A view of Madison’s Main Street, c.1890.
Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
Madison, Indiana

Michigan Road

Current view of the Michigan Road.

Current view of the Michigan Road.
Courtesy of Jim Grey

The Michigan Road was one of Indiana’s first highways. It begins in Madison at the base of the bluffs, on the north side of the town. West Street runs north from the Ohio River and ends at this point, where it meets with Milton Street, to the east, and the Michigan Road, which winds up the bluffs in a westward direction before setting a course due north to the county line. Beyond that point, this historic road goes through such towns as Shelbyville, Indianapolis, Logansport, South Bend, and Michigan City.

Prior to the road’s construction in the 1830s, the new State of Indiana’s population was confined along its rivers, like the Ohio and the Wabash; its great lake, Lake Michigan; and its eastern border, which settlers from Ohio were gradually crossing. Rivers were the easiest mode of transportation because travel through Indiana’s densely forested interior was difficult. The situation became apparent to State legislators in 1825, when the State capital was moved from Corydon to Indianapolis, a newly-created town in the State’s center without access to a navigable river. Just one year later, in 1826, legislation passed calling for the construction of a road connecting Michigan City, on Lake Michigan, and Madison. The Michigan Road opened the State’s interior to settlement and connected two major waterways, the Ohio River and Lake Michigan. The road was completed in 1837.

It took more than one year, from Summer 1830 to Fall 1831, for the first 15 miles of the road north of Madison to be made passable. Construction was contracted out to the lowest bidder in one-mile increments. The road was to be 100 feet wide, with the 30-foot center free of stumps. Madison’s economy benefited from the road’s construction, as newcomers arrived from the east via the Ohio River. Madison served as a point at which settlers could outfit themselves with the necessary supplies before heading northward on the Michigan Road to the State’s unsettled interior.

The Michigan Road contributes to the historic significance of the Madison Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmarks. The Michigan road has also been designated an Indiana State Scenic Byway.

A mid-20th century view of the Michigan Road.

A mid-20th century view of the Michigan Road.
Courtesy of Jim Grey

Plan your visit

To reach the Michigan Road from Madison’s downtown, travel north on West St. until the intersection with Milton Rd. Michigan Road is to the left and continues north toward the Madison hilltop commercial district. Most of the road still exists and is traversable throughout Indiana. The road is part of several State and U.S. routes, but it is still identifiable in the towns through which its passes, where it often times bears the name Michigan Street. For more information, visit The Historic Michigan Road website.

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