Ghost Roads of Central Ohio

It’s November 2019. The days are getting shorter, the weather’s getting colder, and it’s almost time for midterm exams. I need a fun distraction. I turn to my close friend and fellow roadgeek Maggie David Haynes, and I propose we take one last road trip before winter sets in. Coincidentally, the weekend we’ve planned for our final road trip of 2019, prominent Central Ohio roadgeek Sandor Gulyas has organized a small meetup to tour several abandoned and historical road curiosities in Delaware and Morrow County.

Today I would like to share a few discoveries from that venture.

But first, I’d like to thank Sandor Gulyas himself, for relaying most of the information I’ll be presenting here, as well as Maggie, for doing most of the driving…even if I was totally envious of their pink Powerpuff Girls hat.

Hoover Reservoir and the old Sunbury Road

Let’s talk about Hoover Dam. No, not that one. The other, much smaller Hoover Dam on Big Walnut Creek just outside Westerville, Ohio. The dam and its namesake Hoover Reservoir were built in the 1950s to meet increased demand for water from Columbus’s sprawling postwar suburbs.

Naturally, flooding 3,000 acres of land to build a reservoir requires realignment of local roads. Looking at a map of the present-day alignment of Sunbury Road, it’s apparent that the road was meticulously rerouted around the manmade lake. But does anything remain of its original alignment?

At the north end of Hoover Reservoir sits the village of Galena, a small Ohio community unremarkable even by my standards. But Galena holds at least one secret: where Walnut Street abruptly ends on the south edge of the village, one can find what appears to be a roped-off walking path into the woods.

This path is actually the original alignment of Sunbury Road. In some spots, crumbling bits of pavement are still evident.

A narrow raised roadbed overgrown with trees, with an abrupt drop-off on either side. In the foreground some crumbling asphalt pavement is visible.

This phantom roadway continues for about one-third of a mile before ending quite abruptly at the remnants of what was once a bridge.

The overgrown path ends abruptly at an abandoned bridge abutment. In the distance the abandoned bridge pier and the abandoned abutment on the opposite bank are visible.

While the bridge deck has long since been removed, the abutments on either bank of Big Walnut Creek stand intact, as does the center pier.

Of course, if you make it this far, you have no choice but to turn around and walk back the way you came.

County Road 225’s double bridge

To a casual observer, County Road 225 is about as uninteresting as it gets: a rural road with so little traffic that Morrow County never bothered to have it fully paved. Even the steel truss bridge over Alum Creek appears unremarkable from the roadway. But if you are to stray from the road and view the bridge from another angle, you will make a rather peculiar discovery.

A modern steel truss bridge constructed over a small stone arch bridge, both crossing a creek in a wooded area.

Yes, the modern steel truss bridge was built over a much, much older stone arch bridge.

A steel truss bridge directly over a stone arch bridge, both crossing over the same creek. There is a gap of several feet between the deck of the stone arch bridge and the underside of the steel truss bridge. In the foreground, a person in a pink hat takes closer photos of the stone bridge.

To be clear, the truss bridge is an independent structure—it is not in any way structurally reliant on the stone arch bridge below, as is made evident by the gap of several feet between the deck of the older bridge and the underside of the newer bridge.

I don’t know much of the history of these two bridges, or how this odd arrangement came to be, apart from the newer bridge having been built around 2000.

The Railroad Not Taken

Even more intriguing than finding the ruins of what used to be is finding the ruins of what never was.

If you are to venture into the woods of Alum Creek State Park just south of State Route 521, you will come across what appear to be the abandoned abutments for a long-since-demolished bridge across Alum Creek.

A stone structure stands on the banks of a creek in a wooded area.

The reality, however, is that there never was such a bridge.

Across a creek, a stone bridge abutment stands abandoned and overgrown by the foliage of the surrounding wooded area.

These abutments were built as part of the right-of-way for a proposed Springfield, Mount Vernon, and Pittsburg Railroad. The railroad went under before any tracks could be laid, leaving this aborted bridge standing unfinished in these woods for 160 years.

I hope nobody’s waiting at the train station.

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