Road Trips

The National Road in Ohio: The disrupted road in Guernsey County and the crumbling Salt Fork S bridge

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, my dog Gracie and I explored the National Road all the way across Ohio. That road is now US 40 in most places. I’m bringing the long trip report over from my old Roads site.

Waymor Rd.
Waymor Road, old US 40 and the National Road

I-70 and the National Road cling to each other for 18 miles between Morristown and Old Washington in eastern Ohio. Sometimes the two roads parallel each other closely; other times, they’re the same road. On this map, the blue line is the National Road. (Thanks to fellow National Road fan Christopher Busta-Peck for creating it; go here to see it on Google Maps.) As you can see, it’s often hard to tell where the National Road stops and I-70 begins.

Map data © 2012 Google.

I followed as much of the old road as still exists. Overall it was a pleasant drive, for where the forlorn National Road remains, it is peaceful. I encountered not a single soul as I explored these miles. The National Road passes into Guernsey County at Fairview, where it is known as County Highway 967 and Waymor Road. That’s westbound Waymor Road at the beginning of this article.

Maybe a mile west of Fairview, the National Road’s path was destroyed by I-70. A series of rough county roads serve as a detour, albeit a wide one. In the map excerpt below, the National Road hugs I-70 as it enters from the east and exits to the west, but is gone in the middle.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

West of the detour, the National Road is County Road 690 or Bridgewater Road. About four miles east of Old Washington I came upon the only S bridge on the entire National Road that you can still drive. US 40 bypassed it somewhere along the line, and later I-70 bypassed them both. Out here, old US 40 is Bridgewater Road.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

Here’s the bridge on the ground. Check out that graceful S shape.

Salt Fork S Bridge

Here’s the bridge from the west. A plaque above the keystone reads, “1828 1936 In memory of the pioneers who built this S bridge – The Ohio Society Daughters of the American Revolution.” This bridge was built in 1828.

Salt Fork S Bridge

As I researched this bridge, I discovered that a photographer for the Historic American Engineering Record favored the same angle. The record at the Library of Congress suggests that this photo was taken after 1933, but the plaque from 1936 isn’t present. So this photo is very likely from between those years, and my guess is that it still carried US 40 then.

S bridges were built this way to allow a road that didn’t naturally approach a river or creek at right angles to cross it that way. It was less costly to build and maintain a bridge that crossed a river or creek squarely. This photo shows the southeast curve of the bridge.

Salt Fork S Bridge

My research also revealed that this bridge is in poor shape and needs considerable work to restore it to full stability. But still, it was great to be able to drive over this bridge.

In 2013, about two years after I made this trip, this bridge was permanently closed to traffic. Read about it here. At this bridge’s 2018 inspection, the most recent one as I write this paragraph, the bridge was judged to be in Poor condition, with its substructure in particular in Serious condition. The National Park Service is said to have declared this bridge to be deteriorating and unstable.

I understand that the construction of I-70 led to the demolition of other S bridges in the area. I have read that the S bridge in this postcard was one of the unlucky ones.

Notice that the caption says it was in Bridgewater, Ohio – given that I’m on Bridgewater Road, this bridge must have been nearby, but I can’t find the first hint of a town called Bridgewater. Did I-70 take both the bridge and the town? Perhaps an Ohio expert will read this and chime in.

Next: Old Washington, Ohio, on the National Road.

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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.

Casselman River bridge

National Road bridge over Maryland’s Casselman River
Kodak EasyShare Z730

The trip my sons and I made to Washington, DC, and then back along the National Road is the vacation we all remember most fondly. It was a great trip until we entered Ohio, when we had an automobile accident that totaled our car. We were unharmed, but it was a sad end to a great trip.

Maryland became more gorgeous the farther west we went into it. We were especially excited to reach Garrett County, as that is one of my sons’ names. We stopped by the roadside to photograph my son under a sign proclaiming our entrance into his county.

Then shortly we came upon this bridge, which was built in 1814 to carry the National Road across the Casselman River. It served until 1933, seven years after this road was named US 40, when a steel-truss bridge was built downriver and the road realigned to it. Later, I-68 was built a little farther downriver and US 40 was routed onto it. So three bridges stand in a row here. I wrote about them all here.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: National Road bridge over Maryland’s Casselman River

The great stone arch bridge over the Casselman River in Garrett County, MD.

On the bridge

Standing on the Shepard Bridge
Minolta Autopak 470
Lomography Color Tiger

This 1913 stone-arch bridge carries the Michigan Road over Big Creek in Ripley County, Indiana. I’ve written about this bridge a bunch of times: here, here, here, here. It’s one of my favorite bridges.

In 2018 my wife and I followed the Michigan Road north from Madison and paused here to explore. She’s out on the deck with her camera. I made this image on 110 film using a Minolta Autopak 470 camera.

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Film Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Standing on the Shepard Bridge

A photo (on 110 film!) of my wife on a 1913 stone bridge in Ripley County, Indiana.