Back in the day as train travel had begun to pinch the American pocket, cross-country road travel became the new phenomenon. Drive or ride, Americans were on the road with friends and family taking that super-fun road trip. It was at this time that the Lincoln Highway - one of the country’s first coast-to-coast cross-continental highways was built. The 3,400 mile stretch from one end of Lincoln Park in California to Times Square in New York was like no other.
Originally built to connect small towns, the roads back then weren’t smooth and sleek as they are today. In fact the American Automobile Association recommended that people bring along a shovel, axe, a hundred feet of ¾” rope, block and tackle, and a tarpaulin; to traverse through sandy stretches and washed ravines; and to fill-up their tanks at every available gas station, as they were few and far between. This was also the time when hotels along the highway was fast becoming a booming business.
Lincoln Statue at the highest point of Lincoln Higway
The downfall of the grand Lincoln Highway began when the federal government started renaming the named thruways with numbered roads. Today much of the old route is now Route 30 and Interstate 80(along with some parts of Route 50, I-5 and I-580). Built in 1913, this iconic stretch was the centerpiece of books like “The Lincoln Highway: Coast to Coast From Times Square to the Golden Gate,” written by Michael Wallis with photographs by Michael S. Williamson.
With so much nostalgia surrounding this highway, on February 12th, 2009, Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, officially unveiled the “Lincoln Highway” marker on 42nd Street and Broadway as the Eastern Terminus of the Lincoln Highway.
On that day Mayor Bloomberg said in his speech, “As a wonderful tribute to the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birthday, we have placed a historic marker to celebrate the construction of our nation’s first transcontinental highway. It memorializes Times Square’s connection with the route’s storied history, and reminds all of us that New York City remains the gateway to the rest of America.”
Decades have passed, and dozens have travelled across the country on the Lincoln Highway, people like Bernard Rosenbaum, 71, and Bob Chase, 72, finished their month long epic journey on their sports bike in 2008, and husband-and-wife duo David Mclane and Sueko Mclane who took on the expedition on their trailer vacation - are a few who have travelled far and long to keep the history of this epic journey alive.
Lincoln Highway Marker at Times Square
So, the next time you are visiting New York, or you are a New Yorker working in Midtown, remember to stop by, take a moment and look for that sign.
“Not all those who wander are lost.”