Historic National Road – IN
- DesignationAll-American Road (2000/2002)
- Intrinsic QualitiesCultural, Historic
- LocationIL, IN, MD, OH, PA, WV
- Length156 of 824 total miles
The National Road (also known as the Cumberland Road) was the first major improved highway in the U.S. built by the federal government between 1811 and 1837. The 620-mile road connected the Potomac and Ohio Rivers and was a main transport path West for thousands of settlers.people. Today, visitors experience a physical timeline, including classic inns, tollhouses, diners, and motels that trace 200 years of American history.
Story of the Byway
Visitors can travel along the Historic National Road to experience the All American Road that opened the nation to the west and built the nation. Along the way, visitors will learn the history of the byway through the many interpretive panels that dot the route. The route begins in Richmond, Indiana at the Old National Road Welcome Center, where visitors can find information about exciting stops along the way and find unique made-in Indiana merchandise, Historic National Road collectibles, and local jazz recording memorabilia. Visitors can also spot the Madonna of the Trail Monument, an 18-foot tribute to the early pioneer women who journeyed west, which is one of only 12 of these statues in the United States. Within Wayne County, the downtown areas of Richmond, Centerville, and Cambridge City, which display many pre-Civil War buildings, exciting museums, and recreational trails.
As the route continues west, visitors should keep an eye out for buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places such as Guyer Opera House in Lewisville and a section of the original National Road. This portion of the original National Road, located between the towns of Raysville and Ogden, was bypassed during the improvements made by the WPA in the 1930’s to straighten and streamline the National Road route. Here, visitors can experience a taste of the pre-1930’s National Road, which had to curve and wind around the natural terrain and was little more than a simple country lane.
Continuing through Hancock County, visitors can explore downtown Greenfield and Greenfield Riley Park. On the park grounds, the Hancock County Historical Society has maintained both a chapel and an old log jail, which are both open to the public from April to October. Art and outdoor lovers will love exploring the Pennsy Trail and Arts, which runs parallel to the National Road. The 5.6 mile trail is complete with multiple installations of public art and sculptures.
The route then continues through downtown Indianapolis, the state’s capital, going along Washington Street, the capital’s “main street.” Today, the Washington Street-Monument Circle Historic District has many opportunities for visitors to explore cultural and historical attractions, restaurants, and shopping. Visitors should be sure to stop at the Indianapolis Arts garden, a seven-story arts and culture destination, which is located directly above the Historic National Road. Alongside the visual art exhibitions, visitors can also experience one of more than 250 public performances each year.
As the route continues west, visitors should keep an eye out for more portions of the original National Road. Traveling along the Historic National Road near Putnamville, visitors can see four generations of the National Road, where the road had been adjusted several times over Deer Creek. Along the way, visitors should be sure to stop at one of the many locally owned businesses along the way such as Oasis Diner, a stainless steel diner dating back to 1954, Lynn’s Pharmacy and Soda Fountain, the only old-fashioned drugstore soda shop on the Historic National Road in Indiana, and Clabbergirl Bake Shop and Museum, dating back to the 1850s.
The route begins in Richmond, Indiana and predominantly follows U.S. Route 40 through Indianapolis and Terre Haute before reaching the Indiana-Illinois border. Visitors will have the opportunity to take detours to view the original Historic National Road between Raysville and Ogden and near Putnamville. Visitors will also pass through the towns of Cambridge City, Centerville, Knightstown, Greenville, Cumberland, Plainfield, Stileville, Reelsville, and Brazil.
Points of Interest
Indianapolis Arts Garden
The Indianapolis Arts Garden is a seven-story arts in culture destination that hangs above the Historic National Road, which offers both visual art exhibitions and more than 350 free public performances each year.
Guyer Opera House
The Guyer Opera House is a 1902 building that uses the second floor as a theatre and community center and the first floor as commercial space and is still used for community civic theater today.
Clabbergirl Bake Shop and Museum
The Clabbergirl Bake Shop and Museum, maker of the Clabber Girl brand baking soda, contains exhibitions on the history of the company, Hulman and Co. products, antique race cars, and an old Clabber Girl delivery wagon.
Historic National Road: From Richmond to Indianapolis
Begin at the Richmond/Wayne County Visitors Bureau and Old National Road Welcome Center. This is a great place to learn more about the journey you’re about to undertake and pick up some authentic Historic National Road memorabilia. While still in Richmond, art lovers should be sure to visit the Richmond Art Museum.
Heading west along the byway on Route 40 for about 60 miles, enjoy the sights of rural Indiana. As you pass through Lewisville, keep an eye out for buildings on the National Registry of historic places such as the Guyer Opera House. If you’re a fan of 80’s movies, you don’t want to miss the Historic Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, home gym of the Hickory Huskers in the 1986 movie Hoosiers. Knightstown is also a great place to stop for lunch as you travel along the byway. Discover classic local diners here and in the surrounding towns.
If you’re a fan of history, be sure to stop at the Greenfield Riley Park, where the Hancock County Historical Society has maintained both a chapel and an old log jail. Outdoor lovers should check out the Pennsy Trail and Arts.
The byway then enters the state’s capital, Indianapolis. There is plenty to do here for visitors of all ages with all kinds of interests. Check out the Indianapolis Arts Garden and enjoy a performance or check out White River State Park. There is no shortage of things to do! Here you will find many comfortable lodging options and local restaurants. It’s a great place to stay the night on the byway.
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