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.
This was the second time a road trip brought me to Bedford. The first time, I was exploring US 50 from east to west across the state. Read about that visit here. Because of that visit, I didn’t spend much time here on this Dixie Highway/State Road 37 trip.
The Dixie Highway entered Bedford along Oolitic Road, which becomes Lincoln Avenue. When it reaches downtown, it becomes L Street. The Dixie turned west onto 16th Street and then south onto Washington Avenue, which it followed through and out of town.
It’s what happens as the Dixie Highway and Old SR 37 exit Bedford that’s much more interesting. I’ve been puzzling over the road situation here for many years. I’ve had a theory about the Dixie’s path through here and Dixie Highway historian Mike Curtis supports it with his excellent map. Notice the red line here, on the south end of Bedford. The green line is the road you must drive today as some of the red route doesn’t exist anymore.
SR 37 and US 50 have been realigned in and around Bedford several times. The Dixie Highway followed Washington Avenue out of town; you can see that road near the upper right of the map below. Washington Avenue dead ends today (at 1 on the map), but it used to to through past 2 to 3, where it crossed the river on a bridge. The road directly across the river from 3 carried the Dixie south. Or so I believe. By 1926, But once upon a time, back when US 50 was still Original State Road 4 and State Road 37 was Original State Road 22 and the Dixie Highway, these roads converged in downtown Bedford and followed the same path southwest out of town. This image shows how these roads leave town today, with numbers next to various old-road remnants. I believe it shows remnants of at least three former alignments, but I can’t confidently stitch them all together. I do know that the 1926 path of US 50 turned after 1 below to cross the river on the same alignment as US 50 today.
1: Washington St. once carried Original SR 4, which became US 50, and Original SR 22, which became State Road 37. The Dixie Highway followed the road on the left. This photo is from my 2010 trip along US 50.
I found a 1935 USGS topographic map that shows SR 37 following the road on the right. The red line is a later alignment of SR 37; this image is from a 1955 update of that 1937 topo. But it shows that the Dixie Highway routing with its bridge were still intact in 1935!
2: If you study the aerial image closely, you can see a two-track road that is on the same line as the left fork of Washington St. I believe I see two utility poles along it, which is a good sign. I can’t explain the little abandoned pony truss bridge that crosses the creek where it bends. It’s near the bottom of the image below.
3: The Dixie Highway continued through what is now a farm field. I detect a faint line across the field where the road would have gone. Then it would have curved to cross the White River. Remarkably, two piers from the old bridge remain. They’re plainly visible from the air.
You can also see them from the current US 50 bridge. There wasn’t a good place to stop there, but a boat-ramp road nearby gives you access to see them.
4: A narrow gravel road begins just where drivers would have come off the bridge. It is signed “Old Turnpike Road” on the ground, but it’s perpendicular to the former bridge. The gravel road ends at Old US 50 and Old SR 37, which assumes the gravel road’s line at that point. So before this point, the road labeled Old US 50 and Old SR 37 must be a newer old alignment. Old SR 37 is the road on the left. (2010 photo.)
From here, the Dixie Highway and Old SR 37 make their way to the next town, Mitchell.
Next: Mitchell and Orleans.