Indiana State University Newsroom

National Road Plaza dedicated on ISU campus

March 30, 2011

The corner of Seventh and Cherry streets played host to a local history lesson on a chilly Tuesday afternoon in Terre Haute.

Despite cool temperatures and overcast skies, more 100 Lost Creek Elementary School fourth graders were on hand for dedication of the National Road Plaza on the Indiana State University campus. The plaza, which was completed last fall, pays homage to the Old National Road which ran through Terre Haute on what was later U.S. 40.

University President Dan Bradley headlined the speakers at the dedication, jokingly remarking that it must have been difficult to get the students to leave school in the middle of the day.

Construction of the plaza involved many parties with significant collaboration between ISU and the city of Terre Haute. Leading up to the official unveiling of the plaza, the university sponsored a creative writing contest with Lost Creek, encouraging students to write journal entries as if they had been traveling on the National Road.

The state's curriculum for the fourth grade requires that students study about the history of Indiana. Lost Creek principal Marsha Jones recognized the contest as an opportunity to enhance the practical applications of classroom lessons.

"The National Plaza here has direct ties to our state's curriculum," Jones said. "It's something that speaks to our children more than a page from a textbook."

Among the students, four classroom winners were awarded $25 gift cards to the new Barnes & Noble bookstore for their outstanding entries. One grand prize winner also received a $100 gift card to the bookstore which is scheduled to open in April.

The plaza is located within the Terre Haute Arts Corridor and is situated on the south end of the ISU campus along the west wall of the newly constructed Cherry Street Multi-Modal Transportation Facility. It features an informative display as well as a sidewalk map of the National Road's path through the United States.

Local historians from the Vigo County Historical Society were on hand for the dedication to add some historical flavor. Portraying characters from the early 1880s to the 20th Century, the society's members role-played and shared experiences of early travelers of the road with the students.

Marylee Hagen, executive director of the Historical Society, also said the plaza provides an excellent learning opportunity to educate elementary school students about Indiana's history.

"It's a great opportunity for them to learn about local and state history which is the goal of the historical society," Hagen said. "We have programs in place for third, fourth, and fifth graders to learn some important historical lessons and this is certainly something we're excited about."

Tuesday's ceremony commemorated the 205th anniversary of the commission of the National Road. In 1806, President Thomas Jefferson signed a bill to finance the first major highway improvement in the country. Construction on the road began in 1811, with the road reaching Terre Haute by 1827. Unfortunately construction efforts were halted shortly after due to budget concerns.

After railways began to mitigate the need for the road, the 20th Century saw an increased need for roads with improvements to automobile transportation.

Photos: - Indiana State University President Dan Bradley addresses a crowd that includes fourth grade students from Lost Creek Elementary School March 29 during dedication of the National Road Plaza on the ISU campus. A 1931 Ford Model A was among historical modes of transportation on hand for the ceremony commemorating the 205th anniversary of the road's commissioning by President Thomas Jefferson. (ISU/Holley Miett-Myers)  - Dressed in attire representative of the late 19th or early 20th century, Marylee Hagen, executive director of the Vigo County Historical Society, speaks with fourth grade students from Lost Creek Elementary School March 29 during dedication of the National Road Plaza on the Indiana State University campus. (ISU/Holley Hiett-Myers)

Writer: Scott Campbell, Indiana State University, media relations assistant, at 812-237-3773 or