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'Ideal Section' Starts Lincoln Highway in Indiana
Lincoln Highway Part 13, October 5, 2009
David McLane (davemclane)     Print Article 
Published 2009-10-07 11:01 (KST)   
Just a mile or so coming into Indiana from the west, you travel over what used to be the Ideal Section, which was used to demonstrate the latest road technology in 1923 but was paved over in 1998.

There's a memorial bench on the south side of the highway but hard to see and hard to photo as it's in deep shade. However, there's a newer marker west of the bench next to a bank which gets full sunlight although also a bit hard to photo because you can't get very far back from the busy highway.

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2005 marker on original Ideal Section light pole
©2009 D. McLane

The marker was dedicated in 2006 and a plaque has a brief description of the Ideal Section and a dedication to the memory of Carl G. Fisher, the Father of the Lincoln Highway; John Carlisle, the First Indiana Director; A.W. Stommel, the First Country Director; and William (Bill) Gettler, who worked on the road and helped with the use of his pictures.

Also acknowledged are the the Late Rev, Patrick Connolly for donating the original Ideal Section light poles ; Jo Ann Plank for the bases and installation of the poles; and Bank Calumet for the plaque.

AFTER THAT RATHER IMPRESSIVE BEGINNING, markers were few and far between in Indiana compared to those in Illinois. However, from time to time there were small signs marking what looked like original loops left over from when the newer highway was laid down. For example, here셲 one on the western edge of La Porte which marks a loop of less than half a mile through a nondescript residential area.

Marker for small loop of original Highway coming in to La Porte, Ind.
©2009 D. McLane

We couldn't find many small towns of the kind we'd seen previously so we decided to stop in places that still had a functioning historic section bounded by countryside. La Porte qualified.

We stopped first at the information center on the main street, named Lincolnway, but it had moved to the newly restored train station where we talked with Connie Trotter. She said the mainstay of La Porte had been the Harvester Division of Allis Chambers, a 150 acre factory which designed and built the all-crop harvester, the round-bale hay baler and other farming machines. Many jobs were lost when the division shut down in 1983 but recently the hospital has been growing and things are getting better.

Connie didn't know much about the Lincoln Highway but said perhaps the people at the local museum would, and gave us directions. The museum was traditional-style -- old things in glass cabinets -- and the only thing they had was an original cement marker, nothing else about the Lincoln Highway.

It was time for lunch so we went to B&J's American Cafe back on Lincolnway where Sueko ordered a club sandwich to see what they were. She'd never eaten one, and kept looking inside to see how they were made and finally understood: it was a double decker with three slices of bread instead of only two. Much bigger than she'd expected.

Sueko struggles with monstrous club sandwich
©2009 D. McLane

After a while first Billie and then John Pappas, the owners, showed up and we had quite a long conversation. First about the cafe and how it had opened in 1922 as the Lincolnway Cafe, how the building had been owned by the Pappas family since 1930, and how John and Billie had taken it over in the 1990s. Then we talked about the original photos hanging on the wall and how they'd come from a studio that had been in one of the floors upstairs.

American Café owners John and Billie Pappas
©2009 D. McLane

Last we talked about the economic/political situation. With having had his family in the area for so long, John took the long view and said that La Porte was undergoing change with industry fading away but a great place to live as it was close enough to Chicago to go there for big city events but far enough away so day-to-day life was more easy going. The cafe was doing well as it had three parts: counter, small tables, and a larger dining area of meetings. Having been there for so long, and having kept up the quality, everybody knew about it and kept coming.

John summed up the political situation, not only locally but nationally, by saying "Americans are independent minded people who come together for a common purpose."

As we left, John was also leaving so he showed us the doorway to the upper floors from the street and how there was a door to the cafe so people didn't have to go outside to get inside. He also said that there was a very fine painting of the cafe over in the Economic Development area of the newly restored train station and asked if we'd seen it. We said we hadn't as we'd only been in the Chamber of Commerce but we'd have a look.

American Café, La Porte Ind.
©2009 D. McLane

Painting of American Café hanging in Econmic Development Office, La Port, Ind.
©2009 D. McLane
It turned out that the Economic Development area was in a second building which had been used for baggage while the Chamber of Commerce building had been used for passengers.

Nobody was around but as I started looking in rooms Bert Cook appeared and showed me where the painting was. Smaller than I expected but very similar in composition including a white van reflected in the front window -- not ours, by the way. The title was "Reflections of Lincoln Highway, La Porte" which could stand for my shot as well.

Summarizing what Connie had said about La Porte, I asked Bert for his opinion. He agreed, and said the city was in the midst of re-inventing itself, the new building behind 1892-1994 Country Court House being an example of how the new could blend in with the old.

ACCORDING TO THE "LINCOLN HIGHWAY COMPANION" US?20 and US?33 go through Amish farmland around Goshen and Ligonier on the way to Fort Wayne. While there was a fair amount of farmland, we didn't see anything that suggested Amish (think buggies). However, we did see the short section of bricked roadway south of Ligonier that was mentioned in the book.

Marker at end of orginal brick highway, south of Ligonier, Ind.
©2009 D. McLane

Lincoln Highway marker, Churubusco, Ind.
©2009 D. McLane
CONTINUING ON TOWARDS FORT WAYNE, by chance we found a Lincoln Highway marker in Churubusco. I say by chance because it couldn't be seen when traveling east but only when traveling west. I'd stopped to take a picture of the larger-than-life green cement turtle with a green ribbon around its neck sitting on an island in the road with a green ribbon around its neck at an intersection just east of the marker when I saw the marker.

We walked through the town looking for another marker but didn't find one. Churubusco is quite small -- our Rand McNally Road Atlas says less than 2,000. There were the usual collection of fast-food shops, an eclectic group of small stores, a church, and a funeral home which had been in existence since 1872. Just on the edge of town we found a large factory and some kind of showroom on the main street saying something about C&A Tool.

Oscar the the "Beast of Busco", Churubusco News office
©2009 D. McLane
On the other side of the street from the marker we found a green turtle in the window of the Churubusco News. We went in, and talked with David Crabill. First of all he said the town had only recently learned that it was on the Lincoln Highway and thus there was only the one marker.

Second, he said that in 1847 "Churubusco" was as well known in the United States as were Iwo Jima and Okinawa during World War II as there was a famous battle in a Mexican town of that name that brought about a quick end to the war.

As for the turtle, he said that was Oscar, the "Beast of Busco." The story is long and complicate but here's the a shortened version: Back in 1948 two men were fishing when a huge turtle surfaced next to their boat. It was seen again in 1949 and the hunt was on. Numerous attempts by various people yielded nothing. But the semi-real, semi-fictional turtle earned the name "Oscar" and the town earned the name "Turtle Town."

The main economic driver for the town was the C&A Tool Engineering, started more than 40 years ago and still owned by Dick Conrow. They had just installed a new six-axis mill, a multi-million dollar machine of which there are only four others in the United States. The company employs 550 people and thus "Dick Conrow is the economic driver."

When we asked David about how our travel guide said the Lincoln Highway went through Amish farmland around Goshen, Ligonier on the way to Fort Wayne, yet we hadn't seen anything that looked Amish, he said the people were in small towns further to the northeast, places like Topeka, Emma, and especially Shipshewanna.

It sounded interesting and wasn't so far back but where would we camp as there probably weren't any Wal-Marts in those small towns. "No problem," David said, and drew a map showing how we could return to the area via Indiana?9 which went past Chain O'Lakes State Park with its many campsites.


On the way east, we'd gone through Ligonier and seen an interesting house but the light was bad so we continued on. We went through Ligonier again earlier in the day and the light was beautiful so we stopped so I could take a picture.

Solomon Mier Manor Bed & Breakfast, Ligonier, Ind.
©2009 D. McLane

Out of frame is a sign board in a darker shade of the pink-purplish house announcing it was the Solomon Mier Manor Bed & Breakfast with the telephone number, 260-894-3668. There wasn't any website listed but it was easy enough to find with Google. Here's a summary:
Solomon Mier was in early Jewish immigrant who arrived from Germany in 1854 and found he could live alongside the German Mennonites who had already settled in the area.

He operated a number of banks in Indiana and helped finance electric railways. His Carriage & Buggy Company built carriages and later the "Runabout" automobile.

The Solomon Mier Manor was built in 1899 and was recently renovated into a Bed & Breakfast and is an example of the area's outstanding architecture.

I will also be posting this story to Open.Salon a few days after it I've sent it to OMNI and will then send a newsalert containing links to both websites to my mailing list.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter David McLane

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