US 50 in Indiana
The second leg of my trip down Indianaís US 50 got off to a bumpy start. As I parked in Seymour, where this trip began, I accidentally locked my keys in my car.
Fortunately, I had a friend along, and he noticed a hardware store across the street. ďLetís go buy a wood dowel there,Ē he said. ďYou can use it to press the lock button.Ē (I had left the driverís window open about an inch.) 58 cents later I was working the dowel against the door lock, which wouldnít play ball. My keys were lying in the seat, the fob face down, so I used the dowel to turn the fob over and press its Unlock button. Success!
Iíve had more daunting adventures on road trips, such as being chased off by
the police and backing my car off a road, beaching it. Oh, and
wrecking my car. Shudder. So this wasnít all that bad in comparison. But
without my friendís quick thinking, I would have ended up calling a locksmith
and paying way more than 58 cents to get into my car.
We walked a few of the downtown blocks along this route.
The most interesting and surprising find was this sign just off Chestnut St. at St. Louis Ave.
The rest of the original route through Seymour was plenty colorful.
There are plenty of great old buildings downtown.
I was taken by the chimney on this house at 2nd and Walnut. My guess is that the rest of the house hasnít always been covered in stucco.
My ABB had us follow 2nd St. to the edge of town, where it makes a sharp left and crosses a railroad track, crosses US 50, and follows a couple county roads briefly before rejoining US 50. But backing up a bit, this is US 50's current alignment through Seymour.
Just outside Seymour, next to a field, we found this historical marker.
The next town is Brownstown.
Brownstown is full of great neon.
If youíre surprised that Brownstown Flowers and Gifts has been around since 1890, you may be even more surprised to learn that Zabelís Furniture has been around since 1879.
Brockís is a real Johnny-come-lately to Brownstown, having come along in 1952.
The Knights of Pythias building stands in the next block, right across from the Jackson County Courthouse. The building itself isnít remarkable, but this weathered neon sign sure caught my attention.
Remarkably, the Knights of Pythias still meet here.
Iím used to seeing fraternal-order buildings used for other things or standing vacant.
There seems to be an idiom of Indiana county seats Ė a courthouse stands at
the center and brick buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s face it on at
least one side. Brownstown is no exception.
Regardless, I was taken with the Jackson County Courthouse. Itís not that it is unusually beautiful, but that the many trees surrounding it made for excellent shooting. I took a lot of photos from the grounds.
Does your county's courthouse have a tank on its grounds?
Where modern US 50 turns left a block past the courthouse, old US 50 continues straight and shortly merges with State Road 135. The original alignment follows SR 135 through Vallonia to SR 235, then SR 235 to Medora, then a series of delightful country roads. Most old road alignments Iíve found have been brief, lasting less than a mile. Iíve encountered a handful that have lasted a few miles, such as the 5-mile old alignment I missed between Aurora and Dillsboro earlier on US 50. But just check out this old alignment of Indianaís US 50!
Thatís almost 21 miles of old-alignmenty goodness! We hit the mother lode! And so off we went. Our first stop along the Mother of All Old Alignments was Vallonia. State Road 135 (old US 50) bypasses it today, but at one time this highway went right through town.
We thought the church might be the only non-residential building in Vallonia until we rounded the curve and found its faded business district. This is the only building that looked like it might still contain a business.
Was this once the Blue Bird Cafe?
There's more to downtown Vallonia, of course.
Plenty of dilapidated buildings line old US 50. This one may have been an automobile repair garage, by the looks of the triple doors on the right.
This building is being overrun by ivy.
The jewel of Vallonia is the Joe Jackson Hotel, built in 1914. I havenít been able to find out anything about Joe Jackson, but his hotel was apparently the finest in Jackson County (which is named for President Andrew Jackson, not old Joe). Check out this photo of the hotel shortly after it opened. Also check out this photo of the barber shop it once contained.
The hotel didn't contain much of anything, as this photo shows. But it is being restored. It was the first sign of life we saw in Vallonia.
Another sign of life is Fort Vallonia. Itís not the original fort; thatís long gone. This one was built in 1969. Ever since, the fort has hosted Fort Vallonia Days, a festival every October that attracts 30,000 people.
I guess maybe Vallonia isnít so sleepy after all!
Just south of Vallonia, SR 235 begins at a T intersection with SR 135. My old maps and road guides said to follow SR 235, and so we did, looking for Medora. Before we got there, we came upon the Medora Covered Bridge on an old alignment of the road. Indiana is well known for its covered bridges Ė 98 still stand across the state. The largest and most famous concentration of them is in Parke County. You can spend many enjoyable hours driving around Indiana seeing them all; you can still drive across a few of them.
But seldom do you get to see one, um, undressed.
That's because this bridge is undergoing restoration. It was built in 1875 by J. J. Daniels, one of the leading covered bridge builders in the state. With three spans, at 431 feet, 10 inches, it is the longest covered bridge in the United States.
Those curved beams in the bridge identify it as a Burr arch truss bridge. Engineers disagree about whether the arch bears the load and the Howe truss (the vertical and angled beams) provide stability or vice-versa. But one thingís for sure Ė combining the arch with the Howe truss gives a stronger bridge than either alone.
Can you imagine how dark this bridge must be when its roof is complete and the sides are attached? Given that and my general nervousness about driving on wooden bridges, Iím very happy that this bridge was retired from service in 1972. (This photo shows the bridge while it was still in service.) Iíll drive over the modern UCEB (ugly concrete eyesore bridge) next to it, thank you. But Iím eager to return after the restoration is complete so I can walk it end to end.
Next we came upon tiny Medora.
This is most of its downtown.
I think it says a lot about such a little town when its watering hole calls itself legendary!
I like how, except for the blue paint, this building seems to be in original condition.
What's a small town without a Coca-Cola sign?
SR 235 continues straight through Medora, but to follow Old US 50, you have to turn left onto CR 350 S. This little liquor store is the last business on the way out of town.
And then we were out in the country. Look at how narrow this road is. It hasn't been US 50 in a long, long time.
The old road had some rough spots.
This old alignment continued into Lawrence County.
Created 2 January 2011.