Road Trips

The Michigan Road in northwest Shelby County, Indiana

In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report.

A few miles northwest of Shelbyville the Michigan Road crosses I-74. The green line is what I think the original route was. From here, the Michigan Road serves as a frontage road to I-74 for about the next 8½ miles.

This photo shows where the Michigan Road curves to pass over I-74.

Crossing I-74

The Indiana Downs track (as of early 2022, this is now the Horseshoe Indianapolis track and casino) stands at the next I-74 exit. On this map, the green line shows the road’s original route, the blue line shows how the road was rerouted when I-74 was built, and the magenta line shows how the road was rerouted again when Indiana Downs was built.

This is what was left of the I-74 rerouting in July, 2008, northbound from the left turn on the map’s blue line.

Hoosier Downs

This is the original Michigan Road route, southbound, where the magenta line intersects the green line. None of this exists anymore; it’s parking for the horse track now.

Hoosier Downs

Here’s what it’s like to travel right next to I-74.

Michigan (Frontage) Road

At the next I-74 exit, London Road, the road ends. Starting here, I-74 was built on top of the Michigan Road.

To follow the Michigan Road, you have to get on I-74. Being able to go 70 mph didn’t quite make up for losing the original road.

I-74 and the Michigan Road

After less than a mile, however, I-74 curves away and you can see the Michigan Road re-emerge on the right.

Pleasant View

I-74 was built around the tiny town of Pleasant View. There’s almost nothing to Pleasant View, making the routing a bit puzzling – you’d think the government would just have bought the town under eminent domain. But at least a mile or so of the Michigan Road was saved.

The city of Indianapolis’s Web site used to make available an aerial map of Marion County from 1937. The 1937 image set includes just enough of Shelby County to show Pleasant View as it was then.

This southbound shot shows the Michigan Road emerging from the northbound lanes of I-74.

Pleasant View

This old Dodge, circa 1946, sat in the grass between I-74 and the Michigan Road, watching I-74 traffic go by.

Dodge in Pleasant View

I’ve seen aerial photos of the area that show I-74 not yet built in 1956, but complete in 1962, so this northbound shot shows a road bypassed, and probably only minimally maintained, for about 50 years.

Pleasant View

You can exit I-74 into Pleasant View via Walnut St.

Pleasant View

Pleasant View is in the northwest corner of Shelby County, within spitting distance of Marion County. Across the street from the sign above stands the sign below, showing Marion County’s name for the Michigan Road on the county’s south side, Southeastern Ave. It’s interesting how Walnut St. is signed Pleasant View Rd. here, too.

Pleasant View

This is Pleasant View. There are a few houses along the road, too. Just beyond Pleasant View is the Marion county line.

Pleasant View

Next: The Michigan Road in southeastern Marion County (Indianapolis).

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

Road Trips

The Michigan Road in Shelbyville, Indiana

In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report.

The Michigan Road makes a nearly perfect southeast-to-northwest trek through Shelby County, except where it bends out of its way to go through Shelbyville. The blue line on the map below shows how the Michigan Road bends more westerly on its way into Shelbyville, and then more northerly on its way out of Shelbyville, until it reaches its former course and returns to its northwesterly ways. The straight red line shows now neatly the roadbuilders returned the Michigan Road to its course.

This former motel on the edge of Shelbyville is now rented long-term as “sleeping rooms,” which is a way of saying “efficiency apartment that has no kitchen.”

Former motel

The neon sign atop this Dairy Queen identifies it as an old-timer in the chain.

Shelbyville Dairy Queen

That DQ stands just south of where the Michigan Road meets State Road 44 in Shelbyville. Notice how deftly State Road 44 curves in and takes over the Michigan Road’s former glory into town.

Adding insult to injury, a tiny segment of the Michigan Road’s path was reduced to a narrow access road when SR 44 ascended to primacy. The map below shows how the Michigan Road was curved to meet SR 44 squarely, with maybe 75 yards of its original path left behind, although closed at its northwest end.

Here’s the northwest end of that segment. It only gives access to the southwestbound Michigan Road to people leaving the businesses along this curve.

Original Michigan Road path

Here’s the segment facing southbound.

Original Michigan Road path

A few hundred yards east, a short, disconnected strip of road lies tantalizingly just north of SR 44. My old-alignment radar went ping when I saw it. Notice how the map labels it E. Broadway St., which is the name SR 44 takes after it curves to head straight west at the left of the map below.

This is what this two-block segment looks like. A highway that rolls like this would have been smoothed out in a hurry by the modern Indiana Department of Transportation and I suspect even by its predecessor, the Indiana State Highway Commission. This suggests to me that this segment was bypassed a long time ago, and if it was ever a state highway, it wasn’t one for long.

Old alignment?

Broadway St. leads to downtown Shelbyville. The Michigan Road turns right onto Harrison St. on its way to the public square.

When Broadway St. meets Harrison St., the Michigan Road turns north onto Harrison. On the northwest corner stands the Shelbyville Antique Mall, which was Major’s 5 & 10 at one time, but began its life as the Alhambra Theatre.

Alhambra Theatre, Shelbyville

Here’s an image of the theater from a postcard postmarked February 1912. The postcard was sent by the theatre to a patron at 317 Harrison Avenue to promote the 1911 film Zigomar, a French detective story. It cost 5 cents to see the show.

Next to the theater stands Linnes Pastries. It has been in Shelbyville since the mid 1930s, but started in Danville, IL, in 1890.

Linne's Pastries

Sander’s Jewelry and its retro signage are on Harrison St.

Sanders Jewelers

While downtown Shelbyville is certainly not dilapidated, restoration money hasn’t been poured into it as it has down south in Greensburg.

Morrison Building, Shelbyville

Hard telling what condition these buildings are inside, but from the outside it looks like there’s a lot to work with if Shelbyville ever experiences a renaissance and these buildings are restored.

S. Harrison St.

Shelbyville’s is the only square on the Michigan Road that does not feature a courthouse. Rather, it features a parking lot. The Michigan Road enters the square from the left and exits on the right of the photo.

Shelbyville square

In the northeast corner of the square stands the former Blessings Opera House, now a physical therapy practice.

Shelbyville square

This building stands in the northeast quadrant of the square at Harrison St. The leftmost building in the second photo at this link shows what was here at about the turn of the 20th century.  

Shelbyville square

The third photo in this link shows this, the northwest quadrant of the square, at the turn of the 20th century.

Shelbyville square

This narrow building in the square’s northwest corner is my favorite.

Shelbyville square

This is the Methodist Building, completed in 1929.

Shelbyville square

These two postcard images of the public square are from the 1910s. This one is southbound.

What is now parking lot was once used for streetcar rails. This photo  is westbound. Notice that the Methodist Building is missing.

Just north of the square, the Shelby County United Fund inhabits this old house.

Shelby Co. United Fund building

I don’t know anything about this building or its history, but it sure looks well kept.

Old house

This looks to me like a former Red Barn fast-food restaurant. These were pretty big in the 1970s, with 300-400 stores nationwide in at least 19 states, but they were all gone by the mid 1980s.

Former Red Barn

Dig the neon on the Coca-Cola building.

Coca-Cola Bottling Co.

This bridge carries Michigan Road traffic over the Big Blue River.

Bridge over the Big Blue River

The Michigan Road is State Road 9 as it crosses the bridge, but SR 9 veers away from the original route and today briefly takes the Michigan Road with it. As the map suggests, the Michigan Road once crossed the railroad tracks here at a pretty wicked, and therefore dangerous, angle. Also, SR 9 eventually became the major route out of Shelbyville. So it made practical sense to route Michigan Road traffic over the tracks on SR 9 and then branch the Michigan Road off SR 9.

A short remnant of the original route remains between the bridge and the tracks.

Former alignment

The utility poles tell the story: The road used to go through here. If you squint at the center of this photograph, you can see the Michigan Road pick up on the other side.

Former alignment

Here’s where the modern Michigan Road branches from SR 9 north of the railroad tracks.

Looking at State Road 9

It curves and resumes its original route.

Back to the original path

Next: The Michigan Road in northwestern Shelby County.

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

Road Trips

The Michigan Road in southeastern Shelby County, Indiana

In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report.

Shelby County was organized in 1821. Because so many early Shelby County settlers were said to be from Kentucky, the county was named after Kentucky’s first governor, Isaac Shelby, who was a General in the Revolutionary War. Early settlers cut farms and towns out of “an unbroken and almost impenetrable woodland.” It also appears that a road known locally as “The Old State Road,” made as early as 1821, went from the Ohio River at Lawrenceburg to Napoleon, then through Shelby County from southeast to northwest. Given that through human history we’ve preferred to use and improve existing roads rather than build new ones, it seems likely to me that once the Old State Road got to Napoleon, it followed what became the Michigan Road’s route to Shelby County. (It also seems likely that the Old State Road followed Napoleon’s Main St, State Road 229, which becomes State Road 48 just outside of town and leads directly to Lawrenceburg.)

Not quite a mile inside Shelby County on the Michigan Road, just past Middletown, lies a one-lane bridge on a one-lane former alignment of the road. It’s labeled E 425 South on the map.

The bridge on the newer alignment looks like the kind of concrete bridge the state was building between the late 1910s and the 1930s. So I wager that the new alignment was built about the time the state took control of the road in the 1920s to provide a two-lane bridge over this creek. For whatever reason, they decided it was better to realign the road than to widen the old road and build a new bridge. I thank them for that!

Stone bridge, one-lane alignment

Here’s what it looks like to drive over the bridge and along this alignment.

Several homes and at least one farm lie along this short segment.

Stone bridge, one-lane alignment

The rutted pavement over the bridge is heavily patched. It looks to me as though several layers of pavement have raised the bridge’s deck.

Stone bridge, one-lane alignment

Sadly, this bridge collapsed in 2015 and was removed. Read the story here.

This is the road northbound just past the bridge. This is a two-way road, so I suppose that oncoming cars drive slightly off the road to pass each other.

One-lane alignment

A bit north of the one-lane alignment, the Michigan Road meets State Road 244.

South of SR 244 stands St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, its parsonage, its school, and its cemetery. This is the church, which was established in 1836. I didn’t find a cornerstone that dated this building, but the church’s first building was built here in 1839. This was one of the earliest Catholic parishes in Indiana. Until 1846, there were no Catholic churches in Indianapolis, and so the priest from St. Vincent’s traveled to Indianapolis to serve the Catholics there. This page shows a photo of an earlier building here.

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church

This school stands just south of the church.

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School

This appears to be the church’s parsonage.

Parsonage, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church

Behind the church, a cemetery stretches most of the way to I-74.

Cemetery, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church

This building stands just north of SR 244. It appears to be somebody’s home today, but it probably wasn’t built to be a private residence. The plaque above the middle second-floor window says “1909 St. Vincent’s Hall,” which suggests this building was at one time connected with the church. Above the cornice it reads, “Y.M.I. Bauer No. 574,” whatever that means.

Y.M.I Bauer No. 574

The Skyline Drive-In with its one screen stands a bit north of SR 244. (In 2020, my wife and I got a tour of the Skyline; read about it here.)

Skyline Drive-In

Next: The Michigan Road in Shelbyville.

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

Road Trips

The scenery changes

Welcome to Thorntown

I’ve been making road trips since 2006. The photo above is from one of my earliest trips, down State Road 47 and US 41 in western Indiana. What a great day it was! And I was exploring and learning about places I’d never really known before.

Welcome to Thorntown

I’ve seen a lot of Indiana now with my camera in my hand. Where I was once driven by the desire to see new things, increasingly I want to visit places I’ve been before. They’re like old friends, and I want to catch up. So here’s how this same scene in Thorntown looks as of a few weeks ago — much the same, but a little worn.

Stone bridge, Michigan Road

Nature also changes the view. This is the Shepard Bridge, way down in Ripley County on the Michigan Road. This is how I found it in 2008.

Shepard Bridge

In 2018, it’s becoming overgrown. It’s a shame, because unhidden it provides such a lovely view.

Stone bridge, one-lane alignment

Sometimes the man-made elements themselves change — or go away. This is the Middletown Bridge as I found it in 2008. It was on a one-lane alignment of the Michigan Road south of Shelbyville.

Site of the former Middletown Bridge

A section of the bridge collapsed and, after a fight to save it was lost, it was removed. I went to see in 2015 and was greeted with this.

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