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In the mid-1920s, the Blue Mound Road became Wisconsin's first divided highway, 1946

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In the mid-1920s, the Blue Mound Road became Wisconsin's first divided highway, 1946
Photograph by Robert T. McCoy, Stephen K. Hauser


This object appears in the following sections:

On the Interstate:  I-10, 1956–1990
On the Interstate: I-10, 1956–1990 — Grand Plan

Blue Mound Road
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection

Blue Mound Road was originally built as a U.S. military highway in the 1830s. It extended west from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to the village of Blue Mounds. Though intended to reach the Mississippi, the project ran out of funds and so stopped early. The road was originally graded dirt, which meant that wagons often became stuck in the mud in rainy seasons.

In the 1920s Blue Mound Road became a divided, paved four-lane highway, one of the first of its kind. The road probably became a highway sooner than others because Wisconsin state senators regularly used it to travel between Madison, the state capitol, and the large city of Milwaukee. The senators gave preferential treatment to the road in distributing state transportation funds.

Blue Mound Road was very popular because it was so smooth compared to dirt roads - many of the intersecting roads remained dirt through the 1940s - and many motorists would take Sunday drives down the highway. The area in this photo was called “Blood Alley” because overexcited and under-experienced motorists often sped too fast on the slick road; the great number of liquor establishments and poor street illumination also contributed to the dangerous driving conditions. By the 1920s, when the divided highway was built, this area was becoming suburbanized as residents took advantage of cars and the smooth road to move further away from Milwaukee.

Physical Description
Date Made:
Before interstates, there were divided highways. Earlier highways had easy access on and off the highway. Later super highways, that were built for speed, provided limited access at a few on and off points. Politics around these interchanges was avidly debated due to the potential life or death of the economy around these points.
Related People, Places, and Events
Place of photograph
Blue Mound Road (1946)

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