge over the White River here, built in 1933, was the first crossing and allowed Meridian Street to be extended north. I wager that US 31 followed the Westfield Blvd. alignment until then.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

This southbound photo is from the Meridian St. stub, showing how Meridian St. curves away at this point, but easily could have kept coming straight along this road.

Meridian Street stub

This northbound photo shows how the Meridian St. stub ends with the current Meridian St. bridge. It was quiet in this neighborhood despite being next to a well-traveled bridge.

Old US 31 bridge

The Indianapolis Water Company installed the wall under the bridge a few years ago. Kids climb over the wall to paint graffiti under the bridge.

Old US 31 bridge

I wanted our day to end Downtown at Washington St., which was US 40 and the National Road. Unfortunately, the day got away from us and light was fading. I decided we’d finish our trip along the N. Meridian St. Historic District between Westfield Blvd. and 40th St. This area is in the National Register of Historic Places because of the gorgeous homes along the route, most built by the wealthy in the early 1900s.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

These photos are from Meridian St. near 52nd St. Given the lighting and my meager photographic skills, only a few of my photos turned out. When I was a boy, my family made our first trip from South Bend to Indianapolis on US 31. I was bored stiff until we reached here. The homes along this stretch were something to see!

Grand old homes, Old US 31, Indianapolis
Grand old homes, Old US 31, Indianapolis
Grand old homes, Old US 31, Indianapolis
Grand old homes, Old US 31, Indianapolis
Grand old homes, Old US 31, Indianapolis
Grand old homes, Old US 31, Indianapolis

You might expect to see homes like this in a secluded neighborhood, perhaps in a gated community, but all of these homes are right on the main road through the city. This photo is of the old highway at about 53rd St.

Old US 31 SB Indianapolis

We wrapped up our trip here, along this stunning road that once sported US 31 signs.

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