Sunday, April 24, 2016

Dixie Highway as a historic highway?

The Palm Beach Post published an article about the origins of Dixie Hwy. It is easy to forget that the development of Florida is a relatively recent phenomenon. First came the trains, ushered in by Henry Flagler on the east coast and Henry Plant on the west coast of Florida. With the advent and mass production of the automobile in the early part of the 20th century the burgeoning middle class needed more and more roads for travel and leisure. That was the genesis of Dixie Hwy., what we know as U.S. 1 that goes right through the center of Lake Worth. The article details some of the old routes that made up the original road and where you can find other sections in Palm Beach County.

That road meant opportunity for the communities that lined it. Lake Worth took advantage of that by having many hotels, restaurants and attractions (including signs over the highway pointing travelers to the beach, the Casino building, and the Gulfstream hotel), all in the hopes of snagging dollars from tourists and create a local economy that could sustain the resident population. As you have read here many times on this blog before, all that changed as the main source of vehicle travel switched to I-95 in the 1970s. Lake Worth, and other cities to a lesser extent, has been trying to recarve its niche in the "new" economy of the 21st century.

There are very few communities that celebrate the old road and its importance to their early development. As a redevelopment effort and focus, Lake Worth and West Palm Beach could designate a portion of the road as a Historic Highway. This might help attract new tourists that may be classic car enthusiasts, history "buffs", and others to our area, just as Route 66 and now U.S. 27 in the state of Michigan. 

The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), to name one organization, could be the catalyst for this type of redevelopment and marketing effort. It has worked in other locations and we are already an attractive tourist destination. This would be another way to put us on the map.

Click here for a documentary on Route 66 and the Iconography of the American Highway.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I take photos of Lake Worth for my Instagram account and add "historic Dixie Highway" when appropriate. There are some interesting buildings there, and colorful murals, etc- even at the car wash!

Anonymous said...

Oh my Insty is @sydetrips