Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Driving Indiana’s Dixie Highway

8

The Dixie Highway was a 1910s and 1920s network of roads that connected the Midwest to the South, running from Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan to Miami, Florida. In a day where good roads were not a given, the Dixie was formed to pave the way, literally, to bring tourists to the South. To learn more, please see Robert V. Droz’s outstanding Dixie Highway site, which includes a 1923 map of the route.

From the 1923 map

The Dixie neatly crossed Indiana, entering from the north at South Bend and from the west near Covington, converging at Indianapolis, and then exiting to the east at Richmond and to the south at New Albany. Indiana folded all of the Dixie into its state highway network in the 1920s. Later road improvements have left a few old alignments behind, but you can drive almost all of the original Dixie Highway in Indiana today.

I’ve covered a lot of Indiana’s Dixie on past road trips. The segment from South Bend to Indianapolis followed the Michigan Road, which I explored in 2008. The segment from Indianapolis to Richmond followed the National Road, which I explored in 2009. And when I explored State Road 37 from Indianapolis to Bloomington in 2007, I was unwittingly also following the Dixie Highway. So it seems only natural that I finish driving Indiana’s Dixie.

In the Dixie’s heyday, the section between the Illinois line and Indianapolis was part of the western “mainline” that began in Chicago. Indiana erected State Road 34 signs along the route in 1927, but took them all down in 1953 and erected US 136 signs instead. Naturally, over the years the road was improved, occasionally leaving old alignments behind. And then in the 1960s I-74 was built along the same corridor, forever relegating US 136 simply to connect the small towns along it.

Small towns and old alignments always entice me, so on a recent Saturday I drove out to where US 136 enters Indiana and headed back east, exploring all the way. I’ll share some of the interesting sights in upcoming posts.

Indiana State Line, US 136

I also briefly followed a bit of the Dixie in southern
Indiana on my US 50 trip a couple years ago. Check it out!

8 thoughts on “Driving Indiana’s Dixie Highway

  1. davidvanilla

    Interesting bit of history. I believe that over the years I have travelled all the routes marked on your map. No, I’m not a drummer, just a guy that likes to explore the countryside.

  2. Ted Kappes

    I had heard of the Dixie Highway in Illinois before. I always thought it was talking about Route One all the way through the state. I didn’t know that it turned in Danville toward Indy. In Illinois I think that Route One must be the longest piece of road that time has passed by in the state.

    1. Jim Post author

      Yup, the 1/136 stretch is all Illinois gets of the Dixie. I’ve driven 1 from Chrisman south to Marshall and know of at least one old alignment of that road there, so there is at least some evidence that IDOT has paid attention to that road!

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