Commissioned in 1932, Route 79 originally took the following path from Madison to Durham:
In 1951, the state announced a plan to relieve traffic in the area by building a freeway for US 1 in Guilford, Clinton, and Westbrook. This was eventually incorporated into later plans for I-95, which was not yet a concept in 1951. Part of that plan involved a new location for Route 79 in Madison, making a straighter connection from the old US 1 to the new US 1.
In 1958 a Durham Road bridge was built, and the former Route 79 across the railroad tracks is now called Old Route 79.
In the late 1960s, the Tri-State Transportation commission included a Route 79 freeway in its interim highway proposals. The freeway would have paralleled Route 79 to the east leaving Durham, and connected with the Hammonasset Connector (SR 450) in Madison.
In 1969, the Mid-State Regional Planning Association proposed a similar freeway along Route 81. Neither proposal is active now.
In February 2003, Madison officials announced their intent to have US 1 in town designated a state scenic road. They said they would follow this up with an application for part of Route 80; and also for Route 79.
As of mid-2021, Route 79 is officially still not scenic.