Tag Archives: Indiana National Road

Connect with your local history museum – part2

Previously I talked about connecting with your local history museum. This article features the Wayne County Historical Museum in Richmond, IN. The museum is along the National Road at 1150 South A Street on Richmond’s east side.

With 15 different makes of autos produced in Richmond from 1901 to 1942, the WCHM does a great job of telling this story with 13 vehicles in their collection.

1907 Richmond
1907 Richmond

One particularly interesting car is the 1907 Richmond Model J two-passenger runabout with a “mother-in-law seat” built by the Wayne Works. Edwin Chase of Hebron, ND, bought the car in 1908 for $950. In 2004, the museum procured the car from Chase’s grandson. The Chase family gave the museum the original bill of sale, along with other papers, clippings, and photos. The car is in original condition, except the tires. It even includes one of North Dakota’s original 1911 license plates with painted on numbers.

1918 Davis
1918 Davis

Another interesting car in the collection is a 1918 Davis. George W. Davis made the transition from carriages to automobiles in 1908. The Davis was known for their two-tone paint job, central gear shift, and the use of a Bendix-starter. In 1928, Davis sold his auto line to the Automotive Corporation of America and went into business of designing and manufacturing aircraft.

1939 Crosley
1939 Crosley

At the other end of the spectrum is the 1939 Crosley convertible coupe. Powel Crosley debuted this new automobile to the public in April 1939 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The diminutive small car with an air-cooled, two-cylinder Waukesha engine sold for $350. Crosleys were produced in Richmond until the start of World War II.

The WCHM tells the story of Richmond’s automotive history from 1902 to 1942. I invite you to stop in and enjoy this rich gem of history along the National Road.

Indiana’s Historic National Road Part 3

This installment continues our tour along Indiana’s Historic National Road on Indianapolis’ near eastside. Ford Motor Company operated its Indianapolis Branch Assembly Plant at 1307-1323 E. Washington Street from 1914 to 1932. In its heyday, the plant’s capacity of 300 assembled cars per day was the highest output of any Indiana manufacturing plant.

1915 Ford Motor Company Indianapolis Branch Assembly Plant
1915 Ford Motor Company Indianapolis Branch Assembly Plant

Where Southeastern Avenue merges with East Washington Street, on the southwest corner, there is a monument erected in 1916 for Indiana’s Centennial with the following inscription: “The milestone marks the crossing of the National and Michigan Roads. Over these roads came many of the pioneers, who, by their courage and industry, founded the great commonwealth of Indiana.

The second near eastside auto plant was The Cole Motor Company at 730 E. Washington Street, which produced its line of prestige automobiles at 730 E. Washington Street from 1913 to 1925. For a brief period, Cole was second only to Cadillac in volume of sales in its price range.

At Meridian Street, turn right or (north) one block to visit Monument Circle. The Circle has always been the center of Indianapolis’ business and commercial life since the late 1820s. On October 9, 1908, Joseph J. Cole president of the Cole Carriage Company (predecessor of the Cole Motor Car Co.) completed his first “Solid Tire Auto.” He was so excited about the prospect of his “first drive” that he forgot that one important accessory was missing — the brakes — believe it or not. The 14 horsepower car was hitting on both cylinders as it was driven through the streets of Indianapolis. He spent most of his afternoon on this initial test run driving around and around Monument Circle until the car ran out of gas, providing the necessary means to stop the car.

In 1891, Charles H. Black garnered the dubious distinction of having Indiana’s first auto accidents while driving a German-made Benz on its maiden voyage in the commercial district just south of the Circle. During this six-block drive, Black crashed into a surrey when the horses became frightened-the first automobile accident. Damage to the surrey was approximately $85 which Mr. Black assumed, having it rebuilt at his carriage factory. At the next turn, the corner of Illinois and Washington Streets, Black lost control of the Benz and they crashed into a shop window in the Occidental Hotel-creating the second accident. Damage-$25. The third happened when they changed their course east on Washington Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. At this corner, control of the machine was lost again and another shop window was destroyed. Damage was another $25. Acting in accordance with the suggestions from the police, Black and his passengers drove back to his carriage factory, ending one of the first automobile journeys in America.

Go around the Circle and go South on Meridian Street one block and turn right or (west) back onto Washington Street.

Go west two blocks to the State Capitol. The State Capitol Lawn has two historical markers concerning the National Road. The first one, at the south entrance to the Indiana State Capitol along West Washington Street, celebrates the construction of the road from 1806 to 1839. The American Society of Civil Engineers National Road Monument dedicated in 1976, is located at the southwest corner of the State Capitol grounds.

Go one block west on the south side of Washington Street. The National Old Trails Association was formed in 1912 to mark the auto route and convince local and state officials to improve it. The National Old Trails Road originated on the East Coast and terminated on the West Coast at San Diego. In 1926, the Old National Route became the new U.S. 40. Completion of Interstate 70 in the 1960’s changed the importance of U.S. 40. Today, the National Road is a byway in Indiana’s transportation history.

The Old Trails Office Building at 309 W. Washington Street was designed by Pierre & Wright, was built in 1929. The building is an excellent sample of a terra cotta façade. Take a special note of the terra cotta features around the doors, near the top of the building, and in the vestibule. This romantic iconography is of Indiana heads and wagon trains that inspired early auto touring along the National Road.

Proceed west on Washington Street to White River State Park. One of the landmarks in the park is the Washington Street bridge. Built in 1916, the 844 foot concrete arched span replaced the original covered bridge that was built in the 1840s.

Restored Duesenberg Sign
Duesenberg Motors Inc.
Copyright ©2012 Dennis E. Horvath

Go west on Washington Street to Harding Street and turn left or (south) to the Duesenberg complex at 1511 W. Washington Street. Prior to moving to Indianapolis, the Duesenberg brothers – Fred and August – built extremely high-quality and advanced engines and automobiles. Part of their reason for moving here was to return to their racing roots and be near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where they had already enjoyed some success. They built the Duesenberg Automobile & Motors Company complex at 1511 W. Washington St in 1920. The only building remaining today from what is probably one of the most famous American built automobiles is this red brick Final Assembly building. The 1920 Model A Duesenberg was a luxurious car, which pioneered the use of straight eight-cylinder engines and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. E.L. Cord of Auburn, IN, acquired control of the company in1926. His mission, as he explained to Fred Duesenberg, was to develop the ultimate motorcar that would outclass all American makes.

The Model J, introduced at the New York Automobile Salon for the 1929 model year, was the most remarkable automobile in America: bigger, faster, more elaborate, and more expensive than any other car of its time. The make survived most of the Depression, but died in the collapse of the Cord Corporation in 1937. Model J production totaled 480 before the end. Over 75 percent of the original Model Js built are still roadworthy some 70 years later. No other American marque has been so fortunate. The complex was later used by Marmon-Herrington and American LaFrance companies for bus and truck manufacturing. Note the fading painted sign spelling out Duesenberg on the north side of the building.

This installment ends on Indianapolis’ near westside. Check back again to continue experiencing Indiana’s Historic National Road in the west central part of the state.

For more information on Indiana rides & drives follow this link.

Indiana’s Historic National Road Part 2

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.

Lantz House Inn
Lantz House Inn
Copyright ©2012 Dennis E. Horvath

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.

Huddleston Farm House
Huddleston Farm House
Copyright ©2012 Dennis E. Horvath

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.