Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

Visiting Vigo County, Indiana, on the National Road and US 40

On my bicycle ride across Indiana, I had pedaled through Wayne, Henry, Hancock, Marion, Hendricks, Putnam, and Clay Counties when I reached the last county of the trip, Vigo. This county borders Illinois and was the end of my trip.

It began to rain steadily as I rode off State Road 340 back onto US 40, and thus into Vigo County. My front handbrake was useless, and my handlebars were too slippery to hold. My rear coaster brake still stopped the bike, albeit slowly; it made riding not completely unsafe. I knew I would not make it to the Illinois line this day. My friend Michael lives near downtown Terre Haute, so I made his home my final destination.

Before I reached Terre Haute I passed through tiny Seelyville. There you’ll find Kleptz’s Restaurant, which has been operating since before I went to college just down the road from here at Rose-Hulman in the late 1980s.

Kleptz' Restaurant, Seelyville, IN

As you can see, Kleptz’s is a big old house. Some friends of mine stopped in for a drink back in the late 80s and they described sitting in Kleptz’s as like sitting in someone’s living room.

I’m a big fan of old neon signs. There used to be a good one on this building, but it’s been gone since 2009. When I photographed it that August, I didn’t know it was doomed.

Kleptz Bar

I don’t normally photograph modern gas stations on my trips, but I did this time.

Casey's, Seelyville, IN

It’s because I remember the building that used to stand on this corner. Here it is from that August, 2009, road trip.

Downtown Seelyville

I photographed this building in the unincorporated town of East Glen because in 1989, freshly graduated from college and looking for an apartment, I considered renting one of the upstairs apartments here. The downstairs was a hair salon even then. (I’m happy I found the apartment I did; read that story here.)

Salon, East Glenn, IN

I’ve photographed this Clabber Girl billboard a number of times over the years. Clabber Girl Baking Powder is one of Terre Haute’s claims to fame. This billboard has been greeting people as they approached town for probably 80 years. Every so often, it receives a restoration.

Clabber Girl billboard

Just beyond the billboard lies Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, the number one undergraduate engineering school in the nation (according to U.S. News and World Report). This is my alma mater.

Entrance to Rose-Hulman, US 40 Terre Haute

Here’s where US 40 meets State Road 46 on the west edge of Rose-Hulman’s campus. Several years ago, US 40 was rerouted to follow SR 46 down to I-70, and then to follow I-70 into Illinois. The National Road, however, continues straight ahead.

US 40 at SR 46

In Terre Haute, I stopped in the rain to have a hot-fudge sundae at this Dairy Queen. It’s on the National Road on the east side of town. A handful of Terre Haute DQ’s had neon signs like this one. They were custom made; you’ll find them only in Terre Haute. This and one other location in town still have them.

DQ, Wabash Ave., Terre Haute

From here, I rode straight to my friend’s house. I really wanted to document the National Road in Terre Haute, especially where it originally passed by the Vigo County Courthouse. That will have to wait for a future dry day.

Margaret drove to Terre Haute to pick me up. My friend, his wife, Margaret, and I all went out for dinner and drinks before Margaret and I headed home. Back in my day, my favorite Terre Haute bar was Sonka’s, on the National Road near downtown. It’s still going!

Sonka's

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

State Road 340, an original alignment of US 40 and the National Road in Clay County, Indiana

Until the late 1930s and early 1940s, US 40 was a two-lane highway across Indiana. For the most part, when it was widened to four lanes it was done where the highway already existed. But from the west end of Brazil, in Clay County, to the Vigo County line, a brand new US 40 was built just south of the old. The old US 40 remained a state highway, however, and was given the number 340.

Imagery ©2021 IndianaMap Framework Data, Landsat/Copernicus, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2021 Google.

Here’s where State Road 340 begins on Brazil’s west edge. US 40 is on the left, and SR 340 is on the right.

US 40/SR 340 (old 40) split

There isn’t much on SR 340 — a couple schools, a couple cemeteries, a bunch of residences and farms, and the unincorporated towns of Billtown and Cloverland.

WB SR 340 - old US 40 - W of Brazil IN

What I like about SR 340 is that it gives a very good idea of what US 40 would be like today had it been improved over the years in its original two-lane configuration.

WB SR 340 in Clay Co.

All of these photos are westbound, including this one from the gas station that stands where SR 340 (on the right) merges with US 40 (on the left) at the Vigo County line.

Where US 40 (left) and SR 340/old US 40 (right) converge

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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Preservation, Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

Then and now: The McKinley House on the National Road in Clay County, Indiana

I first photographed the McKinley House in 2009 after seeing it as photographed in the 1950s in George Stewart’s book, US 40, Cross Section of the United States of America.

The McKinley House

It was a B&B in those days. It might be yet today for all I know, but what I do know is that its trim has been repainted in black and red.

McKinley House, US 40 Clay Co.

Remarkably, in years gone by a very similar house stood about a mile west of here on the other side of the road. Curiously, it stood in the large lot of the Great Dane factory, which makes trailers that semis pull. It’s been gone for at least a decade now, and all the years I ever observed it, it was a decaying hulk. In its last years it had no windows. Thank heavens for Google Street View, as it keeps a fuzzy record of this house. This image is from October of 2008. Google also has an image from 2009, meaning it still stood when I made my 2009 US 40 road trip. I wish I’d photographed it myself then.

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

The houses on the grounds of the Putnamville Correctional Facility

As you pass by the Putnamville Correctional Facility on US 40 in Putnam County, Indiana, you can’t help but notice the brick houses scattered around the property.

There are apparently 25 of them, although when I look at the area on Google Maps I count only 19. I must be missing the rest. They are rented at nominal fee, utilities paid, to key employees of the prison. That way, those people are always close by in case of a crisis.

I’ve long wondered if these houses were built with prison labor.

Houses on the Putnamville Correctional Facility
Houses on the Putnamville Correctional Facility
Houses on the Putnamville Correctional Facility
Houses on the Putnamville Correctional Facility
Houses on the Putnamville Correctional Facility
Houses on the Putnamville Correctional Facility

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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Preservation, Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

Rising Hall, a true gem on the National Road in Indiana

Rising Hall on US 40

On the National Road in western Indiana, overlapping the Hendricks-Putnam County line you’ll find Rising Hall. It’s an Italianate home built 1870-72 by Melville McHaffie, a son of pioneer Putnam County settlers. McHaffie and later his son farmed the surrounding land.

In the decades after the McHaffies owned the house, it passed through several owners before being abandoned. It was in deplorable condition by the early 1980s when Walt and June Prosser bought it, completely restored it, and got it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Here is its nomination application.)

Rising Hall on US 40

In 2000, the house and its restoration was profiled on television. The video tells the house’s story and shows the stunningly beautiful restoration the Prossers undertook.

As the video explains, the Prossers gave the home its current name, after all of the staircases (“rising halls”) inside.

Rising Hall on US 40

It’s not common to see a barn made of brick in Indiana.

Rising Hall on US 40

Walt passed away in 2010 at age 86. I am unable to find information about his wife, June, so I presume she is still alive. Here’s hoping the Prosser family continues to give this home loving attention.

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

The original paths of the National Road and US 40 in Putnam County, Indiana

The National Road, aka US 40, in Putnam County, Indiana, is an old friend. I first documented it in 2006 and have visited several times in the years since. What I like about it is all of the old alignments of the road you’ll find there, with pavement that’s now pushing 100 years old.

The first is about halfway between Mt. Meridian and US 231. You can’t drive it anymore, as it’s on private property. It’s a short segment of brick pavement, the only such pavement left that was part of US 40 in Indiana. I failed to find it on my recent bike trip across Indiana, but I found it on an earlier trip and documented it here.

The next is between US 231 and Putnamville at Deer Creek. There you’ll find a bridge over the creek, and leading away from it a long stretch of concrete pavement. I documented this segment in detail here and here, and shared a 1928 photo of the bridge here. This photo is westbound from the bridge.

Old US 40 concrete alignment with bridge, Putnam Co.

This photo is eastbound towards the bridge

Old US 40 concrete alignment with bridge, Putnam Co.

The next old alignment is just west of Putnamville, and it runs through the grounds of the Putnamville Correctional Facility. Here’s where it emerges from under current US 40, its concrete face still showing.

Old alignment US 40/NR at Putnamville Correctional Facility

This road is used within the prison and was covered over with asphalt at some point.

Old alignment US 40/NR at Putnamville Correctional Facility

A little west of Manhattan is a short concrete road signed as CR 775 S.

Short concrete old alignment

You’ll find a confluence of old alignments near Reelsville. One of them is gravel, and I didn’t want to ride my bike on it. The rest is concrete. I’ve documented the Reelsville alignments extensively here. The paved portion is in two segments. Here’s a photo from the east segment. This was originally a concrete road but it was paved over in asphalt.

Old US 40/NR alignment near Reelsville

Concrete remains on the west segment. It gets very little use and is well overgrown. It looks abandoned.

Old US 40/NR alignment near Reelsville

There’s a bridge back here, over Big Walnut Creek.

Old US 40/NR alignment near Reelsville

This is quite a difference from the character of the modern highway in Putnam County!

US 40 WB Putnam Co.

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
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