In October, 2012, I followed the Dixie Highway (a.k.a. State Road 37) from Indianapolis to Paoli. I’m finally sharing my full report from that trip here.

I explored the Dixie Highway between Indianapolis and Bloomington extensively in 2007, so I didn’t need to go over it with a fine-toothed comb again. But there were two places I enjoyed enough that I wanted to linger over them on this trip. Both locations are south of Martinsville.

The first was a 1925 three-span pony-truss bridge immediately south of Martinsville. That’s my frequent road-trip companion Dawn walking along the deck in this southbound photo.

Pony trusses

This segment of old SR 37 and the Dixie Highway veered away from SR 37 as this image shows. I marked the bridge’s location with a star.

Google Earth image dated 8/29/2012.

I didn’t know that this bridge was in poor condition, poor enough that it would be closed just three years later. I could see that time and traffic had not been kind to the railings, but otherwise this bridge looked sturdy enough to me. I guess that’s why I don’t inspect bridges for a living.

I had a film camera along with me as well, sporting a wide-angle lens. It made this dramatic northbound view of the bridge on Kodak Ektar film.

Dixie Highway bridge

I heard of the bridge’s closure about when it happened in 2015. I didn’t make it back for a visit until 2017. I found the bridge heavily blocked at either end, and overgrown. This is a southbound photo.

Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

I visited again in 2020 to find that the road north of the bridge had been removed, presumably as part of ongoing construction of I-69.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

A little less than a mile south of the end of that segment is another segment of the original alignment. As part of the I-69 project, an exit was built here. In the image below, move the slider to the right to see this area as it was in 2012, and to the left to see it as it was in 2021.

Left: Google Earth image dated 8/29/2012. Right: Google Earth image dated 9/28/2021.

The north end of this alignment was destroyed to build this interchange — a shame, because it still bore the original concrete pavement from its construction. I’m betting that this segment was built at about the same time as the previous segment. I further bet that the bridge on the previous segment, which was built in 1925, was part of that construction project. So I date this concrete to 1925.

Abandoned concrete

A bridge was removed here at some point. The photos above and below are northbound.

End of the line

Turning southbound from the same spot as in the above photo, the concrete stretches out ahead. 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.

Concrete road

It’s a shame that this road was destroyed. Few segments of this continuous concrete remain around Indiana. I know of two: a segment of former US 52 in northwest Indianapolis, and a segment of former US 40 in Putnam County.

Beyond the crossroads ahead the road is surfaced in asphalt. This concrete certainly lurks beneath that slurry, however.

The southern end of this segment was rebuilt in 2015 to bypass a 1935 concrete-arch bridge that Indiana judged to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Such bridges can’t be destroyed without a lot of dickering and paperwork, which tends to help preserve them. As part of the I-69 project, it was bypassed and a new bridge built.

I drove right over this bridge on my 2012 trip, but when I visited again in 2020 I was able to make this photograph of it from the new bridge built next to it.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

I wonder why the 1925 pony-truss bridge isn’t National Register eligible!

Next: The winding road to Bloomington.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: