Road Trips

The National Road in Ohio: The town of Old Washington

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, my dog Gracie and I explored the National Road all the way across Ohio. That road is now US 40 in most places. I’m bringing the long trip report over from my old Roads site.

After leaving the Salt Fork S bridge, to stay on the National Road I took the first left, drove under I-70, and then took the first right. The National Road is County Highway 670 or Easton Road here on its way to Old Washington.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

After 18 miles of laying waste to Ohio’s National Road, I-70 finally relents at Old Washington. US 40 even rejoins the National Road here. The blue line is the National Road’s original path, but unfortunately you can’t follow it. You have to keep going on Easton Road until it becomes Range Road, take the first right, go over I-70, turn right at the T intersection, and then turn left onto Old National Road. Or, at least that’s how it looks like it works on the map. On the ground, I found this to be incredibly confusing. I drove around and around here before I finally stumbled upon a way to get into Old Washington.

You might think Old Washington is so named because it’s old. Well, it is old. It was laid out in 1805, before the National Road was built, as Guernsey County’s first settlement. But the town was actually named New Washington then. When the town incorporated some years later, the New was dropped and the town became just Washington. Then the U.S. Post Office got all worried that people would confuse Washington with another Ohio town improbably named Washington Court House. Thus Washington became Old Washington.

I drove through a lot of old little towns on this trip. So many of them were not even a shadow of their former selves, just a row of abandoned and dilapidated buildings. I drove right through them without stopping. But I stopped in Old Washington. It is what all those other old towns wish they could be. It is virtually a trip back in time to when the National Road was new, at least in terms of its buildings.

Old Washington, Ohio

Most of them are very nicely kept. Many have simple designs.

Old Washington, Ohio

Several have a tonier appearance.

Old Washington, Ohio

The tonier houses share enough design details that I would not be surprised to find the same architect behind them.

Old Washington, Ohio

While most of the buildings in Old Washington are brick, a few are wooden. This one could use a little love.

Old Washington, Ohio

While Old Washington wasn’t exactly bustling the day I drove through, there were many clear signs of life, such as cars parked on the street, lamps in windows, and landscaping around many of the homes.

Old Washington, Ohio

Someone was busy building a garage next to this house!

Old Washington, Ohio

Sometimes a highway bypass is good for historic preservation. Transportation needs may demand a wider, straighter, or flatter road, but to achieve that in a town so often means destroying some of its buildings. US 40 was rerouted a block to the south at some point, allowing all of these great houses to remain. On the west edge of town, the old road comes to an end as US 40 curves around and resumes the National Road’s original alignment.

Dead end of NR west of Old Washington

Next: Several old alignments, one of them paved in brick laid in the 1910s.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Road Trips

The National Road in Ohio: The disrupted road in Guernsey County and the crumbling Salt Fork S bridge

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, my dog Gracie and I explored the National Road all the way across Ohio. That road is now US 40 in most places. I’m bringing the long trip report over from my old Roads site.

Waymor Rd.
Waymor Road, old US 40 and the National Road

I-70 and the National Road cling to each other for 18 miles between Morristown and Old Washington in eastern Ohio. Sometimes the two roads parallel each other closely; other times, they’re the same road. On this map, the blue line is the National Road. (Thanks to fellow National Road fan Christopher Busta-Peck for creating it; go here to see it on Google Maps.) As you can see, it’s often hard to tell where the National Road stops and I-70 begins.

Map data © 2012 Google.

I followed as much of the old road as still exists. Overall it was a pleasant drive, for where the forlorn National Road remains, it is peaceful. I encountered not a single soul as I explored these miles. The National Road passes into Guernsey County at Fairview, where it is known as County Highway 967 and Waymor Road. That’s westbound Waymor Road at the beginning of this article.

Maybe a mile west of Fairview, the National Road’s path was destroyed by I-70. A series of rough county roads serve as a detour, albeit a wide one. In the map excerpt below, the National Road hugs I-70 as it enters from the east and exits to the west, but is gone in the middle.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

West of the detour, the National Road is County Road 690 or Bridgewater Road. About four miles east of Old Washington I came upon the only S bridge on the entire National Road that you can still drive. US 40 bypassed it somewhere along the line, and later I-70 bypassed them both. Out here, old US 40 is Bridgewater Road.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

Here’s the bridge on the ground. Check out that graceful S shape.

Salt Fork S Bridge

Here’s the bridge from the west. A plaque above the keystone reads, “1828 1936 In memory of the pioneers who built this S bridge – The Ohio Society Daughters of the American Revolution.” This bridge was built in 1828.

Salt Fork S Bridge

As I researched this bridge, I discovered that a photographer for the Historic American Engineering Record favored the same angle. The record at the Library of Congress suggests that this photo was taken after 1933, but the plaque from 1936 isn’t present. So this photo is very likely from between those years, and my guess is that it still carried US 40 then.

S bridges were built this way to allow a road that didn’t naturally approach a river or creek at right angles to cross it that way. It was less costly to build and maintain a bridge that crossed a river or creek squarely. This photo shows the southeast curve of the bridge.

Salt Fork S Bridge

My research also revealed that this bridge is in poor shape and needs considerable work to restore it to full stability. But still, it was great to be able to drive over this bridge.

In 2013, about two years after I made this trip, this bridge was permanently closed to traffic. Read about it here. At this bridge’s 2018 inspection, the most recent one as I write this paragraph, the bridge was judged to be in Poor condition, with its substructure in particular in Serious condition. The National Park Service is said to have declared this bridge to be deteriorating and unstable.

I understand that the construction of I-70 led to the demolition of other S bridges in the area. I have read that the S bridge in this postcard was one of the unlucky ones.

Notice that the caption says it was in Bridgewater, Ohio – given that I’m on Bridgewater Road, this bridge must have been nearby, but I can’t find the first hint of a town called Bridgewater. Did I-70 take both the bridge and the town? Perhaps an Ohio expert will read this and chime in.

Next: Old Washington, Ohio, on the National Road.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Road Trips

The National Road in Ohio: Old alignments in Belmont County

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, my dog Gracie and I explored the National Road all the way across Ohio. That road is now US 40 in most places. I’m bringing the long trip report over from my old Roads site.

Just past Hendrysburg
Stub of old alignment west of Hendrysburg

Just west of St. Clairsville, US 40 passes under I-70 twice. Then a brief old alignment passes through unincorporated Lloydsville.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

This area is rich in old alignments. Three more follow in rapid succession – one through little Morristown, and one on either side.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

I had my other camera suction-cupped to the windshield, so I shot video of the old alignment east of Morristown. I was astonished to find that it was one lane wide. I figure it was just heavily overgrown.

I shot more video as I drove through Morristown. There are some seriously old buildings here.

I also drove the old alignment west of it, but didn’t stop for photographs. I was eagerly anticipating what I knew came next.

In my early 20s I made an epic road trip from my home in Terre Haute, to Detroit to visit one friend, and then to Mississauga, Ontario, to visit another. From there I drove to Niagara Falls and then across central New York, dropping down into New Jersey, where I visited two other friends in Edison. Then I headed home, mostly along I-70. I was bored of the Interstate by the time I crossed into Ohio, and when I saw an exit for US 40 at St. Clairsville, I took it.

I got stuck behind an older gentleman in a 1960s Plymouth driving 15 miles per hour below the speed limit. This was worse! I got out my big Rand McNally atlas (which seems downright quaint now) to figure out how to get back onto I-70. The map showed that US 40 merged onto I-70 ten or so miles ahead, just past Morristown. It even showed that the road widened to four lanes a few miles ahead of the merge.

The slowpoke turned off, and in relief I put my foot into the gas pedal. I reached an intersection where signs said to turn left to reach I-70, but I blew by it eager to drive the four-lane US 40 just ahead.

I had the four-lane highway to myself. A rusty guardrail divided the eastbound and westbound lanes. Then I passed a US 40 reassurance marker covered in black plastic, and then a big green sign also covered in black plastic. Was the road closed? Had I missed a detour? My concern turned to fright as I rounded a curve at 65 miles per hour and found myself staring right into a hillside. With no warning, the road ended right at its base! I slammed on the brakes and came to a stop just ten feet away from the end.

Rand McNally was wrong. US 40 didn’t merge onto I-70 here; rather, I-70 was built over US 40, at least 30 feet up.

I returned to the scene of my fright on this trip. Here’s the old highway at its dead end. I’m told that the road is pretty much always flooded here now. Also, the dividing guardrail was removed at some point.

Dead end

Here’s how the road curves in from the east.

Dead end

Here’s the view from the air. Simply put, I-70 was built here along the alignment of US 40 and the National Road.

© 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

US 40 follows I-70 for about the next 18 miles, to the town of Old Washington. But a remnant of old US 40 and the National Road appears just a mile later, as it emerges from underneath I-70. It’s marked as Co. Rd. 102 and Mt. Olivett Rd. on this map. Before I-70, as it headed west it cut directly across the exit at State Route 800 and followed Co. Rd. 108.

© 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

Here’s an eastbound photo of where the old road resumes. Notice how the seam down the middle goes straight even though the road was later made to curve away to connect to another county road.

Mt. Olivet Rd.

Turning around from there, it becomes apparent that the old westbound lanes were abandoned.

Mt. Olivet Rd.

The routing of I-70 from here west to Old Washington did a real number on the National Road, but other bits and pieces remain as state and county roads if you know where to look. They can be a little challenging to follow. Old US 40 follows State Route 800 here, but the National Road took an even older alignment directly through Hendrysburg.

© 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

There’s not much left of Hendrysburg. I understand there used to be an S bridge here, but it’s long gone. This shot shows where the National Road’s alignment through Hendrysburg ends and meets State Route 800.

Just past Hendrysburg

Not far past Hendrysburg, State Route 800 curves northward. But to stay on the National Road and old US 40, you need to turn left onto County Road 40A. I’m sure that in US 40’s heyday, this was a straight shot, and you turned right here to stay on 800.

© 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

This through-the-windshield shot shows what County Road 40A is like.

County Road 40A

There’s more to explore along this alignment left behind by I-70, but the rest of it is in Guernsey County.

Next: A bridge shaped like the letter S in Guernsey County.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Road Trips

The National Road in Ohio: St. Clairsville

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, my dog Gracie and I explored the National Road all the way across Ohio. That road is now US 40 in most places. I’m bringing the long trip report over from my old Roads site.

St. Clairsville is about 5 miles up the road from the bridges at Blaine. And when I say up the road, I mean up the road!

St. Clairsville, OH

My chief impression of St. Clairsville was that it once had a grand age.

St. Clairsville, OH

The Belmont County Courthouse was remarkably difficult to photograph, even with my camera’s wide-angle lens, because the courthouse was so big and US 40 was so narrow. I couldn’t back up enough to get a good head-on shot.

St. Clairsville, OH

Many Old National Road milestones remain along the road across eastern Ohio. This one stands in front of the courthouse. The plaque attached to it says it was relocated. It probably wasn’t relocated far, as Zanesville is about 63 miles away via I-70.

St. Clairsville, OH

This is the 1890 Clarendon Hotel, which as of this writing was owned by the city of St. Clairsville and is undergoing restoration. It is called one of the oldest continuously operating hotels on the National Road.

St. Clairsville, OH

I really enjoyed St. Clairsville’s historic architecture.

St. Clairsville, OH

Next: Some old alignments of US 40 and the National Road in Belmont County.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Road Trips

The National Road in Ohio: The bridges at Blaine

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, my dog Gracie and I explored the National Road all the way across Ohio. That road is now US 40 in most places. I’m bringing the long trip report over from my old Roads site.

The road leading out of Bridgeport was narrow and twisty. By American standards, the National Road in eastern Ohio is pretty darned old. It was extended west from Wheeling starting in the late 1820s, largely routed over the 1796-97 Zane’s Trace, which was based on even older American Indian trails. None of those trailblazers and roadbuilders had the equipment and technology to do anything but follow the path of least resistance, and so the National Road makes several twists and turns as it heads west from the Ohio River. In contrast, nearby I-70 is a smooth and level ride. It was built in about the early 1970s, when roadbuilders could cut through the hills and fill in the valleys.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

Even then, the National Road saw plenty of improvements in its lifetime, especially after the US highway system was founded in 1926 and US 40 was routed over it. One such improvement happened where the road crossed Wheeling Creek at the town of Blaine. The road originally followed what is now Pasko Road, but was straightened in 1933.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

Of course, that meant building a new bridge. Fortunately, they left the old one behind, a sandstone three-span S bridge built in 1828. Aren’t they a spectacular pair? (That’s my old buddy Jeff there, unwittingly providing a sense of these bridges’ scale.)

The S Bridge at Blaine

As winding roads were a concession in the old days, so were S bridges. Bridges that crossed a river or stream at right angles were stronger and considerably less expensive to build and maintain than bridges that crossed at an angle. Roads don’t always approach rivers squarely, of course. In Ohio, the solution was to build bridges square to the river and curve the road to meet its ends. This gave these bridges their distinctive S shape and, therefore, their name. A few smaller, single-span S bridges remain on the road in eastern Ohio; I’ll write about them in future posts.

National Road and US 40 bridges at Blaine, OH *EXPLORED on 12/31/19*

This solution worked very well for traffic in 1830 when an average traveler covered maybe ten miles per day. But as the automobile rose to prominence in the 20th century, drivers needed to slow down to negotiate these bridges. Drivers were just as impatient then as now, and so improvements to US 40 eliminated these S bridges, either bypassing them or demolishing them, but always replacing them with direct crossings that did not impede the traveler. In this case, the new bridge also made what had been a very steep ascent west of the S bridge into a more gradual climb, which drivers also appreciated.

Despite being bypassed, this bridge and road were used for local access through 1994. The old bridge had deteriorated badly and was in danger of being demolished. Local preservationists persevered, however, leading to its restoration and conversion into a park. (Check out this page at the Federal Highway Administration that tells this story.)

Of course, the National Road was not originally paved in brick. The “brick era” for American roads generally began in the 1910s. My 1916 Automobile Blue Book, a thick guide of turn-by-turn directions between cities and towns, says that the National Road was “good brick, concrete, and macadam all the way” between Wheeling and Columbus. I’d say these bricks were laid not long before then. Weeds poke out from between the bricks west of the bridge where cars are no longer allowed to go.

Brick road leading to the Blaine S Bridge

I saw several old brick alignments on this trip. This was the only one where any of the bricks were marked.

Brick National Road

The old road extends beyond the park, where it becomes heavily overgrown. I counted two houses back here with useless driveways to the road. I have to assume that those homeowners now have some sort of access to US 40, which runs behind their houses.

Brick National Road

Soon the old road ends, and abruptly. US 40 is high above us.

End of the line

I left this spot with a strong wish to know how the road used to go west from this point. But then I found this photo at the Historic American Engineering Record at the Library of Congress. The photo is really of the milestone (which has since been moved), but check out the road’s path.

Next: St. Clairsville, Ohio.

Standard
Road Trips

Crossing from West Virginia into Ohio on the National Road

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, my dog Gracie and I explored the National Road all the way across Ohio. That road is now US 40 in most places. I’m bringing the long trip report over from my old Roads site.

Wheeling, West Virginia, is well known for its suspension bridge that carried the National Road across the Ohio River. It delivers westbound travelers onto Wheeling Island, and from there they must cross the Ohio River’s backchannel to finally enter Ohio at the little town of Bridgeport. That, of course, involves another bridge. This map shows them both:

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

That bridge is a modern slab that utterly lacks romance. But check out the bridge that stands next to it.

Bridgeport Bridge

This is the Bridgeport Bridge, named after the town at its west end. It was built in 1893 of wrought iron with a wooden deck, atop piers that originally carried a bridge built here in 1837. A new deck of steel grate was laid in 1950. Subsequently, time (surely aided by lack of maintenance) was not kind to this bridge, and safety became a serious concern. In 1987, additional trusses were installed to temporarily shore up the crumbling substructure. In 1998, a new bridge was completed alongside, and this old girl was abandoned.

Bridgeport Bridge

My old buddy Jeff was along for this segment of the trip, and he noticed a sign hanging from one of the cross braces. “I want to know what’s on that sign,” he said, and quickly we found ourselves, um, trespassing. Stepping out onto the adjacent walkway (as the bridge’s deck had been removed) we soon had our answer.

Bridgeport Bridge

The walkway railing was in nice shape, despite the branches growing through.

Bridgeport Bridge

I wish the same could be said about the bridge’s substructure.

Bridgeport Bridge

This bridge is a basket case if I’ve ever seen one.

Bridgeport Bridge

Rumors have persisted for years that this bridge would soon be demolished. Shortly after I took this trip, a television station in nearby Steubenville reported that it would come down in July, 2012. They noted that the bridge’s railing and finials, as well as that Ohio State Line sign, will be given to local historical societies. I suppose that’s better than nothing. The bridge was demolished on Sept. 12, 2012. Here’s footage of the demolition from the company hired to do the deed.

Looking west from the bridge, a very short remnant of the old road remains. I gather from old maps that when this was still the road, when you reached Ohio State Route 7 ahead, to stay on US 40 you had to jog left and then right. When the new bridge was built, the jog was eliminated.

Bridgeport Bridge

This wasn’t my first visit to Bridgeport. On my last visit, back in 2009, I entered the intersection of US 40 and Ohio SR 7 not noticing that the light was red. The resulting wreck totaled my car, but fortunately nobody in my car was injured. Even though two years had passed, I found it a little emotionally difficult to return to Bridgeport. So I didn’t linger. I took this one shot of town, eastbound.

Bridgeport, OH

Next: The bridges at Blaine.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!

Standard