Photography

Historic road infrastructure on Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway in Morgan County, Indiana

Let’s return to my 2007 road trip along Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway between Indianapolis and Bloomington.

Windows Live Local map, 2007

This is the segment of old road I spied from current State Road 37 that led me to make this road trip. It turned out to contain two historic pieces of road infrastructure.

The road is signed as Hacker Creek Road at its north end. Its abandoned north tip was visible from current State Road 37. This is the abandoned segment of road I saw while driving home from Bloomington a few weeks before I made this trip, and which sparked my interest in this road. The bridge over Hacker Creek was removed, orphaning this segment. This northbound photo is taken from south of the creek.

Abandoned SR 37

Stepping back a bit, still facing northbound, Hacker Creek Road ends before this abandoned alignment with a guardrail and a faded Stop sign. One house is on this stretch of road north of Liberty Church Road, and its driveway is at the end of the road at the right.

Old SR 37

Facing southbound from that spot, the narrow road is concrete as far as the eye can see, and it lacks the 2-foot extensions on either side that were common north of Martinsville. What this road also lacks is expansion joints. That’s what makes this road segment distinctive. My research and experience says that Indiana laid its first concrete highways in the early 1920s but didn’t start adding expansion joints until after about 1925. When this road was built, it was a continuous concrete ribbon. With Indiana’s freeze/thaw cycles, the concrete cracked into this pattern.

Old SR 37
Imagery ©2020 IndianaMap Framework Data, Maxar Technologies USDA Farm Service. Map data ©2020 Google.

Sadly, this stretch of concrete is no more. When I-69 was completed here, an exit was built at Liberty Church Road. This map segment shows what happened to that strip of continuous concrete — it was replaced by an offramp. And sadly, south of Liberty Church Road this road was paved over with asphalt long ago.

I wish they could have saved this strip of concrete, as very little continuous concrete highway remains in Indiana. I know of only one other segment, on US 40 in Putnam County, Indiana. I show a photo of it deep in this post.

There is consolation, however. A 1935 concrete-arch bridge on this alignment was bypassed, and the old bridge left in place. The bridge was closed in 2013 because it failed inspection.

Imagery ©2020 IndianaMap Framework Data, Maxar Technologies USDA Farm Service. Map data ©2020 Google.

But because the bridge was judged as Select on the state bridge inventory, it’s eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and as such can’t be destroyed without a lot of pesky paperwork and approvals. So a new bridge was built, the road realigned to it, and the old bridge and road left in place. In 2007, however, I drove right over it.

Bridge on Old SR 37

After crossing Liberty Church Road, the road is covered with asphalt (and seemed marginally wider) as it gently curves back toward current SR 37.

Old SR 37

Next: a beautiful, long old alignment that winds all the way to Bloomington.

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7 thoughts on “Historic road infrastructure on Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway in Morgan County, Indiana

  1. Anne Peden says:

    Hi. Ive found 10 or 11 such segments of the old concrete in SC along US 25 where the road was straightened over the years. Several near the Water Resevoir, 3 near Moonville, SC, an abandoned bridge with evidence of at least 1 older and 1 newer, extended concrete road and deep cut of the old drovers road near Edgefield, and fantastic abandoned bridges at Old Hamburg in North Augusta. Only found 1 in NC on the property of a concrete company.

  2. There are still a few pieces of concrete road remaining in Australia that were built during WWII by US Army engineers…..thirty years ago when I lived there there were many miles of it still in use, with every expansion joint making a regular bump and noise as you passed over…

  3. Abigail Wolf says:

    I am curious about the history of the road Old State Rd 37 prior to 1915. In Bloomington, on the north side of town, the piece of road that goes through Cascades Park is temporarily closed to traffic. You can walk or bike up the closed piece however and since the last flood, since the road runs along the creek, a huge chunk of road has broken and washed away. There you can see the layers of road beneath, a cross section. It’s fascinating. You can see what is for sure the 1915 Dixie Highway since it is different material from the newer asphalt roads. I wonder about the history of the road though before it was paved. Do you know anything about that?

    • Hi Abigail – Last time I was down that way I found the old road by the park closed, as well. Now I want to go see the washed-out section! You can learn so much about how roads used to be built that way.

      I’m sure the Monroe County engineer has lots of great info locked up in his files, that would answer all of your questions. Such information is not readily available to mortal men like me.

  4. Abigail says:

    Ok. Thanks for responding. Yeah, you should totally check it out, it’s slated to be repaired and re opened to traffic imminently. You can also walk around where the old yellow Buddhist Monastery used to be and hunt for treasure there. But further up the road where it is washed away, you can handle pieces of the old road if you want and even take some I suppose if you were so inclined. My daughter found a shiny rock like mica or the inside crystal from a big broken geode.

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