|Traveling Down the Dixie Overland
Highway: Vintage US 80
Highway 80 is not the mythical road that US 66 is, and it hasn't been dubbed anything interesting like the "Lincoln Highway," which is what
travelers call US 50. Nor does it go through some of the first settlements in the United States, from Florida to Maine, like US 1 does.
Still, US 80 is cool.
Running from Tybee Island, Georgia to San Diego, California, this highway spans the southern portion of the United States, passing through
Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona along the way. If you took it from end to end, you'd travel almost 2,500
miles, and according to Google Maps, it would take you at least 3 days.
But for this article, I won't be taking you all the way through. Concentrating on the areas around the Red River, let's instead take a road trip
from Louisiana to parts of western Texas on this old highway. I'm also going to show you the high-lights of the trip (meaning "the places for
which I have photos").
Like US 66, US 80 has been decommissioned west of Mesquite. It has merged in many places with Interstates 20 and 30 (further west, with
Interstate 10). Mostly, though, the interstate can be avoided through careful planning!
I tend to call US 80 the "Bonnie and Clyde" road, mainly because it was just off this highway that they were gunned down. Also, they traveled
US 80 often as they drove to Dallas or away from the law (and Clyde is buried just off of old US 80 in Dallas). Ergo, the first stops in Louisiana
are associated with Bonnie and Clyde.
The seat of Bienville Parish, Bonnie and Clyde were brought into Arcadia to get the once-over from the coroner after they were ambushed
on the Mount Lebanon to Sailes road (LA 154). Visit the wooden Depot Museum, with its displays of Bonnie and Clyde.
Bonnie and Clyde hid out at and around the Methvin farm near Gibsland. The day of the ambush, Bonnie had purchased breakfast at Ma
Cranfield's Cafe in downtown Gibsland, and within the hour, she and her sandwich both were shot to pieces. The cafe is now home to the
Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum.
Barksdale Air Force Base makes Bossier a military town. I'll get photos of Bossier as time permits! You will cross the Red River along East
The town's name of Shreveport comes from Henry Shreve, who was charged with removing the infamous "Red River Log Jam" that had
hindered navigation on the river north of Natchitoches. As you enter Shreveport on East Texas Street/ US 80, you'll readily see what makes
Shreveport so popular in the region: its many casinos that sit along the banks of the Red River.
West of downtown Shreveport, US 80/ Texas Street holds sad remnants of the city's once vibrant economy. The predominantly African
American business district has been left abandoned, with empty storefronts and whole street left to decay. The Antioch Baptist Church,
however, still goes strong.
Keep on trucking on Texas Street, which will turn into Greenwood Avenue before you enter Texas.
|The Arcadia Depot Museum just off US 80 houses a large collection of artifacts on the Bonnie and Clyde ambush.
|Peyton's Cut Rate Drugs on Texas Street in Shreveport has seen better days.
|A collection of shotgun houses (many have been modified to add extra space) are just off US 80 / Texas Street on the west side of downtown
Shreveport. When I came through, most of these houses were unoccupied, at least by legal renters.
As you travel from Louisiana to Texas (or vice versa), you'll notice the many tall pines that comprise the western-most part of what once
was the Confederacy. East Texas is very different from the rest of Texas, as it is historically linked to the South, with its economies,
histories, and its landscapes. A little before Dallas, however, you will be entering the Grand Prairie and points west - a land that opens up
into the horizon, with short mesquite trees, a few remnants of the Cross Timbers, and shallow, rock-strewn rivers.
Not much to write home about, Waskom does have one strange feature: its downtown faces away from US 80. That's because Waskom
Boulevard, Waskom's main street, used to be US 80 before the highway was straightened out and placed around downtown.
Marshall was the last capital of the Confederacy. It was also one of the first cities in Texas at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement.
Marshall was home to both Bishop College and is still the base of Wiley College, two prestigious African American universities. Wiley
College's famous debate team of 1935 helped to spark Civil Rights movements in Texas (the movie, The Great Debaters, was based on this
college's achievements). On Marshall's west side (Victory Drive), check out the abandoned drive-in theater. On its east side (Grand
Avenue), check out the abandoned Texas and Pacific Railroad hospital.
Longview was founded as a railroad town, when the Texas & Pacific came through in the 1870s. The Dalton Gang even conducted their last
bank robbery here. Today, with its larger neighbor, Tyler, Longview's the economic hub for northern East Texas. US 80, named Marshall
Avenue, skirts downtown Longview, traveling through strip centers that were built in the 1920s. A well-known roadside attraction on US 80
is Johnny Cace's, a sea food restaurant that incites pilgrimages by people from all around Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
Like Longview, Gladewater was founded alongside the Texas & Pacific tracks. The original town area is quite compact.
Yet another railroad town, Mineola was named after someone's daughter, or daughters - the stories differ as to who named it after whom.
Lots of antique shops line the downtown just off US 80 (and many are open Sundays).
In the North Texas region, Terrell's best known for the Texas State Psychiatric Hospital, which is located just north of US 80/ Moore Avenue.
The large campus, which began in the 1880s, is beautiful, peaceful, and is an integral part of Terrell's economy. US 80 slices directly
through downtown Terrell.
|Reader Marie Ashley clarified that this abandoned building off of US 80 in Marshall was once the Texas & Pacific Railroad hospital. Built in the
1920s, it was closed in the 1960s and at one point served as a juvenile detention center.
|This old motel on US 80 is still in use as a business office.
|Third Leg: Dallas and Fort Worth
|As you drive away from Terrell, US 80 will become a four lane, divided highway. But old US 80 still exists - all you've got to do is find the
This little hamlet used to be called Brooklyn, but renamed itself when the Texas & Pacific chose to run its line through town. Several
alignments went through Forney; the later one is now the frontage road of the current US 80. If you follow FM 688 (Broad Street), you'll
drive on an even older portion, and through the center of town. Several antique shops line US 80.
A little after Forney, US 80 merges with Interstate 30. But don't fret! You can follow the original US 80 by exiting onto Samuell Boulevard in
Mesquite, which is what old, decommissioned US 80 is now called.
While technically not on US 80 - downtown Mesquite lies south of Samuell Boulevard - the town has a nice, sordid past, so I'll include it
here. For example, Belle Starr and her family called Mesquite home. Belle, the "outlaw Queen," was a some-time horse and cattle thief who
hung out with former Quantrill Guerillas, like her future husband Sam, and their friends Cole Younger and Jesse James. Sam Bass also
made a brief appearance in Mesquite, after relieving the Texas & Pacific Railroad of some cash.
Once in Dallas, you'll be following a lot of roads that were once US 80. Since the "official" US 80 consists now of Interstate 30, I'm consulting
an old Conoco Map for your jaunt through Dallas and later, Fort Worth. Today, the old US 80 route through Dallas is unmarked.
Keep on driving on Samuell Boulevard (which used to be called East Pike during US 80's hey-day) until you reach East Grand Avenue/ TX 78.
To follow old US 80, turn left onto Grand Avenue/ TX 78 until it meets Haskell Avenue. You'll be in the heart of the Fair Park neighborhood
on this route, and you'll catch glimpses of the Cotton Bowl as you mosey on towards downtown. As soon as you turn onto TX 78, you'll be on
the Bankhead Highway, an old route that linked Washington D.C. to San Diego.
Turn right onto Haskell and follow it west. Quite quickly, Haskell will become Stonewall Street, as Haskell splits into two one-ways. At the
intersection of Stonewall and Parry Avenue, turn left. Parry Avenue will take you right by Fair Park!
After you pass over the DART railroad tracks, turn right onto Commerce Street and follow it to downtown Dallas.
At the intersection of Parry and Commerce is a grand old fire station, which has been converted into a museum.
As you drive up Commerce, you'll have to jog onto Main Street or Elm Street to your right - Commerce becomes a one way street in the
opposite direction. To get to Main or Elm Streets, take Exposition to the right and then turn left onto either Main or Elm (both will take you
through downtown). Commerce Street is the original US 80.
Commerce, Main, and Elm Streets form the center roads for downtown Dallas. All three merge on the west side of downtown into
Commerce Street as they pass through the infamous "Triple Underpass." If you drive down Elm Street, you'll see the "X" on the road that
marks where John F. Kennedy was shot.
After they merge, Commerce Street becomes a two-way road. This portion of Commerce street is a newer alignment of US 80. You can
follow this road into Oak Cliff.
If you want to follow the original US 80, you'll have to turn left onto Houston Street at Dealy Plaza. Follow Houston Street as it curves onto
the Houston Street Viaduct, considered the longest concrete bridge in the world (and who'd want to dispute that!) *** Please note that
Houston Street is currently closed (mid 2013-mid 2014) due to the construction of a new street car line.
Interesting side note: the Trinity River used to flow where the Triple Underpass now stands. The river was straightened through a series of
dikes during the 1930s and 1940s. This project was considered one of the most expensive and ambitious civic undertakings in US history.
Now, of course, Dallas would like to reclaim the Trinity, which has become nothing more than a ditch that occasionally floods.
If you took the older alignment from Houston Street, your path will lead you through the heart of Oak Cliff and past the Texas Theater,
where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested after his event-filled day in November of 1963. In Oak Cliff, US 80 is Davis Street.
If you decided to follow the newer route on Commerce Street, make sure to veer left onto Fort Worth Avenue, or what locals still call the
"Old Fort Worth Turn Pike." Fort Worth Avenue is a great road to take when you want to ponder the past, or when traffic on Interstate 30
gets so bogged down you need an alternate route. Either way, it's a great road. You'll see lots of old motels, vintage diners, and even Clyde
Barrow's Grave at the Western Heights Cemetery, located on Fort Worth Avenue between Navarro and Neal Streets.
Fort Worth Avenue will merge with Davis Street just west of Westmoreland Road, and you'll once again follow a single US 80, which is now
designated as TX 180.
Once you pass over Loop 12, you'll be in Grand Prairie. There's not much to see here, except some old drive-ins and several flea markets.
TX 180/ US 80 becomes Main Street in Grand Prairie.
Continue west on TX 180 / US 80. After the intersection with Great Southwest Parkway, you'll be in Arlington, the third largest city in the
Dallas/ Fort Worth Metro-area. Long before you get to Arlington, however, you'll be able to see its newest landmark: the brand new Dallas
Cowboys Stadium, a.k.a. the Jerry-dome. It is HUGE. It also occupies an older section of town that had been condemned through eminent
domain to make way for the stadium. The many diners, motels, and older stores from the old neighborhood that still ring the stadium will
most likely go away soon, as developers see opportunity knocking.
In Arlington, TX 180/ US 80 becomes Division Street. This a cool old road that is hugged by down-home restaurants, dance halls, and local
dives. The large campus of the University of Texas at Arlington sits behind this street, next to the rather nondescript downtown.
West of downtown is one of my favorite spots on this jaunt: Arlington Baptist College. But not because I'm religious - it's because the
campus, built of sand stone and situated on one of the highest hills in Tarrant County, sits on the site of a former speakeasy, the Top of the
Hill Terrace. Drinkers and gamblers would revel in an underground tavern, but would flee through an underground tunnel if the police
Aaah, my favorite town. As you come down this way, you'll pass through Handley, a small railroad town that maintains its identity separate
from Fort Worth.
In Fort Worth, TX 180/US 80 becomes Lancaster Avenue. It doesn't go through the best of neighborhoods - several homeless missions line
the road on both sides. When you pass under the Interstates near downtown, you'll see why Lancaster Avenue had a more seedy side to
it... it used to empty right into the heart of the notorious Hell's Half Acre. Alas, the convention center has replaced this storied
According to my trusty Conoco Map, the old US 80 route veered off from Lancaster Avenue and onto Main Street. Then, it continued west
on 7th Street, and then followed Camp Bowie Boulevard to the southwest. You can jog this path, or just stay on Lancaster Avenue until it
intersects with Camp Bowie Boulevard - the choice is yours. Both ways are interesting.
Camp Bowie Boulevard (also US 377) is Fort Worth's favorite road. It's bumpy, too, as some of its sections remain paved with brick. The
Modern Art Museum, the Kimball, and the Museum of Science and History are located off of Camp Bowie, and many stores, restaurants, and
theaters line the road, too. The neighborhood surrounding Camp Bowie is quite eclectic, ranging from old apartment buildings to 1950s
suburban homes to fancier digs. Camp Bowie Boulevard is the reason why so many people fall in love with Fort Worth.
|There is plenty of 1930s architecture to admire in buildings and store fronts along Parry Avenue near Fair Park.
|Arlington is full of vintage and colorful signage along US 80, as for years it was the main thoroughfare between Dallas and Fort Worth.
|Get your kicks at the Ritz Starlite Room in Arlington!
|Once Camp Bowie Boulevard passes underneath Interstate 30, it becomes the current US 80. You'll want to follow the signs for US 80 - that
means, veer right to stay on Camp Bowie Boulevard, and follow the street as it becomes Palo Pinto Drive. You'll eventually merge with
Interstate 30 to go west to our next stop, Weatherford.
Exit the interstate onto TX 180/ Fort Worth Highway in Weatherford. As the county seat of Parker County, Weatherford is quite the prolific
town. Mary Martin, the famous Broadway actress, was born here, and Oliver Loving (Charles Goodnight's partner) is buried here. The
courthouse sits in the middle of the road, forcing everyone to drive around it. There are also some great Victorian homes on the western
half of TX 180/US 80.
The next stop is Mineral Wells, one of the most interesting towns in North Texas. The fabulous Baker Hotel will shade your path as you
drive through downtown.
Mineral Wells was once a spa resort, and people from all over would flock to the town to take in the waters. As people began taking their
vacations to farther destinations, the town lost its tourist clout, and only pockets of Mineral Wells hint at what was once a bustling resort
As you continue your journey west into Palo Pinto, you'll find two side roads that are named "Bankhead Highway." Here's where your
journey really gets fun - you'll be able to drive down the original alignments, with the old paving still intact!
US 80 was named the Bankhead Highway after John Hollis Bankhead, an Alabama politician who was head of the Good Roads Movement. US
80 was one of several intersecting routes that eventually connected Washington D.C. to San Diego, California. These routes were mapped
out and paved through several funding acts during the 1920s, making trans-American travel possible. These networks of roads included
the Lincoln Highway and of course, good old Route 66.
On your way west on TX 180/ US 80, you'll often notice parts of the old road that have become someone's driveway.
Palo Pinto began as a town in the 1850s. Many Comanche raids threatened its existence, but it hung on until it became a well-traveled
ranching center and stage coach stop.
Today, it's still small, but as the county seat of Palo Pinto County, it's not going anywhere. The jail is now a museum that never seems to be
open (then again, I tend to visit on Sundays, so it's my fault).
End of the Road (for us, anyway)
After the coal mining town of Mingus, you'll drive on US 80 further west to Shackleford. Then, old US 80 turns south to meet up with modern
Interstate 20 at Strawn. Here, Interstate 20 approximates the original route through Ranger, Cisco, and Abilene, on toward El Paso.
|A very vintage scene in Strawn: a brick road lined with Thurber pavers and a hotel named after US 80, the Bankhead Highway. Note that the
"Bankhead" followed US 80 west of Dallas only.
|US 80 is one of the grande-dames of the American highway system. While it still exists as a supplemental road
to Interstates 30, 20, and 10, traces and swaths of the old road - and the automobile culture that went along with
it - still remain. Like Route 66 and US 50 have done for their states, this highway has defined the Red River
Valley, and I hope that one day, just like its sisters, its importance will be recognized.
|The Drummer's Inn along Camp Bowie Boulevard in Fort Worth is a real relic - not just because of the neon and the cartoon, but also because of
the name. "Drummers" were door-to-door salesmen who'd come into town, hawking their wares.
|Carnegie Library in downtown Terrell.
|At Arlington Baptist College, a former speakeasy. (Learn more about it here!)
|US 80 highway marker somewhere in northwestern Louisiana.
|Along US 80 east of downtown Shreveport, the contrasts are stark, but full of Southern flavor. The Oglivie-Weiner home, built in 1896, sits
neglected and abandoned down Austin Street. Click on the photo to see the house in better days.
|Along the highway near Arcadia is this concrete bridge that spans over the Illinois Central's tracks ("Riding on the City of New Orleans...")
|Original brick alignment of the old highway can be found west of Ranger.