Category Archives: History/Museums

Mile 362 – Madonna of the Trail (Ind.) – Richmond, Ind.

The Madonna of the Trail in Indiana.

The Madonna of the Trail in Indiana.

The Madonna of the Trail monument in Indiana is perched on a small hill overlooking the National Road in Richmond, in the southwestern corner of Glen Miller Park.

This monument is maintained by the Indiana Daughters of the American Revolution, which maintains a brief webpage about the monument here. Indiana’s Madonna has never been moved, and underwent cleaning and rededication in 1988, 1998 and 2005, with the latest restoration being the most extensive.

To get to the monument from the westbound lanes of U.S. 40, make a right turn immediately before U.S. 40’s intersection with 22nd Street. Eastbound traffic should turn onto 22nd Street before making a right turn into the park. The monument will be visible on the right. Pullouts for parking are available along the driveway into the park. Informational signs are adjacent to the monument.

The Madonna in Indiana was the ninth monument to be erected. On the National Road, other monuments are in Beallsville, Pa.; Wheeling, W.Va.; Springfield, Ohio; and Vandalia, Ill.

Non-National Road monuments are in Bethesda, Md.; Lexington, Mo.; Council Grove, Kan.; Lamar, Colo.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Springerville, Ariz.; and Upland, Calif.

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Mile 302 – Madonna of the Trail (Ohio), Springfield, Ohio

Ohio's Madonna of the Trail monument in Springfield.

Ohio’s Madonna of the Trail monument in Springfield.

Ohio’s Madonna of the Trail monument was the first monument to be dedicated in 1928, and it may have been the most moved of all 12 monuments since it was first placed. This monument is owned by the Lagonda Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Springfield (DAR chapters own all of the monuments).

Currently, the monument is along Main Street in downtown Springfield’s relatively new National Road Commons park. Originally, according to the city of Springfield and the DAR, the statue was along present U.S. 40 on the grounds of the Ohio Masonic Home, west of downtown Springfield. However, when the U.S. 68 bypass around Springfield was being built (1957), the monument was moved out of the way and onto an alcove along U.S. 40 slightly farther east. That location seemed to be pretty unfriendly to visitors, as it appears there wasn’t really anywhere to park, and that section of U.S. 40 is four-lane with a speed limit of 50 mph. The monument was last restored in 2003.

Finally, in 2011, Ohio’s Madonna was moved a few miles east to its present location in a new park. Finding the statue was pretty easy. The National Road Commons takes up part of a city block between West Main Street and West Columbia Street two blocks west of Ohio-72. Parking along the street is not an issue.

The monument was placed in Springfield's new National Road Commons park in 2011.

The monument was placed in Springfield’s new National Road Commons park in 2011.

Like each of the 11 monuments that came after this one, Ohio’s Madonna is identical to the others (the inscriptions on the pedestals do change though, to reflect local history). Madonnas along the National Road are located in Beallsville, Pa.; Wheeling, W.Va.; Richmond, Ind.; and Vandalia, Ill. The rest are in Bethesda, Md.; Lexington, Mo.; Council Grove, Kan.; Lamar, Colo.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Springerville, Ariz.; and Upland, Calif.

Below is a map showing the travel path of the Madonna of the Trail in Springfield. Note that the first location at the Ohio Masonic Home is approximate.

Mile 259 – Ohio Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio

The facade of the statehouse.

The facade of the statehouse.

When the National Road was built, it carried transportation importance not only as a gateway west, but also as a link between western state governments and the East. The road itself passes through three former state capitals – Wheeling, W.Va. (several times in the late 1800s), Zanesville, Ohio (1810-1812), Vandalia, Ill. (1819-1839) – and two current state capitals – Columbus and Indianapolis.

The dome in the rotunda of the statehouse.

The dome in the rotunda of the statehouse.

In all of these locations, the National Road passes directly by, or very close to, the state capitol buildings. In Columbus, the Ohio Statehouse fronts the road (Broad Street) on its northern side.

The current statehouse was completed in 1861, after fire destroyed a previous building. The building is consistent with Greek Revival architecture, and the self-guiding tour brochure states that the idea to construct the capitol in this style came from a desire to create a structure that represented democracy, which was, of course, developed in ancient Greece.

Inside the statehouse rotunda.

Inside the statehouse rotunda.

The statehouse was renovated during the early 1990s, which restored much of the detailed interior architecture seen in the building today. In addition, the statehouse was fused with the Senate Building via an enclosed atrium, and the lowest level of the structure was renovated to serve as both a lower connection between the buildings and as a better facility for visitors.

The entrance to the Statehouse Museum.

The entrance to the Statehouse Museum.

Visiting the statehouse today is quite easy. A public parking garage exists under the building, accessible from Broad, Third or State streets. The garage leads directly into the lower level of the capitol, where a small, but modern, interactive museum features exhibits documenting politics and government in Ohio. Guided tours are free and given throughout the day, or guidebooks are available for a self-guided tour, which is what I did.

The mural for which the "Map Room" is named.

The mural for which the “Map Room” is named.

Because the statehouse and Senate Building are essentially one building, it’s a little easy to get disoriented at first. However, the statehouse is secured with a division of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and those officers can be of assistance.

The self-guided tour leads through each level of the building, noting the function of nearly every room on each floor. The guidebook provides detailed information on each location, and also contains photos and descriptions of what parts of the capitol looked like before the 1990s renovation/restoration.

Ohio Statehouse Resize (5)One aspect of the Ohio Statehouse that makes visiting pleasant is that the whole building is very open and visitor-friendly (at least when the Ohio General Assembly is not in session). Visitors are able to walk freely in and out of the building’s entrances, and even the House and Senate chambers are open to the public (again, as long as the legislature is not in session). This atmosphere allowed me to enjoy and take in the building at my own pace, without feeling rushed.

The highlights, at least in my mind, are The Rotunda, the House and Senate chambers, the Statehouse Museum and the grounds around the building. Of course, there are scores of other features the capitol has to offer.

The Ohio Statehouse is open to the public Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Mile 189 – Fox Run ‘S’ Bridge, New Concord, Ohio

Fox Run S Bridge ResizeJust west of New Concord, Ohio, is one of the state’s relatively numerous ‘S’ bridges still standing – the Fox Run ‘S’ Bridge – right up against a four-lane segment of U.S. 40.

Built in 1828, this bridge seems to be unique in that I’ve seen it under three different names: the “Fox Run S Bridge,” the “Fox Creek S Bridge” and “S Bridge II.” Like most of the S bridges in Ohio and Pennsylvania, a small park surrounds the structure, which is open to pedestrians. However, as I found out, the bridge isn’t very friendly to visitors in the winter, as the small designated parking area and the bridge itself aren’t kept free of snow.

A marker at the bridge.

A marker at the bridge.

An information marker  on the east end of the bridge gives a little more information than a standard state historical marker, including mentioning that “the Fox Creek Crooked Creek area [was] a bastion of Abolitionism before and during the Civil War,” that every township in Ohio along the National Road doubled in population in a decade after the road was built and that the National Road was bricked over in 1919 to transport heavy equipment during World War I. Apparently, this bridge was the last part of the road to be bricked over. The bridge was used at least until the 1930s or 1940s. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

If I get a chance, I would rather see this bridge without snow on the ground. There’s supposed to be a path that leads down to the creek to let visitors see the structure closer. Parking (when there’s no snow on the ground) is located on the west end of the bridge.Fox Run S Bridge Resize (2)

Mile 132 – Wheeling Suspension Bridge, Wheeling, W.Va.

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge as seen from Wheeling Island.

Many of the icons that make driving an old road enjoyable are actually part of the road itself. In Wheeling, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge is an attraction in and of itself.

The bridge was built in 1849 specifically to carry the National Road across part of the Ohio River, connecting downtown Wheeling with Wheeling Island. Another bridge would then take the National Road from Wheeling Island (in then-Virginia) to Ohio. And while the bridge has been replaced as the main thoroughfare across the Ohio, it remains the oldest suspension bridge still in use in the United States.

The bridge has been fitted with numerous modern traffic control measures.

A drive across the bridge is an experience in itself. The open steel grates create a odd effect that seemingly reduces the grip the car has to the roadway, and is one reason why low speed limits are in place. Because the bridge was built before the invention of heavy automobiles, stoplights at either end of the bridge ensure no more than a handful of cars can be on the bridge at any one time. Heavy vehicles are banned from the bridge entirely. All vehicles are required to maintain 50-foot intervals from one another.

Markings on either side of the bridge define the structure as being part of the National Road.

At roughly 1,000 feet long, the bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world from its construction until 1851. However, the bridge deck collapsed in 1854 during a severe storm, and subsequently had to be rebuilt. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and was named a National Historic Landmark in 1975.

Due to U.S. 40 being re-routed over I-70 from downtown Wheeling to Ohio, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge is no longer directly on U.S. 40. Instead, eastbound travelers should use W.Va.-2 south (Main Street) to 10th Street, which is the bridge. On the Wheeling Island side, the bridge is part of Virginia Street.

When it was built, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge was the longest in the world.

Mile 132 – West Virginia Independence Hall, Wheeling, W.Va.

The exterior of the WVIH in Wheeling, taken from Market Street.

In Wheeling, the state of West Virginia was born. Though the state capital moved to Charleston permanently in 1885, the spirit of those Virginians against secession from the U.S. during the Civil War is preserved in this city on the Ohio River. Arguably the centerpiece of historic sites from West Virginia’s early history is the West Virginia Independence Hall, now a modern museum.

Originally a U.S. Customs house built in 1859, the building became the center of the Reorganized Government of Virginia (later West Virginia), and was where the Wheeling Conventions took place, which produced the new state.

Independence Hall in its modern condition, to me, is very underrated and under-promoted. The quality of the exhibits in the museum is impressive, and the museum staff is extremely knowledgeable about the building’s history.

The window of the restored U.S. Customs office overlooks another historic building in Wheeling – the former B&O train station.

Like many older buildings, Independence Hall has seen several uses throughout its existence, from the U.S. Customs facility to a federal courthouse to the center of the creation of West Virginia’s early government to a number of private uses. While the building today has been restored to its original appearance, at one time, the building was expanded to include more floor space – both horizontally and vertically.

In the 1960s, the state of West Virginia bought the building from private use, with the intention of restoring Independence Hall through the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation. After restoration was complete, the building was opened as a museum in the late 1970s. The museum is operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, which also runs the West Virginia Culture Center in Charleston.

This museum is ideal for anyone the least bit interested in history, especially those interested in historic renovation or the Civil War. The museum occupies three floors, and is designed to have visitors begin on the third floor and work down through each floor.

The third floor houses the restored 19th Century courtroom, plus the restored judge’s chamber. Visitors are free to walk about the courtroom, and informational signs provide a concise history of the room and its uses over the years.

One of the Civil War-era flags preserved at WVIH. Flash photography is prohibited in this exhibit.

The second floor contains the gem of the museum – a rather large exhibit containing  battle flags carried by companies that mustered across West Virginia during the Civil War. Because of the fragile nature of these flags, each is preserved in a controlled environment, and no flash photography is allowed in the exhibit. Tying in with the actual flags is another exhibit that features information on flag restoration and the relevant procedures.

Also on the second floor is an exhibit detailing the process of restoring Independence Hall to its original shape and size in the 1960s. The exhibit points out the extensive attention to detail that was paid during the restoration efforts.  In addition, a replicated U.S. Customs Office and the original West Virginia Governor’s office are on the second floor.

The first floor has more general exhibits on the Civil War and Wheeling history.

The West Virginia Independence Hall is on the corner of Market Street (W.Va. 2 North) and 16th Street in downtown Wheeling. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and is closed Sundays and government holidays. Admission is free (Note: some Internet websites list an admission price, but that is no longer true). A small parking lot for the museum is off 16th Street.


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Mile 132 – Centre Market, Wheeling, W.Va.

The front of Centre Market along 22nd Street in Wheeling.

Centre Market seems to be one of the bright spots in Wheeling’s efforts to revitalize its older neighborhoods. The market itself and the surrounding neighborhood are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the “Centre Market Square Historic District,” though the market itself also has its own NRHP designation.

The market is made up of two distinct sections – one older and one “newer.”  The earliest section, built in 1853, is believed to be the oldest still-standing iron market house in the country. This neo-classical section is now enclosed and painted white and green and has its original belfry. The second section, further south and made of brick in a neo-Romanesque style, was built in 1890 for primary use as a fish market. The building’s original use lives on through Coleman’s Fish Market. A more detailed description of the building’s past is available here, on the NRHP application from the 1970s (This link from the Ohio County Public Library has much of the same information on the application, but a bit easier-to-read format).

The main corridor in the older section of Centre Market in Wheeling.

Today, the entire building remains open to the public as an open market, with a handful of restaurants, shops and an art gallery. In addition, the streets on the east and west of the building (both of which are Market Street, one southbound and one northbound) currently host a number of more shops and restaurants, thereby creating a small shopping district within historic buildings. The buildings are owned by the City of Wheeling.

While in some ways the market serves a notably different purpose as an attraction today than it did 100 years ago as a necessary supply destination, its purpose still lives on as an important asset to Wheeling’s commerce.

Each of the businesses in the actual Centre Market and the surrounding neighborhood has its own hours, though there are businesses open every day of the week. Parking is available along Market Street and nearby streets.

To get to Centre Market from U.S. 40, follow Main Street south to 22nd Street, then turn left. The Market is on the right. From I-470, take Exit 1, turn left at the end of the ramp, left on 26th Street to Main Street and then turn right (north) on Main Street to 22nd Street.

The southern building of Centre Market, built in the late 1800s.