Column: Rollin’ down U.S. 59, right into Worthington

Ray Crippen

Editor's note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared Jan. 12, 2008.

WORTHINGTON — Don’t think I am laughing, or mocking. Just curious.

You think I-35 is sacred? People do. The belief is Interstate-35 was divinely ordained, that it exists to alert America to Isaiah, Chapter 35 (focusing first on Verse 8).

I-35 extends from Duluth to Laredo, Texas, intersecting I-90 at Albert Lea. To some, I-35 is The Highway of Holiness. Through part of October and into December, 35 days of prayer were centered on I-35. Churches in 17 cities participated.

There is lore attending each of America’s highways. This came to mind last week when this column reviewed stories of Interstate 90, stories from years when I-90 began/ended at Adrian.


Highway 59 — Worthington’s street to McDonald’s and Dairy Queen — is a storied highway. U.S. 59 extends from Lancaster on the Canadian border to Laredo, the same as I-35. Highway 59 is far more important in Texas than it is at Worthington or Fulda or Allendorf. At Houston, Texas, one part of U.S. 59 is designated Southwest Freeway. It has a daily count of (about) 400,000 vehicles.

There was — oh — mild excitement at Worthington when (1935) Highway 59 was designated an official U.S. route. This meant you could jump in your ’35 Ford and have a reliably maintained highway for your drive from Canada to Mexico.

George Draper Dayton lived at Minneapolis then. Mr. Dayton might have felt another pang of regret.

While he was still a Worthington resident, George Dayton owned and developed the Clary Addition on Worthington’s north side. Dayton envisioned a grand entrance into the city — an entrance crossing his residential addition. Dayton named that grand entrance Grand Avenue. He believed this is where all Minnesota traffic into and out of Worthington would roll. Grand Avenue, with its carefully maintained boulevards, still is one of Worthington’s broadest and most imposing streets.

The problem was they (whoever “they” were) carved a road along section lines straight south from Fulda. The Fulda road joined Humiston Avenue naturally, not Grand Avenue. Grand Avenue became only a residential street that dead-ended on the gravel trail named Oxford Street.

Then — 73 years gone by — the Fulda road was made a part of U.S. 59.

In that era, three highways cut through Worthington and followed along Worthington’s 10th Street — U.S. 59, U.S. 16 and Minnesota 60. Everyone believed the point of highways was to get from one town to another town, to get from one main street to another main street. (Why would anyone want to bypass a town?)

Many people still recall U.S. 16 in this light. From Worthington’s Hotel Thompson you followed 16 along the north of Rushmore and directly through Adrian, crossing Maine Street, which is main street. West from Adrian on 16 you drove past the flowing spring where thousands of travelers stopped for a chilled swallow and where many area residents took jugs and bottles to fill with spring water.


West of the Adrian spring, 16 crossed the Omaha tracks on a railroad viaduct and then continued through Magnolia. The highway crossed the Rock River on the new (1935) bridge, which now is rated among Minnesota’s most decrepit, and continued west along Luverne’s main street. This was the way highways were meant to be.

Worthington was disappointed that U.S. 59 never generated the tourist traffic some had imagined. In the years before World War II, before the launch of the Interstates in 1956, traffic between Minnesota and Texas was light in all seasons.

A young woman told a story lately about a strange light along U.S. 59 in Minnesota:

“My family and I were driving along Highway 59 in Minnesota and this light was along side our car. We were driving at least 60 and it kept up with us, so my dad sped up to 70 and it still kept up …” It turned out the light was “a spinning disk with blue-green, red-orange and red and white lights on it.”

There is also a saucy, 1991 song, “Texas Honey,” which focuses on Highway 59:

“Rollin’ down Highway 59, ‘neath those tall east Texas pines, a homemade sign got my heart a-jumpin.’ It said, Just Ahead, Texas Honey …”

If you haven’t lately, you might want to take a drive along 59. Keep your eyes open wide.

Related Topics: HISTORY
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