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The Dixie Highway, a network of roads connecting Canada to Florida in the early decades of the twentieth century, was an ambitious undertaking to build the nation's first north–south paved interstate highway. As the largest state in terms of area east of the Mississippi River, Georgia proved critical to the project's success, mainly because the state's size and location controlled access to Florida for anyone driving by car.
Signs marked "Dixie Highway" interstate highways in the 1960s. Almost every Florida-bound tourist had to drive through Georgia—something that frequently proved impossible when rain turned Georgia's dirt roads into mud. Even in dry weather, the Peach State's terrible roads were a challenge—not just for tourists but also for local farmers and residents.
Since colonial days, road construction and maintenance had been a local function. By law, able-bodied men were required to perform annual road duty (or pay a commutation tax). Additionally, convicts were assigned to work on the roads. But, in the absence of motorized road equipment and funding, there was little that men with shovels and mule-drawn scrapers could do to keep dirt roads passable year-round.
The impetus for improved roads began in the late nineteenth century, when bicycle enthusiasts launched the Good Roads Movement and the U.S. Post Office began rural mail delivery. But the real push for improved roads came with the development of the automobile—particularly after 1908, when Henry Ford's new assembly line made his Model-T affordable to an increasing number of Americans. Still, the automobile was of little practical use if there were no reliable roads to drive upon.
To Atlanta at the fourth annual meeting of the American Road Congress in November 1914.
On April 3, 1915, governor John M. Slaton and his counterparts (or their representatives) from five other states met in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the inaugural meeting of the Dixie Highway Association (DHA). While the new highway generated enthusiasm, selecting its route became a highly politicized task. Initially, Chicago, Illinois, was the northern terminus, but after Michigan joined the DHA in May, things became complicated. Fisher initially had conceived of a single route for the Dixie Highway from Chicago to Miami, but Michigan wanted Detroit included as well.
In the midst of this debate, Georgia's two members of the DHA played an important role. Macon Telegraph editor and owner William T. Anderson proposed that the DHA approve western and eastern divisions of the Dixie Highway where dual routes were warranted. Atlanta Constitution editor and owner Clark Howell also wanted to abandon the idea of a single highway and urged that the Dixie Highway be constructed as a system of roads in order to promote economic development in more communities.
Envisioning an influx of tourists, different cities and counties competed to be part of the Dixie Highway. In Georgia, rivalries became intense—especially between Rome and Dalton, each sending hundreds of supporters to the DHA's initial meeting to argue the merits for including their city on the route. Dalton not only offered the shortest route from Chattanooga to Atlanta but also boasted that it was the "Battlefield Route" associated with Union general William T. Sherman'sAtlanta Campaign, which would attract Civil War tourism. Rome made a persuasive case that it had a larger population base and could build its portion more quickly than Dalton.
As a compromise, the DHA approved two routes south from Chattanooga—one through Dalton and one through Rome—with both routes converging near Cartersville, where they rejoined the Dixie Highway's Western Division. This division then followed a route south in Georgia to Atlanta, Macon, Americus, Albany, and then on to Tallahassee, Florida. In 1916 the DHA approved a new Eastern Division running southeast from Atlanta to Waynesboro to Savannah, before continuing on to Jacksonville, Florida. That same year, a new Central Dixie Highway was added linking the Georgia towns Perry, Waycross, and Folkston, and then heading southward to Jacksonville.
Augusta and Waynesboro, Georgia, where it connected with Georgia's Eastern Division. Instead of being a single highway, the Dixie Highway developed as a network of major divisions and connecting routes.
TheNathaniel E. Harris signed legislation complying with the federal requirements. Unfortunately, several years would pass before significant money actually became available for highway construction.
World War I (1917-18) temporarily stalled highway construction, but following the war Georgia's new State Highway Department (later Department of Transportation) took over building and maintaining state roads—including the Dixie Highway.
Sochenille bedspreads and pecan candy became popular), roadside produce stands, and other attractions for the traveling public. Soon, hundreds of "mom and pop" tourist courts offered overnight visitors a small cabin with a bedroom and bathroom.
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