One of the most bypassed, and most used, roads in the state of Indiana is SR 37. When the Great Renumbering occurred, SR 37 followed what was then the Dixie Highway, a cross country Auto Trail that connected northern Michigan and Chicago to Miami, Florida, using two routes through Indiana. One of those routes reached southwest toward French Lick, due to the machinations of Thomas Taggart, which I covered in “Winners and Losers, Routing the Dixie Highway Through Indiana.” This route had been turned into SR 22 in 1920. (Not all of the Dixie Highway would be turned into state roads when the system was created. Some of the sections didn’t make it into the state road system until after the Great Renumbering.)
The route that would be followed for the Dixie Highway south out of Indianapolis started life in the 1800’s as the Paoli State Road, connecting Indianapolis to Paoli through Martinsville, Bloomington, and Bedford. Like other state roads created at that time, the route was anything but straight between its terminus towns. It also had many names between those two towns.
The first town, going south, encountered by the old state road would be Waverly. At this point, it left Indianapolis as “Bluff Road,” because Waverly was at the Bluffs of the White River. (The Bluff Road started at the edge of the Indianapolis Mile Square at Meridian Street, South Street and the Madison State Road. It is now called Meridian Street until it turns southwest on Bluff Road.) Before entering Waverly, the road turned south along what is now Higgin Hollow Road from what is now Old State Road 37. It follows Huggin Hollow Road from its beginning at Old State Road 37 to its end, again, at Old State Road 37 in Waverly itself.
From Waverly, the original road follows Old State Road 37, where it exists, southwest to Cragen Road. The old state road then turned south on that road to connect to the unincorporated community of Exchange. Exchange is where Cragen Road and New Harmony Road come together. The old road curved onto New Harmony Road heading back towards SR 37. The bridge connecting Exchange to SR 37, according to Google Maps, is long gone. From New Harmony Road southwest to Martinsville, there are several places where the old road was straightened and bypassed.
The entrance to Martinsville along Morgan Street is the old Paoli State Road and old SR 37. But Morgan Street isn’t entirely part of the old road. Before Morgan Street turns more southwest, the street now known as Kristi Road is the original route. Amanda Avenue is the place where the original road connected to the Minute Man Route, which would later become SR 44. (Covered in “Fight for Adding SR 44 from Martinsville to Rushville.”) Here, both roads curved onto what is now Reuben Drive then connected back to Morgan Street. The Minute Man Route and the Dixie Highway/Paoli State Road parted when the latter turned south on Main Street. The former continued through Martinsville, ultimately crossing the White River and connecting to the old Indianapolis-Vincennes Road (later SR 67) for its journey towards Spenser.
The old state road which became the Dixie Highway curved southwest along Morton Avenue. This route, a little down the road, would become SR 39 later. It is now SR 39 where it connects back to SR 37 (now I-69). For the rest of the route in Morgan County, most of the old SR 37 route is either accessible or replaced along side the interstate that replaced it. I am unsure about the northern connection of Old SR 37 to Interstate 69/SR 37, since I have not been down there to see it in person. Google Maps shows an at grade intersection…with I-69. It may be required to make a detour onto Burton Avenue before coming to I-69, following that and Jordan Road to Old SR 37. Again, even though this route has been replaced in places, and bypassed in others, it is still close enough to the old route to make the journey worth it.
From there, the road to Bloomington uses the original route of the Paoli State Road. I will not cover the Monroe County route today. Suffice it to say that there would be some confusion if someone were to decide that Old SR 37 in Bloomington was the original Dixie Highway route. That is due to the fact that there are actually two old SR 37s in parts of Monroe County…especially in Bloomington. Although one of them is marked “Business SR 37” or Walnut Street.