U.S. 6, Ind. 3: Kendallville's
routes to growth
By DENNIS NARTKER
KENDALLVILLE - Traffic on U.S.
6 and Ind. 3 today bypasses Kendallville's downtown business
Fifty years ago though, Main Street was Ind. 3, and Dowling Street
was U.S. 6.
Two of Indiana's major thoroughfares once routed traffic through
Kendallville's business and residential districts.
Old Lima Road (Ind. 3) played a key role in the early growth
The road from Fort Wayne to Lima (now Howe) was a well-established
Indian path when the first white man, David Bindle, came to what
is now Kendallville in 1832.
Called the Mongoquinon ("Big Squaw") Trail, the pathway
through forests was the main transportation route used by Indian
traders and land hunters.
The area that contains Howe in northern LaGrange County was first
called Mongoquinon, then Lima. For many years Mongoquinon along
the Pigeon River had been a major Potawatomi Indian village with
a population estimated at 3,000.
Pursuant to a special act of the Indiana General Assembly in
1833, Lima Road was surveyed, The path was not opened as a state
roadway until 1837, one year after Noble County was established.
Around 1847, a company of wealthy Fort Wayne men decided to turn
Lima Road into a plank road. The men formed an association and
with $70,000 of capital they built, at the time, a modern road.
Saw mills sprung up along the route to furnish 3-inch-thick oak
planks that were laid down at right angles to the road's direction.
The plank road was 50 to 60 miles long, and in some places deviated
from the old Lima Road.
The old Lima Road went through what is today Main Street, Kendallville,
as did the plank road. But while the old Lima Road followed Angling
Road to Northport near Rome City, the plank road followed what
today is Ind. 3 North, through South Milford.
The Lima Plank Road was opened in 1848, and tollgates were established
six to 10 miles apart.
Superintendents were employed to keep sections of the road in
The road failed to repay stockholders of the Lima Plank Road
Association the cost of construction, and in 1858 the route was
turned over to the Noble County commissioners.
Many small communities grew up along the Lima Plank Road in Noble
County. Brown's Tavern (Lisbon), Kendallville, Avilla, Swan and
LaOtto showed signs of commercial prosperity.
With the advent of the motor car in the early 1900s, and fast,
safe and efficient transportation playing a key role in the area's
economic development, demand for a paved road grew.
Kendallville's Main Street was paved with bricks about 1900,
creating a 50-foot roadway.
In 1924, Lima Road (Ind. 3) was paved from Fort Wayne north to
within two miles of Kendallville.
The route through Kendallville was eventually paved with asphalt,
including Main Street in the 1940s.
Ind. 3's next major improvement occurred in 1954-55 when the
roadway was paved north from Kendallville to South Milford. Cemetery
Road (Riley Road) was used as a detour.
In 1958 attention focused on an Ind. 3 bypass west of Kendallville
connecting with U.S. 6.
City officials were not pleased when the state ordered parallel
parking on Main Street in the downtown business district that
year. The state highway commission ordered the change to accommodate
traffic flow because Main Street was part of Ind. 3.
In 1974 a 3.5-mile two-lane bypass west of Kendallville was completed,
including a bridge over the New York Central railway tracks (now
Norfolk Southern). The bypass extended from just north of Lisbon
to U.S. 6.
Kendallville residents hailed the bypass as a way of avoiding
railway crossing tie-ups on Main Street, Riley Street and Park
Motorists could now bypass Kendallville's downtown business district.
When the bypass was proposed, the state highway commission also
hinted at plans for making Ind. 3 four lanes between Kendallville
and Fort Wayne.
Ind. 3 first became four lanes from Fort Wayne to the Allen-DeKalb
Construction on the 15.13-mile $41.5 million four-lane Ind. 3
project began on Oct. 17, 1988.
The 12.7-mile section from the Allen-DeKalb county line north
to the Kendallville bypass opened on Dec. 14, 1990.
Four-laning of the remaining 2.6-mile northern section to U.S.
6, including a West Ohio Street access in Kendallville, was completed
in October 1991.
Dowling Street and Riley Street in Kendallville were part of
U.S. 6 until the late 1950s.
The highway's route through Noble County follows the old Sauk
Indian Trail or Great East-West Trail established by Indians
on trading journeys in the late 1700s.
Indian traders followed by settlers from the east in covered
wagons created a dirt road.
What's now U.S. 6, running through Ligonier, Brimfield, Wawaka
and Kendallville, owes its existence to an 1843 decision by Noble
County commissioners to connect "Perry's Prairie" in
Perry Township and Kendallville with a gravel road, according
to the March 3, 1986, News-Sun Sesquicentennial Guide.
The road became the first U.S. mail route through Noble County.
With the introduction of the motor car in the 1920s, future U.S.
6, then called the Toledo-Chicago Pike or State Road 17, became
a popular transportation east-west route to and from Chicago.
The route, brick paved in Kendallville, entered the city on the
east side where Dowling Street currently connects with U.S. 6.
It followed Dowling Street west to Riley Street, then north on
Riley Street to North Street.
The Sept. 10, 1924, News-Sun reported a traffic census report
on a section of the Toledo-Chicago Pike just east of Kendallville
showed 1,169 vehicles had passed that point in 10 hours, including
62 horse-drawn wagons, 1,019 passenger autos, 70 motor trucks,
two buses and 15 motorcycles.
The state added a concrete surface on the U.S. 6 curve, considered
Dowling Street Extended in 1924, and Kendallville widened Dowling
Street from 18 to 24 feet.
As U.S. 6 truck traffic increased, so did complaints from Dowling
Street and Riley Street residents about safety and noise.
"You could hear the trucks at night downshifting at the
Riley Street intersection," said Jim Reick, a Kendallville
native who remembers old U.S. 6 when he was a boy.
Another problem was the famous Road 6 "sinkhole" on
Kendallville's west side between the Olympic Flame Restaurant
and Shepherd's auto dealership. In the 1950s water covered the
low-lying area after a heavy rainfall, creating a traffic hazard.
In April 1958 a public hearing was held on a proposed U.S. 6
bypass skirting the north end of the city and eliminating the
State Rep. L.D. Baker of Noble County helped Kendallville Mayor
Andrew Milnar push for the U.S. 6 route change.
When the 2.72-mile bypass was completed in October 1959, east-west
traffic could now bypass Kendallville's residential and main
The bypass helped commercial enterprises along U.S. 6 in Kendall-ville
like the Publix Cafe at the corner of U.S. 6 and Ind. 3 North,
O.E. Coney Pontiac (now the McDonald's Restaurant), and Speedway
Service Station sites, the Redwood Drive-In (now One Stop Used
Cars), Bodenhafer's A&W Root Beer (now Pizza Hut's Eunice
Avenue parking lot) and Kelsey's Root Beer Stand and putting
golf course at the corner of Riley Street and U.S. 6 (now the
Community State Bank site).
In the 1960s and 1970s, the Publix Village Square and Foodtown
shopping centers attracted more business.
Downtown anchor stores like Kroger's, Chronister Drug Store,
Haffner's and G.C. Murphy's moved to the Publix shopping center.
The Fairview commercial and residential project east of the Noble
County Fairgrounds off of U.S. 6, developed in the early 1990s,
has become the main shopping center in Kendallville.
The Ind. 3 and U.S. 6 bypasses improved traffic flow, eliminated
traffic congestion and directed commerce away from the downtown
As for the future, the state plans to widen U.S. 6 to four lanes
all the way through Kendallville in 2002, according to Kendallville
engineering department administrator Scott Derby.