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Us 50 In Indiana

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I got an e-mail the other day from a woman who said that she owned a house in Napoleon, Indiana, on the Michigan Road, that I photographed and place on my Michigan Road site.




She said that the house was built in 1822 by a fellow named Elias Conwell. I looked up Conwell and it turns out he was a wealthy businessman who moved to Indiana from Delaware, originally settling in Aurora on the Ohio River. They even named a street after him in Aurora. Further research suggested that Conwell St. in Aurora was the original alignment of US 50 through that town.


US 50. You know, a road on my short list for the summer. That's all I needed to make my decision. I toured US 50 today from the Ohio line to just short of Seymour (at I-65).


It took about an hour and 45 minutes to get to where US 50 enters Indiana from Ohio, and there I came across this 1838 state boundary marker.




The text reads: "State Line as resurveyed under a joint resolution passed by Indiana on the 27th January and by Ohio on the 10th March 1837."


On the other side it reads "Erected Nov. 27th, 1838." On the Ohio side it reads OHIO, and on the Indiana side it reads INDIANA, to wit:





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Starting with small steps, I see. It's reassuring to know that you made it in and out of Ohio without incident.


I assume a more extensive report is forthcoming and I'm looking forward to it. In February, I noticed (inexplicably for the first time) a pair of tunnels/cellars in Aurora that I've wanted to investigate. I'm curious about whether or not you saw/explored/explained them.

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Sorry. Had to do a little map checking. The cellars or tunnels are on IN-56 and not US-50. The Ohio River Scenic Byway follows IN-56 west from Aurora and, more often than not, so do I. I guess I tend to think of that as the primary route through town though US-50 probably has the better claim. Even sans cellars, I still look forward to your report and note that another, officially scenic, route awaits you on your next visit to Aurora.

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I hope Jim doesn't mind me jumping into his topic. Beer's Auto Sales is a thriving used car dealer whose inventory often includes some classics -- and the occasional tractor -- along with the standard "bread & butter" offerings. The signs are not actually for sale but... Hey, he's a car dealer. You could probably make him an offer but it better be a good one. The inside is as interesting as the outside. Here's a kind of dim interior shot from 2002.

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Denny, thanks for filling in the blanks on Beer's! I didn't realize there were more signs inside!


I'm actually quite introverted and am not the type to walk into a business and ask questions about the place. Matter of fact, when I photograph something like this, I try to be quick and inconspicuous, especially if I'm standing on the property itself rather than in the road right-of-way. I've met some proprietors who've wondered what the heck I was doing, and while it's never been a bad experience, I generally prefer to be left alone!


Aurora was my favorite stop on this trip. I spent a lot of time there taking pictures. I got hungry, so I injected about $7 into the local economy at a Mexican restaurant. I was more in the mood for a cheeseburger, but Mexican was what I found, so it was what I ate.


Not long ago I bought a DVD from this fellow on eBay of old Indiana maps from the mid 1800s to about 1940, and it was the best $5 I've spent in a long time. Maps from the 10s and 20s suggest (as best as state maps can) that US 50 and its predecessor, the original Indiana State Road 4, went through Aurora over this 1887 bridge, still in service.




This is the old road as it passed through Aurora westbound. The business district is actually on a perpendicular road. Some nice architecture there; click through to see those photos on Flickr.




This was absolutely my day to see old gas stations. This was just the first of many.




1844 church. The old road turns right here, off Main and onto 4th St.




I saw this old house a block beyond the right turn and was drawn to it. The street has stone gutters here.




This Aurora resident came out to meet me. Introvert or not, I didn't mind his greetings one bit.




My 1916 ABB sends the driver down 4th all the way to the next town. A few blocks away from the church, there's a fork; 4th is on the right and Conwell is on the left. 4th looked barely passable -- an alley at best. So I took Conwell, which itself was closed for some sort of roadwork, and so I had to get on modern 50. The US 50 bypass of Aurora cuts this old route in two, but here's a photo from current 50 of old 50 (Conwell).




The old road picks up later on the other side of 50 and then trails off in the woods. I didn't explore it -- something about the area screamed "unfriendly to people not from here."

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More good stuff. As I said, my normal path out of Aurora is on IN-56 and I often reach it over the old bridge you've pictured. While I knew that was Main Street, it never occurred to me that was also once US-50. I'll certainly check some of that out next time. When you say "The old road picks up later on the other side of 50 and then trails off in the woods." are you talking about Railroad Ave or Dillsboro Rd?


The big house where you mention the stone gutters is Hillforest. It's now a museum and I have a vague memory of having been inside but can find no evidence (and not much memory:-).


Perhaps my own introvertedness is dependent on leg count. I have very few photos of cats. :D

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Duh :huh: Don't know why I didn't check this sooner. The attached scan is from a post US-routes 1927 ABB. It indicates that US-50 turned on 3rd then jogged over to 4th later. On today's streets that would be three blocks on 3rd and a block on Exporting. It isn't at all helpful on 4th/Conwell or Lower Dillsboro/modern US-50.


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Hey, thanks Denny for the 1927 ABB snippet. Very helpful. My 1924 ABB, now that I've thought to check it, gives a similar route for Old SR 4 -- Main to 3rd, right on 3rd till it ends, left and next right and follow Highway No. 4. 1.4 miles later, it says "4 cor.; left." 1.4 miles is about .3 miles past Lower Dillsboro Rd., but it looks like the intersection with Lower Dillsboro Rd. would have been a 4-corners back in the day. 1.4 miles, in contrast, falls right where Indiana Ave. peters out into the fill for current US 50 -- no 4-corners in sight. But now my Spidey sense is tingling that Lower Dillsboro Rd. could have been the old alignment. It makes sense, even if the mileages don't add up. I wish I had driven it anyway.


My guess was that 50 turned briefly south where Lower Dillsboro Rd. begins, following Indiana Ave. It looks to me like Trester Hill Ave. follows that general line, as well, past where Indiana Ave. ends at current 50. It was Trester Hill Ave. that didn't look too friendly to me.


The old bridge, by the way, was US 50 until 1950 and SR 56 until 1972, according to this site.


Thanks for the link about Hillforest!

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Nope, correction, I read my ABB wrong. 1.4 miles does put you right at Lower Dillsboro Rd. Dillsboro ("fork at bank") is at 10.2 miles per Google Maps, and my 1924 ABB says 10.1. Drat! I hate it when I miss an old alignment! If it didn't take me 2 hours to get back there I'd pick it up on my next trip.


I still think Indiana/Tresler Hill was the next alignment of 50, before the current one.

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"...something about the area screamed 'unfriendly to people not from here.' " ~ Mobilene


Our traveling companion, Snip (One of the Traveling Dingleberries), likes to comment "...And they were never seen again." or mention something about hillbilly cannibals in similar situations.


For some reason, when people see me with the camera they think (1) I'm with the newspaper, or (2) I'm with a realty company.

When I tell them I'm documenting the National Road, they usually open up with all kinds of local information.


~ Steve

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I've been approached as I've been photographing small towns by people hoping I was a real estate developer come to revitalize their dying little burgs. They've been universally disappointed when I say I'm documenting the road!


I have had two people tell me some things about the road, both on the NR in Illinois. Here's one story: http://jimgrey.wordpress.com/2008/02/08/bursting-the-nostalgia-bubble/ . The other is at this page: http://jimgrey.net/Roads/NationalRoadIllinois/01_State_Line.htm -- scroll down to the photo of my former little red car about 1/3 of the way down, and read the two following paragraphs.


I occasionally explore the old roads with a companion. One is a woman, the other is a man. I'm much more likely to go into unfriendly-looking areas when I'm with the fellow. Matter of fact, he and I explored a considerable portion of the brick Illinois NR together, some of which was hidden from the modern highway and in areas that I would have been nervous exploring alone.


This page tells the story of the greatest abandoned road alignment I've ever found: http://jimgrey.net/Roads/SR37IndyBloomington/04_Johnson_County_700N.htm . It's Indiana State Road 37, the road between Indianapolis and Bloomington. It will become I-69 somewhere down the road. Anyway, I was kind of new to the whole roadsleuthing thing and hadn't developed my healthy respect for the hillbilly cannibals yet. At one end was that great abandoned alignment; at the other end was what I thought was an abandoned alignment but was really private property, and I got chased off by the police! You've got to see the photos, though -- they still astonish me.



Edited by mobilene
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Jim, I had to amputate a couple of periods to get all the links to work so you probably want to edit your last post a bit.


Regarding getting out of Aurora westbound on old 50, I can't get the mileage to line up all that well with anything I think could have been a "4 corner" but I've every intention of driving Lower Dillsboro the next time I'm in the area. I suppose I might even try Trester Hill, too, but I doubt it.

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I fixed the links. D'oh!


And on re-study, I think I was wrong again in interpreting my 1924 ABB. I think the "4 cor." is indeed at Indiana Ave., and the driver was directed left onto Indiana and along more or less the current US 50 corridor. Here's a Google Map of the route using modern 50. Indiana Ave. is 1.4 miles from the start, but Dillsboro clocks in at 9.8 miles. The ABB says 10.1 miles; could .3 miles have been gained in later straightenings of US 50?


My 1916 ABB does, however, seem to send the driver down Lower Dillsboro Road. Here's the Google Map of that route. By subtraction, my ABB says 10.2 miles; Google Maps matches exactly.


The 1916 ABB says that at 5 miles from the start (2nd & Main in Aurora), there's a sharp left then right over a bridge. The road has since been realigned there, but I can see on the map where the jog used to be, and there's still a little bridge there. It looks to be somebody's driveway today.


If that's not enough reason to revisit this segment of the old road, here's another -- something else I missed. 19 miles past Dillsboro is a little town called Holton. 2.8 miles west of Holton, US 50 crosses a creek. Just south of the modern bridge stands a stone bridge built in 1908 that carried an earlier alignment of the road -- one that even predates Indiana's original numbered highway system, which came about in 1918. Here's a link to some photos and info about that bridge.

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The words Holton & bridge triggered memories but it was not because of the stone bridge but because of an 1884 covered bridge north of town. It's on Otter Creek and rates signs on US-50 at Holton's edges. I knew nothing of the stone bridge but will look closer next pass. I'm no authority but 1908 seems a fairly late date for a stone arch bridge.


You've certainly been near there in the past. The Old Michigan Road crosses US-50 about two mile east of the center of Holton.

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Some more goodness from US 50.


An old gas station in Dillsboro.




An abandoned alignment just west of Dillsboro.




The modern highway in Ripley County.




At the Michigan Road.




Where the old and new roads split on Holton's east side. The 1924 ABB says you follow the old road 1 mile past the center of town and then turn left and cross a RR. That left turn still exists, but it's a long driveway to somebody's house today; the RR crossing is gone.




The 1924 ABB sends the driver through what is now a reservoir. The road that leads south out of the reservoir leads to tiny Butlerville. These two old, abandoned schools stand on a cross street -- it's not clear to me whether the cross street is the old road or not.






US 50 still goes right through North Vernon -- the only town it still passed through on this trip. It's a cool little town. You may recall that the Madison State Road (from Chris Rowland's trip) passes through here, too.



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My 1924 ABB gives confusing directions on how to get to North Vernon. As best as I can decipher them, they involve a bridge that not only no longer exists, but of which there is nary a trace, as if there were never a bridge there. But it at least names the streets for one in-town intersection, and I'm able to trace westbound from there. It sends the driver out of North Vernon on a road named Hayden Pike; appropriate, for the next town is Hayden, and the mileages from that point add up perfectly.


And so I'm surprised that the ABB doesn't call out this 1908 wooden bridge that's on the old road.




I have to admit, this thing didn't inspire confidence in me, and I considered not crossing it. But while I stood there photographing it, a half dozen farm trucks clattered (and boy, do I ever mean clattered -- the thing shivered and shook) over it. I figured that my little car had to weigh a lot less than those trucks, so I drove over it.

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I'm sorry I missed so much of this topic. I was with wife and friends in eastern Washington, and not on line. You guys are too sharp! If we do the little book, this would be a great piece to include.


The wooden bridge is a classic. What a find!




Keep the Show on the Road!

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Denny, it's right off 50 and easy to spot. Click the photo to see it on Flickr; there, click the map link, which pinpoints its location. There are also about a dozen more photos of the bridge on Flickr.


I was quite surprised to find this little bridge. I thought all the wooden bridges went out in the 70s. And whoops, I was wrong, this wasn't built in 1908. Bridgehunter.com says more like the 1920s sometime. Maybe this is why my 1924 ABB doesn't call out this bridge -- perhaps then the road crossed the RR at grade.


A little bit more is to come from my first Indiana US 50 adventure. I'm hopeful to get back on 50 over the 4th of July weekend. I'm told there's a ghost town on an old alignment of 50 and I'm determined to see it.


Next weekend I'll be in Delphi speaking about the Michigan Road.

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