Wednesday, May 15, 2019

On the Dixie Overland Highway, Historic US 80 - east Mississippi

Route US 80 was one of our earliest paved cross-country auto roads. According to Wikipedia, much of the present 80 was once part of the Dixie Overland Highway, a southern route stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts. Today, 80 ends in Dallas, with the sections further west absorbed into various interstate highways. "As an original US Highway commissioned in 1926, US 80 was the first all-weather coast-to-coast route available to auto travelers. For a time known as the "Broadway of America", its history is second only to US 66 in American highway folklore"
The present U.S. Route 80 (in red), from Creative Commons, Wikipedia (in the public domain)
Map of US 80 (from the 1941 Mississippi Tourist Guide (courtesy Preservation Mississippi). Note that north is to the right in this diagram 
This is the first of a three-part series. We will start our trip in the Mississippi city of Meridian and drive west. This is not a comprehensive guide, just some of my random photographs along the way. Meridian was a major rail junction for 200 years and still has many tracks running through town as well a historic depot. US 80 enters Meridian from the east and merges with Interstate 20 at a complicated intersection near the mall. Within town, 80 may have run along 5th (also known as Main) Street or 8th Street. Maybe a reader can  advise.
Commercial hotels like the once served Dixie Highway as well as rail travelers (Nexus 4 digital image)
Main Street, Meridian, Kodak Panatomic-X film, Hasselblad 50mm Distagon lens
The Miner Saw Company on Main Street is an example of the type of industrial activity that once flourished in Meridian.
Hotel, Main (5th) Street at 25th Ave., Meridian, Hasselblad 50mm lens
Historic Benevolent Association Building, Main Street, Meridian, Hasselblad, 50mm Distagon lens
Meridian has a wealth of old architecture. I need to explore in more detail.
Former Cities Services station, 3700 5th Street, Meridian, 80mm Planar lens
On 5th street, I turned a corner, and there was one of the classic Cities Services Company stations with the characteristic peaked roof. Previously, I seldom paid attention to gasoline station architecture, but Thomas Rosell had just written about Citgo stations in Preservation Mississippi, and my interest was on alert. This one is now a restaurant. Some ladies were making ribs and offered me a plate, but it was only 10:00 in the morning and a bit too early for a hearty rib lunch. Pity. They were very gracious and said I was welcome to take pictures.
Hodges Variety & Arcade, 3400 5th Ave., Meridian, 80mm Planar lens
Not far from the old Citgo station was a building in poor condition at 3400 5th Ave. A sign stated "Hodges Variety & Arcade."

Heading west out of Meridian, US 80 passes through a number of small towns with names like Chunky and Hickory. I did not see all that much to photograph. It looks like most cultural or architectural remains of the Dixie Highway have been replaced with modern gas stations, fast food restaurants, and characterless steel utility buildings.
Lawrence Garage, Lawrence, Mississippi, 50mm Distagon lens
The Lawrence Garage in Lawrence may have seen Dixie travelers back in the day, but I can't be sure of the date.
Whimseys store, 23 Cedar St., Lake, Mississippi, 50mm Distagon lens, green filter to lighten foliage
Whimseys store, Lake, Mississippi, 50mm Distagon lens, green filter
Whimseys occupied a nice little 1920s cottage on Cedar Street. It was closed so I do not know what they sold or did.
Lyle's Power Equipment, 606 2nd St., Pelahatchie, Mississippi, 50mm Distagon lens
Lyle's Power Equipment occupies an interesting semi-Spanish style building on US 80 in Pelahatchie.  Look at the name molded into the arch above the door: Rankin County Motors Ford. A gent from the store told me that this was once a Ford assembly building and dealership. Model T parts were unloaded from the rail line in the back and cars were assembled and sold on the premises. The building was in nice condition and I complemented them at maintaining it so well. In fact, Pelahatchie overall looked prosperous and busy.

This ends out very short ride on the Dixie Highway east of Jackson. As usual, there is more to explore in the future. The square photographs are from Kodak Panatomic-X film taken with my Hasselblad 501CM camera. I scanned the negatives with a Minolta Scan Multi medium-format film scanner.

No comments:

Post a Comment