Friday, November 22, 2019

The Cemetery Next to a Particle Accelerator: St. Patrick Cemetery

In the early 1950's, at the height of new discoveries in nuclear energy, Argonne National Laboratory had outgrown its original campus at the University of Chicago, as well as the forest where it had conducted other experiments during the late 1940's, where currently the world's first nuclear reactor remains buried today.

The site chosen would be on 3,500 acres in unincorporated Downers Grove Township in DuPage County, IL. What was once farmland would be converted into space to develop energy, weapons, and other Cold War inventions designed to keep the United States as the premier superpower in all things technology.

However, two of those acres held cemetery land owned by a nearby church, St. Patrick's. The decision was made to keep the cemetery in its original location, as opposed to relocating it to accommodate the laboratory. “These are the only two acres the government doesn’t have anything to say about,” said Polly Hanrahan, the caretaker of St. Patrick cemetery for over 40 years.

In the red oval lies the St. Patrick Property. It is completely fenced off from Argonne National Laboratory. Image: Google Maps
While this preserved the grounds, it made traversing to the cemetery quite difficult. The cemetery is freely accessible today, but not without at least two miles of walking each way. Today's blog focuses on the history of this cemetery, and what the cemetery looks like today.

A Bit of History on St Patrick Cemetery notes that, "Most of the early settlers who are buried there were born in Ireland, came over in the 1830’s and pioneered the farms surrounding the ground."

"The two acres of farmland for the cemetery were purchased in 1849 by the Chicago Catholic Diocese from Mr. and Mrs.Nicholas Mulvey, who are both buried there."
Despite its remoteness, the cemetery appears to be well cared for and maintained.
Construction of the lab closed Bluff Rd, which was the main road through the area, and where St Patrick's was accessible from. Now, the only way to access the cemetery is via the Waterfall Glen Trail, where the old Bluff Road branches from.

Entering from Lemont Rd, follow the trail east until you make a left at this junction, where what remains of Bluff Road continues toward the laboratory.
The Waterfall Glen Trail is easily bikeable, but when crossing onto Bluff Rd, the pavement becomes quite rocky.
While one could bike this, the rocks make walking preferable, unless you've got a mountain bike.
The road then meets the laboratory and makes a hard right, where a fence separates the laboratory road from the path to the cemetery.

On one hand, the walk in the woods is quite peaceful; on the other, it feels a little creepy being on this side of the fence.
Argonne's Argonne Tandem Linac Accelerator System is visible from the path opposite the fence.

After about another mile of walking, pavement for the cemetery comes into view, more trees and grass dot the area as well.
Visiting on a foggy day made the perfect backdrop for this cemetery.

The cemetery itself is not large, but it is well cared for by the church. Several of the graves have names on them that would be familiar to anyone who knows the nearby streets, such as Kearney Road.

This was one of the pillars of the gate visible upon entering/exiting.

The grounds are also very peaceful; while it might be creepy to be alone in a nearly-abandoned cemetery, the grounds were quite welcoming.

I was quite glad not to see any vandalism within the cemetery. Although I was the only one there, it is obvious that the caretaker must come here frequently.

Like with most cemeteries nearby of any faith, plots are completely full here. It was proposed to add more cemetery space; however given how difficult the walk is to the grounds already, the proposal was ultimately not acted upon. 

A Bit of History closes with this on the cemetery, "Surrounded by Argonne property, Mass is celebrated here each Memorial Day and attended by many parishioners and visitors who are taken back in time to their childhoods and beyond, remembering honored loved ones; a generous faith-filled generation of souls; the founders of our country and the original stewards of our historic Parish."

For more of my work in and around Waterfall Glen and Argonne National Laboratory, read Argonne National Laboratory's Abandoned Railroad Tracks, which I first discovered in 2012, leading me to where I am now, working to map and trace each abandoned railroad in the world. Thanks as always for reading!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Unsigned Interstate Highways

Despite being the highest standard of highway in the world, the Interstate Highway System has a few highways which, despite being fully part of the system, do not carry such a signed designation. This mirrors Illinois' Unmarked Highway System, although there are far fewer unsigned Interstates.
Three miles of US-131 in Grand Rapids between I-96 and I-196 is actually unsigned I-296. Image: Bill Burmaster
Since I began learning about the Interstate System in my youth, the fact that there existed "hidden" Interstates fascinated me. Today we'll go over some of these routes, and why they aren't signed as an Interstate.

Alaska & Puerto Rico:
The Interstate Highway System at its inception was much different than it is today, with regard to funding. During the initial construction of the system, 90% of the funds for the roads were provided by the Federal Government. Most Interstate highway projects today are funded with a mix of federal, state and local funds. 

Despite existing outside the contiguous 48 states, Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico were included in this funding mix for upgrading and building its own highways, which is why there are Interstates in these states and territory. 

Alaska, which only has Anchorage as a major population center, has four unsigned interstates; I-A1, I-A2, I-A3 and I-A4, which do not conform to the standards of the contiguous United States. Puerto Rico similarly has I-PR1, I-PR2 and I-PR3. This practice is codified in Section 103(c)(1)(B)(ii), 23 U.S.C., which states , "Highways on the Interstate System in Alaska and Puerto Rico shall be designed in accordance with such geometric and construction standards as are adequate for current and probable future traffic demands and the needs of the locality of the highway." (FHWA)

Alaska's Interstates, All Unsigned. Image: Wikipedia Commons

Puerto Rico's Unsigned Interstates. Image: Wikipedia Commons

Hawaii, having an urban population center in Honolulu, was able to build freeways consistent with the contiguous US, and signed them as I-H1, I-H2, I-H3 and I-H201. I-H201 was initially signed as HI-78, but has been signed since 2004.

Too Short to Sign:

Back in the mainland US, there exist several Interstate highways that are so short, it is simply better to not sign them. This is generally the reasoning behind not numbering Interstate highways, as the vast majority of unsigned routes are less than four miles in length.

Examples of this include I-315 in Montana, which runs less than a mile in length in Great Falls, MT. The entire route is signed as BL-15, which runs into the downtown area, and is not Interstate standard east of Fox Farm Rd. 

Map of I-315 and BL-15 in Great Falls. Image:
I've talked before about I-878 in New York, which was planned to be much longer than it exists as today. 878 as an Interstate officially exists (or existed) for all of 7/10 of a mile near JFK airport. In this case, the State of New York created a similarly numbered route along part of the planned Nassau Expy, and thus saw no need to sign 878 as anything else but a state route.

Image: Adam Moss
Another short, unsigned Interstate Highway that was planned to be a much longer route is I-478 in New York, better known as the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel (or the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel). What's interesting is that New York City and State both freely acknowledge the number, and it's even signed on Google Maps, but no physical signs exist with the 478 designation.
Image: Untapped Cities
Interstate 444 is the final piece to the puzzle that is the Interstate System in Tulsa, OK, but as the road continues both north and south of the Interstate's endpoints as US-75, and with the possibility that an emergency dispatcher may confuse an incident on I-444 with one on I-44, it's more simple to keep the route as US-75.

I-444 in red. Image: Wikipedia Commons

Disagreements between Federal and State DOT's:

Occasionally, a state has a differing opinion on the numbering of a route than the Federal Government, although this is an uncommon situation. Currently, Interstate 910 exists in Louisiana from a junction with I-10 to US-90 along current Business US-90 (which ironically, is up to higher standards than US-90 itself). The FHWA approved signage in 1999, however Louisiana never acted upon it, instead preferring to wait until I-49 is extended into the New Orleans area for the route to become signed as an Interstate.

I-910 along Business US-90 in red. Image: Mr Matte, Wikipedia Commons
Changing from Signed to Unsigned:

Like with Hawaii's I-H201, a highway's status as an unsigned route is not set in stone, and various state DOT's occasionally change their mind with regard to Interstate highways. No example might be better than Tennessee's Interstate 124.

Michael Summa, 1975 via
First opening in the 1960's, I-124 runs less than two miles in the Chattanooga, TN area along with US-27. In 1986, the route began its decline toward unsigned status, as it would disappear and reappear on maps, with the reasoning being that motorists confused it with I-24. After a reconstruction project, none of the 124 shields were replaced, leaving just one along the entire route, before fully being taken off the route in 2003. While the road is no longer signed as an Interstate, it still exists on paper, just like all unsigned routes.

It Really Ought to Be Signed:

While generally unsigned Interstate highways, like the ones mentioned above, have a decent reason to be unsigned, there exists an unsigned Interstate in Maryland that is longer than a main route of the system, with which it shares an interchange. That route is I-595. 

Route of the unsigned I-595 between I-95/495 and MD-70. Image: Alchetron
At almost 20 miles in length, I-595 is about as long as the average 3-digit Interstate Highway, and two miles longer than I-97, which is by far the shortest 2-digit Interstate Highway at just 17 miles in length. I-595 runs along the well-known US-50/301, which is the explanation for keeping the route unsigned (despite that numerous US Routes and Interstates run concurrently).

The road has a pretty long history, as it was first proposed to become part of I-68 in 1975. AASHTO rejected that idea, but approved extending I-97 westward, and making the road east of I-97 Interstate 197. 

Maryland continued to push for I-68, but that never materialized, as I-68 was to be applied to a road in Western Maryland and West Virginia, from I-79 to I-70 in Morgantown, WV and Hagerstown, MD, respectively. Once the road was fully brought up to Interstate Standards, AASHTO approved I-595 for the route, but Maryland chose not to sign the route. Maybe they're waiting for an eastward extension of I-68, who knows. Their reasoning, according to a response to a 2001 email from Scott M. Kozel, was that "we did not feel that either the posting in the field or the noting on a map would serve any useful purpose for the traveling public".

Nonetheless, the designation occasionally referred to on Maryland's traffic information website, CHART.

For more information on the rest of the Unsigned Interstate Highways, maintains a complete list of all the unsigned Interstate Highways in the US. 

Thanks as always for reading!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Unfortunate Railroad History Preserved in a Cemetery Plot: Showmen's Rest in Forest Park, IL

On June 22, 1918, one of the worst train wrecks in American history occurred near Hammond, IN. 86 people lost their lives with another 127 being injured in the crash, which was caused by an engineer asleep at the controls. 
Photo: Northwest Indiana Times
Early that morning, one of three Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus trains had stopped to oil up a wheel bearing, with the rear car jettisoning out onto the mainline, when a troop train was coming up behind it at full speed. Immediately upon impact, the four rear cars of the circus train caught fire, trapping anyone inside. Unfortunately, nearby marshes were the only source of water to fight the blazes.

Sadly, they were nearly to Hammond, which was the next stop on their tour. The two other trains had made the journey safely.

Image: The aftermath of the wreck, attracting numerous people to see the wreckage. (Wikipedia Commons)
According to the Northwest Indiana Times,  Triage was done at the now-demolished Michigan Central station in Hammond. While many workers were beyond help, others were treated for burns and released. One circus worker even was back at work the next day, only suffering a shoulder injury. 

"The Show Must Go On"

The Hagenback-Wallace Circus would only miss two shows as a result of the crash, as competing circuses lent them workers until others could be hired.

Five years before the crash,  in 1913, the Showmen's League of America had purchased a cemetery plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park, IL specifically for circus performers. It would be this plot of land which would be used to bury many of the workers in the crash.

Many of the deceased workers were unable to be identified as it was common for circus workers to be employed days, or even hours, before the next performance. Working conditions and quality of life were nothing like we're used to today, as most had to share cramped quarters with one another. 

Nonetheless, the workers were buried with a dignified funeral five days after the wreck.

Image: The Funeral at Showmen's Rest, 1918. Chicago Tribune
The plot of land is marked by four elephant stones inside the Cemetery. 

One of the elephants which designates a corner of Showmen's Rest. You can see another elephant in the background.
I visited the cemetery earlier this month, and was taken aback by the sheer number of unidentified graves that occupy the site. I photographed every grave, and made it into a short video for easier viewing.

Thanks as always for reading!