Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lost Highways

In Michigan I grew up less than a mile from Dixie Highway, a four lane thoroughfare running through the Township. As a kid, I thought it funny that our highway was named for a Civil War song... It wasn't until many years later that I understood that this was just one part of a series of roads and highways connecting the Midwest with the South; from Sault St. Marie all the way to Miami.

The Dixie Highway
was part of the National Auto Trail; an attempt in the early days of automobiles to connect state roads and highways into an cross-county system. It was first proposed in 1914, and was planned, built and expanded from 1915 to 1927 by the Dixie Highway Association, a group of individuals, businesses, local, and state governments. The route was marked with signs, sometimes painted on trees and telephone poles. The symbol for the highway was a red stripe.

The highway was inspired by the success of another inter-state highway, the Lincoln Highway, connecting Times Square in New York City with Lincoln Park in San Francisco.

Dozens of these named highways were developed all over the country. Eventually, they were superseded by the U.S. Highway and later the Interstate Highway systems. Some of the roads that were the Dixie Highway, became US-25 and I-75.

Very little remains of these "Lost Highways". Many states still have roads named Dixie Highway. Here in Ohio there remain two stretches that run north and south of Dayton. For those interested in tracing the paths of these old National Auto Trails can purchase a copy of this poster published by Mark R. Everhart:

"Lost Highways"
depicts 48 major Named Auto Trails along with their corresponding pole marker signs on a full-color 22.5” X 28” poster on smooth 80# stock. Below is some of detail of the poster showing Michigan and Ohio, criss-crossed by named highways, including Dixie, Lincoln and the National Road:

The Lincoln Highway, previously on Cartophilia

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At Sunday, May 10, 2009 , Blogger Orange said...

I grew up a few miles from Dixie Highway in the south suburbs of Chicago (and even closer to Lincoln Highway). I never had a clue Dixie Highway connected with the South.

At Tuesday, May 12, 2009 , Blogger Catherine said...

Thanks for the link! I ordered one today. Here's a US map bookshelf you might want to check out:

At Wednesday, May 13, 2009 , Blogger Michael5000 said...

Kewl. When I was in graduate school, it was surprisingly difficult to find much of substance about the history and evolution of American roads. There are a lot of internet resources that have made this history accessible now, though.

At Wednesday, May 13, 2009 , Blogger Cartophiliac said...

This poster is now mounted and hanging in my office.

At Saturday, June 13, 2009 , Blogger Jefferey said...

Dixie Highway in Louisville is US 31W and its a well known suburban strip from Louisville to Fort Knox. It was four-laned as a WPA project.


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