Carl G. Fisher of the Lincoln Highway Association came up with the idea of The Dixie Highway in December 1914 in Chattanooga. The planned route would go from Chicago to Miami and was part of the National Auto Trail system, which grew out of the earlier Miami to Montreal highway. It was inspired by the earlier Lincoln Highway, the first road system across the United States.
Governors who were interested in the project met on April 3, 1915, in Chattanooga. They selected two commissioners to lay out the route. Wanting to serve more communities, the commissioners decided to split the route. The route started in Chicago and went south via Danville, Illinois and then turned east to Indianapolis, where it split.
The west route headed south through Tennessee via Louisville and Nashville to Chattanooga, while the east route went from Indianapolis to Dayton, before turning south via Cincinnati, Lexington, Knoxville and finally Chattanooga. Two alternative routes were constructed between Chattanooga and Atlanta, then again between Atlanta and Macon. Between Macon and Jacksonville, the west route went south to Tallahassee before turning east. At this point, the east route had yet to be defined. Following along the John Anderson Highway, from Jacksonville, the route went south along the coast. Finally, the commission voted to invite Michigan and to extend a branch of the east route from Dayton north to Detroit via Toledo. They also did a study on whether or not to loop around Lake Michigan and a western route between Tallahassee and Miami.
Once the design of the route was finished, the project was overseen by the Dixie Highway Association, funded by individuals, local businesses and governments, as well as states. With a network of roads that connected 10 states and more than 5,000 miles of paved roads, the project was declared finished in the mid-1920s. The Dixie Highway Association was disbanded in 1927 as most of the highway system as absorbed into the US Route systems. In some areas, the route was turned into state roads.
In various locations along its route, the name “Dixie Highway” remains as a local road. Much of the route has been rerouted to the more modern highways. In Florida, Dixie Highway becomes Old Dixie Highway and parallels U. S. Route 1, also known as Federal Highway. Other times, it is only a block away. In Tennessee on the other hand, the name lives on as Dixie Lee Junction. Western North Carolina has seven bronze plaques on granite pillars placed by the Daughters of the Confederacy in the late 1920s to mark the route and follows US 25.
Located in Esponalo, Florida, a historic section of Old Dixie Highway is the Dixie Highway-Hastings, Espanola and Bunnell Road, also known as County Road 13 or the Old Brick Road. This area is one of the few portions of the original brick Dixie Highway left in Florida. On April 20, 2005, it was added to the U. S. National Register of Historic Places.