Road Trips

1928 photo of the US 40 bridge over Deer Creek in Putnam County, Indiana

Courtesy, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana

Someone posted this image to the National Road group on Facebook and it immediately excited me, because I recognized the scene instantly. This is the 1925 bridge that carries US 40 over Deer Creek just east of Putnamville, Indiana.

This photo is from Frank M. Hohenberger Photograph Collection. Hohenberger lived most of his life in Nashville, Indiana, and made a lot of photographs of his town and the beautiful county that surrounded it. But he also traveled with his camera, including this stop near this newly built bridge in Putnam County. He made this photo in 1928.

Indiana University has placed Hohenberger’s photographs online; see the original of this photo here.

I’ve visited this bridge myself, many times. The scene looks considerably different today. US 40 was rebuilt nearby on a new four-lane alignment between 1939 and 1941. The bridge and concrete road remain, serving a few properties here. Here are some photos I made on a 2009 visit. This first photo is eastbound, as is Hohenberger’s photo.

Old US 40

I leaned way over the side of this bridge to see its arches. I don’t remember for certain, but this might be the north side of the bridge.

Former NR/US 40 alignment

Westbound from the west end of the bridge, here’s the curve in the road you see in the Hohenberger image above. This is the original 1925 concrete.

Former NR/US 40 alignment

Since Hohenberger made his photo here, trees have grown to dominate the scene.

Former NR/US 40 alignment

This 1925 alignment replaced an earlier alignment and bridge. I’ll bet that in Hohenberger’s time you could see the old roadbed clearly. It lay just to the south of this alignment and bridge. Today you can make out the old roadbed when the leaves are off the trees. Here’s a photo I made of it in 2011. I wrote more about this old alignment here.

National Road path

The bridge that used to cross Deer Creek on this alignment still exists and is in use. It was floated upstream and placed on nearby County Road 25. It was built in 1891. I made this photo of it in 2010. I wrote a little more about this bridge here.

Cooper Iron Bridge

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Road Trips

US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in Bainbridge, Indiana

Let’s return to my 2007 road trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.

It’s hard now to imagine why it was necessary to move US 36 one block to the north in Bainbridge. But that’s just what was done in this small Putnam County town.

Imagery ©2020 Indiana Map Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2020 Google.

This bypass begins just a half mile west of the old alignment I shared last time, the one with the covered bridge over Big Walnut Creek. Here’s where the old and new alignments split.

Old US 36

The terrain rolls a little bit in this part of Indiana, and US 36 hugs it pretty good. This eastbound photo shows it from the beginning of the Bainbridge segment.

US 36

I passed a number of older houses set close to the road, and then I came to downtown Bainbridge, all two blocks of it. Its old buildings are left from when this town was probably quite vital. I suspect that the big building at right, at the corner of Main and Washington Streets, was once a hotel. An old-style bank with its door facing the corner was behind me.

Bainbridge, IN

As quickly as I entered Bainbridge, I left it. Here’s how Main St. flows into US 36 westbound.

Old US 36 to US 36

Here’s the eastbound approach to Bainbridge.

US 36 and Old US 36

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Road Trips

Old US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway over Big Walnut Creek in Putnam County, Indiana

Let’s return now to my 2007 trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.

Shortly after from Hendricks County into Putnam County is tiny Groveland, with a gas station, a couple houses, and a few decrepit buildings. Immediately west of Groveland, US 36 curves to the north a bit, and a narrow road splits from it following the straight path.

Old US 36 and US 36

It leads to a long old alignment that crosses Big Walnut Creek, as this map snippet shows.

Imagery ©2020 Indiana Map Framework Data, Landsat/Copernicus, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2020 Google.

This is a winding rural road, and it’s a lovely drive.

Old US 36

The terrain through here has some challenging spots, and this alignment’s winding path is typical of the days when roads were built around challenging terrain, rather than through it. My old maps show that this road was US 36 through at least 1932 — and that it was a gravel road all that time!

Old US 36

Soon this alignment became heavily wooded.

Old US 36

I came upon a covered bridge over Big Walnut Creek. J. J. Daniels built a lot of covered bridges in Putnam and Parke Counties. This is a Burr arch truss bridge – if you squint a little at the photo below, you can see the arch bracing the trusses along the bridge’s inside wall.

Old US 36

Here’s the bridge’s west end, which I share just because I really like how this photo turned out.

Old US 36

Just past the bridge I came across a big, old, smoke-belching RV blocking the road along here. Some fellows were standing on it, cutting branches out of a tree in their front yard. I only sat there for a minute before they moved the RV back far enough for me to drive around, but the smell of that smoke stayed in my nose the rest of this segment. Its end looks like this.

Old US 36

In the driveway of the house across the road was a grand old automobile. Do you see it? It looks to be from the late 1930s. I couldn’t tell what kind it was; if you know, leave a comment!

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Rising Hall

Rising Hall
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2009

On the National Road in Indiana, in Hendricks County right at the Putnam County line, you’ll find this 1872 home known as Rising Hall. It’s named after what staircases were sometimes called — this home has five staircases.

It was in sorry condition in the 1980s when Walt and June Prosser bought it and began its restoration. They completed it in the early 1990s and frequently invited the public in to tour it. You can watch a short documentary about the restoration here.

Walt Prosser died in 2010, aged 86. I haven’t found an obituary for his wife, June, so perhaps she still lives in Rising Hall.

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Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: Rising Hall

A view of Rising Hall, an 1872 home on Indiana’s National Road.

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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.

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Road Trips

Old US 40/National Road alignment in Putnam County, Indiana

Let’s return to my 2006 road trip along US 40 and the National Road in western Indiana. The first old alignment as you head west from Indianapolis doesn’t come until you reach Putnam County. You’ll find it about a mile and a half west of US 231. If you reach Putnamville, you’ve missed it.

But first, a curiosity. Just before you reach this old alignment, you’ll find this odd strip of concrete by the side of the road. There’s another on the other side of the road. They used to be part of a truck weigh station. Today, posted signs warn drivers t stay off them.

Pull-off strip

The Historic National Road sign in the photo above points the way to this old alignment. It’s a little confusing to find if you’re following the road signs. On this 2006 image from Windows Live Maps, it’s marked as E CR 550 S. If you check Google Maps today, it’s marked as W CR 570 S. But the sign on the corner reads 35 E. And the sign where this alignment returns to US 40 says 25 W.

Many Indiana counties mark their roads based on distance from a centerline. A road marked N 200 W runs east-west 2 miles west of the east-west centerline, and north of the north-south centerline. A road marked E 500 S runs north-south 5 miles south of the north-south centerline, and east of the east-west centerline. This makes it easy for police, fire, and ambulance to find a location in an emergency. Old highway alignments like this one sometimes challenge this system a little.

Here’s where old US 40 branches off from the current highway on its east end.

Old US 40 alignment

Shortly after entering this old alignment, you cross Deer Creek over this bridge. It was built in 1925, before the US highway system. A state highway system existed; this was State Road 3. The bridge was peaceful. We felt like we were in the middle of nowhere — even though US 40 was 100 yards to our south, all we heard were the birds and the breeze. While the road was clearly maintained and used, we encountered no traffic while we explored it. We walked the bridge’s length and lingered here for a while.

Old US 40 alignment

On this 2006 road trip I shot film, and had to choose my subjects carefully so I wouldn’t run out of film before I finshed my trip. When I returned in 2009 I photographed this area more extensively with my new digital camera. Here’s a close-up of the bridge railing. This bridge’s deck is only 20 feet wide, very narrow by modern standards.

Old US 40

Before this bridge was built, an iron truss bridge carried National Road traffic across Deer Creek. I told its story here. This 1891 bridge still had lots of life in it, so it was floated along the stream and installed around the corner on S CR 25 E. Here’s a photo of it from 2010. That’s my road-trip friend Dawn getting ready to walk onto the deck.

Cooper Iron Bridge

I had heard that the old bridge crossed Deer Creek lay south of the 1925 bridge. On a December day in 2011 I happened to be driving US 40 back from Terre Haute and decided to follow this old alignment to see whether I could find evidence of the old bridge crossing. It’s always easier to find old road evidence when the leaves are off the trees. Glory be, I found it: the approach from the west, and the old stone abutment. I wrote about this in more detail here.

National Road path

Back to my 2009 photos. This old alignment is covered in asphalt east of the bridge, but west of the bridge the asphalt ends and the original 1920s concrete pavement emerges.

Former NR/US 40 alignment

Notice the expansion joints in this concrete: the one that runs down the center, and the lateral joints every so many feet. Expansion joints were a new idea in Indiana highway construction at about this time. Earlier concrete highways were just a continuous ribbon of concrete, and therefore cracked considerably as the concrete warmed in the summer and froze in the winter.

Former NR/US 40 alignment

And finally, back to my only other 2006 photo of this alignment, as it ends. The turnoff to US 40 was added when the new road was built in about 1941. The old concrete highway was truncated here.

Old US 40 alignment

Old alignments like this one are left behind largely to serve houses and businesses that remain when a new road is built nearby. These old alignments get little maintenance due to getting little traffic. That’s allowed this old concrete to look this fresh since being left behind.

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.

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