Road Trips

By the roadside on Indiana’s Lafayette Road

Our trip along the Lafayette Road was spontaneous and brief. We started at about 3 in the afternoon and raced against the setting January sun. Normally, I would have started no later than 10 AM to give myself time to stop anywhere I wanted along the way. But I did manage to squeeze in some photographs of interesting vintage roadside attractions.

The first was this great sign. I drive by it all the time, actually. It’s on the road in southern Boone County, just south of the giant Traders Point Christian Church.

Wrecks, Inc.
Margaret Rawson photo

This junkyard has been closed for years. Which is a shame, really, because this sign was just wonderful when it used to light up at night.

Drive Carefully

Wrecked cars always used to be perched beneath this sign. While the junkyard was in operation, those cars changed from time to time. Afterward, the two cars pictured below lingered for years until finally being removed in 2015. I took this shot years ago with my old Palm Pre.

We Meet by Accident

After the Lafayette Road leaves Indianapolis, Lebanon is the only town it goes through before it reaches Lafayette. (Though its original alignment probably went through Thorntown, as I explained in this post.) Lebanon is the seat of justice in Boone County; here’s the courthouse on the obligatory town square.

Boone County Courthouse
Margaret Rawson photo

The Lebanon square is typical, with plenty of older buildings and a few new ones. Lebanon’s done a reasonable job of keeping its facades up.

Lebanon, IN

Just after we entered Tippecanoe County, we came upon this beauty standing there doing nothing. The stainless steel front portion was manufactured by the Mountain View Diners Co. of Singac, NJ, in about 1952. I’m pretty sure these were shipped whole from the factory.

Flo's

This one appears to have been closed for some time, which is a shame. But this location isn’t near enough to any town to get local business, and few travelers would stop in as the vast majority of traffic is over on nearby I-65. The Lafayette Road is US 52 here, a four-lane divided highway — and it’s almost always empty of cars. Apparently, the motel behind this diner still operates. I managed not to notice the motel while I was here, or I would have photographed it, too! I saw it on Google Maps while researching this post.

Flo's

The Lafayette Road becomes Main Street when it enters Lafayette. Shortly we came upon this great frozen custard stand, which was closed for the season.

Frozen custard
Margaret Rawson photo

This is a fairly elaborate little building for a fairly elaborate frozen dairy product. Frozen custard must be at least 10 percent butterfat and contain egg yolk.

Frozen Custard
Margaret Rawson photo

Some sources call this the oldest continuously operating frozen custard stand in the nation, having opened in 1932. Others say that this stand opened in 1949, but this company had operated at a different location from 1932-49. Whatever; this is a stunning little building. I would have loved to see the neon lit!

Frozen Custard
Margaret Rawson photo

Remember when signs of this type were common as pennies?

Frozen Custard
Margaret Rawson photo

Finally, we followed Main Street all the way into downtown Lafayette, which is where we presume the old Lafayette Road ends. This building with its great sign aren’t right on Main Street, but you can see it from there, as it’s just two blocks north on Ninth Street.

O'Rear's

By this time, we were starting to run out of light. Perhaps we’ll make this trip again another day and photograph more things: the very old homes we saw along the rural portions of the route, more of Lebanon, and shots of Lafayette’s charming Main Street.

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Margaret

Margaret
Nikon D3200, 18.0-55.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX Nikkor

We stood on an abandoned alignment of the Lafayette Road for this shot.

Photography
Image
Road Trips

Old and abandoned alignments of Indiana’s Lafayette Road, part 2

On Monday, I shared a couple old concrete alignments of the Lafayette Road in Marion County (Indianapolis), Indiana. The Lafayette Road was built in the 1830s to connect Indianapolis to Lafayette, and later became US 52. Today, most of it in Marion and neighboring Boone Counties is a local road. On Monday I shared the old alignments in Marion County; today, it’s Boone County.

After the Lafayette Road leaves Marion County, it passes through maybe 1,000 feet of Hendricks County on its way into Boone County. Just beyond the county line the road once curved twice, but when the road was widened to four lanes in about 1935 those curves were straightened. Here’s what that spot looked like in 1937, the old alignment clearly visible and still in use for local access.

LRmap3_1937
Courtesy MapIndy, http://maps.indy.gov/MapIndy/

This same spot is barely recognizable from the air today. I-65 was built right through here in the 1960s, bifurcating the old alignment. And then the construction of a subdivision removed its northern tip.

LRmap3_2016
Imagery and map data ©2016 Google.

As you enter it northbound from the south, at first this alignment is paved in asphalt. But if you follow it back a little ways, you find this short strip of concrete. This is a southbound shot.

Concrete alignment

Another bypassed segment of the road lies a couple miles north of here, at Whitestown Parkway. I did some research in historic aerial imagery and maps, and discovered that this segment was bypassed as early as 1939.

Imagery and map data ©2016 Google.

The short section south of Whitestown Parkway is abandoned. The concrete we found up to now looked to be 16 feet wide, but this seemed to be wider — 18 feet probably. This is a southbound photo.

Abandoned alignment

Walking in a ways, we found what looked like the foundation of a building lying across the road. My research led me to a 1961 aerial image (that I’m not showing here because it is overlaid with copyright watermarks) that shows a small building with a pitched roof right here. What could it have been?

Abandoned alignment

Walking in farther, we could see the end of the line. A creek lies beyond that pile of brush, the bridge that once spanned it long gone.

Abandoned alignment

North of Whitestown Parkway, this road is still driveable. It’s signed as Cozy Ln. here.

Cozy Lane

The Lafayette Road originally passed right through Lebanon. But by 1951, when this road had been US 52 for almost a quarter century, a bypass was built around town. It was two lanes wide at first, but by the early 1960s it had been widened to four lanes. And then as I-65 was built here shortly afterward, it was routed along this bypass. But north of Lebanon, I-65 takes a more northerly route than US 52, and the two roads diverge there. It left a short segment of that bypass behind. It’s been abandoned ever since.

LRmap5
Imagery and map data ©2016 Google.

Here’s what it looks like on the ground. It appears to be used for access to some sort of business, which you can see in the background. The lane on the left is the original Lafayette Road alignment.

Abandoned four-lane highway

Here you can see where the old southbound lanes line up with current US 52, which from here to the north mostly follows the Lafayette Road the rest of the way to Lafayette.

Abandoned four-lane highway

One last old alignment, about two miles north of State Road 47.  It’s hard to see on this aerial image, but it lies on the east side of the current road.

LRmap6
Imagery and map data ©2016 Google.

This old alignment led to a bridge that no longer exists. South of Sugar Creek, the road looks to be in bad shape, perhaps even reverted to gravel. But north of the creek, it’s still paved because it serves one property. This shot is southbound.

Abandoned alignment

This shot is northbound. It’s just a short little segment.

Abandoned alignment

What’s interesting is that this road might not actually be the original Lafayette Road alignment here at all. My old maps show the road going through Thorntown, which is about three miles southwest of here. They suggest that the blue route below was the Lafayette Road’s original path! The green star shows where this bridge was. It appears that the current alignment of US 52 was built about 1925, and even then, this segment near Sugar Creek wasn’t even paved at first.

LRmap7
Imagery and map data ©2016 Google.

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Road Trips

Old and abandoned alignments of Indiana’s Lafayette Road, part 1

I loves me some old road alignments! Especially when their original pavement remains. And in Marion and Boone Counties, the Lafayette Road really delivers. As I explained last week, the Lafayette Road was built in the 1830s to connect Indianapolis to Lafayette. It was paved in hard surfaces early in the 20th century, and later improvements left old alignments behind. I’ll show you what I found in Marion County (Indianapolis) in this post, and in neighboring Boone County in an upcoming post.

In Marion County, Lafayette Road was paved in concrete in about 1925, and was widened to four lanes in about 1935. In the process, a couple curves in the road were smoothed out, leaving behind a couple stretches of glorious concrete. The first is north of 38th St. and just south of Pike Plaza Rd./Georgetown Rd. It fronts a little strip mall. It’s circled on the map below.

LRmap1_2016
Imagery and map data ©2016 Google.

You’ll appreciate this little road snippet even more when you see this aerial image from 1956 that shows its entire original path. Hard to believe this is the same place, isn’t it? This part of town started shifting from rural to suburban in about 1970. In the early 1990s it exploded into a major shopping destination.

LRmap1_1956
Courtesy MapIndy, http://maps.indy.gov/MapIndy/

Here’s the old road in its narrow glory. I didn’t measure it, but I bet it’s only 16 feet wide, which was a typical road width in those days. This is a hodgepodge of concrete, actually. The first 15 feet or so contains expansion joints, which means it was probably poured at some time after the original 1925 concrete, which lacks expansion joints. It was in the mid-1920s that road builders started using expansion joints, and shortly nobody was laying down concrete roads without them.

Abandoned Lafayette Road

Here’s some of the 1925 concrete, with the cracking characteristic of a road with no expansion joints. I’ve known about this strip of concrete for at least 20 years, but didn’t know what it was until my inner roadgeek awakened several years ago. I just thought it was a curious place for the strip-mall developer to place a strip of concrete.

Abandoned Lafayette Road

Strangely, at some point someone replaced the tail end of this strip with fresh concrete.

Abandoned Lafayette Road

Shortly past all the shopping, just beyond 56th St., Lafayette Road crosses over I-65 and I-465 and the scenery changes to rural. An occasional subdivision meets the old highway, but otherwise this is how the route looks. This is one of the least-developed areas in the city. There’s very little traffic on Lafayette Road out here; you can get an empty-highway photo here anytime.

Lafayette Road

Just north of 86th St., a road veers off to the right. It’s another old alignment.

Concrete alignment

Here’s how it looks in the air today, versus how it looked in 1956. A subdivision built about 20 years ago truncated this loop.

LRmap2
Left: Imagery and map data ©2016 Google. Right: Courtesy MapIndy, http://maps.indy.gov/MapIndy/

When you drive up on it, you see it’s paved in that glorious 1925 concrete. I shared this road segment last year in this post.

Concrete alignment

That’s it for Marion County. On Wednesday, we’ll look at the old alignments — one abandoned — in Boone County.

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