1834 stone-arch bridge on the National Road Canon PowerShot S95 2014
Because reader Peggy told me she likes my bridge posts, I’m going through my photo archives to share more interesting bridges.
Built in 1834, this bridge carries the nation’s first federally funded highway, the National Road, over this creek on the west edge of Marshall, Illinois. The National Road connected Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois, via Wheeling, West Virginia; Columbus, Ohio; and Indianapolis, Indiana.
You won’t find many US bridges older than this one, especially outside the original 13 colonies. It still carries traffic every day — and unless you know it’s there, you can’t tell that such ancient infrastructure is supporting your car as you drive over it.
The Wheeling Suspension Bridge closed to vehicular traffic on September 20. It will be closed for at least a year, say officials with the West Virginia Department of Transportation.
Too many vehicles heavier than the posted 2-ton weight limit have been crossing the bridge, according to Secretary of Transportation Byrd White. “People just ignore” the posted weight-limit signs, he said.
The bridge was closed for several weeks over the summer after a bus crossed it and then got stuck under a barrier entering Wheeling. The bridge was inspected, and some damage was found to the structure.
The bridge was repaired and new barriers were installed to block large vehicles, but vehicles over the weight limit kept crossing the bridge.
The Department of Transportation hopes to rehabilitate the bridge during its closure. They will reevaluate whether to allow vehicular traffic again at that time.
The bridge remains open to walkers and bicyclists.
Another camera review I refreshed recently was of my Minolta X-700. I shot just two rolls with it before it succumbed to the common but dreaded Stuck Winder Problem. A certain capacitor fails, and the X-700 becomes a brick.
That second roll (it was Fujicolor 200) was shot primarily on a road trip along Indiana’s National Road from Indianapolis to the Illinois state line. My goodness but do I miss taking to the old roads. I’ve made not a single road trip this year. Life just has presented higher priorities. I hope for next year.
It felt great, however, to look through these photos from my trip ten years ago and remember a great day alone on this old highway. You might know it as US 40. First, here’s an abandoned bridge just west of Plainfield. It carried US 40 from probably about 1925 until the road was rebuilt as a four-lane divided highway in about 1940. Two new bridges were built just to the south — I stood on one of them to make this photograph — and this one was left behind to molder.
Here’s another view. You can park on a clearing just east of this bridge and walk out onto it.
Just before the four-lane highway reaches Putnamville, a short older alignment branches off. This 1923 bridge is on it, and you can still drive across it.
The bridge feels narrow, and the railing feels heavy.
Near Reelsville you’ll find an old alignment of the road that never got paved.
For a long time I thought this was the National Road’s original alignment. But I learned that the National Road was moved to this alignment in 1875 when a bridge on the original alignment, to the south, washed out and was not replaced. Read about the history of these alignments here.
Near here I stopped to photograph some roadside flowers.
When I made it to Terre Haute, I walked along the road for several blocks downtown. It’s known as Wabash Avenue here. This is the entrance to Hulman and Company, which for many years made Clabber Girl Baking Powder.
This building may once have housed the Terre Haute Trust Company, but for as long as I can remember — since I moved to Terre Haute in 1985 — it has housed the Merchant’s National Bank and, after a merger, the Old National Bank.
I drove from there all the way to the end of the Indiana portion of the road. Then I turned around and went back to Terre Haute to catch dinner at the Saratoga, a longtime restaurant right on the road.
It was a great day, and my Minolta X-700 helped me capture it — before it failed.
If you’d like to see more from this trip, via my digital camera, check it out on my old site, here.
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.
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.
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:
2013, and notice the clock is different:
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.
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.