Preservation, Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

Grand old houses along Indiana’s National Road

One reason I wanted to bicycle across Indiana was because when I drive it in my car, I whiz by things too fast to notice them. Even when I do notice them, frequently there’s no place to put the car so I can stop and photograph it. A bicycle stows neatly on even the narrowest shoulder.

The National Road is one of Indiana’s oldest roads, originally built in the 1830s. It opened travel into what was then considered the West from the East. As such, people settled on it. A number of homes from the 1800s still stand on the National Road all the way across Indiana. Here are a bunch of them. Each photo is geotagged on Flickr; click the photo to see it there and to access Flickr’s map.

You’ll find this beauty just west of Richmond.

Old house, US 40, west of Richmond

This house is across the street and slightly west of the one above.

Old house, US 40, west of Richmond

This house, a former inn, is on the east side of Centerville.

The Mansion House, Centerville

These two old brick houses are in the same block as the house above.

Centerville
Centerville

This large frame house is on the west edge of Centerville.

Centerville

I found this sturdy brick house in East Germantown, in Wayne County.

Brick house, US 40

This incredible beauty is on the east side of Cambridge City.

Cambridge City

This is the Huddleston Farmhouse, which I toured some years ago and blogged about here and here. Those shutters need some maintenance.

Huddleston Farmhouse

This looks like two adjacent structures to me. They’re commercial businesses now, but I’ll bet they were originally residences. They’re in Dublin.

Dublin, IN

This house is also in Dublin. It looks newer than any of the others I’ve shared so far, late 1800s or even very early 1900s.

Dublin, IN

This old house is at the main crossroads in Lewisville.

Lewisville

You’ll find this house on the original National Road alignment west of Dunreith.

National Road west of Dunreith

I’m no architectural expert but I’ve learned some things over the years that help me date houses. I’m stymied by this one — could be anywhere from 1850 to 1920. It’s in Knightstown.

Knightstown

This beauty is also in Knightstown.

Knightstown

As is this one.

Knightstown

This stylish frame house stands west of Charlottesville in Hancock County. All the times I’ve driven the National Road across Indiana, and I’ve never noticed this house before. Bicycling my way across helped me see it.

Old house, Hancock County

Many interesting old houses face the road in Greenfield, but this one looks the oldest to me.

Greenfield

There’s a dot on the National Road map called Philadelphia, and you’ll find this house there.

Old house, US 40

This grand house in Indianapolis’s Irvington neighborhood has been adapted into a church. It’s not actually right on the National Road, but it’s incredibly visible from it.

Irvington on old US 40

We’re now on the west side Indiana’s National Road, in Plainfield.

Old house, Plainfield

This one is also in Plainfield.

Old house Plainfield IN

This house is west of Plainfield and serves as the main building on a golf course. It’s just east of the abandoned US 40 bridge.

Old house on US 40 W of Plainfield

This is Rising Hall, right on the Hendricks/Putnam County line. I will likely write a longer post about this house alone.

Rising Hall on US 40

This house stands alone on the road in Putnam County.

Old house on US 40, Putnam Co.

This is the McKinley House, which stands near Harmony in Clay County. I’ll certainly do a Then and Now post about it, as I photographed it many years ago when it wore a different paint scheme.

The McKinley House

This appears to be among the newer homes in this collection, but I like it. It’s on State Road 340, the original alignment of the National Road, near Cloverland.

Old house on SR 340

These are the interesting old houses that I photographed. I’m sure I missed some, including several in Vigo County that I didn’t photograph because it was raining. I’ll have to go back and get them another day!

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Road Trips

Return I will to old Brazil (on the National Road in Indiana)

Before you read this, click Play on this video. If you get caught up watching the animation, which is pretty cool, then play it again before you read the rest of this post and let it provide a soundtrack!

In 1986 I first visited Brazil, Indiana, about which that song was not written but about which I always think when I hear it. A college friend was raised there and he and I sometimes drove to town; I forget why. I wondered aloud one day about why the main drag was named National Avenue, and he replied, “It’s the name of an old highway, older than US 40.” That’s the first time I remember thinking the question that has spurred my roadsleuthing and road trips ever since: “I wonder where it used to go?”

Now I know, of course; it was the National Road and it stretched east to Cumberland and Baltimore in Maryland, and west to Vandalia in Illinois. And today it is US 40.

I’ve been through Brazil a bunch of times, and have even passed through on road trips with camera in hand, but never stopped to photograph it. I wish I had not delayed, as there used to be a Grey’s Auto Parts on the west end of town. I would have liked to have a photo of the sign. I always wondered if there was any relation, but it’s gone now, and so there’s nobody left to ask.

I don’t have anything eloquent or insightful to say about Brazil, but I did get some good photographs, so I’m going to write about them.

The Clay County courthouse was built in Brazil in 1914. The town itself was founded in 1866, although its roots go back to at least 1840.

Clay County Courthouse

Does your county’s courthouse have an F-86 fighter jet on its lawn?

F-86 on grounds of Clay County Courthouse

When a town booms and booms again, old buildings get torn down to make way for new as prosperity continues. When a town booms but once, in its early days, its old buildings remain and are adapted to many uses their builders did not foresee. Brazil fits into the latter category.

I don’t know for sure, but I’m probably not going too far out on a limb to say that this building used to house The Brazil Times newspaper.

Times Building, Brazil, IN

This building is a hodgepodge of misguided remodelings.

Brazil, IN

Some of Brazil’s downtown buildings have at least been tastefully redone.

Brazil, IN

This is the most original-looking building I saw in town.

Brazil, IN

This is the 1909 D. H. Davis building, and it’s for sale. You can own it for a mere $45,000.

1909 DH Davis building, Brazil, IN

Harris Bank donated the 1901 Brazil Trust Co. building to the Indiana National Road Association, which hopes to sell it for $45,000.

The Brazil Trust Co.

I remembered from my 1980s visits that Brazil had a number of brick streets, so I stepped off the National Road briefly in search of one. I didn’t have to look for very long.

Brazil, IN

There’s plenty more to see in Brazil, but my time was running short. I made for the west edge of town where State Road 340 begins. At 5½ miles, it is the longest two-lane alignment of old US 40 and the National Road in Indiana. A four-lane US 40 was built in 1939 parallel to this alignment about 1000 feet to the south. I wonder what made it impossible to widen the original alignment.

Brazil, IN

I’ve driven this road any number of times with a camera in the car, but I only ever get photos at its ends, like this one. The road gets just enough traffic, and is narrow enough in all the most scenic spots, that there’s never a good opportunity pull my car over!

Brazil, IN

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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