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Hard Roads


The lighter side of the road in the photo is one of the few parts left of what was one of the original hard surfaced roads in rural Champaign County. The road was built in the 1920’s as part of a project to connect all of the towns in the county with hard roads.  At first there was no asphalt side as seen on the right.  Instead when a vehicle meet another each would have to partly get onto the softer shoulder.  I imagine that this road was somewhat of a marvel in its time.  Before these roads travel could often be difficult because of mud.  It seems that in the days of horse travel that people could cope with this limitation, however once motorized vehicles became common they no longer wanted to be limited by the mud seasons. Now these roads were not happily greeted by all.  There were often major protests against these roads in the rural areas.  Many foresaw correctly that these roads would help to forever change rural communities.  Some also didn’t like the fact that the roads would be difficult for horses which were still important in the agriculture of the time.   Still as happens most of the time enough people were enthralled to the idea of progress to make these hard surface roads inevitable.

When I was a child this road was still called “the hard road”.  Sometimes this seemed funny to me since by my time most all the roads were hard surfaced. One odd thing about this road is that even after the asphalt part was added, most people still drove on the concrete part no matter which way they were going.  When you would meet another car you would yield to the asphalt part if that is the side that you should have been driving on.  I can remember that there was sometime a bit of drama about who was going to yield, however I never heard of any accidents.  I remember this was still the practice when I first started driving in the 70’s.  Sometime in the mid-eighties this road was resurfaced into a conventional two lane road between highway 130 and 45.   The remnant in the photograph survived because the original road took a less direct route to 45 passing through Pesotum first.  I would say that the people here got pretty good value out of these roads.  Most of them remained in decent shape for over 50 years.  Anyway if you ever come across a stretch of road that looks like the one in the picture you will now know what you are seeing.

Categories: farm, history
  1. November 13, 2014 at 11:22 am

    I wish I could find some photos of the slab roads around Rossville Illinois. I grew up there and returned in September of 2013 and they had all been covered in asphalt. I hate I don’t have photos.

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