Old US 31 in Northern Indiana
Thanks to old-fashioned nepotism, one college summer I landed a job with the courier service my aunt owned. One of my frequent destinations was a hospital on Plymouth's main drag. I didn't know then that Plymouth was on old US 31. Current US 31 bypasses Plymouth to the west; this map shows where the new and old roads split. US 6 is the east-west road at the top of the map.
This southbound photo shows the split as two cars wisely follow old US 31. It also shows the northbound flyover ramp from old US 31 to current US 31.
When we reached the top of the ramp, we noticed a road running parallel to it. Brian, who had the trip map, thought it looked to flow naturally from US 31 before it curved to bypass Plymouth, so he suggested we explore it. We drove it northbound until it made a sharp turn to the left.
Sure enough, it appears to be old US 31. Brian walked past the end and a little bit into the yard there. He noticed some cement there, heavily overgrown with grass, as the photo below shows. He followed its path and noticed that it seemed to line up with the farm road below, which paralleled US 31. I had been talking to Brian about what I've learned about roads and roadbuilding, especially about how old roads followed the terrain but modern roads can cut through hills and be built up through valleys. Seeing how US 31 was built up but this farm road was even with the terrain, he wondered if that farm road could have been the original alignment of US 31 or one of its predecessors.
This southbound photo shows how this stub lines up with the end of the ramp, just before the stub veers to the right. It's hard to see, but the stub hooks sharply to intersect at a T with old US 31.
Pretty soon we came upon the Tri-Way drive-in theater and miniature golf course. The three-screen theater has operated since 1953 and was named because it was located (then) on US 31 between US 6 and US 30. The morning sun's unfortunate angle made good pictures difficult, but here's a fair shot of the sign, its colors fading.
After about three miles, we entered Plymouth. Here's a map of the city to just before downtown. Notice US 30 near the top of this map and Jefferson St. near the bottom. Outside of town, Jefferson St. is called Lincolnway – US 30's old alignment and the second major alignment of the Lincoln Highway.
After passing a few shops on Plymouth's north edge, we entered a long residential section with trees shading the homes and the road, as this northbound photo shows.
Homes are remarkably well kept along Plymouth's Michigan St., a common name for old US 31 in northern Indiana because of its Michigan Road roots.
Based on its architecture, I'd say this house is from the 1800s. I've seen many 1800s homes along the portions of the Michigan Road that I've driven. The road was built in the 1830s at a time when the only other major roads in Indiana were the National Road and the Buffalo Trace. People moved to the roads because there was money to be made along them, much as so many malls and restaurants have located near the Interstates today.
This was as far south as I'd ever been in Plymouth, and I never saw the hospital that was my aunt's customer. They don't just tear down hospitals, do they?
South of Jefferson St., residences faded in favor of businesses. We had reached downtown. Here's a map of downtown and Plymouth's south side.
Downtown Plymouth lasts all of about three blocks, but those blocks remain vital and well cared for. Both car and pedestrian traffic were heavy that Saturday – we happened upon a big sidewalk sale. This photo is of the west side of Michigan St. south of Washington St., which is the third street north of the Yellow River.
This is the next block south, at Garro St., again the west side of the street. The building at the left end is actually on the corner of LaPorte St., where old US 31 curves before it crosses the river.
Someone far more experienced in the ways of the road than I pointed out to me that old banks open to the corner. I had never noticed it before, but now I see it everywhere.
Here's another one, the former Marshall County Trust and Savings Co.
And another one, in this building named Richard, at Michigan and LaPorte Streets. I'll bet that if you peel back the sign and the boards over the door, it says "Bank."
South of LaPorte St., the road curves slightly east as it crosses the Yellow River. This building, with the partially demolished and crumbling wall, stands on the bridge's north edge.
Downtown ends, and residences begin again, south of the bridge and the railroad overpass.
The road heads southeast out of town. Past a cemetery, and then past any number of cul-de-sac neighborhoods, old US 31 ends at US 31, as this map shows.
As usual, highway engineers curved the old road to meet the new at a T for safety.
A stub of the original road remains, however, I presume to provide access to a house along it. Here's the four-lane old US 31 northbound at where it curves to meet current US 31. I took the photo standing on the stub of old US 31.
I turned around in that spot to shoot this two-lane stub of old US 31. Before US 31 bypassed Plymouth, it curved gently from here into the current roadbed.
We didn't drive on current US 31 more than 1,000 yards before old 31 split off again on its way to Argos.
Created 13 January 2008.