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THE 1928 LINCOLN HIGHWAY IN INDIANA


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On a very rainy morning in July, the Buettner family packed the car with one camera, two travel bags, and a trunk full of baby needs, and headed west on our first road trip as a threesome. With eight-month old Michaela in the back seat, this trip was to be a twofold adventure for Tammy and me-- our first complete Lincoln Highway trip across Indiana, and our first small vacation with the baby.

On this particular journey, we chose to take the 1928 route of the Lincoln Highway. This is the same route that was marked with concrete memorial posts placed by the Boy Scouts, one of the last activities of a Lincoln Highway Association that would soon cease "active and agressive operations." This is also the early route of U.S. 30 across Indiana, a route which at that time was the highway equivalent of the old Pennsylvania Railroad, passing through nearly all the same towns from Fort Wayne to Valparaiso.

By my reckoning, the 1928 route of the Lincoln Highway across Indiana now takes 155.1 miles of travel to complete. This is actually a shorter distance than the present route of four-lane U.S. 30, which requires about 157 miles of travel now that the newest Fort Wayne bypass has been opened, adding five miles to the total route. However, the white-on-blue milepost signs placed by the Indiana Department of Transportation have not been adjusted to reflect the revised distance, as the first milepost west of the Ohio line is numbered 151.

It is to Indiana's credit that U.S. 30 is now a four-lane highway across the entire state. Happily, ninety-one percent of the 1928 route has been bypassed by this newer construction, allowing tourists to travel several long stretches of quiet two-lane pavement away from the busier route. Most of the significant overlap areas are in the western half of the state, especially near Valparaiso, but also near the Illinois line.

Click to open larger 1928 eastern Indiana PDF map file. 

The route of the Lincoln Highway enters Indiana from Ohio, then diverges almost immediately with a right turn onto a two-lane road, only 0.3 miles west of the Ohio line. This two-lane stretch is marked officially as Lincoln Highway East in Allen County, and continues to follow the beach ridge of prehistoric Lake Erie, much like the highway did across the westernmost fifty-five miles in Ohio. The route passes through the crossroads communities of Townley and Zulu (one of my favorite place names anywhere; how many Lincoln Highway towns have a name beginning with "Z"?), plus the parish community of Besancon (named for a city in France). The Zulu Garage has been a fixture on the highway since the early Road Guides, and the cross-tipped church at Besancon has been a landmark even longer.

Zulu and Besancon are also the sites of two old road remnants. A curve improvement near Zulu has a short piece of old concrete pavement that is easily visible from both "New 30" and "Old 30," giving travelers three generations of alignment to explore in one small area. Similar improvements at Besancon have preserved another old stretch of road, now marked Besancon Road, that begins near the church and extends past an old brick schoolhouse.

Passing by the church takes me back to fond childhood memories from 1965, when the family would load up a red Pontiac station wagon and visit my grandfather at the Veteran's Hospital in Fort Wayne. Perhaps no landmark west of Delphos stands out in my memory more than this church and its steeple.

A short photo stop under a shade tree at the cemetery proves fascinating-- French names such as Gerardot and Gromeaux appear frequently on the tombstones, very much unlike the Germanic names which appear in so many small towns in my part of Ohio.

The two-lane route terminates with a stop at the four-lane route, and New Haven must be approached by turning right (northwesterly), following U.S. 30 for about two miles. A short remnant of the old road stops at the right-of-way fence which marks the limits of the limited access highway. Other than the new Fort Wayne bypass, now designated as Interstate Route I-469, this was the last part of U.S. 30 to be four-laned in Indiana, with construction completed within the last few years. Short remnants of the 1928 roadway now serve as frontage roads and can be observed on the south side of the new highway while approaching the bypass interchange.

To follow the 1928 route into and through New Haven, avoid the new bypass and continue westerly on old U.S. 30, which just this summer has been marked as State Route 930. At the second stop light beyond the bypass, or just past the fast food restaurants, turn north (right) onto Green Street, following that street for 0.2 miles, then turn west (left) at another stop light, at a street which still bears the Lincoln Highway name. Interestingly, the street is marked as Lincoln Highway both west and east of this point, although I have no evidence that the historic highway ever extended east of this intersection. I believe the name is carried through town merely to simplify street addresses.

Entering Fort Wayne, it is probably best to stay with the flow of traffic by following another old version of U.S. 30 onto Washington Boulevard, which is an efficient one-way westbound street that moves quickly through the city. The 1928 route actually followed New Haven Avenue, Wayne Trace, Fletcher Avenue, Maumee Avenue and Harmar Street to reach Washington Boulevard, but this will no longer work perfectly because Maumee Avenue is one-way the wrong way. The die-hard tourist may create an adequate option by using Anthony Boulevard (one block west of Fletcher) to reach Washington Boulevard, but this is a part of town that I would prefer to hurry through.

Not to be forgotten in this area are remnants of roadway from the pre-1928 route. These bits and pieces of roadway include portions of Maumee Road, Estella Avenue and Maumee Avenue east of Coliseum Boulevard, and Maumee Avenue west of same. Coliseum Boulevard was the original U.S. 30 bypass, and going north from the cloverleaf area is the continuance of State Route 930. Most folks will probably need to refer to a detailed map to find their way to all these bits and pieces. And because all the remnants are north of the newer road, any diversions are best made when traveling westbound, when right turns from and to the main road can be made.

By following Washington Boulevard through Fort Wayne, the westbound tourist is following the true route of the 1928 Lincoln Highway. Today's eastbound tourists must allow for a temporary detour from the true route by using Jefferson Boulevard, which is one block south and one-way eastbound. Jefferson Boulevard merges into Maumee Avenue at a point east of Harmar Avenue, and is the preferred way out of town when heading that direction.

There are several worthwhile tourist attractions in downtown Fort Wayne, a historic city at the junction of the St. Marys, St. Joseph, and Maumee Rivers. Among the attractions is the Lincoln Museum at 200 E. Berry Street, which has an outstanding collection of Lincoln items, plus a "Remembering Lincoln" exhibit that is highlighted by a large illuminated map of the Lincoln Highway.

Disappointingly, the 1928 route through Fort Wayne does not cross over the Harrison Street Bridge, an attractive structure that was originally built in 1915 and splendidly rebuilt in 1987. This bridge over the St. Marys River was on the original route of the Lincoln Highway through the city, and features a granite block indicating mileage to New York and San Francisco (NY 724 SF 2660), plus a new builder's plate. Although the classic arch substructure pictured in the early Lincoln Highway Road Guides has been altered by the constuction of plain modern piers, it is nonetheless worth a diversion from the 1928 route to see the restored superstructure. Fans of roadside architecture will also want to watch for Cindy's Diner, a popular downtown eatery just two blocks north of Washington Boulevard, at the northwest corner of Harrison and Wayne Streets. Beyond the bridge, the 1915 route turns west for two blocks at Putnam Street, and then follows Wells Street and State Boulevard north and west to Goshen Road, where it meets the 1928 route.

       

The 1928 route crosses the St. Marys River by way of the Van Buren Street bridge, which is six blocks west of the Harrison Street bridge. Van Buren Street leads to Sherman Boulevard, which continues north to Goshen Road. As the name implies, Goshen Road bears northwesterly toward the city of Goshen, plus Churubusco, Ligonier, and Elkhart. All were towns on the Lincoln Highway from 1913 to 1928. Much of this route is now part of U.S. 33, although in 1928 the highway was designated as State Route 2. It appears that U.S. 33 was a late addition to the first network of federal highways.

Leaving Fort Wayne, tourists should carefully watch for U.S. 33 signs as well as U.S. 30 signs. The northwest side of the city is highly congested, and in an area like this, drivers need as few distractions as possible. Coliseum Boulevard/State Route 930 junctions here, and then there is an interchange with Interstate Route 69. Once past I-69, continue about one-half mile along U.S. Routes 30 and 33, then angle right with U.S. 33 at the Elkhart/South Bend exit. After following U.S. 33 northwesterly for another one-half mile, prepare for a left turn (west) at the first stop light, at the intersection with Washington Center Road. It is at this point that the original Lincoln Highway route continued toward Elkhart and South Bend; however, to follow the 1928 route, travelers need to bear west toward Columbia City, Warsaw, and Plymouth.

Washington Center Road is one of only a few places in Indiana where any Lincoln Highway route follows an east-west section line road. Throughout most of the state, the 1928 route tends to bear in a west-by-northwest direction, virtually parallel with the old Pennsylvania Railroad. This particular roadway was probably improved for through travel at about the time when U.S. 30 was first designated (c.1926), because as late as 1920, the Automobile Blue Book had charted the meandering Leesburg Road as the road of choice from Fort Wayne toward Columbia City.

Beyond Columbia City, and all the way to Valparaiso, this Blue Book route tediously alternated west and north, zigzagging on roads that were mostly on the south side of the Pennsylvania Railroad. This also appears to be an early route of the Yellowstone Trail, and passed through almost every town that was on the railroad, including Larwill and Pierceton. Many of the roads that are now side-by-side with the railroad were apparently not built until the mid-1920s, when the route of U.S. 30 was being projected. In my part of Ohio, several state highways were built in the 1920s and 1930s on the roadbeds of old interurbans that ran parallel with the steam railroads, and it would be interesting to find out if this practice was followed in Indiana.

There are two areas on the 1928 route between Fort Wayne and Columbia City where old road remnants can be found. At the Allen County/Whitley County line, a curve improvement has rendered one set of old road remnants, part of which is marked Lake Center Road on the Allen County side of the line. Although a short part of this remnant appears to be original concrete, it deteriorates suddenly into crushed stone approaching the county line, and becomes virtually indistinguishable west of the county line. A second set of old road remnants, also rendered by a curve improvement, is three miles west of the county line in the area locally known as Coesse Corners. Survey markings at the west end of the older roadway suggest that construction of a new bridge may soon take place. Speaking of bridges, watch for a new structure just east of the old roadway at Lake Center Road. The design is unique in its use of wood for both the railings and the pilings and is somewhat reminiscent of a railroad trestle.

Approaching Columbia City, tourists must cross the contemporary version of U.S. 30, which destroyed a small part of the 1928 alignment. This crossing is made at Road 500 East, and will allow the traveler to pick up Chicago Avenue to enter the southeast side of Columbia City. Chicago Avenue is the first stretch of Indiana roadway that directly parallels the old Pennsylvania Railroad-- an occurrence which will become quite common west of Warsaw.

Based on the locations of the concrete memorial posts set in 1928, the Lincoln Highway route followed Chicago Avenue, Main Street, Van Buren Street, Walnut Street, and Warsaw Road on its way through Columbia City. The road that was previously known as Warsaw Road is now marked Park Street, except for a block on the north side of the school which is marked Jolly Street. Park Street ends at a road marked Lincolnway on the northwest side of town. Because Lincolnway extends southeast to Van Buren Street, it would seem that this road was a second version of U.S. 30, and the last version passing through town before the construction of the present bypass in the 1960s.

Click to open larger 1928 western Indiana PDF map file. 

Columbia City is one of five county seats on the 1928 route of the Lincoln Highway across Indiana. Of these five cities, only Fort Wayne (173,072) has a population greater than 25,000. Valparaiso (24,414) is the second largest of these county seats, and is followed by Warsaw (10,968), Plymouth (8,303), and Columbia City (5,706). The four smaller towns are typical of many other county seats in the state, where an impressive court house has a tree-lined block all to itself in the heart of downtown. These magnificent structures are not merely the center of a particular city, but also the center of a county-wide community. Note that the Allen County Court House, on Fort Wayne's Main Street, is three blocks north of Washington Boulevard, and has never been directly on any version of the transcontinental route.

The 1928 Lincoln Highway route from Columbia City to Warsaw is a nice stretch of old U.S. 30 that was declassified in the 1960s. It features five old road remnants that have been bypassed by curve improvements, some of which are now on private property. As a rule, from Columbia City to the Kosciusko County line, wherever there is a a sharp curve in the present alignment, there is also a sharper curve that has been abandoned. Beyond the county line, the road follows a straight course on section lines most of the way to Warsaw. Of note in this straight stretch are the decorative stone pillars at the ends of several farmhouse driveways, apparently a popular local custom.

Approaching and entering Warsaw has become a bit tricky since the completion of the various phases of four-lane U.S. 30. The through portion of the 1928 route has been cut off by the Warsaw bypass, rendering short road remnants on the northeast side of U.S. 30 which can be accessed by the frontage road named Kosciusko Drive. As a result of the bypass, tourists must go to the stop light at U.S. 30 and turn right (northwest), following the congested four-lane route for about one-half mile to the stop light at the Center Street intersection, where a left turn (west) is made to rejoin the 1928 route.

It is really a shame that interchanges were not part of the bypass constuction when new U.S. 30 was opened around town during the 1970s, because the annoying multiple stop lights on the four-lane route tend to clog traffic and create small convoys of large trucks.

Of the smaller county seats on the Indiana route, the city of Warsaw is definitely my favorite. There is something about being situated on a large body of water that adds to the appeal of a community, and with not one but three lakes in this area, both Warsaw and the neighboring town of Winona Lake have the luxury of that extra appeal. Beyond the route's northerly turn at the beautifully impressive Kosciusko County Court House, Lake Street passes some of the prettiest homes in Warsaw, many of which have a splendid backyard view of Center Lake.

Also on Lake Street is the only concrete memorial post in Indiana that survives at or near its original position. By the count of Russell Rein, Lincoln Highway researcher, there were 150 posts set on the 1928 route, including this remaining one in Funk Park. The original notes of Gael Hoag, the long-time field secretary of the Lincoln Highway Association who planned for the placement of each post, described this location as being in the "triangle at Lake, Columbia, and Perry." The post is not quite in its original position, having been relocated a short distance to its present spot after the city completed a utilities project. Sixty-seven years to the day after it was originally set, the post was rededicated on September 1, 1995, in a delightful ceremony that I had the privilege of attending.

Three of the original Boy Scouts who placed the marker in 1928 were on hand for the festivities. John McMeekin, Robert English, and Paul Fletcher were members of Pierceton Troop #1, and each man still calls Pierceton his home.

Beyond Warsaw, the 1928 route once again meets the line of the former Pennsylvania Railroad, and angles west-northwesterly toward Plymouth and Valparaiso. After leaving town, watch for the Warsaw Drive-In Theater, which is the only operating outdoor theater that we observed along the Indiana route. Also of note is the Tippecanoe River Rest Park, which has picnic tables and a nice view of the Chinworth Bridge, an old steel truss bridge that was saved after being closed to traffic. Once past the various town parks, picnic tables on this route are nearly nonexistent.

Between Warsaw and Plymouth, the 1928 route passes through the communities of Atwood, Etna Green, Bourbon, and Inwood. In each case, the route will deflect away from the railroad as it enters town, and then square up with a main north-south street in the middle of town, finally meeting the railroad again on the west side of town. Because a diagonal railroad line adversely affects gridded street patterns, it would be interesting to research which of these towns came before the railroad, and which towns came after. Also, the curious similarity of the Atwood and Inwood names makes me wonder if these communities were laid out simultaneously with the railroad. As my college professor would say, "This would be a good thing for you to look up."

The city of Plymouth is also entered by deflecting away from the railroad in order to meet a major east-west street. The diagonal street is named Lincolnway and leads to Jefferson Street, which passes the attractive Marshall County Court House. This mostly red brick structure is a refreshing surprise because so many of these fine buildings feature Indiana's famous limestone. Located on the northwest corner of Center Street and Jefferson Street, it has a very colonial look-- somewhat reminiscent of Williamsburg and Philadelphia.

It is interesting to note the use of the Center Street name in this part of the state. The towns of Warsaw and Bourbon also have major streets with that name, and in those two cases, the street is part of the 1928 route. Perhaps there is a regional pattern that develops from street nomenclature, much like the unfailing use of the Market Street name in the Lincoln Highway towns of eastern Ohio. Perhaps the same surveyor laid out these three towns, and perhaps he liked to use a common set of names. I once heard or read that Second Street is the most-used street name in America, and is even more popular than Main Street. I wonder where the usual set of presidential names (Washington, Jefferson, etc.) and the usual set of tree names (Elm, Walnut, etc.) would fit in that list.

Beyond Plymouth, the 1928 route is marked as West Lincoln Highway through the western part of Marshall County. About three miles out of town, an unexpected left turn (west) is required to stay with the route to Donaldson and points west. Were it not for a white-on-green "Donaldson" sign with an arrow, I likely would have missed this turn, which was much sharper than what I had interpreted from my maps. You will know that you have missed this turn if you end up stopping at the divided highway (if this happens, you need to backtrack only a few hundred feet to pick up this turn).

Another concrete post, but one that I missed, can be found along the route just east of Donaldson. According to Mike Weigler, past national director for Indiana, this is one of several posts in the state which have been significantly relocated from their original positions. Some of the posts have been saved by residents who lived along the highway, then moved to safer locations on their properties. Other posts have ended up at more remote places, such as the cathedral in Fort Wayne, the highway department in LaPorte, and at least one historical museum.

Beyond the crossroads community of Donaldson, the route stops at four-lane U.S. 30, requiring a left turn (westerly) after crossing the eastbound lanes. The 1928 route is then overlapped by the federal route for about six miles, until it diverges about one-half mile east of Hamlet. Because the eastbound lanes are the lanes closest to the railroad, it is my guess that the 1928 roadbed is now part of those lanes, with the westbound lanes added after acquiring additional right-of-way on the north side of the road. However, that theory may not hold true in a more built-up strip such as the one though Grovertown, where the new right-of-way may have been expanded to the south, and away from the existing properties on the north side of the old road. Remnants of old roadway can still be observed along the north side of the newer alignment through Grovertown.

Another left turn across the eastbound lanes of the divided highway is required to follow the 1928 route into the town of Hamlet. The striking feature of this town is its set of huge grain elevators, the largest that I can recall on this tour. Vacant lands adjacent to the railroad were probably the sites of various railroad buildings that have long since been removed. The heart of the town seems to be on the south side of the tracks, and the street running parallel with the railroad suggests that this town was laid out after the railroad came through.

West of Hamlet, the old route truly deteriorates into an old road. This forlorn stretch of weary and worn pavement looks very much like some old piece of road in Wyoming, with a trace of the centerline stripe begging to not fade away, and a classic line of utility poles running alongside and into the horizon. This bone-shaking jaunt lasts for a couple miles, then terminates at yet another intersection with four-lane U.S. 30. This intersection is about one mile beyond an underpass of U.S. 35, a bridge which seems to magically appear from out of the trees.

The route of U.S. 30 is followed westerly for another six miles, where again we will diverge by making a left turn across the divided highway, this time toward the town of Hanna. Realizing that so much of the 1928 route runs side-by-side with the railroad makes it somewhat easier to anticipate where a turn like this will occur, but the various state and county highway departments could certainly help by adding more signs in the area of these intersections. In hindsight, it would be better for most Lincoln Highway explorers to follow the route through Starke County and LaPorte County when traveling in the eastbound direction, because more right turns would be made from and to the busy four lanes of U.S. 30. Any one of these repeated left turns could prove hazardous for someone who is just learning the route.

The town of Hanna is situated on the railroad much like Hamlet, with a host of small buildings fronting a street that runs parallel with the railroad. Tammy thought the town had a bit of a western look, which I could not argue. A curiosity in Hanna is a street marked Allen Street. This so-called street is a short and narrow strip of blacktop barely long enough for my car to fit into, and the unnecessary stop sign and out-of-place railroad signs hint that this may be someone's idea of a practical joke. The obligatory gas pump in the weeds nearby serves to complete this apparently contrived picture. Perhaps the pump was moved from an abandoned Citgo station which remains in the middle of town, opposite a typical small-town general store.

Again, any railroad station, depot, or warehouse that may have been in Hanna has been dismantled, a sad testimony to the decline of all railroads, not just the proud Pennsylvania, once known as the "Standard Railroad of the World." In fact, for all the time we traveled alongside this railroad during our two days on the highway, the only train we saw was a Norfolk Southern work train that appeared to be removing dismantled poles and wires. Now, only a single track remains from the old double-track main that once carried the famous Broadway Limited passenger trains back and forth between New York and Chicago.
In the summer of 1998, Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation divided up the properties of the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), becoming the only two major railroads in the east. As part of this agreement, CSX was to get the old Pennsylvania Railroad property across Indiana and western Ohio. One would expect that by 1999, several CSX trains may be observed daily along these tracks on their way to and from the Windy City.

Beyond Hanna, the route continues to run parallel with the railroad until it makes a right turn (north) onto Road 700 West. I was surprised by the modern quality of the pavement in this part of the old route, especially where the road curves north, mainly because the "Hanna Bypass" was completed more than thirty-five years ago. After bearing north for about one mile on this refreshing stretch of fine two-lane road, the 1928 route resumes westerly by turning left onto four-lane U.S. 30, passing through the Indiana flatlands on the way toward Wanatah.

Through Wanatah, the 1928 route skirts the far north edge of town, keeping the typical roadside businesses away from the center of the community. This has allowed the main part of town to keep much of its original charm, and without question, Wanatah (population 852) is the most picturesque of the small towns on the route. The steeples of two old-fashioned white country churches dominate the village skyline, and the railroad corridor through the town is more visually pleasing than in most. Homes and yards are generally well-kept and neat, including one house on Illinois Street (there is also an Indiana Street and Ohio Street) that had more than one-hundred colorful hanging baskets throughout the property.

Entering Porter County, the 1928 route overlaps with U.S. 30 for another 4.5 miles, again diverging with a left turn onto a poorly marked road running parallel with the railroad. This road is eventually marked as Comeford Road, and turns north with Sturdy Road to enter the city of Valparaiso. Beyond the cemeteries, Sturdy Road crosses four-lane U.S. 30 at a signalized intersection, and joins with State Route 130 to continue into town. Because of the difficulty in anticipating the left turn from U.S. 30, tourists may prefer to stay on the newer road until reaching this junction with S.R. 130. This is another case where it would be safer to follow the 1928 route when traveling eastbound, avoiding a hazardous left turn across the divided highway.
After passing the campus of Valparaiso University, the route swings westerly with State Route 130 and passes through downtown on Lincolnway. The Porter County Court House is between Franklin Street and Washington Street on the south side of the old Main Street, and is unique in that it doesn't have the usual clock tower rising above the building. Valparaiso is more than twice as large as the three smaller county seats on the route, which is apparent by the higher amount of downtown traffic and activity. The presence of the university most certainly contributes to that, but we now have also reached the outer edge of metropolitan Chicago.

Between 1913 and 1928, the original Lincoln Highway route had come into Valparaiso by way of South Bend, LaPorte, and Westville, much of which is now U.S. 20 and State Route 2. Based on my best reckonings, the route revision of 1928 shortened the route by a significant 22 miles (odd coincidence, and a convenient way to remember it: 20 plus 2 equals 22). As late as 1924, the route followed LaPorte Avenue into Valparaiso before jogging north at Garfield Avenue to meet the present route. Thus, it appears that at some time during the mid-1920s, the street that is now Lincolnway was extended easterly from the half-block jog at Garfield Avenue.

The 1928 route leaves downtown Valparaiso by continuing westerly with Lincolnway/State Route 130, and after making a left turn onto a bridge over the old Pennsylvania Railroad, bears toward Illinois on Joliet Road. It is at this point that we bid farewell to the old railroad which had such a close association with the 1928 route in Indiana, but commence a new association with a much older path-- the Sauk Trail-- which in pioneer days meandered from present-day Detroit to Rock Island, Illinois.
Joliet Road has been broken up into two legs in western Porter County, requiring a four-mile overlap with four-lane U.S. 30 to stay with the 1928 route. Thankfully, when traveling westbound, right turns can be made when meeting and leaving the overlap portion of the divided highway. This break up appears to date back to the late 1930s when U.S. 30 was rebuilt in its present corridor, borrowing some of the previous alignment, but not all of it. The bypassed part of the Sauk Trail route, including the section through Deep River, Merrillville, and Schererville, was then renumbered as State Route 330, but this designation was dropped by the early 1950s. The last mile of Joliet Road (before entering Lake County) is interesting because it remains a twenty-foot wide strip of very old concrete with a well-defined edge.

Through Lake County, the 1928 route has multiple designations, apparently depending on whether the road is within any corporate limits. It appears that within Merrillville the route is marked 73rd Avenue, and within Schererville it appears to be Joliet Street. There are also signs designating the road as County Road 330, probably in areas that have not been annexed to one of the cities. Another sign in this area caught my wife's eye-- "Burns Funeral Home and Crematorium." Tammy is getting pretty good at this-- she also had a good laugh when she first spotted the "Gottfried Electric" sign in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

Be prepared for frequent stop signs and stop lights if following the 1928 route through Lake County. Although the temptation may be to stay with the flow of four-lane U.S. 30, it is probably not that much faster, due to the extreme congestion centered on the U.S. 30/I-65 interchange at Merrillville. The Southlake Mall is there, plus most of the popular chain restaurants and motels. Therefore, it is a good place to spend the night, as we did.

The highlights on this part of the old road were at opposite ends-- on the east end at Deep River, site of a very nice county park, and on the west end at Schererville, where local Lincoln Highway enthusiasts have painted the traditional red, white, and blue "L" signs on dozens of utility poles. Regrettably, we reached Deep River soon after the Chicago area had a day of record rainfall (Aurora had more than sixteen inches of rain in a twenty-four hour period), and thus we did not get to fully enjoy the park. Flooding truly created a "Deep River" on this day!

About three miles east of the Illinois state line, Joliet Street in Schererville terminates at four-lane U.S. 30. From this point, tourists should continue westbound to approach the city of Dyer, the site of a new Lincoln Highway bridge, and more significantly, the site of the Lincoln Highway's Ideal Section. Because the monuments at the Ideal Section are on the south side of the four-lane road, proceed westbound into Dyer before backtracking easterly to visit this landmark site. Unfortunately, there is nothing more than a crushed stone berm on both sides of the road here; thus, it is best to pull off on the south side of the eastbound lanes, directly in front of the monuments. Please use extreme care when leaving and entering the heavy flow of traffic at this location.

Since 1996, highway reconstruction has virtually destroyed the Ideal Section, making this pull-off even more hazardous, if not impossible. New historical markers have reportedly been placed at each end of the Ideal Section, and dedicated with appropriate ceremony. I have also learned that there are bits and pieces of old road south of U.S. 30, in the vicinity of U.S. 41 and the railroad. One particular remnant is marked Lincolnwood Road.

The final Lincoln Highway landmark in Indiana is the new bridge over Hart Ditch, 0.3 miles east of the Illinois line. Opened in 1994, this structure has four Lincoln Highway symbols which face the centerline at each end of the two parapet walls. Also inscribed in the middle of these walls is "LINCOLN HIGHWAY/1913/OCT. 1994." This project will forever serve as a monument to the late Professor John Carlisle, who as the first national director for Indiana did so much to "promote and preserve" the highway in this part of the state. This project should also serve as an object lesson for future bridge construction on the historic transcontinental route, where a new structure is absolutely necessary.

After a short trip to the Illinois line, our journey across Indiana was complete. We passed through eight of Indiana's ninety-two counties, including five county seats. We visited not only Fort Wayne, the second largest city in the state, we also visited a true Hamlet. Indeed, the cities and towns in the Hoosier State are much like the cities and towns in many other Lincoln Highway states, and most certainly perpetuate Drake Hokanson's premise that this highway is truly "Main Street Across America."


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Michael Gene Buettner of Lima, Ohio, is president of the Ohio Lincoln Highway League, and despite his deep Ohio roots, is a graduate of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. All photographs are by the author.


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This article, in its original form, was first published in the Fall 1996 issue of The Lincoln Highway Forum (Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 5-16), the quarterly publication of the Lincoln Highway Association. It has been reprinted for use by both The Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and by the Indiana chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association. Paragraphs and sentences appearing in italics represent major revisions or additions made to the original manuscript by the author in July 1998.
 

Also See - In Search of...The 1924 Lincoln Highway in Indiana

In Search Of...
THE 1924 LINCOLN HIGHWAY IN INDIANA


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On a mild morning in July, and under a cloudless chrome blue sky, Tammy and I headed west for an overnight getaway in search of the 1924 "northern" route of the Lincoln Highway across Indiana. Two summers ago, we had traveled the 1928 "southern" route, as marked by concrete posts set by the Boy Scouts, visiting Columbia City, Warsaw, and Plymouth on our way to Valparaiso and points west (see The Lincoln Highway Forum, Vol. 4, No. 1--Fall 1996, pp. 5-16). This trip would bring us to new destinations such as Ligonier, Goshen, Elkhart, South Bend and LaPorte--adding about 130 original miles to our log of Lincoln Highway travels together.

Click to open larger 1924 Indiana PDF map file. 

THE ORIGINAL ROUTE OF THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY IN INDIANA.

Between 1913 and 1928, the Lincoln Highway connected Fort Wayne and Valparaiso by way of South Bend. The strip maps on this page, originally prepared in 1998, show all known parts of the original Lincoln Highway through northern Indiana.

The 1924 version of the northern route was selected because it represents perhaps the last version of the route that crossed the top of the Hoosier State from 1913 to 1928. It was also the easiest version to trace on paper, with reference to the map on page 293 of the Fifth Edition of The Complete And Official Guide of the Lincoln Highway. As companion references, a 1920 Automobile Blue Book and 1922 Scarborough Green Book were consulted to help answer questions in those areas where the Guide map was limited by scale.

Admittedly, my method of tracing a route is probably different than most of my fellow explorers. In planning this tour, I started by reviewing my collection of small-scale (1:100,000) United States Geological Survey maps, where I had complete coverage of the route corridor with four 30-minute by 60-minute quadrangle sheets. After studying these maps for possible old road remnants and possible problem areas, I then ordered seventeen large-scale (1:24,000) USGS maps to amplify those target areas. Then, after plotting mileage points from the 1920 Blue Book and 1922 Green Book, and comparing them to the 1924 Guide map, I drafted preliminary versions of three map panels which highlighted critical areas along the route--the same three panels which have now been reproduced in final form along with this article. This method has been a very reliable one for me--at least more reliable than spreading three open books around the car.

Help also came by way of a phone call to Mike Weigler, past State Director for Indiana, now an At-Large Director of the Lincoln Highway Association. Mike described several can't-miss spots to look for, especially the best old road remnants. Along with those recommendations was a four-sheet set of two color hand drawn sketch maps that Jerome Price had given me at the 1997 national convention in Ohio. These sketches provided several bits of important information that were helpful in planning this tour.

Arriving at downtown Fort Wayne, we set the odometer at zero upon reaching the intersection of Jefferson Boulevard and Harrison Street. However, it should be noted that variations between the 1928 and 1924 routes actually begin about five miles east of this point, where Maumee Road splits off from State Route 930 behind the Castle Office Complex. Back when a trolley line ran along the north side of the east west road, this corner was known as Holdermann's Crossing. Now the old alignment is fragmented and isolated by a busy railroad and a busier bypass, and for those reasons has not been charted as part of this tour.

According to Robert Brooks, of Brooks Construction Company of Fort Wayne, this section included the first concrete paving in Indiana. Brooks's father was the head of the company when the work was done in 1914. Several excellent photographs in their collection show the work in progress.

Now, back to downtown. Heading north on Harrison Street, we passed two landmarks that were prematurely featured as part of our previous tour. Cindy's Diner is on the northwest corner of Harrison and Wayne Streets, and the beautifully restored bridge over the St. Marys River is five blocks beyond. Not knowing when I would return to Indiana for the tour of the northern route, these photogenic sites were featured in the 1996 article as a worthwhile diversion from a forgettable part of the 1928 route.

After turns onto Putnam Street, Wells Street, State Boulevard, and finally Goshen Road, we then bore northwesterly while leaving the older part of town. In the early years, a steel arch spanned what is now State Boulevard (originally Pfeiffer Street west of the river?) just west of the Wells Street corner. Back then, Fort Wayne's population was 80,000; now it is more than 173,000.

At 3.9 miles, or where we meet the original Fort Wayne bypass at Coliseum Boulevard, we joined up with U.S. 33, a route which we will follow for much of the way to South Bend. Route 33 was a late addition to the federal highway network mapped in the mid-1920s, not appearing on official maps until 1938. Prior to that time the route from Fort Wayne to South Bend was designated State Route 2, an eastern extension of the same route which remains today west of South Bend.

Ironically, the first State Route 2 that existed in Indiana was the predecessor to the 1928 route of the Lincoln Highway--the route that became the original U.S. 30. It seems that Indiana had a numbered system of state routes already in place when the federal highway system was set up, and then had to renumber its system to avoid duplication of numbers such as 20, 30 and 40.

Interestingly, many of the state routes which had single-digit numbers were the most important routes in the state, and most became part of the federal system. Other examples are Indiana's original State Route 1, which appears to be the old Dixie Highway, now U.S. 31, and the original State Route 3, which followed the old National Road and became U.S. 40.

At 5.2 miles, where Washington Center bears west on section lines with the 1928 route, we continued northwesterly on U.S. 33 and on into new territory. The route of U.S. 33 reportedly follows an old Indian trace that existed long before any surveyors came in and squared off the land. The curving nature of the route will provide an ample test to my theory that where today there is a sharp curve, yesterday there was a sharper curve. Based on significant bends shown on the USGS maps, I predicted that we would see several bits and pieces of old road between here and South Bend.

It was actually Tammy who found what we believe to be the first old road remnant beyond the route split at Washington Center Road. At 10.2 miles, my faithful companion spotted a possible remnant along the northeast side of the road, at the site of a bridge reconstruction project. My first find was at 11.3 miles, where an old roadbed could be traced across a small culvert on the southwest side of the road. Interestingly, neither of these two locations had been predicted when I plotted my first maps. Rather, these locations were observed owing to the experience of four well-traveled eyes.

The first town beyond Fort Wayne is Churubusco, my favorite place name on the 1924 route. It apparently takes its name from an 1847 battle near the end of the Mexican War. For his 1988 book, Drake Hokanson photographed a Mail Pouch barn near here, but we either missed it, or the barn is now gone, or repainted. Churubusco, with a population of 1781, bills itself as "Turtle Town," an interesting bit of nomenclature that needs more research. The nickname would not seem to imply that the town is behind the times, because some ambitious manufacturer is now building on a large site southeast of town, not far from a new-looking McDonalds.

Beyond Churubusco, at 16.6 miles, we recovered the first old road remnant of those that I had predicted. Making this one rather easy to confirm was the fact that it was marked "Old SR 33." At the north end of this segment, the roadway now T's into Road 600N, which makes it more difficult to find when coming from the northwest.

The next remnant of the old route begins at 22.5 miles, at the crossroads community of Merriam. This segment had been predicted from mileage calls in the 1922 Green Book that compared well with back roads delineated on the USGS maps. Just beyond the intersection of State Route 9, travelers on the 1924 route should angle right onto Road 50W, then angle left onto Oak Street, passing through the middle of town and then by an abandoned schoolhouse before rejoining U.S. 33 about three quarters of a mile up the road.

At 27.0 miles, just before entering the town of Wolflake, we noted the possibility of an old roadbed on the northeast side of the road. It was not apparent whether this was part of any old alignment, or just a newer access driveway for some residential properties which fronted the main road. This is one of those questions that could be answered best by checking old highway plans.

It was also at Wolflake that Tammy the signseer spotted her favorite sign on this tour (recall her Gottfried Electric and Burns Crematorium finds from past tours). On a changeable menu board, just below a more permanent "Restaurant" sign, was this ominous listing: "Live Bait." No thank you. We will drive on.

Like Merriam, the town of Kimmel also has a piece of old roadway that veers through the middle of the original town. In this case, U.S. 33 bypasses Kimmel to the west and overpasses the busy CSX tracks that bear west to Chicago. To follow the original route through town, angle right from the main road at 32.2 miles, bearing toward a short row of white frame buildings. This street is marked as Clark Street all the way through town, but is marked Road 650W where it rejoins U.S. 33. This diversion measures about 1.1 mile, and includes a grade crossing at the railroad in the middle of town.

The next observed old road remnants were bits and pieces of pavement beginning at 35.5 miles. These remnants were rendered by an apparent reconstruction of the intersection with State Route 5, south of Ligonier and opposite East Noble High School. The most obvious exposure is in the southwest quadrant of the intersection, in front of the Stone's Trace Historic Site, which according to Mike Weigler is the site of an old tavern. The large brick building on the site, which I assume was the tavern, appeared to be undergoing some type of restoration.

At the top of "Stone's Hill," at 36.1 miles, is the only exposed remnant of brick that we were able to find on this tour. But it was a good one! Designated "Old 33," this remnant measured about 800 feet, and is a perfect example of an old-fashioned roadway jog at a township line. The newer reverse curve at present-day U.S. 33 was designed for traffic that moves much faster than any that these bricks ever saw.

We arrived in Ligonier just in time for a second breakfast, making a rest stop at the local McDonalds. One nice thing about traveling from Ohio to Indiana in the summertime is that we gain an hour crossing the state line, which means an extra hour to order a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit-- which can be good or bad, depending on how fresh or how hot the sandwich is. A not-overlooked luxury regarding the omnipresent fast food franchises that line today's highways is that we no longer have to resort to any sort of gas station for restroom facilities.

Newly refreshed after almost three hours on the road, we soon came upon what would prove to be the single most photogenic spot on this year's tour. Near downtown Ligonier, at a triangle where Lincolnway South merges into Cavin Street, a small greenspace was aglow with colorful flowers, made more attractive by a fine old street clock that serves as a centerpiece. Cavin Street is the main north-south street through this town of 3443, and takes its name from Isaac Cavin, who founded the town in 1835. It would be interesting to find out if Ligonier, Indiana, has any connection with Ligonier, Pennsylvania, which was also on the 1924 route of the Lincoln Highway.

The local brochure says that Ligonier is "The City of Surprises," and I was indeed surprised to learn that this rural Indiana town has a significant Jewish history. According to the brochure, "by 1900, about 10 percent of the population and much of the business district was Jewish. But the younger generation moved away, and today the Jewish legacy remains only in Ligonier's historic architecture, such as the temple and its beautiful stained glass windows." Unfortunately, I did not completely read the brochure until after we returned to Ohio, so we missed out on some nice sightseeing opportunities.

From the start, though, this two-day tour was designed to be more reconnaissance mission than sightseeing journey. Therefore, several small museums along the route were put on our list of things to see in the future. Two museums in Ligonier that may be worth future stops are the Ligonier Historical Museum and the Indiana Historical Radio Museum.

Leaving Ligonier, we headed west on an abandoned section of U.S. 33, now marked Lincolnway West. For a time, U.S. 33 and U.S. 6 ran one mile apart and parallel with each other. Now the two highways overlap for six miles. Route 6 used to be a transcontinental route running from the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to the sands of Long Beach, California, but now stops short of the west coast in Bishop, California, just beyond the Nevada line. It is marked all the way through Indiana as "The Grand Army of the Republic Highway", a double-signing practice which is not officially allowed in Ohio. It would be nice to see the Indiana Department of Transportation work with our Hoosier friends in getting similar signs posted on the Lincoln Highway.

At the line between Noble County and Elkhart County, Lincolnway West becomes County Road 50 before joining State Route 13 for one mile, then meeting U.S. 33. This east-west alignment is the only lengthy part of the route between Fort Wayne and South Bend that follows the lines of Indiana's rectangular survey system.

Shortly after turning north on U.S. 33, we came upon a significant old remnant at 44.3 miles. Where U.S. 33 bends northwesterly, tourists should angle right, keeping north with the roadway marked "Old U.S. 33." Follow this roadway for 0.3 miles to and through a sharp curve to the left, bearing west on County Road 148 until it stops at U.S. 33. The quarter-circle radius at the right angle turn is a classic example of a common early highway improvement in this part of the country. One can almost see, hear, and feel Grandpa's Model T leaning into the superelevation as it rounds the curve, disappearing beneath the dark canopy of the trees.

Resuming northwesterly with U.S. 33, a small remnant of old roadway can be found at 45.4 miles, on the northeast side of the road where a curve has been improved. After passing through the crossroads village of Benton, the next stop on our tour is Goshen, home to 23,797 in the heart of northern Indiana's Amish region. Goshen calls itself "The Maple City" and is the county seat of Elkhart County, being more centrally located than the city which shares the county name.

However, getting to the court house for my traditional photograph was no easy task this day. In progress was Goshen's annual "Sidewalk Sale Days"; therefore, several blocks of Main Street were closed to traffic. We had planned a lunch here, and possibly some shopping, so this unexpected activity fit the bill perfectly, especially for Tammy. At the downtown antique store, I was shown some interesting old pictures of the city, including one with a large highway sign showing Lincoln Highway distances to New York and San Francisco.

On the southeast corner of the court house square, or at the northwest corner of Main Street and Lincoln Street, is Goshen's most famous Lincoln Highway landmark. According to a recently-mounted plaque, "the historic Goshen police booth" was erected in 1939 "to protect the Maple City from gangsters who might travel along the old transcontinental Lincoln Highway." It is interesting that the local historical society saw fit to recall the Lincoln Highway connection despite its relocation away from Goshen in 1928.

Another important discovery at our Goshen stop came as a result of my planned visit to the local library. I had been fascinated by a statement in the 1924 Guide which said the early Lincoln Highway had crossed the old Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad (later New York Central, now Conrail, soon to be Norfolk Southern) at least six times between Goshen and Elkhart. Looking at today's maps, I had no clue as to where those six crossings might be. My Blue Book and Green Book references offered no help in resolving the matter, so playing a hunch, I searched the library for an old Elkhart County atlas with hopes of finding where the road was before the turn of the century. I was more than thrilled to find not one, but two excellent references to solve the multiple-crossing riddle. One was a large and very old wall map of the entire county dated 1861, and the other was the anticipated atlas, dated 1892, which featured detailed maps of each township in the county. Granted, this information predates the coming of the Lincoln Highway by many years, but it is unlikely that the alignment of what had been an old main wagon road had changed much with the coming of the first automobiles.

Based on these old maps, I have concluded that the original road between Goshen and Elkhart crossed the main line of the railroad five times (see detailed map). The sixth crossing was probably a siding owned by the Lake Shore that served the site of the bag factory at Goshen, beginning some time around the turn of the century. There is also evidence that both the "Big Four" Railroad and an interurban ran alongside the Lake Shore tracks.

Now, when Mike Weigler mentioned the local landmark known as the "Old Bag Factory," I assumed that he was referring to some large abandoned building with broken windows and untidy grounds. What we found was the antithesis of the Rust Belt imagery that my mind had conjured. The Old Bag Factory is now the home for "17 unique shops" and a cafe in a "marketplace of excellence." It would easily be Tammy's favorite stop on this year's tour.

The Old Bag Factory is located on an old Lincoln Highway remnant still known as Chicago Avenue, which is reached at 56.5 miles by turning right from Pike Street. Chicago Avenue was also the original route of U.S. 33 before the numbered roadway was relocated as an extension of Pike Street. An east-west street, Pike Street is the second street north of the intersection at the old police booth.

Because of the congested temporary traffic patterns generated this day by the closing of Main Street, I was not able to note the regular turning movements from Main Street. According to the sketches received from Jerome Price, there are no left turns allowed from Main Street in downtown Goshen. Thus, travelers should allow for alternate paths when exploring the route through downtown Goshen.

Back on the road between Goshen and Elkhart, now entirely on the southwest side of the railroad tracks, in a tedious strip of superstores and traffic signals, something strange happened. After miles of travel through the rural heartland, with its greenish cornfields, woodlots, and town squares, we suddenly entered the grayish type of urban area which reminds us just how close we are to Chicago. How odd that two cities close enough to share a shopping area could seem so different.

Elkhart, which takes its name from the shape of island at the junction of the Elkhart and St. Joseph Rivers, is an industrial city of 43,627 that grew up with the railroads, especially the New York Central. In 1924, there was enough traffic through downtown to warrant the charting of a Lincoln Highway bypass on Indiana Avenue, through a residential district of the city. Because the Guide seems to indicate that mileages were measured along this bypass route, that is the route I have charted as well. We did do some exploration along the downtown route, part of which once carried busy U.S. 20, noting a fine old railroad passenger station (Amtrak still stops here) and the New York Central Railroad Museum, but we recommend Indiana Avenue as the route of choice if one wants to avoid what will seem like a stop light at every downtown block. It should be noted that other route guides plot a different Lincoln Highway course through downtown Elkhart on Marion Street, which is now a one way street, making the 1924 option that much more justifiable.

Elkhart is home to several other museums besides the railroad museum. The most impressive, at least based on the brochure, appears to be the S. Ray Miller Auto Museum, which would probably appeal to almost every fan of the Lincoln Highway. "Approximately 40 antique cars" are on display in this specially "designed and built...20,000 square foot museum." Another museum, one for which I found no brochure, was the RV/MH Museum. If you have to look up the abbreviations, this museum is probably not for you. Of interest to some would be Ruthmere, "an outstanding Beaux Arts residence that reflects the lifestyle of an affluent Midwestern family." Also at this end of the spectrum is the Midwest Museum of American Art, located three blocks north of the railroad museum on South Main Street. Below the bottom rung of the ladder is the misleading and presumptuous "Pleasureland Museum" (rated XXX) which we would pass later on State Route 219.

Staying with the 1924 route, we followed Indiana Avenue through a jog at Oakland Avenue, which allowed us to pass under the busy railroad tracks. We then continued on an extension of Indiana Avenue which is marked as County Road 16 beyond the city limits. Although the westerly extension of Franklin Street was long the route of U.S. 33, it appears that the Lincoln Highway was moved from the northern Elkhart/South Bend route to the southern Warsaw/Plymouth route prior to the opening of any numbered route along the north side of the railroad. As implied by a barely discernable jog on the 1924 Guide map, both the Blue Book and Green Book chart the route we are following on County Road 16, turning south onto State Route 219 to reach Osceola. At 68.5 miles, watch for a set of Burma-Shave replica signs along the south side of County Road 16.

My first major blunder on this tour occurred at Osceola. The route of the 1924 Lincoln Highway continues south past the end of what is now State Route 219, crossing the railroad tracks to a road on the south side of the tracks. The road that I found was Washington Street, which is an extension of Elkhart County Road 20, an old diagonal road often charted as a short-cut between Goshen and Mishawaka. I realize now that Washington Street in its present form is a relatively new alignment, and not any remnant of the Lincoln Highway. The alignment I should have looked for is much closer to the south line of the railroad property, some of which is labeled Goshen Avenue on present-day maps.

I could be excused somewhat for this apparent oversight because we had to wait quite some time just to get to the south side of the tracks. These crossings are at the westernmost end of a huge railroad yard, and a train performing switching movements forced the gates down for at least fifteen minutes. We watched and waited from a nearby convenience store while snacking on ice cream sandwiches. I should have spent more time studying the USGS maps that were in the trunk of my car.

Most travelers, when reaching the intersection that marks the end of State Route 219 and the beginning of State Route 933, will want to simply turn west at that point to avoid the two crossings of the railroad. State Route 933 is a new designation for a portion of the highway that was previously U.S. 33 in St. Joseph County. It is so new that I did not have any maps showing this revision--all my maps show U.S. 33 passing through Elkhart on Lusher Avenue before continuing west on the Franklin Street extension toward Mishawaka and South Bend. I first knew something was amiss just a few miles before, between Goshen and Elkhart, when I noticed that an "END/U.S. 33" sign assembly was placed at the junction with the U.S. 20 bypass.

In both Mishawaka and South Bend, State Route 933 is also marked Lincolnway. Thus, many establishments carry the street name as part of their business name. In the two cities, the name is attached to a grocery, a grill, two laundromats (one with tanning?), a veterinary clinic, an auto shop, a barber shop, a cafe, and a feed store. The Lincolnwood Motel is also along the route, west of downtown South Bend.

Tammy can be credited for spotting the sign for the old Lincoln Inn, a suspect property east of downtown Mishawaka. If not for my clever signseer, I would have missed it. Watch for it on the opposite side of the road from a fast food murderers' row--Taco Bell, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and McDonalds. Also in Mishawaka is Lincoln Park, 0.8 miles west of my arbitrary control point at the downtown Church Street intersection (a.k.a. State Route 331).

Together, Mishawaka (42,608) and South Bend (105,511) would make up a city almost as large as Fort Wayne, the second largest city in the state. The corporate limits change without fanfare about one mile west of Lincoln Park, and except for the local "E" and "W" designations, the Lincolnway street name continues without interruption. South Bend's Lincolnway East Historic District is a favorite area of Mike Weigler, and features some "beautiful turn-of-the-century homes along the St. Joseph River."

Lincolnway East now terminates where it curves west onto Monroe Street. Years ago, before expanding downtown development and modern highway construction changed the landscape, the route of the Lincoln Highway came into downtown on Wayne Street. In 1924, the route turned north onto Main Street for four blocks, resuming west with LaSalle Street for a block and a half, then angling northwesterly onto Lincolnway West and into the countryside.

This is another urban area where different references chart different versions of the Lincoln Highway. One such version charts Michigan Street as the north-south leg through downtown, and not Main Street. None of this really matters today, though, because one way streets and pedestrian malls have drastically changed South Bend traffic patterns. That said, westbound tourists will need to follow a curving combination of Michigan Street/St. Joe Street north through downtown, and eastbound tourists will need to follow Main Street south through downtown. The St. Joseph County Court House, on the west side of Main Street, is almost lost now among the taller modern structures in its neighborhood.

We made a conscious effort to leave South Bend before the evening rush and made our way out of town on Lincolnway West. Our touring was suspended for this day while we backtracked around the north side of town toward our overnight accommodations in the University Park neighborhood, not far from the Notre Dame campus, the site of a favorite memory from my college days. Twenty-four years ago, I had the thrill of being part of Purdue's All-American Band when the underdog Boilermakers upset the undefeated and first-ranked Fighting Irish on their own legendary gridiron.

The next morning brought promise of another picture-perfect day for adventure. Again under a cloudless sky, we headed west, picking up U.S. 20 where we had left off at the bypass. U.S. 20 is yet another transcontinental route, from Boston, Massachusetts, to Newport, Oregon, and one which partially defies the orderly federal numbering scheme by dropping south of U.S. 30 across Oregon.

I was somewhat surprised that U.S. 20 was not a four-lane route in this stretch west of the South Bend bypass. Then it occurred to me that the completion of Indiana's East-West Toll Road in the late 1950s probably offset the need for such expansion. This may also explain why we saw only a couple old-fashioned motel sites along this part of the road.

At the underpass in New Carlisle, or at 95.8 miles, we crossed back to the south side of the old Lake Shore tracks for the first time since Elkhart. We noted that the grade separation was built in 1925; thus, it would seem certain that the alignment of the early Lincoln Highway was altered with curves to pass beneath the track at a right angle. Perhaps the tangent stone driveway on the west side of the underpass is at the location of the original road.

New Carlisle is one of the few incorporated towns on this tour that does not have the Lincoln Highway route marked as Lincolnway or Main Street. Keeping in mind its proximity to "that state up north," as Ohio State fans sometimes call it, the main thoroughfare is designated as Michigan Street. We found it to be a neat-looking little town (population 1,446), supporting my observation that any time the streets of a town are curbed, appearances are significantly enhanced.

Beyond New Carlisle comes one of the most anticipated spots on this tour. Near the town of Rolling Prairie, there have been at least three different locations where westbound traffic has divided, bearing either toward Laporte (angle left) or Michigan City (angle right).

Click to open larger 1924 Indiana PDF map file.

The maps on this page were originally prepared in 1998 for an article that appeared at the end of that year in The Lincoln Highway Forum. That article was based on many months of research, with the help of Lincoln Highway Association members Mike Weigler and Jerome Price. The author made only one actual auto trip-- in only one direction--on this historic section of the transcontinental route, so it would be no surprise to learn of other abandoned sections of the early northern route. Parts of U.S. 33, U.S. 20, and S.R. 2 now make up much of the original Lincoln Highway route, but an incredible variety of old road remnants survive alongside. Together with an equally wonderful variety of cities and towns and crossroad communities, and the a typical assortment of roadside architecture, this tour is a worthwhile alternative to traveling the Indiana Toll Road or the similar four-lane monotony of existing U.S. 30 when crossing the Hoosier State. The charted course is based on the 1924 version of the route, which is mapped--although at a small scale--in the Fifth Edition of The Complete and Official Road Guide of the Lincoln Highway. It will likely compare very well with the route that was originally proclaimed in 1913 by the Lincoln Highway Association.

The original division point, at 99.5 miles, is the quintessential fork in the road. It is regularly shown in early guide books either as "The Bootjack" or "Bootjack Corners." Not knowing what a bootjack is, I consulted my Webster's Dictionary and found not only a definition, but also a diagram. I must say that whoever coined the name for this corner sure had a keen eye for geometry--the angle fits the intersection perfectly. By the way, the road which angles right is still known as Bootjack Road. However, tourists following the 1924 route will need to angle left, continuing with U.S. 20.

A second division point came at an intersection where U.S. 20 and old State Route 2 both met and changed direction. It is reached by turning right from U.S. 20 onto Oak Knoll Road, just 1.2 miles beyond "The Bootjack." This point was also the site of Bob's Bar-B-Q, a notorious establishment for which Russell Rein has collected several interesting post cards, plus a 1940 menu ("extra large T-bone steak, sizzling in butter... $1.00"). Along with the restaurant, which claimed to seat 150 persons, there were also tourist cabins, plus "fine grounds" which included a rock garden. The main building survives today as the busy L&L's Restaurant, but only one motel court building at the back of the property appears to remain from that bygone motel era.

A third diversion point is the present-day intersection of U.S. 20 and State Route 2. It is at the traffic signal that is visible when looking east from the restaurant. This point, however, was never on any route of the Lincoln Highway. The old Studebaker proving grounds were farther east on the south side of State Route 2, about halfway back toward South Bend.

I find it interesting that State Route 2 is a four-lane route immediately west of the South Bend bypass, unlike U.S. 20. Although it has always been the straighter of the numbered roads to South Bend, it has evidently seen much improvement since the publication of the 1933 Hobbes Guide, which describes the early road as "one mile shorter; more hilly and hazardous." Based on my limited collection of official Indiana highway maps, the four-lane project appears to have been completed during the 1940s. One curiosity on my 1952 Indiana map is the short-lived appearance of a State Route 220, which passed through downtown Rolling Prairie and terminated at the restaurant intersection by way of today's Wiley Road.

Leaving the restaurant area, carefully continue southwesterly with Oak Knoll Road (a roadside park at your right is a good checkpoint) to a stop sign at County Road 450E. Before turning left (south) toward State Route 2, note that the old alignment continues as part of a private driveway for the residence at the southwest corner before it terminates near the right-of-way fence.

At 102.4 miles, we turn right, resuming southwesterly, now with State Route 2, which is a four-lane divided highway all the way to the edge of LaPorte. This is the type of modern highway construction that virtually obliterates most of the true original roadway--vertical improvements eliminate crests and sags; horizontal improvements eliminate sharp curves and jogs. At 104.7 miles, one remnant of the old alignment is suggested by the USGS map on the northwest side of the road in the vicinity of the County Road 300E intersection.

LaPorte is a city of 21,507 and the seat of government for LaPorte County. It has the look of a city with a significant industrial history. It is also the last important city on our tour that is situated on the old line of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad. However, unlike Elkhart, the railroad station and passenger platform in LaPorte seem to have been long in retirement.

The relationship of the Lake Shore/New York Central tracks to the northern route of the Lincoln Highway is reminiscent of the relationship of the Pennsylvania Railroad to the southern route. Both routes followed a chain of settlements that were originally linked by a major eastern railroad--a chain that was reinforced by the improvement of the highway. Not coincidentally, both corridors survived as Amtrak routes until passenger service was discontinued along the southern route in 1990.

In the halls of the county courthouse hangs an old bird's-eye view of the city of LaPorte. These artist's renderings were popular in the late 1800s, and offer an interesting historic portrait. What is now Lincolnway through downtown LaPorte was originally Main Street, typical of the transcontinental name change that occurred with the coming of the coast-to-coast route.

LaPorte seemed to have the potential for an active downtown, although our arrival was too early to browse in the several antique malls that fronted the main streets. I also noted an old gas station site on the east side of town. The cottage style building reminded me of familiar structures back home which served customers under the blue Pure and orange Union 76 logos.

Something a surveyor would notice is that the street grid of LaPorte is not "square with the world." Most midwestern towns tend to have streets running north to south and east to west. LaPorte is uniquely squared up with the historic Sauk Trail which ran from Detroit to Peoria, cutting across northwestern Indiana on a diagonal that became LaPorte's main street.

Leaving LaPorte, the route of the 1924 Lincoln Highway is slightly different than present-day State Route 2. According to the Guide, tourists should angle left (south) onto J Street for two blocks, then turn right (west) onto Fourth Street. However, where Fourth Street terminates at Andrew Avenue, the route of the Lincoln Highway angles onto Eggebrecht Road, which is now a one way street the wrong way. Thus, westbound travelers will need to be creative in order to completely negotiate the 1924 route. Eastbound travelers have it much easier--simply angling left onto Eggebrecht Road just past the junction with State Route 39.

Beyond LaPorte are about ten miles of uneventful modern two-lane highway, with nary a road remnant observed despite three significant curves. Only the small community of Pinhook broke the feeling of the open road. At 120.2 miles, a left turn onto U.S. 241 prepared us for entering Westville.

We found Westville (population 5,255) to be unique if only for its uncommon white-on-red street name signs. However, these signs are important landmarks because tourists will need to avoid the State Route 2 bypass of Westville, continuing south with U.S. 241 until reaching Main Street. Fast food and gasoline franchises have both capitalized on the extra traffic generated by overlapping numbered routes by locating in or near the town.

Westville's Main Street is one block north of the local Dairy Queen, which is at the corner of Valparaiso Street. Another interesting old gas station faces the northwest corner of the Main Street intersection. Looking back on our tour, this station and the one in LaPorte are the only ones that have stuck in my memory.

I mention Valparaiso Street because beyond the corporate limits, bearing east toward LaPorte, the road is known as Joliet Road. According to Mike Weigler, this route was paved before the Lincoln Highway, and was a popular alternate between LaPorte and Westville. It passes through Door Village, which according to the Blue Book is "on the site of a fort built during the Black Hawk War, when word was sent from Fort Dearborn that the Indians were about to attack the village." Given this bit of information, it would be my guess that it is Joliet Road which follows the Sauk Trail in this area, and not today's State Route 2.

I've learned to be careful about historical events relating to the Indians. This same Blue Book also states that Elkhart was named by the Indians. Could it be that Elkhart is actually an English equivalent for the Indian name?

After following Main Street through Westville, travelers will stop at State Route 2 before beginning a tricky part of the tour. First, turn left onto State Route 2, and after passing between the old embankments of a dismantled railroad underpass, immediately turn right onto an unmarked roadway that was part of the original route. Follow this road along the south side of the railroad embankment for only a tenth of a mile before resuming southwesterly, turning left toward the Mobil station and stop sign at U.S. 6. At this point, true explorers will continue southwesterly alongside the Westville Cemetery to tour a short remnant of the old road that is closed to through traffic but still accessible.

It was here that Tammy and I parked under a shade tree for our second short break of the morning. She studied names and dates on the oldest tombstones, and I studied my maps looking for the next old road remnant. Many Indiana travelers have waxed poetic about old State Route 2 in Porter County. I was about to find out why.

The best part of old State Route 2 begins at 123.2 miles, with a right turn from the main road. Unfortunately, the old road is not marked with a road name sign, but the antiquated line of utility poles and the unmistakable cross-section of an old highway made the original alignment obvious. I suppose it is possible that parts of this road have not been paved since before State Route 2 was relocated during the 1950s. Which is fine--the parched blacktop and narrow shoulders are rarely-seen reminders of how the old road may have looked.

At 123.7 miles, old State Route 2 crosses to the southeast side of the new road to begin a second photogenic diversion. The roadway here is better maintained because there are more than just a couple residences along this enjoyable two-mile stretch. An old railroad underpass provides a grade separation with some active CSX tracks, the same ones we crossed at Kimmel.

It is also in this stretch that one can gain some appreciation for the geology of Indiana. Southeast of the old road are the same flatlands we recall from our previous journey through Hamlet, Hanna, and Wanatah. The old road itself tends to run on the edge of the higher ground above these flatlands, typical of an old Indian or pioneer trail.

We resumed southwesterly on State Route 2 for only 0.4 miles, then again left the main road by angling left onto the final remnant of the old highway. At 126.5 miles, we returned to State Route 2 to begin our final approach into Valparaiso. After a rough grade crossing at the GTW tracks, we curved west and passed through an interchange area before entering the city on LaPorte Avenue. At a familiar traffic signal, LaPorte Avenue crosses State Route 130, part of the 1928 route which bends west into downtown on Valparaiso's Lincolnway.

To stay with the 1924 route, continue westerly with LaPorte Avenue until reaching the next signal at Garfield Avenue, just past the hospital. From this point, turn right (north) for one short block, where we finally do join the 1928 route, turning left (west) onto Lincolnway. The end of this tour comes at the Porter County Court House, my common control point for mileages on both routes.

By my reckoning, the 1924 route from Fort Wayne to Valparaiso, as scaled from the USGS quadrangle sheets, measures 132.5 miles, quite a bit longer than the 123.4 miles recorded in the 1924 Guide.
By comparison, and by similar method, the distance between common points on the 1928 route was reckoned to be 110.4 miles. Thus, the opening of the 1928 route along newly-marked U.S. 30 shortened the transcontinental route by about 22 miles.

As I consider my two trips and 288 miles of travel across the Hoosier State, one question stands foremost in my mind: Is there any other state that can lay claim to having two routes of the Lincoln Highway so distinctly defined and etched in the minds of its people? The Lincolnway street name continues to survive along the original route in the cities of Goshen, Mishawaka, South Bend, and LaPorte, just as it does along the later route through Columbia City and Plymouth. New Haven and Valparaiso can be added to the list as the common denominators for both routes.

My first set of journeys across Indiana now complete, it is my hope that I have been able to capture in writing the spirit of adventure that comes with exploring any part of the Lincoln Highway for the first time. As time goes on, I will probably learn about other traces of the old road, and other interesting landmarks, just as I have since my 1996 tour of the 1928 route. That will give me the perfect excuse to take another couple days off work and begin a new tour in search of the Lincoln Highway.
 

Also see - In Search of...The 1928 Lincoln Highway in Indiana

TOGETHER IN INDIANA-- THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY AND THE YELLOWSTONE TRAIL

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June 2009

Two of the three earliest automobile trails in the United States had a significant impact on the location of U.S. Route 30 across Indiana, although at different times. Perhaps for the first time in nearly eighty years, a new set of strip maps have been prepared to show the relationship of the Lincoln Highway, the Yellowstone Trail, and U.S. Route 30 across the Hoosier State.

Although the history of the Yellowstone Trail can be traced to 1912, that automobile trail apparently did not reach Indiana and Ohio until 1916. Even then, the route was more on paper than on the ground, drawn as a fanciful smooth line across the tops of both states. By 1920, the middle part of the Yellowstone Trail across Indiana could best be described as a series of stairsteps, with the top of the stairs being at Valparaiso, and the bottom of the stairs being at Fort Wayne. The Automobile Blue Book that was published in that year charts such a stairstep route between those two cities, and a state highway map published in 1923 indicates a short-lived State Route 44 which closely resembles the Blue Book route, almost turn for turn. Nothing even remotely resembling a smooth line could ever be traced through this corridor until U.S. Route 30 had been constructed in its original form some time after 1926, much of it on an entirely new roadbed which abutted the north right-of-way line of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

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Like the Yellowstone Trail, the history of the Lincoln Highway can also be traced to 1912. Unlike the Yellowstone Trail, the original location of the Lincoln Highway across Indiana followed a more definite path--although this path was across the northernmost part of the state, and not yet in the same corridor as the Yellowstone Trail. This first Lincoln Highway route is shown as Main Market Route #2 on a 1917 map that is recognized as the first highway map of Indiana, and connected Valparaiso and Fort Wayne by way of South Bend. It was not until the newly designated U.S. Route 30 was completed in the late 1920s that the Lincoln Highway Association decided to relocate the route through Indiana to follow the federal highway, passing through Plymouth, Warsaw, and Columbia City and shortening the highway by more than twenty miles. Thus, the Hoosier State has two distinct Lincoln Highway alignments, each with its own significant history (it is the 1928 route which would have been marked with the famous concrete posts set by the Boy Scouts). Arguably, a third alignment could also be considered, given that much of the original U.S. Route 30 roadway has long been bypassed in favor of various phases of modern four-lane alternatives.

It is probably safe to assume that with the completion of the original U.S. Route 30 alignment between Valparaiso and Fort Wayne, the Yellowstone Trail was also relocated to match the federal route, and would thus also match the route of the Lincoln Highway. This is the only location in the United States where the two groundbreaking automobile trails would ever have a common corridor, but if this did actually occur, it would have only been for a very brief time in the late 1920s. Sadly, by the end of that decade, the recognition and romance of the named auto trails would be lost with the posting of each new federal shield sign.

ORIGINAL LINCOLN HIGHWAY CURVES
1928 Lincoln Highway between Warsaw and Columbia City, Indiana
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INTRODUCTION

Perhaps my favorite thing to do when traveling the various routes of the Lincoln Highway is to search for the oldest remnants of the historic road in that particular area. Some folks like to call it roadway archaeology, and that sounds all right to me. That said, the area between Warsaw and Columbia City, Indiana is an excellent area to accomplish that worthy endeavor. Bypassed many years ago by the four-lane version of U.S. Route 30, it is easy for even the most casual roadway archaeologist to trace two generations of the two-lane version of that numbered route which faithfully followed the Lincoln Highway across the state.

Why are there two generations of the two-lane routes? The simple answer is that automobile speeds were constantly increasing from the slow pace that existed in 1928, and highway engineers had to improve the roadway to improve its safety. Vertical curves were redesigned to soften ascents and descents, and horizontal curves were redesigned so that faster vehicles would stick to the curve without losing control. These principles had long been in place on steam railroads, and continue to the present. Vertical curve improvements would generally involve cut and fill changes on the same alignment, thus obliterating the grade of the original roadway. However, horizontal curve improvements would generally involve a significant lateral change of the alignment (plus new grades), and it is those locations which render the best of the old road remnants for discovery.

In Figure 5 herewith (borrowed from my work in A History and Road Guide of the Lincoln Highway in Ohio), observe that the replacement of a 7-degree curve with a 2-degree curve not only involves a lateral displacement of about 36 feet, but also pushes the endpoints of the curve far beyond their previous locations. This type of modest improvement would obliterate the old roadbed, but if the scale of this figure were increased by five to ten times, then we would have geometry similar to the several curves that were discovered below. In those cases, the lateral displacement is often in excess of 200 feet.

The following study of old road remnants in this selected part of Indiana was prepared as a result of my return trip from the annual conference of the Lincoln Highway Association, which was held in South Bend on June 16-20, 2009. This was the first time I had ever manned a digital camera while driving this wonderful section of highway, so I no longer have to worry about developing pictures the old-fashioned way (the expense of numerous pictures of weedy crumbling concrete was often hard to justify). Hopefully, the images which follow will tell the story as efficiently as the text.

The map locations recited in the text are to be cross-referenced to sheet 2 of 4 of an Indiana strip map that I originally prepared in 1996, a copy of which is included herewith. That map accompanied a text that was prepared in an east-to-west format. My return trip was west-to-east, so that explains why I begin with Location 5 and not Location1 (hopefully, a small inconvenience). The subject area is highlighted in orange.

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LOCATION 5
Vicinity of Intersection of Old Trail Road and County Road 1000E 


Brief: After following the east-west lines of the rectangular survey system for several miles due east of Warsaw, the present Lincolnway route suddenly turns southeast just west of the Whitley County line. To the north of the present curve is an old roadway marked as “Old Trail Road,” which is also an original portion of the 1928 route of the Lincoln Highway. Near its T-intersection with County Road 1000E, the old section of bypassed highway features a superelevated curve of partially exposed concrete, with a well-defined edge usually visible in areas not otherwise covered with blacktop. The concrete roadway is twenty feet wide at this location, and it seems to maintain this width where measurable throughout the study area.


LOCATION 4
First Curve West of Intersection with State Route 5

Brief: After bearing southeasterly for over a mile, the Lincolnway route begins another curve to resume its easterly course with the section lines laid out by the original government surveyors. These views show the opposite ends of the original curve, both of which include the original concrete, plus a small culvert that is plainly visible from the present roadway. The northwest end of the old roadway now serves as a residential driveway. Both this and the previous curve involve realignments over one-half mile in length.


LOCATION 3
Between County Road 350W and County Road 250W


Brief: Here, a significantly larger drainage structure survives under the canopy of some shade trees (zoom in to left half of image). Located on the south side of the present roadway, this bridge now serves as a picnic area for the property owner. West of this location, it is now difficult to determine where the old roadway would have met the present alignment. Too much of the original alignment has been obliterated, and one would probably need to review the construction drawings to make a confident conclusion on that matter.

 


LOCATION 2
Vicinity of Intersection with County Road 250W

Brief: At a location just west of County Road 250W, the present Lincolnway route crossed over the original route. As a result, old road remnants survive on opposite sides of the newer roadway. On the southwest side of the road, the homeowner seems to have built his residence onto the concrete pavement. It would be very interesting to peek inside the back door to see if the old roadway comprises a floor or a crawl space. On the northeast side of the road, a small concrete headwall gives a great clue to the location of the original alignment that can be traced as a curve through the grass.


LOCATION 1
Vicinity of Intersection with Schuman Road

Brief: The final old remnant between Warsaw and Columbia City is behind a home that is located in the wedge between Lincolnway and Schuman Road. It is interesting to observe the curve of the old concrete roadway as it disappears into the filled lawn area behind the house. Beyond this point, I don’t believe that there are any more remnants of 1928 roadway until reaching the edge of Columbia City. After crossing U.S. Route 30, the street marked as Park Street is the original Lincoln Highway route into the city. This can be verified by auto guides of the day, and the inventory of concrete posts as set by Lincoln Highway Association. The street marked as Lincolnway was likely constructed at about the same time as the curve improvements that have been studied above, creating a better and safer path into and through the west part of the town.


Michael Gene Buettner
June 18, 2009