Road Trips

The Michigan Road and the Lincoln Highway in St. Joseph County

In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report. While this article refers exclusively to the Michigan Road, another historic highway, the Lincoln Highway, was routed along this portion of the Michigan Road.

At Michigan Street and La Salle Avenue in South Bend, the Michigan Road hangs a hard left. Where it had always been a north-south road, here it becomes an east-west road. It also ceases to be the Dixie Highway and becomes the Lincoln Highway. This is westbound La Salle Avenue.

LaSalle St.

Shortly, La Salle Ave. curves and becomes Lincolnway West. Before the Lincoln Highway came in 1913, however, this road was called Michigan Avenue.

To Lincoln Way West

This little building on La Salle Ave. was the South Bend Hat Bleachery in the 1930s and a women’s clothing shop into the 1970s, I’m told.

Old house, South Bend

While the road is signed “Lincoln Way” today, until recently it was signed “Lincolnway,” and many businesses adopted that spelling. This building, at the corner of Cushing St., was once an A&P grocery at which both my father’s and mother’s families shopped. Today, it is Lincolnway Foods.

Lincolnway Foods

Rather, it was Lincolnway Foods. It burned to the ground a few days after I took the previous shot.

Lincolnway Foods

Lincolnway passes through an old part of South Bend, with many of its brick streets still intact. This is Cushing St. Of all the brick streets I’ve driven on, South Bend’s are the rumbliest.

Cushing St.

The imposing Oliver School is today the Colfax Cultural Center, which houses space for artists, performers, and related businesses. This is what it looks like as you drive toward it on Lincolnway.

Colfax School

Many older homes stand along the road here.

Old house, South Bend

This is the Elizabeth Memorial Church of God in Christ, but I suspect that this building housed another congregation previously.

Elizabeth Memorial Church of God in Christ

A former service station along Lincolnway.

Old service station, South Bend

This is the westbound road. Notice the “SUPRKET” sign on the storefront on the left. When I was a kid, that sign read “SUPERMARKET.” Somewhere along the line it lost its ERMA.

Westbound

From the air, this recording studio building looks like a guitar pick.

Master Blaster

This neat little apartment building was named after the Lincoln Highway.

Lincoln Way West Apartment

This monstrosity was once the Hoosier Brewery.

Big hulking monstrosity

Kreamo Bread was once a South Bend bakery, and its headquarters are on the Michigan Road (and the Lincoln Highway).

Kreamo bread factory

The 1911 Epworth Memorial United Methodist Church, hidden behind trees. I’d have better luck taking photos in the winter, when the leaves are down.

Epworth Memorial United Methodist Church

The Lincolnwood Motel.

Lincolnwood Motel

The South Bend Regional Airport needed to extend its runway a few years ago, and to do so it took out part of the Michigan Road’s original route. This shows the road curving slightly south around the new runway, but originally it went straight through here.

Bent road

Google Maps’ imagery isn’t up to date. It still shows the Michigan Road on its original route. The road markings show the current route, though, on which there are two roundabouts. (Since then, the new Lincolnway West route was extended even further, bypassing another 2,000 feet or so of the original Michigan Road. While the section of the Michigan Road east of Mayflower Road no longer exists, you can still drive the section west of Mayflower. It dead ends whre the new Lincolnway West curves back around to resume its original path.)

I took this westbound photo from where the road curves away from its original route. You can see the road pick up on the other side of the airport.

Original Michigan Road path

This eastbound photo is from the west side of the airport. If you view this at full size and squint, you can see the stoplights at Sheridan St. glowing red. The road in the middle of the photo is the original Michigan Road path, left behind in the runway expansion.

Eastbound through the airport

Here is where travelers curve back onto the road’s original path on the west side of the airport. (Today, this is the section of Michigan Road I mentioned before that dead ends.)

Westbound

The road becomes US 20 outside of South Bend. Just beyond the city limits stands the Kenrose Motel, which didn’t appear to be very busy this day.

Kenrose Motel

The Michigan Road narrows to two lanes as soon as it leaves South Bend.

Westbound

The road passes through the Terre Coupee prairie on its way to New Carlisle. I’m told this building was once a school and later a store.

Old building, Terre Coupee

The Michigan Road next comes to New Carlisle.

Notice how the road curves wide on the east side of town. Until 1926, the road ran straight here, crossing the railroad tracks at an awkward and dangerous angle that was the scene of many accidents. Four tracks crossed the road here then, two owned by the New York Central Railroad; one by the Chicago, South Bend, and Northern Indiana Railway; and one by the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad. The tracks were even at different levels, the interurban tracks a few feet lower than the New York Central tracks, making the crossing even more challenging. This drawing, courtesy Rob Heinek, shows the original configuration of the tracks. The road’s original path is shown with red dotted lines. Heinek also provided the story of the viaduct I’ve shared here.

Negotiations with the railroads to build a viaduct and reroute the road for safer passage dragged on for several years but kicked into high gear when New Carlisle passed an ordinance limiting trains to eight miles per hour. The terms worked out, a viaduct was built and the road curved. A retaining wall on the southernmost curve touts New Carlisle’s virtues today.

Welcome to New Carlisle

Here’s what it’s like to enter New Carlisle under the viaduct.

This eastbound photo shows the road as the curve returns to the road’s original path. The driveway that begins where the road curves is the original road.

Eastbound, New Carlisle

On the edge of downtown New Carlisle, this mural of the town from about 1941 is painted onto a building.

New Carlisle mural

Here’s the same scene in modern times.

Live or Memorex?

Downtown New Carlisle makes a hodgepodge of its buildings, which seems typical of towns of this age and size.

The Village Shoppes

New Carlisle is better cared for than many other Michigan Road towns of its size, however.

Houston Pro Hardware

A longtime bank building, today a Wells Fargo branch. Somehow, I doubt the drive-through is original to the building.

Still a bank

I find it interesting how these two mirror-image buildings ended up differently decorated.

Colorful

The only reason I’m including this photo is because I happened to go to public school with this podiatrist, and I haven’t seen her in over 20 years. I was surprised to see her name again after so long.

Dr. Wieger

New Carlisle is rich with older homes.

Old house, New Carlisle

The sign says, “God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts.”

Community Church

Another older home along the way in New Carlisle.

Old house, New Carlisle

And another.

Old house, New Carlisle

The road’s name tips its hat to its heritage. Richard Carlisle founded New Carlisle in 1837 along the road.

Michigan St.

New Carlisle’s park.

Park

Outside New Carlisle, on the border with La Porte County, stands the 1863 New Carlisle Cemetery.

New Carlisle Cemetery

Next: The Michigan Road in La Porte County – and the end of the Michigan Road.

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Road Trips

Welcome to New Carlisle, a Michigan Road town

New Carlisle is a cheerful Indiana small town about 15 miles west of South Bend on a triply historic road: US 20, the longest US highway; the Lincoln Highway, our nation’s first coast-to-coast road; and the Michigan Road, which has linked the Ohio River to Lake Michigan since the 1830s. The town has been there since 1835, not long after the road was built.

As you enter New Carlisle from the east, you take a tight S curve under a railroad bridge and along a retaining wall that greets you cheerfully.

Welcome to New Carlisle

Until 1926 the road ran straight, crossing the tracks at a dangerous angle that was the scene of many accidents. Four rail lines passed through: two owned by the New York Central Railroad; one by the Chicago, South Bend, and Northern Indiana Railway; and one by the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad. The South Shore tracks were a few feet lower than the New York Central tracks, making for an uneven crossing and increasing motorists’ challenge.

New Carlisle, Indiana. Imagery © 2019 DigitalGlobe, IndianaMap Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2019 Google.

Negotiations with the railroads to build a viaduct and reroute the road for safer passage dragged on for several years but kicked into high gear when New Carlisle passed an ordinance limiting trains to eight miles per hour. That got the railroads’ attention. Terms were worked out, the bridge was built, and the road was curved.

After you negotiate that curve, New Carlisle unfolds before you, tidy and cheerful. Little has changed, at least cosmetically, in this town since before World War II. Check out this mural of the town as it was in about 1941, painted on the side of one of downtown’s buildings.

New Carlisle mural

Downtown New Carlisle has changed little since those days! You’ll have to take my word for it to some extent, as I made these photographs in 2008. Margaret and I drove through on our late-December Michigan Road trip, but heavy rain made it a poor day for photography. But we could see it: New Carlisle still looks very much like this.

Live or Memorex?

I’m always curious why some small Indiana towns remain well-maintained and others don’t. Money obviously makes the difference. But where does New Carlisle’s come from? There’s no real industry here, to speak of. It’s too far away from Chicago to be a commuter town. I suppose many residents commute to South Bend to work; is that enough?

Downtown New Carlisle

Regardless, everywhere you look in New Carlisle’ downtown, the buildings are in good condition. Something must be going right here — unlike so many Indiana towns of similar size, New Carlisle is growing. Its population remained flat at about 1,400 for several decades, but between 2000 and 2010 it swelled to over 1,800.

Colorful
Houston Pro Hardware
Still a bank

As you keep heading west you soon leave the downtown area and pass many lovely older homes.

Old house, New Carlisle
Old house, New Carlisle
Old house, New Carlisle

This church is right on Michigan Street. The sign says, “God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts.”

Community Church

Memorial Park is on Michigan Street, too. It’s a lovely spot to rest on a lovely street in a lovely town.

Park

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

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