Southerners Flirtin' with Disaster: The Dixie Highway

 Map of the Dixie Highway

Map of the Dixie Highway

I once traveled a similar path as the Dixie Highway. As a Midwestern yankee, my family moved down South when I was about ten years old. We drove from Ohio to Chattanooga, Tennessee, a trip I make at least once a year to visit family up North. Dixie Highway may be an unfamiliar name for some of you. Dixie Highway was a collection of paved roads made in the early 20th century. It was created so those in the Midwest area could easily travel to Florida to vacation. The highway also has the added effect of opening up the South to tourism.

 Part of the Dixie Highway in Florida

Part of the Dixie Highway in Florida

The idea first came to Carl G. Fisher in 1914 in Chattanooga, TN. After several meetings, it was decided to create two routes. One route would go from Chicago to Miami (the Western branch). The other would go from Michigan to Miami (the Eastern branch). Both branches met in Chattanooga, TN before splitting once more through Georgia and parts of Florida.

 Construction on I-55 in 1972

Construction on I-55 in 1972

In 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower instituted the Interstate Highway System. Attempts were made to improve America’s roadways previously, with the passage of the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916. But this act was usurped by the U.S. intervention in World War I. Funds were deferred to the war and this act was allowed to expire. New legislation was passed in 1921 for federal aid and, this time, many new roads were constructed. However, it wasn’t until Dwight D. Eisenhower took office that we saw our landscape significantly change. Inspired by the Autobahn network in Germany, Eisenhower envisioned an interstate system for the United States as necessary part of its defense.

 Dixie Highway marker

Dixie Highway marker

Parts of Dixie Highway were incorporated into the interstate and highway system. My own route down I-75 from Ohio to Chattanooga paralleled and, at places, replaced the Dixie Highway. However, I was not, as many who drove the Dixie Highway were, a Midwestern tourist looking for the warmer temperatures of Florida. Rather, I was an immigrant to the South. I was drowning in the muggy heat and, to my understanding, overly-friendly attitudes of my new neighbors.

Even before the Dixie Highway, Southeast Tennessee had Old Copper Road. The Old Copper Road was built between 1851-1853 for the purpose of hauling copper from Ducktown, TN to Cleveland, TN. Copper had been discovered in Ducktown in 1843. This route ran 40 miles alongside the Ocoee River and through the Appalachian Mountains. Unfortunately, the road fell into disrepair. It was later flooded by the Lake Ocoee reservoir in the early 1900s, and only parts of this road exist today. 

If you wish to learn more about Dixie Highway or Old Copper Road, come visit our exhibit until Saturday, February 10th. 

On Thursday, January 18 at 6pm, we will be having a History Happy Hour Exhibit Opening with a talk from Calvin Sneed, author of "Building Bridges: From Our Past to the Future." 

Our Dixie Highway exhibit was created and designed by the Bandy Heritage Center. The exhibit is proudly sponsored by Wright Bros. Construction.

The Ducktown Basin Museum and the Museum Center at 5ive Points have formed the Old Copper Road Preservation Alliance to recognize and preserve this symbol of our local history for future generations.

History Happy Hour with Calvin Sneed is proudly sponsored by Edge Billboards and Impressions Catering. 

Fun Fact: Until I was about 22, I thought Molly Hatchet was a female singer. 

logo.png
bandyheritagelogo.jpg
EdgeLogo.jpg
Impressions.jpeg