Road Trips

The Michigan Road in La Porte County

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

The original portion of La Porte County was founded in 1832, was expanded tin 1842, and grew to its current boundaries in 1850 when some of St. Joseph County was annexed.

2.5 miles inside La Porte County, the Michigan Road leaves US 20. In the map below, the Michigan Road follows Bootjack Road. At one time, a small town called Boot Jack stood at this fork.

US 20 followed Bootjack Road until just after World War II, when US 20 was rerouted to bypass Rolling Prairie, a town just west of here. We’ll meet up with US 20 again on the other side of Rolling Prairie.

The road in the upper-right corner of the map, Chicago Rd., is also a historic road. A contemporary of the Michigan Road, it was completed in 1835 to link Chicago and Detroit and roughly follows the old Sauk Trail, an Indian trail that is at least 400 years old. The Chicago Road follows US 20’s modern path. It sure looks like a section of the road was removed between Emery Rd. and Bootjack Rd., doesn’t it?

Here’s that fork in the road from ground level. We say goodbye to the Lincoln Highway here; it follows US 20 on the left and then State Road 2 to La Porte.

Sauk Trail / Chicago Road

Quite a bit of road work has happened along the Michigan Road and Lincoln Highway around Rolling Prairie. In this map, the blue line is the Michigan Road’s original route. The road crossed the railroad tracks at an awkward, and thus dangerous, angle. One source says that in 1940 the crossing was deleted, the road rerouted, and a bridge built to carry the railroad over the road The red line shows how the road was rerouted, down Bootjack Rd. and then right onto Wiley Rd. and under the bridge.

This video shows the Bootjack Road route, including where it curves to avoid the railroad tracks and later turns onto Wiley Rd. and goes under the viaduct.

The video pointed out an old Texaco station. Courtesy Rob Heinek, here’s a photo of Elkins Texaco Garage, which was built in about 1929 on the corner of Bootjack Rd. and Wiley Rd.

This eastbound photo shows the Michigan Road’s original path on the west side of the railroad tracks. It’s somebody’s driveway today.

Stub

Westbound from the same spot. Wiley Rd. is just ahead, where the pavement is temporarily darker.

Westbound

The first cabin in what is now Rolling Prairie was built in 1831, and as more settlers arrived the place was named Nauvoo. In 1853, the village was platted and named Portland. In 1857, when it was discovered that another Portland existed in Indiana, a postal employee changed the town’s name to Rolling Prairie.

Inside Rolling Prairie, this former church is now a branch of the La Porte County Public Library. Kind of a shame how its original windows were reduced to those tiny little things.

Library church

Rolling Prairie’s is the only Michigan Road town whose downtown is not on the Michigan Road. Downtown is actually along Depot St., which intersects the Michigan Road.

Rolling Prairie

I walked along Depot St. for its few blocks. This restaurant is a block south of the Michigan Road.

Blacksmith Shoppe Restaurant

On the opposite corner is Rolling Prairie’s Odd Fellows building.

IOOF

This westbound shot from Depot St. shows the Michigan Road westbound as it heads out of town.

Westbound

The First Christian Church.

First Christian Church

The Rolling Prairie Cemetery stands on the edge of town, just before the Michigan Road meets US 20 again.

Rolling Prairie Cemetery

Just past the cemetery, US 20 rejoins the route. Notice how the row of trees ahead is in line with what used to be the road’s pre-bypass north edge. And there’s my little red car, making one of its cameo appearances. 

End of the line

Just shy of five miles after the Michigan Road rejoins US 20 west of Rolling Prairie, an old alignment of the road appears. It’s very easy to miss.

This excerpt from an 1892 plat map shows the road before it was bypassed. It runs through the tiny town of Springville.

The 1853 Rossburg Cemetery stands on the northeast corner of N. Willhelm Rd., where the old alignment begins. The cemetery is way up on a hill, and there’s no sign of Rossburg. The 1892 plat map shows a church on the northwest corner; there’s no sign of it today.

Rossburg Cemetery

Here’s where the Michigan Road turns away from US 20. This is signed Willhelm Rd., but it is the Michigan Road’s original path.

To Springville

Almost immediately, the road forks. The Michigan Road follows the right fork, which the photo shows. It’s signed Springville Rd.

Springville Road

Much of Springville Road is lined with rough-looking trailer parks. I decided that this might not be a place friendly to strangers snapping photos, so I kept driving. Where State Road 39 intersects, just east of where Springville appears on the 1892 plat map, stands the Springville Free Methodist Church.

Springville Free Methodist Church

The plat map shows that a railroad intersected the Michigan Road. At some point, a bridge was built so that Michigan Road traffic could pass underneath unimpeded. Later, the railroad tracks were removed – but the bridge’s abutments were left behind.

Railroad overpass ruins

Springville Road ends just beyond the abutment ruins, and US 20 curves back into the Michigan Road’s path.

To US 20

The stoplight marks where US 35 joins the Michigan Road. You can follow US 35 to Logansport. Originally, the desire for the Michigan Road was to go directly between Logansport and Michigan City, but the Kankakee Marsh made that difficult. So the road was routed around it through South Bend, New Carlisle, and Rolling Prairie instead. The Kankakee Marsh was eventually drained, which allowed roads like US 35 to be built. That’s I-94 ahead. Just beyond I-94, US 20 heads south and leaves the Michigan Road behind. 

Westbound

Just beyond I-94, the road enters Michigan City.

There’s not much to see on the road in Michigan City, and when there is something to see, there is often no place to park the car to get a photo. This interesting building is home to a little grocery.

Petti Grocery

Just west of the grocery, what was once a pretty big hill was leveled out and a retaining wall built.

Retaining wall

The Michigan Road is Michigan Blvd. through Michigan City. When the road was surveyed and laid out, it continued on its westbound path all the way to Lake Michigan. At some point, however, it was turned to follow what is now US 12 through downtown. Sources I’ve found place the later end of the Michigan Road either at Wabash St. or at 4th St.

When the road was new, this stood near 4th Street:

The Hoosier Slide was a 175-foot-tall sand dune that dominated Michigan City’s skyline. Sadly, it was carted away bit by bit to be used as land fill and in glassmaking, and by 1920 nothing was left of it. Michigan City was said to be a spunky and enterprising town in its early days, founded in 1832 deliberately to stand where the Michigan Road would end when it was built. In its early days, Michigan City vied with Chicago for size and importance.

Today, this cooling tower for a coal-fired power plant stands where the Hoosier Slide did.

At the End of the Road

The Michigan Road ends here, inauspiciously and anticlimactically. US 12 continues as 4th St.

The End of the Road

At the road’s other end, at Madison, the Ohio River is visible. But in Michigan City it’s hard to tell that Lake Michigan lies just beyond the road’s end. Here’s the lake and the cooling tower.

Lake Michigan - Mount Baldy

Although the Hoosier Slide is no longer with us, Mount Baldy, a neighboring sand dune, remains. This photo of the lake is from atop Mount Baldy.

Lake Michigan - Mount Baldy

In case you’re wondering why there are no leaves on the trees when all the other photos in this series are fully green, it’s because I took these photos on a trip in early spring 2007. It was about 35 degrees outside and the wind off the lake was brutal! Notice that the top of the dune is almost level with the tops of the utility poles.

Lake Michigan - Mount Baldy

And so the Michigan Road completes its mission, connecting the Ohio River to Lake Michigan to provide access to the state capital at Indianapolis and to northern Indiana.

Lake Michigan - Mount Baldy

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Road Trips

The Michigan Road and the Lincoln Highway in St. Joseph County

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. While this article refers exclusively to the Michigan Road, another historic highway, the Lincoln Highway, was routed along this portion of the Michigan Road.

At Michigan Street and La Salle Avenue in South Bend, the Michigan Road hangs a hard left. Where it had always been a north-south road, here it becomes an east-west road. It also ceases to be the Dixie Highway and becomes the Lincoln Highway. This is westbound La Salle Avenue.

LaSalle St.

Shortly, La Salle Ave. curves and becomes Lincolnway West. Before the Lincoln Highway came in 1913, however, this road was called Michigan Avenue.

To Lincoln Way West

This little building on La Salle Ave. was the South Bend Hat Bleachery in the 1930s and a women’s clothing shop into the 1970s, I’m told.

Old house, South Bend

While the road is signed “Lincoln Way” today, until recently it was signed “Lincolnway,” and many businesses adopted that spelling. This building, at the corner of Cushing St., was once an A&P grocery at which both my father’s and mother’s families shopped. Today, it is Lincolnway Foods.

Lincolnway Foods

Rather, it was Lincolnway Foods. It burned to the ground a few days after I took the previous shot.

Lincolnway Foods

Lincolnway passes through an old part of South Bend, with many of its brick streets still intact. This is Cushing St. Of all the brick streets I’ve driven on, South Bend’s are the rumbliest.

Cushing St.

The imposing Oliver School is today the Colfax Cultural Center, which houses space for artists, performers, and related businesses. This is what it looks like as you drive toward it on Lincolnway.

Colfax School

Many older homes stand along the road here.

Old house, South Bend

This is the Elizabeth Memorial Church of God in Christ, but I suspect that this building housed another congregation previously.

Elizabeth Memorial Church of God in Christ

A former service station along Lincolnway.

Old service station, South Bend

This is the westbound road. Notice the “SUPRKET” sign on the storefront on the left. When I was a kid, that sign read “SUPERMARKET.” Somewhere along the line it lost its ERMA.

Westbound

From the air, this recording studio building looks like a guitar pick.

Master Blaster

This neat little apartment building was named after the Lincoln Highway.

Lincoln Way West Apartment

This monstrosity was once the Hoosier Brewery.

Big hulking monstrosity

Kreamo Bread was once a South Bend bakery, and its headquarters are on the Michigan Road (and the Lincoln Highway).

Kreamo bread factory

The 1911 Epworth Memorial United Methodist Church, hidden behind trees. I’d have better luck taking photos in the winter, when the leaves are down.

Epworth Memorial United Methodist Church

The Lincolnwood Motel.

Lincolnwood Motel

The South Bend Regional Airport needed to extend its runway a few years ago, and to do so it took out part of the Michigan Road’s original route. This shows the road curving slightly south around the new runway, but originally it went straight through here.

Bent road

Google Maps’ imagery isn’t up to date. It still shows the Michigan Road on its original route. The road markings show the current route, though, on which there are two roundabouts. (Since then, the new Lincolnway West route was extended even further, bypassing another 2,000 feet or so of the original Michigan Road. While the section of the Michigan Road east of Mayflower Road no longer exists, you can still drive the section west of Mayflower. It dead ends whre the new Lincolnway West curves back around to resume its original path.)

I took this westbound photo from where the road curves away from its original route. You can see the road pick up on the other side of the airport.

Original Michigan Road path

This eastbound photo is from the west side of the airport. If you view this at full size and squint, you can see the stoplights at Sheridan St. glowing red. The road in the middle of the photo is the original Michigan Road path, left behind in the runway expansion.

Eastbound through the airport

Here is where travelers curve back onto the road’s original path on the west side of the airport. (Today, this is the section of Michigan Road I mentioned before that dead ends.)

Westbound

The road becomes US 20 outside of South Bend. Just beyond the city limits stands the Kenrose Motel, which didn’t appear to be very busy this day.

Kenrose Motel

The Michigan Road narrows to two lanes as soon as it leaves South Bend.

Westbound

The road passes through the Terre Coupee prairie on its way to New Carlisle. I’m told this building was once a school and later a store.

Old building, Terre Coupee

The Michigan Road next comes to New Carlisle.

Notice how the road curves wide on the east side of town. Until 1926, the road ran straight here, crossing the railroad tracks at an awkward and dangerous angle that was the scene of many accidents. Four tracks crossed the road here then, two owned by the New York Central Railroad; one by the Chicago, South Bend, and Northern Indiana Railway; and one by the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad. The tracks were even at different levels, the interurban tracks a few feet lower than the New York Central tracks, making the crossing even more challenging. This drawing, courtesy Rob Heinek, shows the original configuration of the tracks. The road’s original path is shown with red dotted lines. Heinek also provided the story of the viaduct I’ve shared here.

Negotiations with the railroads to build a viaduct and reroute the road for safer passage dragged on for several years but kicked into high gear when New Carlisle passed an ordinance limiting trains to eight miles per hour. The terms worked out, a viaduct was built and the road curved. A retaining wall on the southernmost curve touts New Carlisle’s virtues today.

Welcome to New Carlisle

Here’s what it’s like to enter New Carlisle under the viaduct.

This eastbound photo shows the road as the curve returns to the road’s original path. The driveway that begins where the road curves is the original road.

Eastbound, New Carlisle

On the edge of downtown New Carlisle, this mural of the town from about 1941 is painted onto a building.

New Carlisle mural

Here’s the same scene in modern times.

Live or Memorex?

Downtown New Carlisle makes a hodgepodge of its buildings, which seems typical of towns of this age and size.

The Village Shoppes

New Carlisle is better cared for than many other Michigan Road towns of its size, however.

Houston Pro Hardware

A longtime bank building, today a Wells Fargo branch. Somehow, I doubt the drive-through is original to the building.

Still a bank

I find it interesting how these two mirror-image buildings ended up differently decorated.

Colorful

The only reason I’m including this photo is because I happened to go to public school with this podiatrist, and I haven’t seen her in over 20 years. I was surprised to see her name again after so long.

Dr. Wieger

New Carlisle is rich with older homes.

Old house, New Carlisle

The sign says, “God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts.”

Community Church

Another older home along the way in New Carlisle.

Old house, New Carlisle

And another.

Old house, New Carlisle

The road’s name tips its hat to its heritage. Richard Carlisle founded New Carlisle in 1837 along the road.

Michigan St.

New Carlisle’s park.

Park

Outside New Carlisle, on the border with La Porte County, stands the 1863 New Carlisle Cemetery.

New Carlisle Cemetery

Next: The Michigan Road in La Porte County – and the end of the Michigan Road.

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History, Road Trips

Adding the Michigan Road to the modern Indiana highway system

It was very late to the party: the last segment of the old Michigan Road to be added to Indiana’s modern state highway system.

MR_map
The Michigan Road, highlighted in blue. Map © 2008 Google.

The state of Indiana built the Michigan Road during the 1830s to connect Madison on the Ohio River to Michigan City on Lake Michigan via the new state capital in Indianapolis.

Indiana built other roads at about the same time, but none like the Michigan Road. Its right-of-way was enormous at 100 feet wide; the road itself used the central third. Even though the road was barely a dirt path at first, it was arguably the grandest road in Indiana. It was a major commerce route that opened deeply wooded northern Indiana to settlers.

The railroad’s rise in the late 1800s led the Michigan Road and all other major roads into disuse and disrepair. But around the turn of the 20th century, the bicycle and the automobile made good roads a priority. Indiana responded in 1917 with its State Highway Commission, which laid a fledgling network of highways over existing major routes and began to improve them, in turn from dirt to gravel to brick or concrete, and eventually to asphalt.

The State Highway Commission numbered just five State Roads in its first year. You might be surprised to learn that the Michigan Road was not among them.

Not in its entirety, at least. State Roads were laid out along portions of the Michigan Road in northern Indiana: from about Rolling Prairie east to South Bend, and then from South Bend south to Rochester.

The east-west segment was part of State Road 2, which followed the 1913 Lincoln Highway, a coast-to-coast auto trail established through the work of entrepreneur Carl Fisher. The north-south section was part of State Road 1, which continued south from Rochester along a new road that passed through Peru and Kokomo on its way to Indianpolis and, ultimately, the Ohio River across from Louisville.

Plymouth Pilot-News, March 27, 1919

Naturally, all major Indiana cities wanted a good, direct road leading to the state capital, and towns in between wanted to be on those roads. A road would lead from South Bend to Indianapolis. Logansport wanted to be on that route. You have to wonder why the state chose State Road 1 through Peru and Kokomo over the Michigan Road through Logansport. The Michigan Road’s generous right-of-way would certainly ease future improvements. Perhaps the state wanted to provide good-road access to two towns rather than just one. Perhaps Peru and Kokomo had a more effective lobby.

Officials in Logansport went down fighting, agitating for the state to hard-surface the Michigan Road rather than State Road 1 south from Plymouth, as the inset 1919 newspaper article reports. They even claimed — incorrectly — that the Michigan Road was a little shorter.

Alas, State Road 1 was paved.

Indiana expanded its State Road system to more than 50 roads by 1926, adding most of the Michigan Road in the process. The portion from Madison to Indianapolis became State Road 6. The portion from Indianapolis to Logansport became State Road 15.

(By the way, State Road 15 continued northwest from Logansport through Winamac and La Porte to Michigan City, fulfilling the Michigan Road’s mission in much more direct fashion. The indirect route through South Bend had been a compromise — one South Bend certainly enjoyed — to avoid the Kankakee Marsh in northwest Indiana. In the 1830s, no road could be built there. A series of ditches built in the late 1800s through about 1917 drained the marsh, and then by 1922 the river itself was dredged. The direct route finally could be, and was, built. It is US 35 today.)

But the portion of the Michigan Road from Logansport to Rochester remained off the grid.

Ply_Roch_Logan_Peru
Maps courtesy Indiana University Libraries

The U.S. route system we know today was established in 1927. Several State Roads became U.S. highways. Indiana renumbered its State Roads to eliminate numbers the same as the new U.S. routes and to tame what had become a messy numbering scheme. The Michigan Road from Madison to Logansport became State Road 29 (except for a rural segment south of Napoleon in Ripley County, which the highway bypassed to loop in nearby Osgood and Versailles). Old State Road 1, including the Michigan Road from South Bend to Rochester, became US 31. The Michigan Road from South Bend to Michigan City became part of US 20.

Also in 1927, the State Highway Commission decided to build a State Road from Lafayette to Warsaw. To be named State Road 25, it would pass through Logansport and Rochester. At last, this segment of the Michigan Road would join the state highway system! It was added first, in 1928; the rest of State Road 25 was added in stages over the next few years. The state highway map segments above tell the story. In 1923, the Michigan Road didn’t appear between Rochester and Logansport. In 1927 a dotted line appeared to show that the road was approved to be added to the system. In 1928, the thick black line shows that the road was not only added, but hard surfaced, except for a small portion near Fulton. The broken line there and elsewhere on the map indicates a gravel road.

State Road 25 (the Michigan Road) heading northeast from Logansport
State Road 25 (the Michigan Road) in northeastern Logansport, heading toward Rochester

Logansport got its wish nine years too late, as by that time US 31 had become the dominant route to Indianapolis. Not that it mattered much in the long run — US 31 might have boosted Kokomo’s and Peru’s prosperity for a time, but US 31 was rerouted around both towns in the 1970s and traffic through these towns slowed to a trickle. All three towns experienced serious decline toward the end of the 20th century, for reasons bigger than rerouted highways. None is noticeably better off than the others today.

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

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Road Trips

Welcome to New Carlisle, a Michigan Road town

New Carlisle is a cheerful Indiana small town about 15 miles west of South Bend on a triply historic road: US 20, the longest US highway; the Lincoln Highway, our nation’s first coast-to-coast road; and the Michigan Road, which has linked the Ohio River to Lake Michigan since the 1830s. The town has been there since 1835, not long after the road was built.

As you enter New Carlisle from the east, you take a tight S curve under a railroad bridge and along a retaining wall that greets you cheerfully.

Welcome to New Carlisle

Until 1926 the road ran straight, crossing the tracks at a dangerous angle that was the scene of many accidents. Four rail lines passed through: two owned by the New York Central Railroad; one by the Chicago, South Bend, and Northern Indiana Railway; and one by the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad. The South Shore tracks were a few feet lower than the New York Central tracks, making for an uneven crossing and increasing motorists’ challenge.

New Carlisle, Indiana. Imagery © 2019 DigitalGlobe, IndianaMap Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2019 Google.

Negotiations with the railroads to build a viaduct and reroute the road for safer passage dragged on for several years but kicked into high gear when New Carlisle passed an ordinance limiting trains to eight miles per hour. That got the railroads’ attention. Terms were worked out, the bridge was built, and the road was curved.

After you negotiate that curve, New Carlisle unfolds before you, tidy and cheerful. Little has changed, at least cosmetically, in this town since before World War II. Check out this mural of the town as it was in about 1941, painted on the side of one of downtown’s buildings.

New Carlisle mural

Downtown New Carlisle has changed little since those days! You’ll have to take my word for it to some extent, as I made these photographs in 2008. Margaret and I drove through on our late-December Michigan Road trip, but heavy rain made it a poor day for photography. But we could see it: New Carlisle still looks very much like this.

Live or Memorex?

I’m always curious why some small Indiana towns remain well-maintained and others don’t. Money obviously makes the difference. But where does New Carlisle’s come from? There’s no real industry here, to speak of. It’s too far away from Chicago to be a commuter town. I suppose many residents commute to South Bend to work; is that enough?

Downtown New Carlisle

Regardless, everywhere you look in New Carlisle’ downtown, the buildings are in good condition. Something must be going right here — unlike so many Indiana towns of similar size, New Carlisle is growing. Its population remained flat at about 1,400 for several decades, but between 2000 and 2010 it swelled to over 1,800.

Colorful
Houston Pro Hardware
Still a bank

As you keep heading west you soon leave the downtown area and pass many lovely older homes.

Old house, New Carlisle
Old house, New Carlisle
Old house, New Carlisle

This church is right on Michigan Street. The sign says, “God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts.”

Community Church

Memorial Park is on Michigan Street, too. It’s a lovely spot to rest on a lovely street in a lovely town.

Park

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

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History, Road Trips

Adding the Michigan Road to the modern Indiana highway system

MR_map
The Michigan Road, highlighted in blue. Map © 2008 Google.

It was very late to the party: the last segment of the old Michigan Road to be added to Indiana’s modern state highway system.

The state of Indiana built the Michigan Road during the 1830s to connect Madison on the Ohio River to Michigan City on Lake Michigan via the new state capital in Indianapolis.

Indiana built other roads at about the same time, but none like the Michigan Road. Its right-of-way was enormous at 100 feet wide; the road itself used the central third. Even though the road was barely a dirt path at first, it was arguably the grandest road in Indiana. It was a major commerce route that opened deeply wooded northern Indiana to settlers.

The railroad’s rise in the late 1800s led the Michigan Road and all other major roads into disuse and disrepair. But around the turn of the 20th century, the bicycle and the automobile made good roads a priority. Indiana responded in 1917 with its State Highway Commission, which laid a fledgling network of highways over existing major routes and began to improve them, in turn from dirt to gravel to brick or concrete, and eventually to asphalt.

The State Highway Commission numbered just five State Roads in its first year. You might be surprised to learn that the Michigan Road was not among them.

Not in its entirety, at least. State Roads were laid out along portions of the Michigan Road in northern Indiana: from about Rolling Prairie east to South Bend, and then from South Bend south to Rochester.

The east-west segment was part of State Road 2, which followed the 1913 Lincoln Highway, a coast-to-coast auto trail established through the work of entrepreneur Carl Fisher. The north-south section was part of State Road 1, which continued south from Rochester along a new road that passed through Peru and Kokomo on its way to Indianpolis and, ultimately, the Ohio River across from Louisville.

PlymouthPilot-NewsMR
Plymouth Pilot-News, March 27, 1919 (click to enlarge)

Naturally, all major Indiana cities wanted a good, direct road leading to the state capital, and towns in between wanted to be on those roads. A road would lead from South Bend to Indianapolis. Logansport wanted to be on that route. You have to wonder why the state chose State Road 1 through Peru and Kokomo over the Michigan Road through Logansport. The Michigan Road’s generous right-of-way would certainly ease future improvements. Perhaps the state wanted to provide good-road access to two towns rather than just one. Perhaps Peru and Kokomo had a more effective lobby.

Officials in Logansport went down fighting, agitating for the state to hard-surface the Michigan Road rather than State Road 1 south from Plymouth, as the inset 1919 newspaper article reports. They even claimed — incorrectly — that the Michigan Road was a little shorter.

Alas, State Road 1 was paved.

Indiana expanded its State Road system to more than 50 roads by 1926, adding most of the Michigan Road in the process. The portion from Madison to Indianapolis became State Road 6. The portion from Indianapolis to Logansport became State Road 15.

(By the way, State Road 15 continued northwest from Logansport through Winamac and La Porte to Michigan City, fulfilling the Michigan Road’s mission in much more direct fashion. The indirect route through South Bend had been a compromise — one South Bend certainly enjoyed — to avoid the Kankakee Marsh in northwest Indiana. In the 1830s, no road could be built there. A series of ditches built in the late 1800s through about 1917 drained the marsh, and then by 1922 the river itself was dredged. The direct route finally could be, and was, built. It is US 35 today.)

But the portion of the Michigan Road from Logansport to Rochester remained off the grid.

Ply_Roch_Logan_Peru
Maps courtesy Indiana University Libraries

The U.S. route system we know today was established in 1927. Several State Roads became U.S. highways. Indiana renumbered its State Roads to eliminate numbers the same as the new U.S. routes and to tame what had become a messy numbering scheme. The Michigan Road from Madison to Logansport became State Road 29 (except for a rural segment south of Napoleon in Ripley County, which the highway bypassed to loop in nearby Osgood and Versailles). Old State Road 1, including the Michigan Road from South Bend to Rochester, became US 31. The Michigan Road from South Bend to Michigan City became part of US 20.

Also in 1927, the State Highway Commission decided to build a State Road from Lafayette to Warsaw. To be named State Road 25, it would pass through Logansport and Rochester. At last, this segment of the Michigan Road would join the state highway system! It was added first, in 1928; the rest of State Road 25 was added in stages over the next few years. The state highway map segments above tell the story. In 1923, the Michigan Road didn’t appear between Rochester and Logansport. In 1927 a dotted line appeared to show that the road was approved to be added to the system. In 1928, the thick black line shows that the road was not only added, but hard surfaced, except for a small portion near Fulton. The broken line there and elsewhere on the map indicates a gravel road.

State Road 25 (the Michigan Road) heading northeast from Logansport
State Road 25 (the Michigan Road) in northeastern Logansport, heading toward Rochester

Logansport got its wish nine years too late, as by that time US 31 had become the dominant route to Indianapolis. Not that it mattered much in the long run — US 31 might have boosted Kokomo’s and Peru’s prosperity for a time, but US 31 was rerouted around both towns in the 1970s and traffic through these towns slowed to a trickle. All three towns experienced serious decline toward the end of the 20th century, for reasons bigger than rerouted highways. None is noticeably better off than the others today.

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

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History, Road Trips

The historic Michigan Road

One-lane alignment
Original alignment, Shelby County

I’ve been working with blogger Hoosier Reborn on having the Michigan Road named a state historic byway. We’re building a grassroots organization from communities along the route that will provide the support necessary to win the designation from the Indiana Department of Transportation. We have built support in the counties north of Indianapolis except for Clinton County (if you’re from there and would like to see the road so honored, please contact me!). We’re ready to expand our organization into the route’s counties south of Indianapolis. We have offers from Shelbyville, Greensburg, and Madison to host meetings, and we plan to follow through in November. We plan to submit the historic byway application to INDOT in the summer of 2010.

I’ve created a Web site to serve as an information hub for our efforts. It sketches the road’s history, gives turn-by-turn driving directions, and links to my personal site’s extensive photographic survey of the road. So for all things Michigan Road, please go to

www.historicmichiganroad.org

I am just thrilled by how much enthusiasm there has been for this project. If you’re enthusiastic for it, too, and live on or near the road, contact me and we’ll add you to our e-mail list.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to read more about the Michigan Road, click the link above. Or check out what I’ve written on this blog about the road:

I have enough photographs and stories from my 2008 trips to write as many more posts! Maybe I’ll do that during the slow winter months.

Our effort has also gotten some press. The best coverage has come from the Pharos-Tribune in Logansport:

I’m grateful for and excited about all the positive attention our project has received!

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