Hit the Road
Called “The Road that Built the Nation,” the Historic National Road holds distinction as the nation’s first federally funded interstate highway, stretching from Cumberland, Maryland, to Vandalia, Illinois. Indiana’s section of the road spans 156 miles from Richmond to Terre Haute.
A new digital driving guide created by the Indiana National Road Association (indiananationalroad.com) provides inspiration and tips for planning your own road trip along the historic byway, highlighting historic attractions and local businesses.
“I’m always amazed at how many things there really are to see when you get out and start traveling in small towns,” says Bob Hunt, INRA treasurer, who helped compile the new resource. “This guide is a good way to help people think about short trips they can take across the state and encourage them to get out, drive the road and see what’s out there.”
For example, in downtown Richmond, a collection of locally owned shops and businesses in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century commercial buildings line Main Street, the pathway of the Historic National Road. A few blocks north, the 1902 Richmond Railroad Depot anchors the historic Depot District, a hub of shops and restaurants, including Firehouse BBQ and Blues in the city’s oldest firehouse, Little Sheba’s Restaurant, Ullery’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream parlor, The Two Sisters Books & More, and Richmond Furniture Gallery.
In the 2000s, Indiana Landmarks joined community leaders and the Urban Enterprise Association to stop demolition of the Daniel Burnham-designed railroad depot, which business leaders Roger and Theresa Richert acquired and stabilized in 2010. The site is now home to tenants including the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County.
To learn about more places along the National Road, be sure to join a virtual talk on August 5 presented by the Indiana National Road Association.
In southern Indiana, one of the state’s newest trails uses a natural transportation route, the Ohio River, as an attraction to draw visitors to towns from Portsmouth, Ohio, to West Point, Kentucky. Through Indiana, the Ohio River Recreation Trail travels through New Albany, Jeffersonville, Hanover, Madison, Vevay, Rising Sun, Aurora, and Lawrenceburg.
“These towns are like pearls on a necklace, connected by the Ohio River, an accessible and vibrant trail corridor,” says Jack Sutton, a trail co-chair representing Indiana river communities.
Trail organizers—an all-volunteer group from Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky—are working with community leaders along the river to promote each city’s unique assets and brainstorm ways to improve river access and recreational opportunities. A technical assistance award from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program funded planning sessions with Indiana community leaders this spring.
Lawrenceburg and Aurora officials have already been working to take advantage of the waterway, developing the Dearborn Trail, a series of riverfront walking and biking trails along the Ohio River connecting both communities. “Lawrenceburg is already actively enhancing its waterfront. This trail gives us another tool to bring people to our great river town,” says Lawrenceburg Main Street Director Michelle Cone.
Check out the digital guide, available at ohioriverrecreationtrail.org, which highlights historic attractions and alerts boaters, cyclists, and motorists to commercial river traffic in real time.
Other Byways to Explore
Indiana native Carl Fisher laid out a plan to build America’s first coast-to-coast paved highway, called the Lincoln Highway in honor of the Great Emancipator. The highway follows two routes through northern Indiana developed in 1913 and 1928. Visit the recently updated turn-by-turn guide to navigate both routes, find historic sites, restaurants, and other attractions at indianalincolnhighway.org/map.
Historic Michigan Road
The Indiana State Legislature commissioned the Michigan Road in 1826 as a means of connecting Madison on the Ohio River to Michigan City on Lake Michigan, routing through Indianapolis. Transformed from dirt paths to paved highways, “Indiana’s Pioneer Highway,” remains imminently travelable today. Plan your trip at historicmichiganroad.org.
This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of Indiana Preservation, Indiana Landmarks’ member magazine.
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