Interpretive panels 'rising' along U.S. 40
STILESVILLE -- Rising Hall, one of the crown jewels of the National Road as U.S. 40 spans the width of Indiana, added another gem Wednesday afternoon.
The historic two-story home on the south side of road, restored in the early 1990s by June Prosser and her late husband Walt, is now one of 15 sites with new interpretive panels placed along the Hoosier portion of the highway.
The Indiana National Road Association (INRA) is installing the interpretive panels along the historic National Road from Richmond to Terre Haute. The eye-catching panels inform tourists and residents about the history and significance of the National Road.
One side of the interpretive panel explains the history of the National Road. The other side focuses on the significance of the specific site to the National Road, hence enhancing the experience of travelers on Indiana's Historic National Road.
The Rising Hall panel has a site-specific message on the east side of the new display that sits perpendicular to U.S. 40.
Calling Indiana the "Breadbasket of the Nation," it notes the importance of agriculture in the area and states that "the house in front of you, Rising Hall, was one of many stylish and well-appointed residences that lined the National Road as raw materials brought about material wealth."
The sign also notes that "Indiana's rich soil, timber and fresh water gave rise to verdant fields, fine houses and prosperous farms."
"If it weren't for the Hoosier State's abundant resources," it adds, "the National Road might have been just a through route to other destinations. Instead, intrepid pioneers were attracted by what the region offered and decided to make Indiana their home."
The message concludes by noting, "As you travel the National Road today, it is difficult to imagine how many farms once dominated the landscape. Over the years, fallow fields have returned it to forests or become new housing and shopping destinations.
"Rising Hall presents a glimpse of the working countryside of the past. Its elegant Italianate-style architecture and the surrounding landscape represent the prosperous farming era of Indiana."
Besides the sign in front of Rising Hall, workmen from The Hoosier Company, Indianapolis, Wednesday also installed panels in downtown Indianapolis and on property west of the Dairy Queen in Plainfield.
The one on land owned by the Town of Plainfield is interesting. It is to be joined on the site next spring by the restaurant building known as "The Diner" currently vacant on the north side of U.S. 40, east of Plainfield.
Joe Frost, executive director of the Indiana National Road Association, said that project is collaboration between the Indiana Landmarks group, the National Road Association, Town of Plainfield and the owners of The Diner building.
Plans are to reopen it as a diner at the new location, Frost said.
The Plainfield panel addresses the growth of drive-in services along the road.
"It's very fitting," Frost said, "that one of them (the panels) talks about drive-in dinners."
On Thursday, workers were expected to install an interpretive panel in Brazil, in front of the old post office (now the Historical Society and museum).
The National Road, today known as U.S. 40, was the nation's first federally funded interstate highway.
In 1806, President Thomas Jefferson approved its funding, and in 1811 construction started in Cumberland, Md., westward to Vandalia, Ill.
By 1834, Indiana's section of the road was completed. Thousands of settlers used the road to move west. By the 1850s, the traffic included families in covered wagons, stagecoaches and farmers moving their livestock to market.
In 1994, the Indiana National Road Association (INRA) was created to assist in designating the National Road as a National Scenic Byway, which was obtained in 1998. Later in 2002, the National Road was designated an All-American Road. This designation is reserved for byways that are of great national significance.
In the early 2000s, the Interpretive Panel project was started with the creation of the Indiana National Road Association's interpretive master plan. The plan called for the interpretation of significant locations along the road. INRA utilized a TE grant and local match funds to research, develop and install the 15 panels.
The panels project dedication is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 1 at the Old National Road Welcome Center in Richmond. Additional dedications are being coordinated for the remaining panels in the spring.
The Indiana National Road Association (INRA), a private nonprofit organization, has worked since 1994 to protect, preserve and promote Indiana's historical resources along the road.