Road Trips

1933 photographs of US 40 at Harmony, Indiana

US 40 was widened from two to four lanes across Indiana in the 1930s and 1940s. Old photographs of any road can be hard to come by, but especially when the road changed so dramatically so early.

Fellow roadfan Roger Green has been researching US 40 for several years now. He grew up in a small western Indiana town called Harmony, which is on US 40 in Clay County. The photos he found are from Harmony in 1933, and they show a road of very different character from today. This eastbound photo is from just west of Harmony Barnett Street. The building at left is Rohrig’s Texaco.

Digital image © 2006 Indiana Historical Society. All rights reserved.

This Google Street View capture shows the same scene as Google recorded it in 2018. The Texaco station is now a diner.

© 2020 Google.

Here’s a closer look at the diner. I made this photo in 2009; the diner’s changed hands and names at least once since then.

Harmony, IN

The photo below is from a little east of the photo above. The house in the picture still stands; see it here.

Digital image © 2006 Indiana Historical Society. All rights reserved.

This westbound photo, which has to be from N CR 200 E, shows Rohrig’s Texaco on the right. It’s a little hard to see but farther down the road on the left is Finley’s General Store.

Digital image © 2006 Indiana Historical Society. All rights reserved.

When I made my 2009 trip documenting US 40 in western Indiana, Finley’s was still standing, but it’s not clear to me whether it was still operating. The same is true today.

Harmony, IN

What’s most fascinating to me is the roadway itself — it’s a continuous ribbon of concrete. Indiana didn’t start inserting expansion joints in its concrete highways until about 1925, as best as I can figure. Also, travel lanes were much narrower in the early 1920s than now. This highway is probably only about 12 feet wide.

One segment of continuous-concrete US 40 remans, on a short old alignment about seven miles east of Harmony, in neighboring Putnam County, near Manhattan. As you can see, this old road cracked pretty severely. Expansion joints help prevent cracking.

Itty-bitty old US 40/NR alignment

This photo gives a pretty good feel of just how narrow this road is. Can you imagine encountering an oncoming truck here at night? Harrowing! The modern four-lane US 40 was a giant improvement in safety and speed. Here’s a 2009 eastbound photo of the modern road just east of Harmony.

US 40 east of Harmony, IN

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, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Road Trips

Old US 40/National Road at Pleasant Gardens in western Indiana

Let’s return to my 2006 road trip along US 40 and the National Road between Indianapolis and the Illinois state line. The next old alignment of this road is at a place called Pleasant Gardens, in Putnam County. When I made this trip I did not know yet that the road was realigned several times in this area, including an alignment that took it through Reelsville, a town slightly north of here. Read the whole history of the National Road and US 40 in this region here.

Windows Live Maps, 2006

Just past Manhattan in Putnam County was a turnoff for 620 W, which curves into a segment of an old alignment. US 40 is visible from some of this segment; it’s about 100 yards away.

Old US 40 alignment
Old US 40 alignment

The road crumbles away about 1,200 yards later at a dead end with the current US 40 road bed. To exit, we had to backtrack to 625 W, a crossroad that bisects this alignment.

Old US 40 alignment
Windows Live Maps, 2006

The next segment begins maybe 300 yards from where this one ends, as this map shows. Notice how 300 yards to the west another old alignment starts again, labeled 750 S. It seems obvious that these two segments were once connected.

The map shows this segment in three sections: 750 S and, strangely, two labeled 725 S. If you trace the road west of the segment’s western end, past the intersecting road (800 S), you can see a faint trace or ridge that suggests how the segment used to flow and merge with the current roadbed.

Windows Live Maps, 2006

The turnoff to this segment was gravel, the only time we saw an unpaved turnoff on this trip.

Old US 40 alignment

After rounding the curve, the pavement became the familiar chipped-stone concrete, although it did not have an expansion joint down the center as did the concrete pavement we encountered earlier on this trip. It was overgrown on both sides and the surface was wearing away in spots, but it was otherwise intact.

Old US 40 alignment

Soon the road comes to a bridge that crosses Big Walnut Creek.

Old US 40 alignment

From the bridge it’s easy to see the current US 40 bridge, maybe 500 feet to the south.

Old US 40 alignment

The concrete pavement ends abruptly about four tenths of a mile west of the bridge. A one-lane asphalt road curves sharply to connect back to US 40.

Old US 40 alignment

I decided to see if there were traces of 725 S from the other side. We drove out onto US 40, turned right at 800 S, and drove up to what the map said was 725 S (but was signed 750 S). The road was concrete, but without the stone chips we’d seen on other old road segments. But shortly the road curved right into the woods on the right, as the photo shows. Beyond that curve, the road was gravel. We walked up to where curve met woods and saw no evidence in the woods that the road ever went through. But why then the curve?

Old US 40 alignment

I would learn much later that this concrete road used to go through, connecting to the abrupt end of concrete road we found in the previous photo. It’s all part of the puzzle of these old alignments, which I finally untangled a couple years ago and explained in this post.

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, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Luten bridge

Restored Luten bridge on the National Road at Reelsville, Indiana
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2009

The National Road and US 40 has been moved around several times near Reelsville in Putnam County, Indiana. Big Walnut Creek flows through here. As various bridges have come and gone, sometimes the road was moved. I sorted out the whole history in this post.

I say this bridge is on the National Road. It is, in that this was an alignment of that road used from 1875 to 1923. But this is not a National Road bridge, as it was not built until 1929. By this time, the National Road had become US 40, and US 40 had been realigned to a new road a quarter mile to the south.

This bridge was designed by Daniel Luten, whose pioneering design for concrete-arch bridges is patented. That’s why this bridge was restored in place after a new bridge was built next to it (in about 2006). If you can find a place to park, you can walk out onto this old bridge.

It’s remarkable to me that this old bridge out in the country was saved. Also notice the pitch of the new bridge. Its construction eliminated a wicked hill.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Photography

single frame: Restored Luten bridge on the National Road at Reelsville, Indiana

A restored open-spandrel concrete arch bridge in Putnam County, Indiana.

Image
Road Trips
Addison Toll House

My sons and I continued our 2009 National Road/US 40 tour from Maryland into Pennsylvania and West Virginia. I’ve just freshened up those posts, adding a little detail and improving the photographs. Here are all of those posts:

We intended to continue our trip across Ohio, but just as we entered the state we had an automobile accident that totaled my car. Fortunately, we were physically unharmed. Read about it here.

Updated: Posts about the National Road and US 40 in Pennsylvania and West Virginia

Aside
Casselman River bridge

National Road bridge over Maryland’s Casselman River
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2009

The trip my sons and I made to Washington, DC, and then back along the National Road is the vacation we all remember most fondly. It was a great trip until we entered Ohio, when we had an automobile accident that totaled our car. We were unharmed, but it was a sad end to a great trip.

Maryland became more gorgeous the farther west we went into it. We were especially excited to reach Garrett County, as that is one of my sons’ names. We stopped by the roadside to photograph my son under a sign proclaiming our entrance into his county.

Then shortly we came upon this bridge, which was built in 1814 to carry the National Road across the Casselman River. It served until 1933, seven years after this road was named US 40, when a steel-truss bridge was built downriver and the road realigned to it. Later, I-68 was built a little farther downriver and US 40 was routed onto it. So three bridges stand in a row here. I wrote about them all here.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Photography, Road Trips

single frame: National Road bridge over Maryland’s Casselman River

The great stone arch bridge over the Casselman River in Garrett County, MD.

Image
Road Trips
Ellicott City, MD

In 2009, my sons and I explored the National Road and US 40 across Maryland. The National Road was the nation’s first federally funded highway, and it connected Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. In the 20th century, the National Road became US 40, more or less.

I’ve updated my posts from this trip with refreshed photographs and some new details. Here are links to all of them.

Updated: Posts about the National Road and US 40 in Maryland

Aside