Monday, August 8, 2016

Old Paved Roads

I'm one of those people who checks my email and Facebook as soon as I wake up. I've no special reason to do so; it's just become a habit. But the other morning, I was pleased to see on Facebook an early-morning post about abandoned roads: These are the old pavements and bridges, often dating from the 1910s and 1920s, left behind when a highway was realigned. Mr. Gray also linked to his Flickr account: His blog post featured photographs of an old bridge along Highway 40 near Plainfield, IN. I had noticed that bridge a few years ago when I was on a road trip and decided to take 40 instead of I-70, which I find monotonous for much of the way between Indianapolis and Terre Haute. I only got a photo from the side of the modern highway, whereas he had walked the place.

Abandoned roads lay along the familiar way to my Grandma Crawford's house, and so I became one of those folks, like Mr. Grey, who is fascinated by the sight of an old road, no longer in use but never removed. U.S. 40 goes through my hometown, Vandalia, IL. When I was really little, 40 still came straight into town from the east, but in the early 1960s, a new Kaskaskia River bridge was constructed, slightly south of the old bridge, and so the highway was also realigned for a few hundred yards to the south. The old pavement was left in place and has ever since been a service road for businesses on that side of the river. Until the 1970s or so, a few shack houses also stood along that pavement.

A little further east, State Route 185 branches off from U.S. 40. Route 185 is the same highway as the header photo of this blog, near the place where we turned off to go to Grandma's; so 185 is quite a precious road to me. When Interstate 70 was constructed, both the intersection of 40 and 185 and their respective, straight alignments were changed to accommodate the need for an overpass. Again, the old pavements were left in place, with several houses located along the dead-end alignment of 40, and a business along the concrete of old 185 that used to approach 40 in a straight way. Here are screen shots of Google Maps---mostly for my own nostalgia. :-)

Also for my own nostalgia, I took a few pictures of that original pavement of Route 185, not a very long path. As it shows on the first map, the road once went straight off U.S. 40 on its southeasterly path. This first photo is the pavement heading for the place where it would've continued as 185, and the second is the pavement where it would have continued a short distance and connected to highway 40.

As I understand it, this would have been the original western beginning of Route 185, which was one of the original state highways in Illinois. My family members and many others would've traveled this pavement. Today, the western beginning of 185 is an intersection with IL 127 south of Hillsboro, IL. 

On the other side of the interstate, I photographed some of the original pavement of Route 40, as you can see on both maps, went straight. (The other road is the frontage road.) 

These are pavements from original state routes in Illinois. The state bond issue routes of 1918 and 1924 were the first state highways. 185 was the last of these first routes. US. 40 was back then still State Route 11, but it was also part of the National Old Trails Highway system from New York to Santa Monica, and before that, it was the America's first interstate highway, the famous National Road that terminated at Vandalia. The National Road wasn't paved, but these pavements were laid upon the historic trail. 

Speaking of original state highways, I also love this pavement north of Vandalia: an original portion of old State Route 2 as it crosses Huffman Creek. To the left, off the photograph, is the modern U.S. 51, which Route 2 became. 

And up the road from that scene, an old alignment of Route 51 crosses Ramsey Creek. I remember when this stretch of former highway was a little rest area with a picnic table. 

If I had access to a time machine, I think my first trip would simply be to go back to about 1930 and visit these highways as they looked then, secretly check on family (so as not to disrupt the spacetime continuum), and watch drivers who, if they'd been driving for years, were grateful for paved roads.

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