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