Infrastructure & Environment

December 2013 Last Look: the 100-Year-Old Lincoln Highway

The nation’s first truly transcontinental road, the Lincoln Highway once made its way through 14 states but has gradually slipped into obscurity.
December 2013

One hundred years ago, a group of automobile enthusiasts established the nation’s fi rst truly transcontinental road, the Lincoln Highway. The goal was to build a “Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway” from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco, and, in the words of its creator Carl Fisher, “stimulate as nothing else could the building of enduring highways everywhere that will … mean much to American agriculture and American commerce.” Named in honor of the nation’s 16th president, it was incorporated in 1913—50 years to the day from the beginning of the Battle of Gettysburg—and was America’s fi rst national memorial to President Lincoln. Cobbled together from existing roads and along rivers and rail lines, the Lincoln Highway made its way through 14 states (the image above is from East Rochester, Ohio). But gradually it slipped into obscurity, and today it is estimated that only about 80 percent of the original route is still drivable. In celebration of its 100th year, about 275 participants drove what’s left of the route in June, setting out from New York City and San Francisco, and meeting at the midpoint in Kearney, Neb.

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