Road Trips

Old US 31 in Westfield and Carmel, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

US 31 followed its original path for the next 26 miles to Westfield, which it then bypassed. When you look at Westfield on a map it looks small, its downtown just a short strip along State Road 32, with some cul-de-sac neighborhoods extending north and south from there. But Westfield is a sparse, sprawling suburb of about eight square miles, a place to have a home while you work elsewhere. Still, it adopted a city-style government the first of 2008 and is now officially considered a city in Indiana. But without nearby Indianapolis, it would only be a little town in the country.

Because of its growth, US 31 bypasses downtown Westfield, but the city swallowed the bypass some time ago. This map shows the northern two-thirds of the route.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Here’s where we turned onto old US 31. There is a long stub of old US 31 between the top of this curve and current US 31, too.

US 31 at Old US 31

This photo shows old US 31 southbound as it heads toward Westfield.

Old US 31

The old town of Westfield is a nicely-kept typical Indiana town. This northbound photo is of old US 31 a block or so before Main St.

Westfield, IN, on US 31

This bank building is on the northeast corner of downtown Westfield. It’s an antique shop, and as far as I could tell the most prominent business on this corner.

Westfield, IN, on US 31

Here’s the southbound road leaving downtown.

Westfield, IN, on US 31

This map shows how US 31 curves back to the road’s original path.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Here’s where old US 31 curves to end at current US 31, for completism’s sake.

Old US 31 at US 31

Not that long ago, Westfield and Carmel were separated by a couple miles of Hamilton County farmland. Today, Westfield ends, and Carmel begins, at 146th St., where US 31 swings west, State Road 431 begins and swings east, and Rangeline Road goes straight south, perfectly in the direction of US 31 before this intersection. I vaguely remember being able to turn on and off 146th St here years ago, but the last time they rebuilt this intersection they made 146th St. an overpass. You can get to it from US 31 using Greyhound Pass. This map shows how it works. Before current US 31 and Keystone Parkway (labeled 431 on the map) were built, US 31 went straight south on Rangeline Road. (This ramp system was heavily revised in the early 2010s.)

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Unfortunately, Brian and I didn’t know that when we made this trip. Rangeline Road goes through downtown Carmel and enters Indianapolis as Westfield Road. It goes through the Broad Ripple neighborhood as Westfield Boulevard, and connects with Indianapolis’s Meridian Street just south of the Central Canal. US 31 then followed Meridian Street to downtown Indianapolis. Here’s Rangeline Road northbound toward US 31.

Old US 31 (Rangeline Road) NB

Here’s a closer look showing that Rangeline Road is not through. To get to US 31, you curve left and turn right. (You did in 2007, anyway. Today, you can’t get onto US 31 here. There’s a roundabout here, and an overpass that carries US 31 over a connector road about where the Jeep is, to a shopping center on the other side.)

Old US 31 (Rangeline Road) NB

Instead, Brian and I followed the first alignment of US 31 after the Rangeline/Westfield alignment in Carmel, which is Old Meridian Street. It’s the road that runs diagonally south and east of US 31 on this map.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

This northbound photo is of the narrow stub in the upper right corner of the map. This narrow road hasn’t been highway for a very long time.

Old Meridian St. (Old US 31)

Brian and I had tried for months to make this trip happen. If we had done it earlier in the year, we would have missed all of the construction on Old Meridian Street, and would have had a record of this road as two lanes. By the time we could take this trip, the road was being widened to four lanes and roundabouts were being installed at three of its intersections. This photo shows the roundabout under construction near St. Vincent Hospital.

Old Meridian St. (Old US 31)

Upscale shops and restaurants are being built with high-end condos above. The lighter gray pavement is the original Old Meridian St., still striped for two-way traffic.

Old Meridian St. (Old US 31)

Another roundabout was being built at Pennsylvania Ave. All this construction is finished as I write this.

Old Meridian St. (Old US 31)

Shortly Old Meridian Street ended at US 31 and we turned left onto the current highway. (You can’t do this anymore; Old Meridian Street dead ends here southbound. A ramp from US 31 allows northbound drivers to reach Old Meridian Street, however.) Our map labeled a short road at 116th St. as Old Meridian St. We went to look, but it was part of a parking lot. We wondered if an older iteration of this road had not been such a straight shot, and this was where the old road had gone before the parking lot was paved. Brian, who had caught the old-alignment bug in a bad way, searched around the woods south of the parking lot for signs of the old road, but found nothing.

Next: Old US 31 in Indianapolis.

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Road Trips

Old US 31 in Kokomo, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

Kokomo, a boom town in the late 1800s when natural gas was discovered here, is nine miles south of Grissom Air Reserve Base (which we explored last time). I am told that before US 31 bypassed Kokomo, driving through Kokomo was a pain because of all the traffic downtown. A bypass was built east of town to ease congestion, but businesses just moved to it, and today the bypass is a pain, a highway of a thousand stoplights. Driving through downtown Kokomo isn’t so bad anymore, though – but there’s little to see. Here’s where US 31 veers off to bypass Kokomo. Old US 31 follows the route to downtown.

The famous Kokomo split - US 31 in Indiana

This map shows how US 31 veers east to bypass town, while old US 31 swings west on its way downtown as Washington St. Brian had his nose in the 1924 Automobile Blue Book, which said to turn right on Morgan St. and then right onto Washington St. We guessed that this meant that in 1924 Washington Street didn’t extend this far north, and that drivers entered Kokomo from the north on Apperson Way. That’s the skinny road that extends straight south where Washington St. starts to swing southwest. I imagine that this was State Road 1’s route, and depending upon when the curved section of Washington St. was built, an early alignment of US 31, too. We drove Apperson to Morgan to Washington; it was unremarkable.

Windows Live Maps, 2007
Windows Live Maps, 2007

Just south of North Street, we came upon this grand building of the St. Patrick Catholic Church, completed in 1911.

St. Patrick Catholic Church - Old US 31

The Masonic temple, completed in 1891, stood on the southeast corner of Taylor St.

Masonic temple - Old US 31

The Grace United Methodist Church, completed in 1896, stood on the southeast corner of Mulberry St.

Grace UMC - Old US 31

The most interesting thing we saw in Kokomo was this building on the southeast corner of Walnut St.

Former Fire Dept. building - Old US 31

We couldn’t figure out what it was — I have since learned it was once the City Hall — but one section of it was prominently labeled “Fire Department.”

Former Fire Dept. building - Old US 31

This is the building from the southwest.

Former Fire Dept. building - Old US 31

Three blocks south of this building, Washington St. crossed a river and neighborhoods lined the road. We followed it to where it curved to intersect with US 31.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Here’s a photo of the two roads look like coming together, southbound. It’s a little hard to see US 31 merging in, but There wasn’t a safe place to get in close. US 31 curves in from the left, underneath the billboard at left in the photo. Beyond the stoplight, Washington St. becomes a ramp that empties onto US 31, which by that time has curved into the path of Washington St.

Old US 31 at Alto Road

The 1924 ABB had drivers turn east onto Hoffer St. and then south “with the trolley,” which was probably Lafountain St., which led them all the way to Westfield. My 1916 ABB gives even more confusing directions, having the driver meander all over northern Miami County before entering Kokomo on old US 35 (David Rd. on the first map above) and exiting with a series of turns back and forth along that trolley line. Today, the toughest thing about driving to and from Kokomo is being patient with the thick traffic and all the lights on US 31.

The US 31 Kokomo Freeway opened in November of 2013, bypassing the bypass of Kokomo. The earlier bypass became State Road 931.

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Road Trips

US 31 from Peru to Kokomo, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

Between Peru and Indianapolis, US 31 follows its original route except to bypass Kokomo, Westfield, and Carmel. So we would be seeing a lot of the big slab for the rest of our trip.

We reviewed the 1916 Automobile Blue Book, a road guide with turn-by-turn directions between various cities and towns. and saw that it directed drivers through the towns of Bunker Hill and Miami. Those towns lie a mile or so east of US 31. The ABB directed drivers down what it considered the best route, which did not always coincide with the marked trails or signed highways.

As we drove, from time to time we saw a frontage road on the east side of US 31. This was almost always Old US 31 — the four-lane highway was built alongside the old road. These were always short segments that provided access to properties along the highway. We sometimes drove for miles without seeing one of these fragments. I forget where we photographed this one, but it is typical of them all.

Old US 31 alignment

Along the way, we passed Grissom Air Reserve Base. For at least 40 years now, they’ve kept a collection of historic military aircraft and some of it is visible from US 31 as you drive past. They’re part of the Grissom Air Reserve Base air museum. I’ve driven by here hundreds of times, almost always on the weekends when I assumed the museum was closed. Brian, who has a pilot’s license and enjoys all things airborne, told me that the museum is open weekends. So we stopped. Here’s a view of the museum from the air.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Even though museum admission was inexpensive, our time was short, so we took photos from the fence. I can easily identify cars, but not planes, so I offer these photos from the museum without comment.

At Grissom Air Reserve Base
At Grissom Air Reserve Base
At Grissom Air Reserve Base
At Grissom Air Reserve Base
At Grissom Air Reserve Base

About nine miles south of Grissom is where US 31 and Old US 31 split. I’ll share photos from US 31’s original alignment through Kokomo next time.

The famous Kokomo split - US 31 in Indiana

Note: This is how the road looked in 2007. A new alignment of US 31 was built to the east of here, making this Old US 31 and Old Old US 31. Current US 31 merges with this alignment just a little bit north of where I stood to take this southbound photograph. The overhead sign is gone.

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Road Trips

Old US 31 in Peru, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

Peru was next, just a couple miles down the road from Mexico. Some pronounce it PEE-rue and old maps sometimes spell it Perue, but I understand most locals agree it’s spelled and pronounced like the South American country. Built on the Wabash River, with a railroad and US 24’s original route running east-west through it, Peru is wider than it is tall, as this map shows.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Just outside this map to the north is US 24, so Peru has been bypassed by two US highways. Business US 31 enters from the north on Broadway St., then turns west onto Main St. (Business US 24), and then crosses the Wabash on the little yellow-highlighted road in the lower left corner of the map.

The first thing we encountered on old US 31 in Peru was the Mr. Weenie restaurant. The sign struck me funny, so I stopped for a photo.

Mr. Weenie

When we reached the edge of downtown at 6th St., we found old US 31 closed. We parked to find out why.

Peru, Indiana

As we neared the Miami County courthouse, we could see that a classic car show was being held in front of it. Wow!

Miami County Courthouse

I love old cars! Brian indulged me as I walked among them and photographed them. I shared the car photos in this post.

Car show

I had been through Peru once before and I remember seeing US 31 and US 24 shields guiding the way through town. I suppose I was too intoxicated by the vintage iron to look for them that day. Because of the car show we couldn’t drive Business US 31 to Business US 24 anyway, so we took a side street. At any rate, Business US 31 turns right onto Business US 24 and stays there for several blocks. The two split again on the west side of town, where Business US 31 heads south. Here’s a northbound photo from Business US 31 of the intersection.

Old US 31

The road led directly to a triple-span steel truss bridge crossing the Wabash River.

Old US 31

This map shows this portion of Old US 31 and this bridge.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

The sun shone brilliantly through the bridge’s beams and trusses.

Old US 31

This unusual Business US 31 shield awaited on the guardrail after we crossed the bridge.

Business 31 shield

Brian, whose curiosity about old alignments was growing, wondered where the previous bridge might have been, and went off to search for clues. Unfortunately, he found very little, but his sleuthing gave me time to take more photos of the bridge, this time northbound.

Old US 31 NB

When I first published this article on my original Roads site, the Miami County Engineer found it and sent me some scans of documents from when this bridge was built, which was in 1939. This excerpt shows the location of the previous bridge. If you scroll up to the previous map excerpt, the old road ran along the line of trees just west of the 1939 bridge. The old road north of the Wabash River is Kelly Street.

He also sent this excerpt from the documentation that shows a drawing of the previous bridge. It, too, had three spans, but they were Pratt trusses rather than the current bridge’s Parker trusses. It looks like it also had a wood floor!

The Miami County Engineer also sent me an excerpt from this 1935 map showing Old US 31’s original alignment south of the bridge. It followed what is now Airport Road as it curves to become Plothow Road. It’s not clear to me when the newer alignment was built.

Here’s where the later alignment ends at current US 31.

Old US 31

From here, US 31 follows its original corridor all the way to Kokomo. Somewhat reluctantly, we returned to the big slab. But we’d see a few snippets of an older US 31 roadway immediately to the east of the four lane highway.

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Road Trips

Michigan Road historic marker in Boone County, Indiana

Not long ago I shared photos of the new historic marker on the Michigan Road at Sycamore Row. It’s one of several historic markers along the 270-mile route built in the 1830s.

One marker is not far from my home in Boone County. Placed in 1966, it tells the road’s story in thumbnail.

Michigan Road marker

This marker received a restoration since I first photographed it in 2008. The Indiana Historical Bureau, which manages these markers statewide, seeks volunteers to repaint faded markers. This one found its volunteer somewhere along the way.

Historical marker

This marker stands on the west side of the road, at Valley Meadow Road, which is north of E CR 550 S and south of E CR 500 S in Boone County.

Michigan Road marker

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Road Trips

Old US 31 in southern Fulton and northern Miami Counties in Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

We crossed current US 31 south of Rochester.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

As soon as we did, the road’s demeanor changed. Where we had seen shoulders, the road now lacked them. Where the pavement had been dark and in recent repair, we now saw the silvery gray of old asphalt. Where the road had been striped, only faint striping now occasionally appeared. The road seemed narrower. If it weren’t for the Old US 31 signs at every crossroad, we might have thought we’d taken a wrong turn.

Old US 31, Fulton County, IN

We passed a few houses right away, but after that it was just Brian, me, the corn, and the soybeans. My 1916 Automobile Blue Book said we’d come upon a place called Green Oak, where the road would be “rather sandy in spots.” While the map below shows two spots where Green Oak might have been, there was no evidence of it along the road. As the map suggests, there wasn’t much evidence of anything along the road.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

After six miles, we again approached US 31. This sign, with its fading letters, greeted us, an artifact of this road’s heyday. A similar, but newer and brighter, sign stood several feet east of us on US 31.

Old sign on Old US 31

Across E 650 S, and then across US 31, old US 31 continues. Current US 31 is the county line. I stood in Fulton County to make this photo, but old US 31 is in Miami County.

Looking across to Old US 31

This map shows this intersection.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

This was the most excitement we would have for another 6½ miles. Except for itty bitty Perrysburg, for which we did not stop, this road was as empty as it had been for the past six miles, shoulderless and unstriped. Here’s what it looks like facing northbound.

Old US 31 NB

After about 5½ miles, old US 31 pulled up alongside current US 31. And then a half-mile later, there was a dead-end sign and we could see old US 31 fade off into nothing.

End of Old US 31

Brian asked the owner of the last house on the road if we could walk out along the road. She said her property ended where the fence did, and we were welcome to go out that far. We went for a closer look. If it is possible, the road seemed even narrower as we drew closer to the end. I squatted for this shot, which shows the condition of this asphalt, ignored for probably 30 years.

End of Old US 31

Here’s what the end looks like from the air. We turned around and drove to the US 31 access road, and then headed south on the big slab.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Next: Old US 31 and Original State Road 1 in Mexico, Indiana.

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