Road Trips

Working on both the Michigan and National Roads

My new office is on Washington Street in Downtown Indianapolis — the only place where the Michigan Road and the National Road share an alignment.

My desk is on the 12th floor. Here’s the view from the nearest window, after a violent storm passed through. That’s the City-County Building at left, and the city’s new bus terminal at right. Between them, the National Road is headed east and the Michigan Road is headed south.

A portion of the roof is set up like a patio with outdoor furniture. Here’s the view towards Monument Circle at the heart of Indianapolis. The Monument itself rises above the Circle Tower building near lower left.

I’ve already taken a couple Downtown photo walks on my lunch hour. After I’ve fully settled into the new job I expect I’ll take many more.

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Preservation, Road Trips

Restored: Terre Haute’s 1930s Clabber Girl billboard

If you ever drive US 40 westbound into Terre Haute, you’ll find a great old billboard for Clabber Girl Baking Powder at the edge of town. Clabber Girl has been made in Terre Haute since 1899. The billboard dates to the 1930s. Here’s a photo I made of it way back in 2007.

Clabber Girl

It was in pretty good shape then, but time and the elements are not kind to anything left outside. Here are some more photographs I’ve made of it over the years, showing its slow deterioration. 2009:

Clabber Girl

2013, and notice the clock is different:

Five Minutes to Terre Haute

2014:

Clabber Girl
Clabber Girl

This billboard is on what was the property of Mary Fendrich Hulman, whose family owns the makers of Clabber Girl. Mary died a few years ago, and her sprawling horse farm was sold to neighboring Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, expanding its campus. Rose-Hulman got the billboard in the deal, and decided to have this Terre Haute landmark restored. The Terre Haute Tribune-Star tells the restoration story and shares a photograph of the refreshed billboard. Read it here.

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Centerville

119 US 40, Centerville
Kodak Baby Brownie
Kodak Ektar 100
2018

I sold my Kodak Baby Brownie recently, to someone who’d had one many years ago and wanted to relive old memories. You might recall this tiny camera had its turn in Operation Thin the Herd and I decided not to keep it. It languished on my For Sale page for months.

As I packed and shipped it I looked back at some of the images I made with it. I like the composition of this one, but the lab didn’t get the film flat before they scanned it. I find that most labs struggle to scan the odd sizes. I’ll bet they have to scan them by hand.

Then there are those light leaks. Could be the camera, could be the hand-cut and -rolled film I bought on eBay. I wanted to shoot Ektar in this tiny box, because Ektar has been a solid performer in every box I’ve put it into. My other options involved films I’d never shot before, one called Rera Pan and another called Rollei Crossbird — the last 127 films still manufactured.

Film Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: 119 US 40, Centerville

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Road Trips

The one old alignment of the National Road in eastern Indiana and the mystery of Star Blvd.

There’s but one old alignment of the National Road in eastern Indiana, and it stretches 4 miles from Dunrieth west through Raysville to the east edge of Knightstown. From there it’s about 33 miles to downtown Indianapolis.

OldNREastIN

Imagery and map data ©2018 Google.

Modern US 40 was built in about 1940, leaving this old route behind. Here’s where it begins on Dunrieth’s west edge. This is an eastbound photo. It’s cut off from US 40; to reach it, you have to turn south in Dunrieth proper and follow the town’s streets to this location.

Old NR/US 40

Turning around from the same spot, here’s the westbound road. Whenever I see an old alignment covered in asphalt I’m intensely curious to know what paving materials lurk beneath. Concrete? Brick?

Old NR/US 40

As the road enters Raysville it runs under this old Pennsylvania Railroad overpass.

Railroad overpass

On the other side of the overpass, facing eastbound, this little sliver of road breaks off from the old National Road. It’s signed Star Blvd.

Possible old US 40 alignment

As you can see in the map snippet below, it curves up and around much like modern US 40 does. I wondered for a long time whether this was a newer old alignment of the road. Did the state reroute the National Road more or less along its modern alignment between Dunreith and Raysville some number of years before building the modern four lane, divided road?

StarBlvd

Imagery and map data ©2018 Google.

I asked the wonderful Indiana Transportation History group on Facebook. I got my answer fast: it’s a previous routing of that PRR line. It was actually part of the old Indiana Central Railroad before PRR bought it and built the grade separation and new alignment. They did that in the 1900-1920 timeframe. Star Blvd. is the old PRR rail bed.

Star Ave

There it is, the old PRR bed, currently a narrow road for local traffic. The old National Road and US 40 had but two alignments here: the original and the 1940 US 40 expressway.

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Road Trips

Classic motels on US 40 in Wayne County, Indiana

One of these days I ought to survey all of the classic motels on US 40 in Indiana. There are quite a few, primarily in Wayne, Marion, and Hendricks Counties with a few others popping up here and there. Many of them still serve guests, even if those guests stay for months or years at a time and call their room home.

Wayne County borders Ohio and so is the eastern gateway to Indiana along what was once the National Road. It still has these operating classic motels.

Holiday Motel

First is the Holiday Motel, which is within the Richmond city limits. Like all of the Wayne County hotels, it uses a plastic box sign. It once had a larger sign lit with neon tubing, according to an old postcard image I found on the Web (here).

Holiday Motel

The Holiday Motel’s U configuration makes efficient use of limited city space.

Holiday Motel

You come upon the City View Motel after you leave Richmond proper. It’s most of the way to Centerville, actually, and has a Centerville address.

City View Motel

In contrast to the urban Holiday Motel, the outskirts-of-town City View sprawls out across a wide lot.

City View Motel

Whenever I see a plastic box sign on a classic motel, I assume there was once a more interesting neon sign in the hotel’s past. A Web search turned up one postcard that showed the City View’s onetime neon sign (here).

City View Motel

The Richmond Motel is even farther away from Richmond than the City View. It’s on the eastern edge of Centerville.

Richmond Motel

It, too, once had a far more interesting sign. You can see it here.

Richmond Motel

It also sprawls wide, taking advantage of its more rural setting. I think it’s the most cheerful looking of the Wayne County motels with its red and gray color scheme.

Richmond Motel

There’s just one more Wayne County hotel, on the very western edge of Centerville. I made just this one photo of it. There’s no sign, which leads me to believe this motel serves as inexpensive apartments now. But at one time this was the Green Acres Motel; see an old postcard of it here.

Unsigned former motel

Motels have been an occasional subject here — click here for photos and stories of all the motels I’ve written about on all kinds of old roads.

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Preservation, Road Trips

Madonnas of the Trail

In 1928, the Daughters of the American Revolution placed 12 statues across the United States to honor pioneer mothers, those women who, with their husbands and children, went out West to build their lives.

These statues were all placed on the National Old Trails Road, an auto trail established in 1912 to connect New York to Los Angeles. Future President Harry S. Truman headed up the National Old Trails Road Association and worked with the D.A.R. to have these statues erected, one in each state.

The National Old Trails Road was routed largely over the old National Road in the east and the Santa Fe Trail in the west. Today, very broadly, if you drive US 40 to St. Louis and old Route 66 west from there, you are on or near the National Old Trails Road.

Having driven the National Road from end to end, I’ve seen five Madonnas, in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Although the National Road begins in Maryland, the National Old Trails Road left the National Road so it could go through Washington, DC. The Maryland Madonna ended up on the road in Bethesda, which is not a National Road town. Also, the one time I visited the Ohio Madonna, it was inconveniently placed and I wasn’t able to photograph it. It has since been moved to a park with plenty of parking; I hope to go back and visit it one day.

The various Madonnas are colored from creamy white to reddish brown, and several of them have seen restorations, some of them more than once. Here, then, are photos of the Madonnas I’ve been able to see.

Madonna of the Trail

Beallsville, PA (2009)

Wheeling Madonna of the Trail

Wheeling, WV (2009)

Richmond Madonna

Richmond, IN (2009)

Madonna of the Trail

Richmond, IN (2018)

Madonna of the Trail

Vandalia, IL (2007)

Madonna of the Trail

Vandalia, IL (2014)

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