In Search Of...
THE 1928 LINCOLN HIGHWAY IN INDIANA
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."
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.
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.