This installment continues our journey along Indiana’s Historic National Road in central Wayne County. We start at the historic stone mile marker on the north side of the road showing four and one-half miles to the courthouse in Richmond and one mile to Centerville. This mile marker serves as a GPS marker from the early days of travel along the National Road.
Next up is Centerville, known as the hub of Indiana’s Antique Alley. Centerville has a number of row houses, enchanting inns, and interesting antique and specialty shops. The Lantz House Inn at 212-214 W. Main Street, c. 1830, is a bed and breakfast with one of the five existing early 19th century brick archways.
In 1870, when Richmond’s population and business surpassed Centerville’s, a dispute arose to move the county seat east to the new courthouse. Centerville residents twice rebuffed efforts to move the records. Their first try was with locked gates and guards, and the second by firing on their own courthouse with a three-pound cannon loaded with iron scraps. Later, soldiers were brought in to move the records to Richmond. Holes from the cannon shot are still visible over the door of the old courthouse that is now the Center Township Library.
At the west end of Centerville are two places (one on each side of the road) with old cars for sale. 1960s and later cars are for sale on the north side of the road, and 1940s & 1950s era cars on the south side of the road. Stop by and see what is available.
Another stone marker on the north side of the road, about three miles west of Centerville, shows 13 miles to the state line, six miles to Cambridge City, and three miles to Centerville.
Travel a little further past Cambridge City to Mt. Auburn to see The Huddleston Farm House Inn Museum, which showcases early commerce along the road. Travelers in the mid-19th century stopped at the farmstead for meals, provisions, and shelter and feed and rest for their horses. New exhibits allow visitors to hear from a covered wagon traveler about the conditions on the road, the food they ate, and where they found lodging. Visitors can experience the road surfaces over time, from a bumpy mud track dotted with tree stumps to brick, concrete, and the current asphalt. Tours are available April-December, Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and by appointment. June-October on Saturdays, visit the on-site Farmers Market.
To travel an original road section, follow the Historic National Road marker in Dunreth. Just past the intersection of S.R. 3 where it goes north, turn left (south) onto Old National Road. You’ll notice that it’s not as straight as U.S. 40. The original road conforms to the natural terrain by curving and winding around features. Turn left (west) back onto U.S. 40, east of Knightstown.
In Knightstown turn right (north) onto Washington Street for one block to see the original town center. Knightstown was the first Indiana town platted on the road after it was surveyed through the state.
U.S. 40 continues into Greenfield. Here, the Hancock County Courthouse is the focus of a traditional town square. The birthplace and home of James Whitcomb Riley, known as the “Hoosier Poet,” is located at 250 W. Main Street. An adjacent museum to the house displays items from the 1850s to 1870s, the period when the Riley family lived there. In western Hancock County, the roadside landscape makes the transition from rural to urban environment as you head into Indianapolis.
This installment ends on Indianapolis’ east side. Check back next time for a tour of the Hoosier Capitol and more experiences along Indiana’s Historic National Road.
For more information on Indiana rides & drives follow this link.