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End of US highway 23

View a map showing this route.

Additional research and/or photo credits: Christopher BessertNeil BratneyJustin CozartMark EitelBrent IvyKarin and Martin KarnerMark LongJ.P. NasiatkaAlex Nitzman; me

Approx. time period North terminus South terminus
1926-1929 Mackinaw City, MI Portsmouth, OH
1929-1930 Mackinaw City, MI Pineville, KY
1930-1950 Mackinaw City, MI Atlanta, GA
1950-1958 Mackinaw City, MI Jacksonville, FL
1958-present Mackinaw City, MI Jacksonville, FL

US 23 was an original 1926 route; back then its southern terminus was at US 52 in Portsmouth OH. Today US 52 is on the one-way couplet of 11th and 12th streets - I took this photo there (mostly because of the unusual Business 23 signage, and because of the fact that it's co-signed with the mainline):

me, Oct. 2002

Westbound 52 is behind the camera on 12th; the next intersection is 11th. US 23 is split into one-ways too. Northbound is one block to the east (left) on Gay Street, but this is south on Chillicothe Street, which I believe would've been the original US 23 (it aligns with the old bridge into Kentucky). However, I doubt this was ever a terminus for US 23. Instead, I'm guessing US 52 used Gallia Street to get downtown, so US 23 would've ended there (about six blocks ahead). The photo below was taken from that area:

Eitel, Dec. 2007

In the distance, you can see the modern bridge over the Ohio. US 23 would've ended just ahead, where US 52 came in from the left on Gallia. But that didn't last long at all... 1929 the south end of US 23 was extended to Pineville KY (from Jenkins KY, US 23 was routed along today's US 119 - you can view photos from Pineville on this page). But that didn't last long either: the next year, US 23 was truncated at Jenkins and instead extended south to Atlanta. Based on city inset maps from 1931 and 1932, US 78 (the only east-west route serving Atlanta at the time) originally went right through downtown via DeKalb, Decatur, and Marietta streets. US 23 came in on Ponce de Leon Avenue with US 29, then turned south on Peachtree Street, ending at Marietta. The shot below was taken from northbound Peachtree, approaching that intersection:

c. 1950; Special Collections Dept, Pullen Library, Georgia State University

That gives a pretty good feel for how this junction must've looked back when US 23 began straight ahead. The shot below shows roughly the same view today:

Karner, May 2013

That's right at Five Points, which is not only the center of Atlanta's street address system, but also the vernacular center of the city. However, highway traffic came through here for only a short time: already by about 1935, US 78 had been redirected onto Ponce de Leon, and US 29 had been redirected to use Spring Street, along with US 19. I haven't seen a map detailed enough to show how far US 23 went. It could've ended on Ponce de Leon at Spring, but I suspect it would've been co-signed down Spring to Marietta (jct. US 41). That would have allowed US 23 to junction all other US routes, and it also would've been the functional equivalent of its original downtown endpoint (bringing highway designations close to government buildings was a common practice in the early days). The shot below is looking north on Spring:

Google Maps Street View, Apr. 2014

For a time, that was northbound US 19-29-41. US 41 split off to the left on Marietta, and my guess is that US 23 began straight ahead, co-signed with US 19-29.

To the northeast of Atlanta, US 23 originally went south from Buford, joining US 29 in Lawrenceville. But in 1938 US 23 was rerouted such that it went through Duluth and Norcross (using today's GA 13). This brought US 23 into the city via Piedmont Avenue (instead of Ponce de Leon; compare these two maps). So it's possible US 23 could've been truncated to Piedmont at Ponce de Leon (US 29-78). I haven't seen a map detailed enough to confirm, but here are some photos, just in case. The shot below is looking north on Piedmont:

Cozart/Nitzman, Jan. 2004

Today this is US 29-78-278, each of which continue to the right on Ponce de Leon. The signage near the gas station is shown close-up below...

Karner, May 2013

...and it's possible that straight ahead was the south beginning of US 23. The shot below is looking the opposite direction (south on Piedmont)...

Karner, May 2013

...and here's approx. the same view from about 1955:

Unknown attribution

US 23 could have ended there for up to 12 years. But it's also possible that the designation was co-signed with US 29-78 to the right, continuing to the same downtown endpoint pictured above.

Since sometime around 1950, the south end of US 23 has been in Jacksonville FL. In one sense, this extension was a strange addition to the US route system: of the approximately 317-mile route from Atlanta to Jacksonville, less than one-third (only 100 miles) of US 23 was solo mileage (the remainder was co-signed along other previously-existing US routes). And of that 100 miles, 66 of them were in the form of an alternate route between Atlanta and Forsyth, a corridor that was already served by US 41 (at the time). And finally, the southernmost 111 miles of US 23 were (and still essentially are) overlapped with US 1. Based on all that, I can only assume the purpose of the extension was simply to have travel between those two major cities facilitated by a single US route number.

Originally both directions of US 23 used State Street in Jacksonville, ending at its junction with US 17 (Main Street). Today State serves as the westbound counterpart to Union Street, and Main is the southbound counterpart to Ocean Street. According to a late-2001 article in Jacksonville's newspaper, the terminus of the US 23 designation is still officially at US 1/US 17. Apparently there used to be an "End" sign, but it was knocked down and never replaced. A state transportation engineer was quoted as saying: after they're done with a project to resurface State and Union streets, a new "End" sign (and also a "Begin" sign) will be posted. However, this had not happened by the time I was there in 2003, and still not as of 2015. At the time of my last visit, the sign shown in the photo below was the only one that even mentioned US 23 downtown:

me, Oct. 2003

That was looking south on Main; northbound US 23 begins to the right on State Street. By 2008 that assembly had been replaced, and US 17 had been rerouted - here's a more recent photo:

Karners, Dec. 2009

(Also, at least a couple more US 23 signs have been added in this area since then - one of which you'll see below.) Main and State are both one-ways; southbound US 23 uses Union Street (one block ahead) and ends at Ocean (one block to the left). In the past, a driver approaching from the left on State had this perspective:

Nasiatka, Aug. 2002

That was looking west on State at Main. Northbound US 23 begins straight ahead, but there was no mention of that here. Also - while southbound US 17 used to be to the left, it is now straight ahead. The first confirming assembly is now posted just ahead...

Karners, Dec. 2009

...although that's somewhat recent. When I was there in 2003, I had to drive over a mile before finding a confirming marker:

me, Oct. 2003

That was on State (which may be called Kings Road at this point), posted just before Myrtle Street (the intersection in the background, which is historic US 1). Heading the opposite direction, US 23 was well-signed where Kings splits into State and Union and goes under I-95. But east of there, there was no more indication that I was even on US 23. Below we're looking east on Union at Main (which at the time of this photo was southbound US 1/17):

Nasiatka, Aug. 2002

The south end of US 23 is a block ahead, at Ocean (northbound US 1/17):

Karners, Dec. 2009

US 17 and US 90 both used to end in Jax; you can view more photos from there on this page.

The north end of US 23 has been in Mackinaw City MI since the beginning - although the exact location of its terminus has changed over the years. The photo below is on southbound I-75 at the exit to the north beginning of US 23:

Ivy/Nitzman, 2009

That's a replacement for what was there a few years earlier:

Bratney, June 2002

After traffic exits to the right, the road curves around and uses the blue overpass in the distance. If you head that direction, you soon reach a trailblazer that looks like this:

Long, July 2006

To the south on today's M-108 was originally US 31. Below we're on northbound US 23, approaching the interchange at I-75:

Ivy/Nitzman, 2009

That's posted a bit prior to where it used to be:

Bratney, June 2002

Since 1958 US 23 has been routed onto this connector that keeps traffic out of downtown Mackinaw City. But the highway used to continue to the north (a bit behind the camera and to the right) along Huron Avenue, and US 23 ended (along with US 27 and US 31) at the ferry landing (you can view photos from there on this page). This is the same place where today's ferries depart for Mackinac Island. But back then the ferry was the only way to get your car over to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. They crossed the Straits of Mackinac and provided a connection with US 2 at St. Ignace. In 1958, the Mackinac Bridge (over which I-75 is routed today) eliminated the need for that ferry service. At its dedication, each of Michigan's 83 counties chose a "Queen" to represent them; my very own mother was voted "Miss Missaukee County" (lots of old photos and news clippings here). In the photo above, you can see one of the bridge supports in the background.