Posts Tagged ‘Michigan Road’

How early roads shaped our lives

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Over the past few weeks, I have become more aware how early roads shaped our lives. While visiting some friends in Madison, Indiana, one of them asked what was the first highway in Indiana. After some thought I correctly answered the Michigan Road.

The Indiana State Legislature commissioned the Michigan Road in 1826, thus predating construction of the National Road in Indiana by one year. The Michigan Road became a key route in opening the state for settlement by connecting Madison on the Ohio River to Michigan City on Lake Michigan via the new state capital in Indianapolis.

Pioneers used the road as a path to homesteading new lands up through the central part of the state. Imagine these intrepid souls coming down the Ohio River on flat boats and disembarking at Madison – a long, hard journey. Next, they procured their homestead deeds and then set out along the Michigan Road to their new land on the frontier in Indiana.

The road was improved over the course of the 19th century and early 20th century as a series of county, state, and US highways. Now, it is officially recognized as the Michigan Road Historic Byway by the State of Indiana. You can retrace the route of the Byway by following the directions here.


1916 Map of South Bend

1916 Map of South Bend

I have two links to the road. My father was born on a farm along the Michigan Road just west of South Bend. A little while later, while he was growing up, this section of the road became part of the Lincoln Highway. He later used the road to move to Indianapolis shortly before the start of World War II. Road improvements on this section of the road, in October 1914 during Good Roads Day, were some of the first along this route to northern Indiana. I was born near the Butler University campus not far from where the Michigan Road crosses the White River. I can still recall hearing the trucks crossing the river bridge and climbing the hill on their way out of town.

Just south of the river is the highest point in Indianapolis at Crown Hill Cemetery. This is a great place to get a panoramic view of the city.

The road as it winds through Indianapolis from the southeast to the northwest provides a good indication of migration to the city and its development as thoroughfare.


1916 Map of Indianapolis

1916 Map of Indianapolis

So, what’s your story on how early roads shaped our lives?

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Ligonier Indiana Automotive Landmarks

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Yesterday, I enjoyed a great day at the Indiana Lincoln Highway Association Retreat for board members and guests in Ligonier, IN. In the morning, we took a walking tour of downtown and discovered some Indiana automotive landmarks.


Reo Cars Ghost Sign

Reo Cars Ghost Sign
in Ligonier Indiana
Copyright © 2012 Dennis E. Horvath


As we walked north on Cavin St. (the former N. Lincolnway) someone noticed a ghost sign for the Ligonier Garage on the south façade at 106 South Cavin. A little while later, we visited the Ligonier Historical Museum on Main Street. The folks there were very helpful in providing reference materials to attempt to date the sign. A 1914 Sanborn map noted that the first floor of the building was a garage with a cement floor, but no proprietor was listed. A 1916 Chautauqua program had a Reo advertisement with the same address.

Mier Carriage & Buggy

Mier Carriage & Buggy
in Ligonier Indiana
Copyright © 2012 Dennis E. Horvath


Earlier while driving around town, I noticed a three story building with a crumbling west façade at 104 North Water St. While perusing the same 1914 Sanborn map, I discovered that this was the former site of the Mier Carriage & Buggy Company. The map provides a description of how materials and finished vehicles flowed through the building. Sales, body making, wood working, and wheel shop were on the first floor; with painting, varnishing, axles, and rubber tiring on the second floor; and body finishing and upholstering on the third floor.

The Mier Carriage & Buggy Company had the distinction of building the first three-story building in town. A.B. Mier joined his father Solomon Mier in the buggy business at the turn of the twentieth century. They ventured into the automotive field in 1908, when they added a two-cylinder engine with a friction transmission and double-chain drive to their buggy offerings. They sold about 100 of these high-wheeler runabouts with solid rubber tires and right-hand drive controls for less than $600. Longer wheelbase motorized runabouts, stanhopes, and surreys were offered for 1909. Thereafter, the Miers returned to exclusive manufacture of horse drawn carriages and wagons.

Unfortunately, with the deteriorating condition of this structure, it looks like we will soon lose another Indiana automotive landmark. I understand that currently, there are no plans to save this building.

It’s time to get out and enjoy some Indiana automotive landmarks along the Lincoln Highway, Dixie Highway, National Road, and the Michigan Road. In the future, I’ll share upcoming events along these highways. Visit the Indiana Lincoln Highway Association website for more information.

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National Scenic Byways Program in peril

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

A bill before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will repeal the National Scenic Byways Program. The American Energy and Infrastructure Act of 2012 page 201 contains the text to repeal National Scenic Byways Program Section 162.

Why does this matter to fellow auto enthusiasts? The National Scenic Byways Program provides resources to the byway community in creating a unique travel experience and enhanced local quality of life through efforts to preserve, protect, interpret, and promote the intrinsic qualities of designated byways. The program has funded 3,049 projects for state and nationally designated byway routes in 50 states.

In Indiana alone, communities serving Indiana Lincoln Highway Byway, Historic Michigan Road Byway, Historic National Road-Indiana, Indiana’s Historic Pathways, Whitewater Canal Scenic Byway, and the Ohio River Scenic Byway have received funding.

These grants fund things like historic route signage, travel brochures, information kiosk development, and preservation of route monuments. All of these efforts encourage tourism along our historic highways and byways.

If you enjoy traveling along America’s historic routes and are concerned about the American Energy and Infrastructure Act of 2012 negative impact, I encourage you to contact your representative to not eliminate the National Scenic Byways Program Section 162 as part of this act.

For your information I have included a link to the National Scenic Byways Foundation post for your help in formulating a response.

One of the things I enjoy in life is touring along America’s two-lane highways. Let’s ensure that political developments don’t impact our simple pleasures by eliminating the National Scenic Byways Program.

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