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The Hideaway Times

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

DOT may preserve Old Dixie


BUNNELL — In the early 1900s it was easier to get to Flagler County by boat or rail than it was via motor car.

Visitors often came to Flagler County via steamer on the St. Johns River to St. Johns Park. Dead Lake got its name because it is the dead end -- as far as the steamer could go. In 1913 St. Johns County Commissioners determined that a paved road should be extended from Hastings to Bunnell.

At the time Bunnell was in St. Johns County. It wasn't until 1917 that Flagler County was formed out of St. Johns County and Volusia County around the development in Bunnell and the agricultural interests in the area. In 1913 money was pledged and work began on a brick road that would be part of what was known as The Old Dixie Highway.

Although it was hailed as a super highway of its day, traveling to Florida in a Ford Model T in 1914 down the Old Dixie Highway must have been quite an adventure. The roadway was 9-feet wide and paved in brick, and if a southbound tourist met a northbound motorist one of them had to get off the road to let the other go by. Without the benefit of modern tires, flats were a common occurrence. Still northern tourists came to sunny Florida to escape the winters much like they do today.

The portion of the Old Dixie Highway that was paved through Flagler County was ded icated, according to Department of Transportation records, in 1914. Most of what remains of the Old Dixie Highway in the state is either major thoroughfares or residential streets, and the bricks either paved over or removed. But tucked away in a seldom traveled corner of Flagler County is a piece of Florida history. A brick road about 9 miles long that is part of what once was the Old Dixie Highway.

The roadway is north of Espanola. Garry Balough, District Scenic Highway coordinator for the Department of Transportation, said DOT also is considering contributing some funds toward the effort.

"We think it will take $25,000 to complete the application and develop a management plan.

"The Old Dixie Highway played a major roll in developing the state's tourism," Ba lough said. "The Old Brick Road represents the longest intact portion of brick road in the state. Since it meets the state criteria as a paved road it also could be considered for state scenic highway status."

Balough said it also could be included in a three-state plan for heritage tourism development called South Passages: the Atlantic Coast. South Carolina, Georgia and Florida have joined forces to set up a heritage corridor extending from Charleston S.C. to New Smyrna Beach. The goal is to bring more tourists in to rural areas that were bypassed when Interstate 95 was built.

The corridor roughly follows "The Kings Road" from Charleston to its terminus in New Smyrna Beach.