In 2012, I drove a section of the Dixie Highway from the Illinois state line to Indianapolis along the corridor that is now US 136. I’m bringing that trip report here from my old Roads site.
The Dixie Highway was a 1910s and 1920s network of roads that connected the Midwest to the South. Read its history here, and see a 1915 map of the entire network here. The Dixie Highway entered and exited Indiana in four places:
- The Dixie’s mainline began in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan and headed south more or less along Lake Michigan and entered Indiana just north of South Bend on what is now US 31.
- An eastern branch from Sault Sainte Marie more or less followed the Lake Huron coast to Detroit, then passed through Ohio. At Dayton, a connector headed east and entered Indiana on what is now US 40.
- A western branch began in Chicago and headed south to Danville, Illinois, where it headed east toward Indiana along what is now US 136.
- These three branches converged in Indianapolis and continue their southbound journey along what is now State Road 37 to Paoli, where it then followed what is now US 150 to Kentucky.
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.
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. Almost the whole 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.
In June of 2012 I drove the Indiana portion of the Dixie Highway’s western branch. 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. I’ll share photos and stories from this trip in several articles to come.