Road Trips

The Michigan Road and the Dixie Highway in Clinton 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 Dixie Highway, was routed along this portion of the Michigan Road.

Clinton County, founded in 1830, was named for New York State’s seventh governor, DeWitt Clinton. He was largely responsible for the construction of the Erie Canal. I’d like to know why the county was named after him, since no canals pass through it!

Shortly after entering Clinton County, the town of Kirklin appears. Laid out in 1837 by Nathan Kirk, it was once called Kirks X Roads or Kirk’s Cross-roads, recognizing its founder and the two oldest major roads in Clinton County – the Michigan Road and the Newcastle-Lafayette State Road. The latter road stretched from New Castle to Lafayette, probably along the general path of State Road 38, which stretches between those towns today. The Newcastle-Lafayette State Road was built a few years before the Michigan Road. The town was incorporated in 1878.

The building of these roads gave farmers access to markets where they could sell their produce, but it was no small matter to reach those markets. Here’s an excerpt from page 509 of History of Clinton County, Indiana:

“Many of the farmers of [the 1830s] hauled their grain in wagons to Chicago and Michigan City on the lake where they received from 37 to 50 cents per bushel for their wheat. It required from twelve to fifteen days to make the trip. We venture the assertion that the farmer of 1835 went through the laborious undertaking just described with less murmuring than is heard from the lips of the farmer of 1886 who hauls his wheat over a pike a distance of four or five miles and receives for it $1.15 per bushel.”

The first thing I notice every time I enter Kirklin from the south is this attractive and well-kept home. I understand it was once the residence of a prominent doctor.

Home in Kirklin

I came across a cache of 1920s postcard images of Kirklin. This card shows Kirklin’s downtown in those days.

It is astonishing how little the town has changed in 80+ years. A few buildings have been razed, but the overall shape of downtown is the same.

Kirklin

This is the west side of the downtown strip. I believe the white building on the right is the one behind the “Garage” sign in the 1920s photo. Two buildings to the north of the garage were torn down, but the next three buildings match those in the 1920s photo very well.

Kirklin

This is the east side of the downtown strip. I count five buildings here that are in the 1920s photo; the only one missing was where the vacant lot is. I’m told that the water tower is the former site of the Kirklin Methodist Church, torn down sometime in the 1970s despite efforts to save it.

Kirklin

This building was never a Mobil station. Somebody painted it to look like one, perhaps to sucker in people like me. An earlier version of this paragraph wondered when this station was built. A former Kirklin resident wrote to correct me – this was never a gas station, but a barber shop. As you can see, I was out road tripping at the height of the 2008 gas price mess.

Mobil in Kirklin

Much of Kirklin’s downtown is given over to antiques stores. As I was out taking photos of the town, the antiques proprietors all gathered in front of this store to watch. When I came by, they were very curious, and maybe a bit suspicious, of what I was doing. They softened a bit when I explained about the Michigan Road. They lamented the lack of business on this Saturday, the day after Independence Day. They hoped Indianapolis’s sprawl would extend farther into Boone County for the traffic it would bring.

Old Bank

This photo shows the intersection with Madison St. in the 1920s. On the right is the Masonic Hall.

The antiques proprietors told me that the Masonic Hall was torn down in the 1960s. It strikes me as odd that a side street warrants the only stoplight in Kirklin while State Road 38, one block north, gets a stop sign.

At Madison St.

Here’s a better view of the Masonic Hall. Check out that lamp hanging out over the street.

Here’s a southbound view of Main St., as the Michigan Road is signed in Kirklin, from just north of the Masonic Hall.

The Kirklin Public Library stands on the southwest corner of what is now State Road 38.

The building has been remarkably well kept. It is the town’s crown jewel.

Public library

A bit north of Kirklin, the Michigan Road curves and becomes a straight north-south road for the first time.

On the map, this is where US 421 leaves the Michigan Road, following State Road 28 to the west. Here the Michigan Road becomes State Road 29 and carries that number to Logansport. When Indiana implemented its current highway numbering scheme in 1927, the Michigan Road was numbered 29 from its starting point in Madison. US 421 was extended into Indiana in 1951 over existing Indiana highways 28, 39, and 43 to its end at Michigan City. Northwest Indiana’s Kankakee Marsh was drained beginning in late 1800s so the land could be farmed. This allowed later roads to be built through the former marshland, including these that now carry US 421.

Where State Road 28 reaches US 421 from the east stands an abandoned motel.

Old motel

Here’s the Michigan Road as it heads into Boyleston.

Northbound in Clinton County

Boyleston is an unincorporated town founded in 1875 by Lewis Boyle as a stop along the Lake Erie and Western Railroad.

Boyleston

This is the Boyleston Baptist Church.

Boyleston Baptist Church

This grain elevator was probably Boyleston’s focal point. (It has since been torn down.)

Grain elevator

North of Boyleston stands the sprawling Clinton Central High School. I am surprised by how few schools, compared to churches and cemeteries, stand along the Michigan Road. This is the first school on the road since the road passed through northwest Indianapolis.

Clinton County Educational Center

The road bent slightly northeast in Boyleston; it bends back straight north by the school.

Northbound

This cemetery lies just south of Michigantown.

Cemetery

This is a typical scene along the road in this part of the state, as it tracks straight and flat between farms and small towns. Michigantown is ahead.

Northbound

Michigantown was laid out in 1830 along what was then the Frankfort and Kokomo Railroad and was incorporated in the early 1870s. In the 1800s Michigantown was a happening place with merchants and doctors and lawyers, but today like so many other midwestern small towns it stands in some decay. This map shows Michigantown.

A number of older homes stand in Michigantown, this being a clean example.

Old house

The diner next to the house looked to be on a permanent vacation.

House and diner

This is Michigantown’s business district.

Michigantown business district

Ron’s Kwik Mart doesn’t look very kwik anymore. The space on the right used to be the Farmers Bank.

Ron's Kwik Mart

The only business I found open this day was the Michigan Town House. The storefront between it and the post office is known as the Mule Barn Tavern.

Michigan Town House

There are plenty of empty storefronts in Michigantown. The building on the left used to be a small diner. The building on the right was Newell Gas and Appliances.

More Michigantown

This gas station has been abandoned since gas cost $1.099 per gallon.

Gas pumps

North of Michigantown’s business district, the town becomes residential and overall well kept.

Northbound through Michigantown

The Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana moved this house to this spot along the Michigan Road, just south of the railroad tracks on Michigantown’s north end, in late 2007. Workers have been busy laying a new foundation beneath it since.

Historic Landmarks Foundation house

Across the street stands this lovely old home.

Old house, Michigantown

Even though I stop in every town for photos, most of the road in this part of the state passes by farm after farm, as this short video from north of Michigantown shows.

Near Clinton County’s north border stands Middlefork, an unincorporated town named for its placement near the middle fork of Wildcat Creek. Middlefork barely registers on an aerial map.

This cemetery lies just south of Middlefork.

Cemetery, Middlefork

This old house is in Middlefork. It’s one of my favorite houses along the route because of its interesting arches over the porch and balcony.

Old house, Middlefork

This itty bitty house stands in contrast with the previous one.

Little bitty old house

Middlefork ends at State Road 26, just beyond which begins Carroll County. This school stands abandoned on an abandoned alignment of SR 26, which lies 50 feet south of current SR 26 just east of the Michigan Road. (This school is now slowly collapsing. See more photos here.)

Abandoned school

Next: The Michigan Road and the Dixie Highway in Carroll County.

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

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Road Trips

The Michigan Road and the Dixie Highway in Hamilton and Boone Counties

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 Dixie Highway, was routed along this portion of the Michigan Road.

Hamilton County was founded in 1823 and had an agricultural economy for most of its history. But after World War II, Indianapolis expanded northward and Hamilton County’s communities increasingly became Indianapolis suburbs. It is now one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation and certainly the fastest growing county in the state. It is also the wealthiest county in the state, as measured by median household income.

Only 1¾ miles of the Michigan Road lie inside Hamilton County. The road cuts across its southwest corner. On this map, the green line is the Marion-Hamilton line and the blue line is the Boone-Hamilton line.

Carmel is a city in Hamilton County. It has been on an annexing bender since the mid 1990s, reflected in its population growth – about 32,500 in 1996 to almost 69,000 in 2007. Somewhere along the line Carmel assumed all of the land around the Michigan Road within the county. Where Carmel goes, roads are improved and shopping centers are built.

Carmel

A massive improvement to the road was finished in 1997, making it what you see here. When I moved to Indianapolis in 1994, if my memory serves the road was four lanes undivided for a short distance north of Indianapolis, and then narrowed to two lanes.

106th St. and Michigan Road

Boone County, founded in 1830, was named after Daniel Boone. Despite bordering Indianapolis, the county is mostly rural. It has maybe 20% of the population of neighboring Hamilton County. The Michigan Road cuts across the county’s east side, never encountering a town of any consequence.

Looking southbound from just inside Boone County, you can see where the highway narrows. No need for all those lanes out here – yet. New subdivisions keep being built out here, so it’s probably just a matter of time before increased traffic demands a widened road.

Southbound, Boone County

But for now, fields and old farmhouses are the norm.

Old farmhouse in its context

Here’s a closer look at the old farmhouse.

Old farmhouse

I caught these horses grazing in another field nearby.

Horses

Rosston was once a place where trains stopped to pick up grain. I’ve seen old references to the place as “Rosston Station.”

This is Rosston’s old general store, just north of the train tracks which have long been removed. I’m not sure why I didn’t photograph the old grain elevator.

Storefront in Rosston

I haven’t been able to find out anything about the unincorporated town of Waugh.

This old house, but not much else, stands in Waugh.

Old house in Waugh

Where the Michigan Road intersects State Road 47 stands the Christian Liberty Church. Its sign says 1885, but I couldn’t tell whether the building is that old, too.

Christian Liberty Church

After a few more miles of farm fields, the Michigan Road exits Boone County and enters Clinton County.

Next: The Michigan Road and the Dixie Highway in Clinton County.

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

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Road Trips

The Michigan Road and the Dixie Highway in northwest Indianapolis

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 begins its journey through northwest Indianapolis at Indiana Ave., where West St. becomes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., St.

Indiana Avenue was an important business and cultural center for African Americans as early as 1890. A woman named Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madame C. J. Walker, moved her business of manufacturing hair-care products to Indianapolis in 1910. By 1917, it was the largest black-owned business in the nation. She had started planning the Walker Theatre as a cultural center and home to her manufacturing operations when she died in 1917, and her daughter completed it. It opened in 1927. It faced decline in the 1960s and 1970s, but was restored during the 1980s.

Walker Theatre

It is here where West St. becomes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., St., formerly known as Northwestern Ave.

Northbound at Indiana Ave.

The Ransom Place neighborhood lies between St. Clair St. and 10th St. The area was platted in the late 1860s and, at first, white immigrants moved in, building modest homes. But between 1900 and 1920, the neighborhood’s population became overwhelmingly black, and as such the neighborhood remains best known. The area has benefited from preservation and redevelopment funds going back to 1945.

Ransom Place

I-65 bisected many old northwest Indianapolis neighborhoods, relegating a few of them to ghettos. This Interstate parallels the Michigan Road for a couple miles before pulling away, headed toward Chicago.

The road here is a major artery to and from Downtown, especially via I-65.

At the split

Unfortunately, I-65’s primacy makes staying on the Michigan Road a bit tricky. You have to take a left-lane exit of sorts to stay on the road.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., St.

The aerial image on the left is from 1937. Compare it to the 2008 aerial image on the right. The Michigan Road is highlighted in color; 10th St. runs east-west across the middle of each image. In the 2008 image, the blue line shows the northbound route to stay on the Michigan Road; the yellow line, the southbound route. I-65 wiped out almost everything in the upper-right quadrant, including some of the canal. Notice also how many homes present in 1937 in the Ransom Place neighborhood, which is in the lower-left quadrant, are missing in the 2008 image.

This photo shows Crispus Attucks High School and the elevated train that links the Downtown IU Health hospitals. The cross street was 11th St. until it was recently renamed Oscar Robertson Blvd. after the school’s standout basketball star.

At Oscar Robertson Blvd.

Crispus Attucks High School was built in 1927 amid controversy as it was to be an all-black school, the first in Indiana. Indianapolis’s high schools were otherwise integrated, and many viewed this to be a step backward. But after the school was built, it became a focal point for Indianapolis African-Americans. It was a source of particular pride in 1955 and 1956 when the school’s basketball team, led by Oscar Robertson, won back-to-back state championships, the second year as an undefeated team. Attucks became integrated in 1967. By the 1980s, however, enrollment was in serious decline across the Indianapolis Public Schools system, placing Attucks’ future in question. It ended up being converted to a middle school. In 2006, in partnership with the nearby Indiana University Medical Center, it was converted into a college-preparatory school, grades six through 12, for students interested in becoming medical professionals. This photo shows the school’s entrance.

Attucks High School

North of the high school begins a long corridor of decay and dilapidation, exemplified by the Revival Temple Church’s makeshift sign and peeling paint.

Revival Temple Apostolic Church

Across the street, the 1920 New Baptist Church building has been well cared for. The church is 100 years old in 2008.

New Baptist Church

At 21st St., the road briefly takes on a light-industrial feel. This photo is southbound, showing how the Indianapolis skyline looms. The Michigan Road was once also known here as the Dixie Highway. The Dixie was a network of roads, organized before the US highway system was founded, that connected Chicago and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to Miami, Florida. One branch of the Dixie known as the Northern Connector followed the Michigan Road from 21st St. all the way to downtown South Bend.

Southbound at 21st St.

Fall Creek is next, with its bridge. I couldn’t find a safe place to photograph the current bridge. I’m pretty sure this postcard image, which is from about 1900-1920, is of a former bridge at this location.

Watkins Park lies on the northwest corner of 23rd St.

Watkins Park

Across the street from the park, the homes are in poor repair.

Dilapidated house

Bar-B-Q Heaven stands north of 25th St. Its neon sign seems to be lit day and night.

Bar-B-Q Heaven

The Holy Angels Catholic Church was completed in 1903 on the corner of 28th St. It has grown and prospered through all the changes this neighborhood has seen. (Sometime after I made this photo, this church was razed.)

Holy Angels Catholic Church

I-65 crosses the Michigan Road just north of 30th St. Malaise begins slowly to disappear as you drive north from here.

Michigan Road at I-65

Just after driving under the Interstate, Crown Hill Cemetery appears on the right. On this spot since 1864, it is the third largest cemetery in the United States. Many notable Hoosiers are buried here, but none so honored as James Whitcomb Riley, the Hoosier poet, who died in 1917.

This is Riley’s gravesite. Even though it is right along the Michigan Road, you can’t see the road from here, and you can’t see this spot from the road. For decades, children have dropped change onto this monument. It is regularly collected and donated to the Riley Children’s Foundation which helps support the Riley Hospital for Children.

Riley's rest

Riley is buried at the highest point in Indianapolis. You can see the Downtown skyline from here.

View from the Riley gravesite

38th St. was Indianapolis’s northern boundary for many years. North of this old boundary the road is once again signed Michigan Road. On the northwest corner stands the Indianapolis Museum of Art, on the grounds of Oldfields, the former country estate of J. K. Lilly, Jr., who was an executive at Eli Lilly and Co. and a philanthropist.

IMA entrance

The Michigan Road was privatized during the late 19th century. It was sold to gravel companies, which covered it in gravel and charged to travel along it. One of the toll houses remains.

Toll house

The Michigan Road is four lanes wide in this part of the city.

Northbound

This old house stands by as the road nears Crooked Creek.

House along the road

I live in the Crooked Creek area, about a mile from where Kessler Blvd. crosses the Michigan Road. Kessler Blvd. is historic, too; designed by, built by, and named for pioneering city planner George Kessler.

This is where the two roads intersect.

Kessler and Michigan

Across Michigan Road from the Starbucks and the Walgreens stands Crooked Creek School. A school has stood on this spot since 1837. Three or four buildings have served here, and the first was a log cabin. This is the entrance to the previous building, which was torn down in 1985 for the school you see behind it. The entrance was originally behind the last of the cars parked in the photo, but was moved to this spot as a memorial. Many years ago, before the Michigan Road became such a busy road in and out of town, the steps at the end of the entrance led to a wide path that led children right to the Michigan Road for their trip home. Today, walking on the Michigan Road here is like taking your life into your hands. Today, you enter the school grounds via a long driveway on Kessler Blvd. But the original path is still there, serving as a driveway to what is now a back entrance. All three of my children have attended Crooked Creek School.

School No. 7 / Crooked Creek Elementary School

This 1840s farmhouse stands across from 64th St. It was for sale when I took this photo.

1840s farmhouse, 64th and Michigan

This home, which stands at about 67th St., was built in 1852 by the Aston family and served as an inn for travelers on the road. It was common then to see farmers driving livestock down the Michigan Road to the markets in Indianapolis, which was at that time a full day away from here. This was a good place to stop before making the final day’s journey.

Aston Inn

Long before Indianapolis assimilated all of Marion County, this was the spot of a small town named Augusta. Its streets cross the Michigan Road perpendicularly, where Indianapolis’s streets cross it at angles. Augusta lies between 71st and 79th Streets.

Augusta

Unlike most of the rest of Indianapolis, Augusta was built with Michigan Road as its main street. Its side streets cross at right angles, as this map shows.

Augusta, Indiana was founded in 1832 by David Boardman and James Fee, presumably to take advantage of the opportunities the brand-new Michigan Road would provide. In 1834, Boardman and his son built a house in Augusta on the Michigan Road. It still stands, and is one of the oldest homes in the city.

Boardman and son built this house the hard way. They made the bricks from clay they dug and made the timbers from poplar and ash trees they cut down and sawed at a mill on nearby Crooked Creek. Can you imagine how long that must have taken? Some say the house was built on a bluff overlooking the Michigan Road. I think it’s possible that the house was built at the road’s original level, but that the road was lowered, probably during the automobile age, for faster and safer travel. Whichever story is right, the house seems to tower over the road.

The digital library at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis includes this photo of the house in 1976. You’ll notice some changes since 1976. The Michigan Road was widened to four lanes in 1995 or 1996, which removed a stoop and walkway to the front door. Also, the roof has been modified, the chimneys are shorter, window frames are narrower, and the front door is different.

Boardman House de-ivied

Augusta’s best days were few. The railroad came in a couple miles west in the early 1850s. Smelling greater prosperity, most of the town picked up, moved down 71st St. to the railroad, and founded New Augusta. Today, both towns are part of Indianapolis. When you drive through what was Augusta, it’s hard to tell it was ever a town. It seems only to be a few random old houses that inexplicably interrupt a sea of strip malls. But some clues, like this house, remain.

Speaking of strip malls, they dominate the road through the rest of Indianapolis. This northbound photo was taken just south of 86th St.

Approaching 86th St

The Michigan Road is about to run out of Indianapolis. The road just past I-465 in this map is 96th St., the border with Hamilton County.

Here’s where 86th St. crosses the Michigan Road.

86th and Michigan

This animation shows how this intersection has changed over time, going from rural to suburban. The aerial images are from 1937, 1956, 1962, 1979, 1986, 1997, and 2008.

These are The Pyramids. They’re just south of I-465 and east of the road. On a clear day, you can see these from the Riley gravesite. When they were built, they were way out in the sticks, but instantly became a landmark. I heard that the original mirrored glass reflected the sun so badly that it interfered with air traffic, and so new, less-glaring glass was installed. I used to work in an office complex across from the Pyramids, and at certain times of day every office on the east side of the building had to close the blinds against the killer glare. I worked on the second floor of the middle pyramid for about a year (in 1999 and 2000, I think), and I was surprised by how shabby the place was inside.

The Pyramids

From I-465, here’s a northbound shot of the road as it is about to leave Indianapolis. It becomes US 421 again here. The road is routinely this busy here, as it is a major artery between Zionsville and northwest Indianapolis.

Michigan Road at I-465

Next: The Michigan Road in Hamilton and Boone Counties.

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

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Road Trips

The Michigan Road in southeastern Indianapolis

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.

I-74 bypassed the tiny town of Pleasant View in northwestern Shelby County, leaving a mile or so of the Michigan Road behind. The last few hundred feet of the remnant are actually in Marion County, which is Indianapolis.

This southbound shot shows a highway that hasn’t been maintained in 50 years.

North of Pleasant View

Here is where the Michigan Road ends, superseded by I-74, which was built here across the Michigan Road’s path rather than along it.

North of Pleasant View

The green line on this map shows what I believe was the Michigan Road’s route in Marion County’s southeast corner before I-74. The road is supplanted by I-74 for less than a mile; it appears again after the next exit. If you ever follow the Michigan Road out here, you can avoid returning to I-74 by going north on County Line Rd. to Indian Creek Rd., following Southeastern Ave. to Acton Rd., and then going south on Acton Rd. to pick up Southeastern Ave. again. For a short distance, the road on both sides of I-74 is confusingly signed Southeastern Ave., but only the one south of I-74 is genuine.

I-74 pulls away from the Michigan Road just as it reaches the former town of Wanamaker. On January 1, 1970, many small towns in Marion County officially ceased to exist when the city and county governments merged in a consolidation plan called Unigov. This map shows what was Wanamaker.

Just because a town officially ceases to exist does not mean it’s not still there, of course. One of the first things you encounter in Wanamaker is the New Bethel Baptist Church. It is so called because the town’s original name was New Bethel.

New Bethel Baptist Church

Here’s downtown New Bethel, northbound on Southeastern Ave. (Michigan Road).

Wanamaker

The town was busy — Wheatley’s had a band. This restaurant stands on the southeast corner of the town’s main intersection and was once R. Purvis Groceries, Dry Goods, and Hardware, and it sold Indian gasoline.

Wanamaker

On the southwest corner stands the former Allied Appliances Co. While the business in this building today sells gas grills and lawn tractors, it has not removed the old sign.

Wanamaker

New Bethel Ordinary is a pizza place, and I’m told the pizza is fabulous.

New Bethel Ordinary

This old house on Wanamaker’s north side is gargantuan.

Old house

North of Wanamaker proper stands this old building which houses a flower shop today. It looks like an old school to me.

Wanamaker Flower Shoppe

Southeastern Ave. makes its way out of Wanamaker and toward Downtown Indianapolis.

Leaving Wanamaker

Shortly the road meets I-465. Long before the Interstate was built, however, this intersection was called Five Points.

There are six corners here today, casting accuracy concerns on the name Five Points, but this was not always so. This 1962 aerial image shows Southeastern Ave. torn up for construction of I-465, and Five Points Road not extending north of Southeastern Ave.

The building of the Michigan Road presented a business opportunity to Major John Belles, whose home was just east of this intersection. He built a large log house here and operated it as an inn in the 1820s and 1830s. The H. A. Waterman Co. came to this intersection in 1881 and is in business today, making it one of Indianapolis’s oldest businesses. First a blacksmith shop, Waterman added a hardware department, a garage, and a truck and machinery repair in 1914. Later, the business sold farm tractors and lawn equipment.

Waterman Hardware in Five Points

Just across Troy Ave. from Waterman’s stands this tidy little house. It is one of a few houses standing here, lonely little petunias in the onion patch of I-465 and the Marion County road maintenance site. This has got to be a plenty noisy place to live. Yet this homeowner obviously continues to take pride in his property. You can see Southeastern Ave. on the left in this photo, going uphill on its way over I-465.

House at MR and I-465

Just north of I-465 stands the sprawling St. John Lutheran Church complex.

St. John Lutheran Church

Shortly Southeastern Ave. encounters I-74 again. This time, however, it’s just a stub of the highway, a glorified entrance and exit. I-74 actually follows I-465 around the city’s Southside. Building this stub did, however, manage to eradicate the Michigan Road’s northbound lane for a couple hundred feet.

Here’s what it looks like on the ground. You have to curve right and then turn left to stay on the Michigan Road.

Michigan Road at Old US 421

A southbound trip down the Michigan Road is not interrupted, however.

Michigan Road at Old US 421

This old house stands at Arlington Ave., a dentist’s office today.

Old house

Beyond Arlington Ave., the quality of the neighborhood begins to go downhill. This abandoned service station seems almost to be the gatekeeper to the decay.

Old service station

The whole area has a deserted, unkept feel, which this liquor store exemplifies.

Liquor store

My photograph doesn’t capture this old house’s poor condition very well. It looks to be quite old. I’d like to know what’s behind that addition on the front. The sign out front reads, “Smitley Apartments. Adults Only.” The discarded couch and mattress add style to the neighborhood.

Old house - rooms for rent

This southbound photo shows some of the light industry typical of this part of Southeastern Ave.

Southbound

Southeastern Ave. is numbered like an east-west street in this part of town even though the road is north-south in its broader context.

Here, Southeastern Ave. intersects with Sherman Dr.

MR at Sherman

There just isn’t very much attractive about this part of the road.

Mid-West Machinery Mart

I couldn’t find any identifying information on this bridge, which is just south of Pleasant Run Parkway, but based on the guardrail design I’d say it dates to the 1920s. Southbound photo.

Bridge and railroad overpass

After driving under the railroad overpass in the photo above, the Indianapolis skyline first becomes visible and retail and restaurant businesses begin to appear.

Downtown rising

Southeastern Ave. intersects at a slight angle with English Ave. where they both meet Rural St. If you’re new to the area and heading southbound, it’s easy to end up on English by mistake. When US 52 still passed through town, it followed English Ave. from the east and then turned onto the Michigan Road here.

This building is the Florence Fay School, also known as School 21 in Indianapolis Public Schools. It is currently closed, but I have found state testing data for the school as recently as 2005. The trees do a pretty good job of obscuring the building, but I found two old photos of the school that show it well. One is from 1923 and the other is from 1929. The building was on the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana’s “10 Most Endangered” list in, I believe, 2005, but did not make the 2008 list and is presumably safe from the wrecking ball.

Florence Fay School

This photo shows the last mile or so of Southeastern Ave. before it reaches Downtown.

Downtown looms

Until about October 31, 2008, Southeastern Ave. intersected with Washington St. (the old National Road and former US 40) at a shallow angle.

A project to remove the I-65/I-70 ramp at Market St. and build a new ramp onto Washington St. made it necessary to reconfigure the intersection a little bit. This rendering from the project Web site shows how Southeastern will be curved to meet Washington St. more squarely. While I’m not thrilled to lose the road’s original routing, the new intersection should be safer for drivers to navigate.

A neglected obelisk stands where the Michigan and National Roads intersect, commemorating these two important roads. The obelisk stood where Southeastern Ave. now meets Washington St., and was moved was moved as part of the ramp project to a spot at this intersection formerly occupied by Southeastern Ave.

National Road/Michigan Road marker

This shot of the obelisk shows Southeastern Ave. in the background.

National Road/Michigan Road marker

The Michigan Road turns onto the National Road for most of its trip through Downtown.

Next: The Michigan Road in Downtown Indianapolis.

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

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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.

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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.

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