Road Trips

US 31 from Peru to Kokomo, 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.

Between Peru and Indianapolis, US 31 follows its original route except to bypass Kokomo, Westfield, and Carmel. So we would be seeing a lot of the big slab for the rest of our trip.

We reviewed the 1916 Automobile Blue Book, a road guide with turn-by-turn directions between various cities and towns. and saw that it directed drivers through the towns of Bunker Hill and Miami. Those towns lie a mile or so east of US 31. The ABB directed drivers down what it considered the best route, which did not always coincide with the marked trails or signed highways.

As we drove, from time to time we saw a frontage road on the east side of US 31. This was almost always Old US 31 — the four-lane highway was built alongside the old road. These were always short segments that provided access to properties along the highway. We sometimes drove for miles without seeing one of these fragments. I forget where we photographed this one, but it is typical of them all.

Old US 31 alignment

Along the way, we passed Grissom Air Reserve Base. For at least 40 years now, they’ve kept a collection of historic military aircraft and some of it is visible from US 31 as you drive past. They’re part of the Grissom Air Reserve Base air museum. I’ve driven by here hundreds of times, almost always on the weekends when I assumed the museum was closed. Brian, who has a pilot’s license and enjoys all things airborne, told me that the museum is open weekends. So we stopped. Here’s a view of the museum from the air.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Even though museum admission was inexpensive, our time was short, so we took photos from the fence. I can easily identify cars, but not planes, so I offer these photos from the museum without comment.

At Grissom Air Reserve Base
At Grissom Air Reserve Base
At Grissom Air Reserve Base
At Grissom Air Reserve Base
At Grissom Air Reserve Base

About nine miles south of Grissom is where US 31 and Old US 31 split. I’ll share photos from US 31’s original alignment through Kokomo next time.

The famous Kokomo split - US 31 in Indiana

Note: This is how the road looked in 2007. A new alignment of US 31 was built to the east of here, making this Old US 31 and Old Old US 31. Current US 31 merges with this alignment just a little bit north of where I stood to take this southbound photograph. The overhead sign is gone.

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Road Trips

Old US 31 in Peru, 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.

Peru was next, just a couple miles down the road from Mexico. Some pronounce it PEE-rue and old maps sometimes spell it Perue, but I understand most locals agree it’s spelled and pronounced like the South American country. Built on the Wabash River, with a railroad and US 24’s original route running east-west through it, Peru is wider than it is tall, as this map shows.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Just outside this map to the north is US 24, so Peru has been bypassed by two US highways. Business US 31 enters from the north on Broadway St., then turns west onto Main St. (Business US 24), and then crosses the Wabash on the little yellow-highlighted road in the lower left corner of the map.

The first thing we encountered on old US 31 in Peru was the Mr. Weenie restaurant. The sign struck me funny, so I stopped for a photo.

Mr. Weenie

When we reached the edge of downtown at 6th St., we found old US 31 closed. We parked to find out why.

Peru, Indiana

As we neared the Miami County courthouse, we could see that a classic car show was being held in front of it. Wow!

Miami County Courthouse

I love old cars! Brian indulged me as I walked among them and photographed them. I shared the car photos in this post.

Car show

I had been through Peru once before and I remember seeing US 31 and US 24 shields guiding the way through town. I suppose I was too intoxicated by the vintage iron to look for them that day. Because of the car show we couldn’t drive Business US 31 to Business US 24 anyway, so we took a side street. At any rate, Business US 31 turns right onto Business US 24 and stays there for several blocks. The two split again on the west side of town, where Business US 31 heads south. Here’s a northbound photo from Business US 31 of the intersection.

Old US 31

The road led directly to a triple-span steel truss bridge crossing the Wabash River.

Old US 31

This map shows this portion of Old US 31 and this bridge.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

The sun shone brilliantly through the bridge’s beams and trusses.

Old US 31

This unusual Business US 31 shield awaited on the guardrail after we crossed the bridge.

Business 31 shield

Brian, whose curiosity about old alignments was growing, wondered where the previous bridge might have been, and went off to search for clues. Unfortunately, he found very little, but his sleuthing gave me time to take more photos of the bridge, this time northbound.

Old US 31 NB

When I first published this article on my original Roads site, the Miami County Engineer found it and sent me some scans of documents from when this bridge was built, which was in 1939. This excerpt shows the location of the previous bridge. If you scroll up to the previous map excerpt, the old road ran along the line of trees just west of the 1939 bridge. The old road north of the Wabash River is Kelly Street.

He also sent this excerpt from the documentation that shows a drawing of the previous bridge. It, too, had three spans, but they were Pratt trusses rather than the current bridge’s Parker trusses. It looks like it also had a wood floor!

The Miami County Engineer also sent me an excerpt from this 1935 map showing Old US 31’s original alignment south of the bridge. It followed what is now Airport Road as it curves to become Plothow Road. It’s not clear to me when the newer alignment was built.

Here’s where the later alignment ends at current US 31.

Old US 31

From here, US 31 follows its original corridor all the way to Kokomo. Somewhat reluctantly, we returned to the big slab. But we’d see a few snippets of an older US 31 roadway immediately to the east of the four lane highway.

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Road Trips

Old US 31 in Mexico, 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 had always been curious about this sign along US 31.

Sign to Mexico, Indiana

Today my curiosity would finally be satisfied. After only about two miles on the big slab we came upon Mexico Road, which is old US 31. It seemed odd that we had to make a solid left turn to get onto Mexico Road, as this map shows. I expected the road to flow more naturally out of current US 31. I saw no evidence either on the ground or on this map of the road being realigned. My 1916 and 1924 Automobile Blue Books both describe the road as having no turns between Rochester and here.

In 2016, the Miami County highway engineer found this page as it then existed on my old Roads site and wrote to me to share lots of good resources about old US 31 in Miami County. He first pointed me to a 1936 map of roads in that county. It shows Old US 31 flowing straight here.

Map Collection, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library

Here’s what the turnoff from current US 31 to old US 31 looks like on the ground today.

Old US 31

Shortly we entered Mexico, established in 1834. Here’s a map. The Mexico sign is on the southeast corner of US 31 and 400 N, by the way.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

There wasn’t much to see in Mexico. Everything centers around Mexico Road and 400 N. Here’s the northwest corner of that intersection. (As I update this trip report in 2021, I have learned that this set of buildings has been razed, and this corner is now vacant.)

Mexico, IN

Down Old US 31 a bit, the Mexico Fire Department was selling an old pumper. The sign said it’s a 1978, but it looks a lot more like a 1973 to me. They only wanted 5 large for it.

Mexico, IN

Brian and I were looking at the 1916 and 1924 Automobile Blue Books I brought along, and both of them told drivers to turn left at a bank (which we couldn’t find, but we guess was at 400 N), over the Eel River bridge, and then right at the first road. This is almost certainly 190 W, the road just east of the river that intersects with Mexico Road in the lower right corner of the map above. The ABBs say this road goes all the way to Peru and did not mention this intersection, so in those days perhaps Mexico Road didn’t come this far south. Brian speculated that State Road 1 may have followed this route, but I don’t have enough information to confirm it.

When the Miami County Highway Engineer contacted me in 2016, he confirmed the suspicions Brian and I shared. He sent me a link to this 1916 mail route map, which shows the area’s roads very well. It looks a lot to me like what became US 31 (and before that Original State Road 1) hugged the Eel River on what is now Water Street, crossed that river on a bridge, and then exited on what is now 190 W. What is currently Old US 31 in Mexico must be the result of a realignment of the highway through town.

Map Collection, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library

Brian and I drove 190 W rather than Old US 31. Here’s what it looked like.

Original State Road 1

The Miami County Highway Engineer also told me that the alignment through Mexico was changed in the 1920s. He also told me that this project realigned the road around what is now a DNR office southeast of Mexico. He created this image from an aerial map to show the original alignment’s location.

I’ve searched this area on Google Maps Street View, and there’s little evidence on the ground that this alignment ever existed. If I ever go back, I’ll stop here and explore on foot to see if I can find evidence of it.

Next: Peru, Indiana, on Old US 31.

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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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