Welcome to the Historic Lincoln Highway
Quick! Think of an important historic highway. Most people first think of the National Road… then think of Route 66.
Mike Hocker, Ohio’s Lincoln Highway Historic Byway Director, explains why these thoughts are common. The National Road was the first major government-commissioned road; accomplished by Jefferson in 1803. It spanned the known country then – from Baltimore to the wilderness of southern Illinois. Route 66 was planned by the government in the 1920s and took travelers from Chicago to L.A. A popular television show and a hit song made that highway famous.
But thanks to many advocacy groups and recently organized byway organizations, word is getting out that the “Lincoln” was America’s first coast-to-coast paved highway in America.
The Lincoln Highway was not a government project. Rather it was an idea generated by several industrialists who wanted to promote automobile travel. In 1913, the Lincoln Highway was born and named to honor President Abraham Lincoln. In the 50 years following his death, no major commemoration to this much loved president had been made. Numbered routes had not been standardized anywhere in the nation yet, and it was typical in that time to name a road. Through the primary efforts auto industrialists Frank Sieberling, Carl Fisher and Henry Joy, communities large and small, county governments and tiny townships, donations and sweat equity all worked together to link many existing roads and create “the safest and shortest path” to span America. The road ran from Times Square in New York to the San Francisco bay – an astounding 3,389 miles!
The road joined major cities, yet encouraged feeder roads to be built – an endeavor meant not only to promote the automobile era, but also change the way Americans traveled.
“It brought us from the world of short-haul deliveries to virtually anywhere. Communities that weren’t rail towns could easily get goods and services,” Hocker observed.
The Lincoln Highway also ushered in campsites, roadside rests, and diners that evolved into the fast food restaurants we take for granted today. Soon, motor courts, and later, motels, ended the roadside camping that travelers had contended with in earlier days.
Comprehension of the legacy of transportation and change in America’s culture has not been completely understood nor popular, perhaps to due to the generational disconnect from then until now.
“Now we look back and see that it is very important to us,” Hocker continued. “The roadside holds much history in re-used buildings, ghost signs from the nineteen teens to twenties and tiny lingering small-town shops that create a fun romp for travelers to rediscover. While most people think of the National Road and Route 66, we will continue to let people know about “the Father Road” or “Main Street Across America” – two early nicknames of the Lincoln Highway and the businesses and attractions along the historic drive,” Hocker concluded.
Don’t miss the annual Ohio Lincoln Highway Buy-Way Sale. The LH follows generally the older alignments of US Rt 30 through the state. From East Liverpool to Convoy, and every Lincoln Highway community in between (there were over 1,000 yard sale events last year), if you are looking for it, chances are you’ll find it…at yard sale prices! Pick up a free Travelers Guide along the way, too.