Peacock Road

Peacock Road
Canon PowerShot S95
2011

When I find an old brick road, I seldom find much information about it on the Internet. But a lot is known about Peacock Road.

These bricks are part of the National Road in eastern Ohio. You’ll find them about 2.7 miles west of Old Washington, just off modern US 40.

During World War I, factories across the Midwest were in full production for the war. The railways were already jammed with their goods, and it became necessary to transport goods by truck. But most roads were dirt in those days; some were gravel and a few had been paved in hard surfaces. Making matters worse, road maintenance had often been deferred during the war. It was hard to find long-distance routes where the roads were in consistently good condition.

In Ohio, the National Road was a clear choice for overland trucking but for two unpaved sections in poor condition. One of those sections lay between Old Washington and Cambridge. In 1918, the state worked prisoners night and day for six weeks to create a hard-surfaced road here. They poured a concrete pad and then laid bricks onto it. This road is just 17 feet wide — consider that a standard single lane on an Interstate highway is 12 feet wide!

Ohio kept improving its roads in the years that followed. The state rebuilt this road in 1936, by which time it had become US 40. The new road bypassed what is now known as Peacock Road. It’s a ¾-mile segment of the 1918 brick road, left intact to serve a couple properties on it.

As you enter from the east, the first 1,000 feet or so of Peacock Road is gravel. I assume the gravel covers a deteriorated portion of the brick road. I made this westbound photo from where the bricks begin.

See Peacock Road on Google Maps here. This brings to an end my single frame series on brick roads.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Peacock Road

Peacock Road is a WW I era brick segment of the National Road in eastern Ohio.

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Brick segment of old US 40/NR

Brick National Road in Ohio
Canon PowerShot S95
2011

The National Road in eastern Ohio offers an abundance of old pavement, both brick and concrete. You can still drive on a lot of the old brick, but very little of the concrete.

This short segment of brick is in Cambridge, on its far west side. See it on a map here. The National Road and US 40 used to leave Cambridge proper on Dewey Ave., which becomes McPherson Ave. and Manila Rd. on its way out of town. When it reaches a railroad track, it curves to parallel it for maybe 300 feet. It’s clear that at one time the road crossed the track where it now curves, but it would have been a dangerous crossing due to a shallow angle.

Manila Rd. ends at Phillips Rd. Turn right and cross modern US 40. On the other side lies this brick segment, which lasts for maybe 200 or 250 feet before asphalt takes over again.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Brick National Road in Ohio

A segment of old US 40 in Cambridge, Ohio, that is paved in brick.

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Brick National Road

Harris Paver
Canon PowerShot S95
2011

If you ever find yourself on a brick street, look at the bricks. You might find some stamped or embossed with the company that made them.

I made this photo near Blaine, Ohio, on the National Road. A bridge dating to the 1830s still stands, closed to traffic. The road leading to and away from it is brick, laid probably in the 1910s or 1920s.

The W.B. Harris and Brothers Paving Brick Co., of Zanesville, Ohio, produced bricks from 1897 to 1929. Zanesville is about 70 miles west of Blaine. It was common for bricks to be produced near where they were used, I presume because they were heavy and challenging to transport.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Harris Paver

A paver brick stamped by its maker, on the National Road in Ohio.

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Rising Hall

Rising Hall
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2009

On the National Road in Indiana, in Hendricks County right at the Putnam County line, you’ll find this 1872 home known as Rising Hall. It’s named after what staircases were sometimes called — this home has five staircases.

It was in sorry condition in the 1980s when Walt and June Prosser bought it and began its restoration. They completed it in the early 1990s and frequently invited the public in to tour it. You can watch a short documentary about the restoration here.

Walt Prosser died in 2010, aged 86. I haven’t found an obituary for his wife, June, so perhaps she still lives in Rising Hall.

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Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: Rising Hall

A view of Rising Hall, an 1872 home on Indiana’s National Road.

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The Saratoga

The Saratoga
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2009

Not long ago I showed this sign in my lit-neon single frame series. I found this photo from my 2009 tour of the National Road (US 40) in western Indiana that shows the sign in its context. It’s a pleasing scene from downtown Terre Haute.

Terre Haute is a blue-collar town of about 60,000 people. That’s big enough that you can’t know everybody, but small enough that after you live there for a few years the locals are largely familiar to you.

When I lived there, I used to stop by a little diner downtown for breakfast. Most days the county sheriff ate at the stool next to me. We’d nod and smile as he sat down. I worked with a fellow then who went on to be Terre Haute’s mayor now. This is how life goes in a city of this size, and I miss it.

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Photography

single frame: The Saratoga

Outdoor dining at The Saratoga in Terre Haute.

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Road Trips

National Road and US 40 bridges over the Wabash River in Terre Haute, Indiana

When I moved to Terre Haute in 1985, the bridge that carried US 40 over the Wabash River into West Terre Haute was in sorry shape. It had served since 1905 and had been rehabilitated in 1973. But by the late 1980s it again needed a great deal of work. This postcard, which carries a 1912 postmark, shows it in sturdier times.

This unusual seven-span bridge had a central plate-girder section that carried vehicular traffic, with Pratt deck truss spans on either side for pedestrians. The pedestrian spans were closed by the time I lived in Terre Haute, presumably because deterioration had made them unsafe.

This bridge replaced a wooden covered bridge that was built in 1865. I’ll bet it was the longest covered bridge in the state while it was in operation.

But back to the unusual deck-girder/deck-truss bridge. Rather than restoring it yet again, the state chose to replace it with not one, but two new bridges, one eastbound and one westbound. The bridges were named for two Terre Haute natives, singer/songwriter and comedic actor Paul Dresser (westbound) and journalist and author Theodore Dreiser (eastbound). Dresser and Dreiser were brothers; Dresser changed his last name. Dresser wrote one of the most popular songs of the 19th century, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away,” making his bridge over the Wabash River a touching tribute. The Dresser and Dreiser bridges opened in 1992, and the old bridge was demolished.

Terre Haute Tribune-Star photo

Notice the separation of these two bridges. Since the 1970s, US 40 had been realigned a couple of times through downtown Terre Haute, and these two bridges merely met US 40 where it was. Here’s how the two bridges cross the Wabash River.

Map image ©2020 Indiana Map Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2020 Google.

US 40 and the National Road used to go straight through downtown Terre Haute, where it met the 1905 bridge and the 1865 bridge before it. This 1973 topographical map shows the route; it’s the red line across the middle of the image.

By the time I moved to Terre Haute, US 40 had been rerouted downtown. Westbound, when it reached US 41 (Third Street), the original path was no longer through. You turned north on US 41 for one block to Cherry Street, when you turned west again and followed a curve onto the 1905 bridge. Eastbound, after coming off the bridge a curve led to Ohio Street, one block south of the National Road. US 40 followed Ohio Street for several blocks before turning north and then east again onto the National Road. This 1989 topographical map shows the configuration.

From a 2009 visit to Terre Haute, here’s the Vigo County Courthouse, at the corner of the National Road and US 41. By this time US 40 had been rerouted again westbound to turn north at Ninth Street and then west one block later at Cherry Street.

Vigo County Courthouse

The grassy area in the lower right is where the National Road used to go.

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