I’ve been driving and photographing the old roads for long enough now that some of my photographs qualify as “then” images versus what the same places look like now.
On the National Road near Norwich, Ohio, stands Baker’s Motel. When I drove by in 2011, it looked like this, with its interesting sign:
Here’s a closer look at that sign:
Sadly, this sign has been altered. It was damaged in about 2012 according to the Roadside Architecture site. It remained damaged until about 2017, when the top was lopped off and the arrow and letterboard were covered with plastic panels. It looks a little strange, but it does the job.
Sometimes the built environment changes suddenly, sometimes it decays slowly. But it changes, and the only records we have of how it once was, is our photographs. You can’t go back and photograph something after it’s changed — do it now.
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.
I continue to slowly update and refresh all of my road-trip posts, enhancing photos, clarifying text, and adding new details. I’ve now finished doing that for the many posts from my 2011 trip along the National Road in Ohio.
One bridge was built in 1826, the other in 1932. One guess which is which!
Both bridges carry the National Road/US 40 over Wheeling Creek near Blaine in Belmont County, Ohio. It’s just five miles from the Ohio River, the border with West Virginia.
The lower bridge came first. It’s the oldest standing bridge in Ohio, and is the longest of the few remaining S bridges in the state. Notice its “S” curvature? This was done in the name of economy: it’s less expensive to build and maintain a bridge that’s perpendicular to the creek it crosses. They merely curved the approaches to meet the road.
This was just fine in the days of horses and buggies with their slow speeds. As automobiles took over, it became a hazard. Drivers had to slow way down to negotiate the S. Some didn’t slow down in time.
Moreover, west of this bridge lay a very steep hill. It was challenging for cars of the day to climb. I’m sure pedestrians and horses didn’t much enjoy the climb either!
The upper bridge made travel easier on three counts: it eliminated the S, it offered a wider deck (38.1 feet vs. 26.9 feet), and it created a gentler rise to the top of the hill.
I know of four other S bridges on the National Road: one in Pennsylvania (here) and three in Ohio (two here, the third here). That last one was still open to traffic when I visited it in 2011, and I drove over it. By 2013 it, too, was closed (here).
This is one of my favorite road-trip photos. I just love the juxtaposition of the 1828 stone-arch S bridge against the 1933 open-spandrel concrete-arch bridge. Both are engineering and visual marvels in their own ways.
But what I love most about this photo is that my friend Jeff, in his orange shirt, cuts across the scene. He provides such visual interest, injecting orange and blue into an otherwise beige and green scene. He also shows the massive scale of these two bridges.
The newer bridge runs so much higher than the older one because it means to level out what had been a steep hill. The ascent from the end of the older bridge was quite challenging for cars of the day.