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Celebrating our two-lane highways of yesteryear…And the joys of driving them today!

Us 50 - Seymour To Shoals

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A friend of mine saw my photos from my Ohio Line to Seymour leg of my US 50 trip and asked if he could travel along on my next trip. Sure! I love having company. So on Saturday we zipped down I-65 to Seymour and spent a very hot day on the old highway.


I'm glad he came along, too. I managed to lock my keys in my car in Seymour. They fell out of my pocket as I got out of the car, and by the time I realized, I had already locked and shut the door. They lay there in the seat, taunting me. Thinking quickly, he said, "There's a hardware store down the block. Let's go buy a long wood dowel. You can stick it through the cracked window and press the lock button with it." 58 cents later we were back to the car. The lock button on the door wouldn't play ball, but I was able to flip my keyfob over and press the Unlock button on it.


The rest of the day, I locked the car with the fob after we were both out.


My 1924 ABB sends drivers into Seymour on Tipton St. (US 50), but then has them hook right on Chestnut and then out of town on 2nd St., a couple blocks north of modern US 50. The ABB claims that the route follows "State Highway No. 4," so perhaps the modern 50 alignment came later. Here's a shot of Chestnut just north of current 50.




This fabulous sign is just around the corner from Chestnut St. on St. Louis Ave. Roadmaven tells me that this was part of a chain of dress shops in small Indiana towns.




2nd St. quickly became narrow on its way out of town. Soon, a railroad track, US 50, and 2nd St. converged. 2nd turned to cross the track. The ABB sent me down a county road away from US 50's current alignment for a bit, and then down another county road to meet up with it again. But we wouldn't stay on modern 50 for long. We would soon reach Brownstown, and we would leave US 50 for a 21-mile jaunt down a series of state and county roads. The county road portion wound through some fun terrain and gave a real feel for what a trip down US 50 would have been like 80 years ago -- except, perhaps, that the roads are all paved now. I'll share photos from those roads soon.

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The sign is cool but it was the pair of cars beneath it that caught my attention first. A 2010 wheel-less Prius nose-to-nose with a now-orphaned mid-1960s Mercury Comet. Staging that would have cost big bucks but you got it free.

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Denny, that Prius on blocks is somehow both classic Indiana and just too strange for words at the same time!


Dave, the remarkable thing is that downtown Seymour still has a viable hardware store in which one can buy a 58-cent wood dowel. In many other small Indiana cities, my only option would have been to call a locksmith.

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US 50 still follows its original alignment from Seymour to Brownstown. It's a nice two-lane road, but the fact that I didn't stop for a single photo between the two towns should tell you something.


Brownstown itself is a nice, typical Indiana small town. Or is it a small city? It's smaller than Seymour, that's for sure. Yet it's the Jackson county seat.


There's a bit of good neon in Brownstown.










That K of P neon sign is attached, not surprisingly, to a K of P building. What is surprising is that the K of P still meets there.


Across the street, I found the Jackson County Courthouse to be especially picturesque.




US 50's current and former alignments diverge in Brownstown. Currently, US 50 hooks a left at Commerce St., while old 50 continues down Main St., which becomes Vallonia Rd. and then runs into SR 135 in that way that roads do when they were once the same road. I knew that, even had it on my route printout (yes, printout -- one of these days I'll splurge on the high-tech gadgets you all have but for now it's paper for me). But I absentmindedly followed current 50 anyway. We found a possible older alignment marked Bloomington Road parallel to 50 just south of where it intersects with SR 135.




Our next stop would be tiny Vallonia, long since bypassed by US 50. Er, SR 135. We won't see current US 50 again for another 21 miles.

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At this point, we've left current US 50 behind and are driving on State Road 135. My 1924 ABB calls this "State Highway No. 4," and the Indiana Highway Ends site says that when 50 was signed, it followed old 4 from the Ohio line to Shoals.


Vallonia was on the route, several miles down the road from Brownstown. It was settled in the late 1700s by the French, and was the site of some War of 1812 skirmishes. A fort was built there to protect residents from belligerent Indians.


135 bypasses Vallonia today. It appears to have bypassed it for a long time, as the road through Vallonia is 1920s narrow.


The town has clearly faded, and at first I thought it was going to be little more than a few rows of houses. The first interesting sight we saw was this 1906 Methodist church building.




But as we rounded the curve a downtown emerged. We found about eight commercial buildings; this one is typical of them. This is the only one that appeared to have any sort of going concern in it, but it was closed this Saturday.




Click here for a look at Vallonia from about 1890. While I can't swear this is the same road we were on, and the buildings pictured don't match any of my photos, I didn't notice any commercial buildings down the side streets and so it seems reasonable to project that this is the main road.


In 1914, Joe Jackson built a hotel. I can't find much about who Joe Jackson was, but his hotel still stands and is undergoing restoration.




Here is a photo of the hotel from when it was new (and the road was made of dirt). I imagine an ABB driver staying here for the night, as it was considered the finest hotel in the county at the time. Here is a photo of the barber shop the hotel contained.


In the late 1960s local residents built a replica of the fort that once stood in town. There were no photos of it, but there were documents that described it, and so they based their work on that.



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Like others I love those "before and currant" photos. JJ's hotel has changed a tad over the years, but the building basically remains the same, outside at least. I did notice in the "before" there were two front doors - or what appears to be a door on the left front corner. But it's not there in your pic, so was probably replaced at some time. I wonder if this was some sort of entrance to something on the 2nd floor.



Alex Burr

Memphis, TN

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Like Alex, I definately enjoy the then and now....and you have lots of good subjects. Thanks!


Those little towns had a different character. People worked hard,often from dawn to dusk, but I think they were less rushed than we are. I asked my mother who was 96 at the time, what was different between her youth and today, and she said it was more "hectic" now. You look at the folks standing in front of the buidling in the "then" photo and "hectic" doens't come to mind. Maybe busy, or working, but not "hectic."


Enjoyed the write up!




Keep the Show on the Road!

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Dave, I like it when I'm fortunate and find "then" photos. I don't always manage it.


Alex, I'm not sure what the other doors on the hotel went to -- perhaps the barber shop? Hard telling. The restoration seems to be a complete gutting; there were no clues inside the building.


Not far past Vallonia SR 135 intersected with SR 235; old 50 followed 235 west from there, and so did we. I knew about the nation's longest covered bridge (430 feet, 5 inches on three spans) and was looking forward do seeing it -- but I did not know we'd find it in the middle of a $1 million restoration. It was a rare sighting of a covered bridge "undressed."




By the looks of her, she was long overdue for this work.




This bridge carried traffic until 1972, which I find astonishing. There were barricades and keep-off signs up all over the place, but I simply could not resist climbing onto the bridge for this shot.




Soon we came to Medora itself. A town with a self-proclaimed legendary tavern must have guts.




At the corner of 235 and Main St. was a market with this old sign attached. I remember seeing these all the time as a kid, but they're unusual today.




Old US 50 leaves SR 235 and heads west down Main St. This little convenience store is in the first block.




And then we headed out on the country road portion of US 50's long original alignment.

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Some of them covered bridges were tough pieces of engineering. A while back one across the Connecticut River, between New Hampshire and Vermont was to be taken down. They got her down, but it was a hell of a job. Old bridge just kept shaking off the dynamite, but finally gave up the fight.



Alex Burr

Memphis, TN

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US 50 (and State Road 37) appear to have been moved more than once in and around Bedford, Indiana. Without getting into all the roadsleuthing I did, here's where the two roads leave town on its southwest side today. The numbers on this map represent where these roads used to go. (Click the map to see it larger; I've placed index numbers on it which are explained below.)




1: The old road used to follow Washington St. out of town. That street dead ends now where modern 37/50 swings by. Strangely, the road seems to fork here, too. I can figure out where one fork used to go, but not the other.




2: You see, I think old 50 used to cut through what is now a field. If you zoom into the imagery at Google Maps, you can see traces of the old road.


3: The road then swung around to cross the river. The bridge is long gone, but its two piers still stand. If you look on the map, you'll see a little sliver of road that heads south from about where the old bridge would have connected to the west shore. It is a dirt road, but it was signed something like "Old Turnpike." I actually shot this photo from a boat ramp right near the modern bridge -- and was eaten alive by mosquitoes and got my shoes caked in mud, so it's not like I'm not willing to sacrifice for the cause.




4: This is where Old 37 (the Dixie Highway) and Old 50 diverge. 37 goes straight; 50 veers right.




5: Yes, that's right, I said Dixie Highway! It continues on its merry way here.

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Because I knew many here were concerned, I made a special trip Friday to check on the Prius. I'm sure everyone will be relieved to know that the wheels are back in town.


I guess the gas mileage will be higher now...


~ Steve

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