You’ll find brick streets still in daily use in some cities. But you won’t find any brick highways still in daily use.
I’ve not surveyed every highway in the nation. But I feel good about going out on that limb.
When you find a brick highway, it will be bypassed or abandoned.
This brick road near New Ross, Indiana, used to be part of the Dixie Highway. That was a network of roads that connected Chicago and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, with Miami. Later, Indiana routed State Road 34 over this road. At some point, probably after a new alignment of this road was built south of those railroad tracks in the upper left corner of the photo, the road became US 136.
In the photo’s foreground, notice the seam where the bricks’ pattern changes. That’s to facilitate a hard turn the road makes here so it can cross those railroad tracks at a right angle.
Eliminating this crossing is why the new highway was built. Providing access to one farm — see the fence on the right? — is why this road wasn’t abandoned.
A bridge was removed from this alignment, however. That’s why a guardrail blocks the road ahead.
See more photos of this brick road here. Map this brick road here.
Brick Route 66 in Illinois Canon PowerShot S95 2013
When you follow Route 66 west in Illinois, when you reach Springfield you have to decide which of two alignments to follow to St. Louis. The newer one hugs I-55 — or, more accurately, I-55 hugs Route 66, as 66 came first. The older alignment is a little farther west, generally following what is now State Route 4.
That old road was routed around farm boundaries, creating a number of sharp turns. Over the years, the state rebuilt sections of that road to make it straighter and smoother. The old sections of the road were left behind so farmers on the road could still reach their properties.
Sometimes, the original pavement remains. This is one of those times. Thanks to a restoration, this is brick in wonderful condition. This is the typical Illinois brick highway, with bricks fitted inside a wide-U-shaped concrete pad. I wrote about how these roads were built here, with diagrams from old Illinois Department of Highways documents and photographs of one of these roads under construction.
I made this photo at the north/east end of this 1.4-mile segment, facing toward Chicago as the road goes. The road used to curve left here to flow into the current alignment of State Route 4.
This is a truly gorgeous segment of old brick road, and gives the best feel I’ve ever encountered for what these roads were like when they were new. If you’d like to visit, you can find it on the map here.
State Road 39 parallels this brick road on the west side of Martinsville, Indiana. For reasons I’ve never been able to uncover, when this segment of SR 39 was rebuilt (including a new bridge across the White River), the old brick road was left behind.
500 feet of this brick road is still in use to provide access to the Morgan County Jail. You can see a tiny bit of the last entrance to the jail’s parking lot in the middle right of the photo. The bricks beyond are left for nature to reclaim.
Let’s finish my 2007 road trip along Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway from Indianapolis to Bloomington.
The last segment of Old State Road 37 I encountered on this trip begins 500 yards south of the Hacker Creek segment but lasts for 15 miles, going all the way to Bloomington. If you blink, you’ll miss the entrance.
This is such a lovely, winding drive. I recommend it highly. SR 37 has been upgraded to Interstate standards and is now I-69, which means you can no longer turn off the highway directly onto this road. As I write this, I hear that the northern part of this segment is closed. But the plans I’ve seen for I-69 say that when construction is done, this will flow into a frontage road. To reach it, you should be able to get off I-69 a little north of here at Liberty Church Road, drive east to Hacker Creek Road, and turn south onto the frontage road.
In 2007, I couldn’t find a safe way to photograph the beginning of this alignment so I drove in and photographed it facing northbound.
This stretch was recently paved, with highway striping down the middle but no striping on the edges. This segment quickly became wooded and shaded. The road curved, rose, and fell gently through the woods. The steepest hill I encountered made my car strain a little bit in fifth gear, but otherwise the drive was easy and pleasant. I felt like I was way out in the country, and since there was very little traffic I felt alone with the road. My windows were all down, the sun was warm, and the air was cool. I slowed down and enjoyed a perfect Sunday drive. I imagined people driving this stretch when it was still the state highway. I wondered if the trees were as thick then, and if a drive down this road was just as much a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
When I stopped to take this northbound photo, a fellow in a truck stopped to ask if I needed any help. I just said “Thank you, no;” how could I explain what I was doing?
1.8 miles into this segment, a sign announced, “End County Maintenance.” The fresh pavement and the gravel edge ended, but the older surface was in pretty good shape overall, with occasional rumbly patches. Striping even ended for a while, and then stopped and started the rest of the way to Bloomington. Down the road, a short segment was freshly paved again. At about 9.5 miles, I entered a clearing gorgeous with a ridge of trees, and widely spaced houses began to appear.
Current SR 37 is famous for the limestone and siltstone visible along the roadside, souvenirs of where road builders cut through the terrain. I remember being impressed by it the first time I traveled SR 37 in 1983. Old SR 37, of course, lacks these dramatic displays because it follows the terrain. At just past 10 miles down this segment, I did find one short stretch where rock was visible in the hill on the west side of the road. This photo shows that stretch northbound. It also shows the condition of the pavement beyond the “End County Maintenance” sign.
Shortly south of here, two old alignments of SR 37 intersect, as the map shows. I guess this makes the road I was on “Old Old State Road 37.”
I drove through the intersection heading southbound to take this northbound photo. The lady driving the car signaling left stopped to ask me if I needed help. Maybe the folks around Bloomington are just especially helpful.
Sadly, this is where my camera’s battery died. I had hoped to photograph the road all the way into downtown Bloomington, ending on the town square. Here, the original alignment of SR 37 intersects with a later alignment of SR 37, one that was bypassed again some years later.
As the last bit of this segment of the original SR 37 alignment entered Bloomington, the road surface switched from asphalt to concrete. The speed limit dropped to 20 miles per hour as it passed a park loaded with people. The road is signed College Ave., but it turned to the left and intersected with College Ave. where it merges with Walnut St. on Bloomington’s north side.
If you turn left onto Walnut St. you are on the newer old alignment of SR 37. It’s more modern than the older segment, with smooth pavement and passing lanes where the hill is steep. A few miles north of here, it goes over a little iron truss bridge and merges into current SR 37 northbound.
I drove current State Road 37 home. It’s a pretty drive, especially through Monroe and Morgan Counties, with the limestone and siltstone, and the grand ridges of trees, calling for your attention as you go. But it lacks the intimacy and the peace of the old road.
Old State Road 46 Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor Fujifilm Fujicolor 200 2013
State Road 46 stretches across Indiana from Terre Haute to almost Ohio, east to west across south-central Indiana.
At one time, SR 46 extended through Terre Haute all the way to the Illinois state line. It ran through Terre Haute along a series of what are now city streets.
The road was truncated to Terre Haute’s eastern edge long before Interstate 70 was built through the south side of town. That new highway cut across State Road 46’s original path just south of town, slicing the old highway in two.
A little segment of old State Road 46 north of I-70 is this brick road, left intact even though it goes nowhere because it serves two businesses. This photo faces north. To follow old 46, veer left at the first stop sign. Then at the second stop sign, take a slight right to where the red car is in the photo.
The Lincoln Highway was the nation’s first coast-to-coast highway, cobbled together out of local roads across 14 states. It begins in New York City and ends in San Francisco. It passes through northern Indiana along the way.
In northeastern Indiana, for the most part the Lincoln Highway became US 33. A few old alignments lurk here and there. Only one of them that I know of is paved in brick. You’ll find it just south of Ligonier. If you’re curious, you can see it mapped here.
This is a short segment of road, about two tenths of a mile. It was left behind when US 33 was realigned here to eliminate a fairly sharp curve. That’s what makes this segment so interesting. To make this road curve, the roadbuilders had to change the bricks’ pattern.
I’ve seen gently curving brick roads where the pattern remains consistent. I assume the space between the bricks increases slightly along the radius of the curve. But on a sharp curve, there’s little to do but create a joint like this.