The Dixie Highway in southern Indiana: The 14½-mile original alignment leading to Bloomington

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.

Less than a half mile from the end of the previous segment, the next segment of Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway begins.

Google Earth image dated 8/29/2012

This 14½-mile old alignment runs through some gorgeous land that includes the 25,000-acre Morgan-Monroe State Forest. It’s a terrific pleasure drive, one I make nearly every time I visit Bloomington.

Map data ©2023 Google.

This road offers few places to pull over — typical of an old Indiana highway, there are no shoulders. But a small lake just south of the Morgan-Monroe State Forest entrance provides a convenient place to stop. I made a few photos here to capture the character of this great road.

On the Dixie
On the Dixie
On the Dixie

The lake itself is not large, but is lovely. It’s a popular fishing hole. Sometimes so many fishers are parked here that there’s no place for my car.

On the Dixie

Google’s Street View car has recorded this road; you can follow its length. Even though the images are from 2009 and 2013, it’s a good representation of its current state. If you follow it, you’ll see that south of the forest, widely spaced houses line the road all the way to Bloomington.

Backing up to the beginning of this segment, I’m curious about another road here and whether it could have ever been part of the Dixie Highway, State Road 37, or Original State Road 22. Old SR 37 is east (on the right) of I-69 in this image. The road in question starts out west of I-69 (on the left), dead ends at I-69, and picks up again on the other side until it merges with Old SR 37. The road is signed Turkey Track Road east of I-69, and Pine Blvd. west of I-69.

Imagery ©2023 CNES/Airbus, IndianaMap Framework Data, Maxar Technolgies, USDA/FPAC/GEO. Map data ©2023 Google.

The oldest representation I could find of these roads was this 1939 aerial image from the Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index (IHAPI). The current alignment of I-69 and SR 37 was years into the future. These roads clearly connected at both ends. I wonder whether Turkey Track Road is older, and the SR 37 alignment on the left was built later, perhaps as an improvement to the highway. It very much looks like it to me.

Image courtesy IHAPI

Sometime between 1946 and 1954, SR 37 was rebuilt on its current alignment to about 3½ miles north of Bloomington’s north edge. The road was improved to be a four-lane expressway sometime between 1967 and 1975, at which time those last few miles were moved to a more westerly route to create a western bypass of Bloomington. The original route of this alignmentw as renamed Business SR 37, but is now more commonly known as Walnut Street. From my 2007 trip, here’s where SR 37’s original alignment intersects with the later alignment.

Old SR 37 at Old Old SR 37

These two alignments run in parallel the rest of the way to Bloomington. The original alignment of SR 37 ends at College Avenue, which runs one way south toward downtown. The next alignment of SR 37, Walnut Street, splits into two streets, College Avenue southbound and Walnut Street northbound.

Image ©2023 IndianaMap Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA/FPAC/GEO. Map data ©2023 Google.

I found this 1910 USGS topographical map that shows this road entering Bloomington on Walnut Street, with College Avenue dead ending before reaching this road. It seems likely that these roads retained this configuration in 1915 when the Dixie Highway was created.

The 1939 aerial image of Bloomington that I referenced earlier shows SR 37 splitting into College Avenue and Walnut Street. I’ve not found good sources that show when that split was created.

Next: The Dixie Highway and State Road 37 in 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!


6 responses to “The Dixie Highway in southern Indiana: The 14½-mile original alignment leading to Bloomington”

  1. -N- Avatar

    Road trips in any form, especially when you are willing to stop to explore, are so fun!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      We agree!

  2. Rush Rox Avatar
    Rush Rox

    Jim, I love these little lunch-time research projects you keep giving me! Here are some map references from the Indiana State Library:

    1911 Morgan County map:
    This one confirms that there were roads on the routes of Turkey Track Rd and Old SR 37 before the Dixie Highway era.

    1923 Morgan County map:
    Now it’s getting good. This one shows Ind 37 routed on the Turkey Track Rd corridor, indicating it is likely the better-graded, preferred route of the two.

    1936 Morgan County map:
    I don’t know when it happened, but Ind 37 is seen to have been realigned to the east on the Old SR 37 corridor.

    But then there is this 1917 depiction of southern Indiana by the National Map Co:
    Hmm. Not enough detail to be conclusive, but it sure looks like the DH is routed over the Old SR 37 corridor. Just can’t tell…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks for all of these excellent maps! This crushes my theory that the Old SR 37 alignment was purpose-built to be the highway.

  3. Warren W Jenkins Avatar
    Warren W Jenkins

    I agree with your theory about Turkey Track Rd., takes a knowledgeable road sleuth to notice that…
    Now you just to figure out when the alignment was changed.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! I’ve learned some things over the years I’ve been doing this.

Leave a Comment

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

%d bloggers like this: