Archive for February, 2008

Lincoln Memorial: monument was almost a road

February 20, 2008

A detailed and engrossing story in The Washington Post recalls the tumultuous genesis of the Lincoln Memorial, including how the monument that we know was instead almost a road named for the President. It was referred to then as the Lincoln highway, the Lincoln Memorial Highway, or simply Lincoln Way – all years before the Lincoln Highway of this blog was proposed or its association incorporated in 1913. The article is titled, “The Lincoln Conspirator: Illinois Congressman Joe Cannon was determined to stop the Lincoln Memorial from rising on the Mall. He almost succeeded.”

LOC_Lincoln Memorial

Above: An aerial view of the Lincoln Memorial, with Memorial Bridge under construction, c. 1930, courtesy LOC, Images of America: Lantern Slide Collection, from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Frances Loeb Library, Cambridge Mass.

A national monument to honor Lincoln in Washington, D.C., was proposed soon after his assassination, but the idea foundered until 1901 when the Senate Park Commission proposed the current monument as part of a plan to remake the Mall.

Here are excerpts that mention the idea of a highway:

What had most impressed [former congressman James] McCleary during his tour of Europe was the Appian Way, the ancient road in southern Italy built by Roman censor Appius Claudius. “Who has not heard of the Appian Way?” he wrote in the article. “What a fitting memorial to Lincoln would be a noble highway, a splendid boulevard, from the White House to Gettysburg.”

“The Lincoln Way” would include one roadway for automobiles and one for horse-drawn carriages and wagons; plus two electric railway tracks: one for express trains, the other for local trains. Stately rows of trees would border the highway. Down the middle would be a well-kept lawn 40 to 50 feet wide, with beautiful fountains and monuments at intervals along the way. Given “the possibilities of electrical illumination, the beauty of this boulevard when lit up at night may be left to the imagination,” McCleary wrote….

Rep. William Borland, the Missouri congressman who led the highway effort, predicted an easy win for the road. He believed cars would become more popular, though he didn’t drive one himself. Many congressmen found the prospect of obtaining federal dollars for road projects in their own districts tempting. Road supporters, backed by the auto industry, were well-organized. They flooded Congress with telegrams and petitions. Architect Glenn Brown’s campaign in favor of a Greek temple was no match. Everyone knew that a House victory for the Lincoln highway would create a stalemate and indefinitely postpone the creation of any memorial because the Senate wouldn’t agree to the road….

Highway advocates attacked the memorial plan as foreign and not representative of Lincoln, according to the Congressional Record. “There is nothing in this Greek temple . . . that even suggests . . . the character . . . of Abraham Lincoln,” said Rep. Isaac Sherwood of Ohio….

A highway is “nearer to expressing the epoch of American history than any other form of memorial,” said Borland, who emphasized that a road was unanimously endorsed by the Grand Army of the Republic, whose members were Union veterans. The Greek temple is the most hackneyed form of architecture known, he added…

Knowing that aesthetic arguments weren’t likely to sway members, [architect] Brown had prepared a cost estimate for the Lincoln highway, which Rep. Lynden Evans of Illinois used effectively during the debate. “It will cost at least $20 million to build a really distinctive road,” he said, and pointed out that it could be used only by those who could afford a car. “If a trolley line was placed upon it so that the plain people could use it, it would be valuable and useful . . . But it would not be a memorial of Abraham Lincoln.”

There were accusations at the time that road advocates tended to be those who would benefit from that project. Accordingly, one commenter to the article has written, “The ‘Road to Gettysburg’ sounded like the ‘Road to Nowhere’ considering Gettysburg was not a commercial center like, say Philadelphia or NYC. The practical value of a highway can’t have been a totally futuristic concept.” Of course, the Lincoln Highway proposed by Fisher would encounter some of the same arguments as the original Lincoln Way. Washington D.C. leaders would even advocate for Fisher’s coast-to-coast road to bend their way. Only after repeated pleas would the city get an official feeder – from Philadelphia through D.C. to Gettysburg, just as they had sought earlier.

"Faces of Lincoln" at Studebaker Museum till 3/9

February 20, 2008

This month begins a three-year bicentennial celebration of President Lincoln’s birth, with many books and exhibits marking the occasion. In South Bend, Indiana, the Studebaker National Museum (201 S. Chapin Street), in cooperation with the Indiana Historical Society, is featuring The Faces of Lincoln through March 9. The exhibit is comprised of holdings from the Jack Smith and Daniel R. Weinberg Lincoln collections, along with Studebaker National Museum’s President Lincoln Carriage.


The first section of the exhibit looks at the history of photography using some of the best and most well-known images of Lincoln. Part two investigates ways that photographers, printmakers, and cartoonists tried to influence opinion about Lincoln by altering his appearance. Section three challenges viewers to determine what kind of images and symbols the printmakers used to convey their, and the nation’s, feelings toward Lincoln. The Faces of Lincoln exhibit is based on the Indiana Historical Society’s extensive collection and initially traveled the state on the Indiana History Train in October 2004 and 2005.

Classic cafe being razed in Grand Island, Nebr.

February 19, 2008

The Grand Island Independent reports that the Nebraska city is widening it’s main street – aka Lincoln Highway/US 30 – and in the process demolishing a vintage cafe. The Conoco motel and cafe at 2109 W. Second Street trace their roots to about 1940 when the tile-roofed Conoco Service Station opened. The cafe had a Polynesian redo in the 1960s but only the motel will survive (featuring a swimming pool and cable) as will a new convenience store. The cafe is seen in the upper right photo of the postcard below, which on back is titled, “Conoco Motel, Cafe & Service Station.”


According to the news report:

A total of 18,400 vehicles travel daily on Second Street between Broadwell and Greenwich Street. To better accommodate that volume, the state will install a fifth lane a turning lane from Grant Street to Greenwich….

The right-of-way needed for the fifth lane simply brought the roadway too close to the Conoco Cafe, which the state acquired more than a year ago through condemnation. The last restaurant to operate there, Pam’s Cafe, closed Jan. 31, 2007, and relocated to South Locust Street.

Last week, an environmental firm removed asbestos from the cafe. This week, a construction company is starting demolition. Road work will commence March 17 and wrap up in October, then next Spring, sidewalks, lighting, and landscaping will be completed.

New video on Alice's Drive 2009 commemoration

February 18, 2008

Richard Anderson reports that he and daughter Emily Anderson have produced and posted a new video about the 2009 journey Emily will take commemorating Alice Ramsey’s groundbreaking drive across the US in a rebuilt 1909 Maxwell. LH fans will note Lincoln Highway book state guides author and LHA Forum editor Gregory Franzwa about 50 seconds in and remaining a major voice in the 5:46 video.

Alice was the first woman to drive across the US, following a route that a few years later would be used by the Lincoln Highway in many places (though notably not across the Allegheny Mountains through PA or OH). Emily hopes to follow Alice’s original route as closely as possible, but will deviate somewhat due to roadway changes and the safety concerns.


Learn more at their web site about the route, and about a film that Emily’s brother Bengt Anderson is producing about the event and women’s history, Alice’s Drive – Women Who Drove The Century. Richard also reports that the car body is finished and being painted, and that the engine needs only a few parts before being started, they hope in March. The most recent challenge was needing an exhaust manifold; not finding one, Richard modeled and cast one based one a 1908 Maxwell that he owns.

Centennial of Great Race Honored with Exhibit

February 17, 2008

February 12 marked 100 years since the launch of the longest and perhaps craziest auto race ever – around the world from New York to Paris. Six cars (seven more never showed up) departed Times Square, at times following the future Lincoln Highway to San Francisco. The American entry, a 1907 4-cylinder Thomas Flyer roadster, would win, driven most of the way by George Schuster, who would later write about his adventures in The Longest Auto Race. The 1965 comedy The Great Race (Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtiss, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk), loosely based on the race, barely touched on the hardships faced by the real racers.


The 1908 race has been honored with a 14-month exhibit at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada, a few blocks off the Lincoln Highway. Through next January, visitors can see the 1,400-pound trophy, the American flag carried the whole way, and most impressively, the restored Thomas Flyer (seen above, in a photo courtesy the museum). Then starting May 30, up to 40 teams will again depart New York City for Paris, covering 22,000 miles, though only half of that driven. A summary of the race and exhibit can be found in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Schuster Book

Another group is rebuilding a 1908 White and plans to retrace the route and pffering educational programs, but their hopes to launch the February 12 have been delayed.

Schuster never did get paid the $10,000 (he thought was proper for a half-year’s work) by the Thomas company – they said the race had cost them too much already. And The New York Times delayed paying him the $1,000 prize for 60 years. Schuster, then 95, was appreciative but noted that a grand was not worth nearly as much in 1968 as in 1908.

Changes at Lincoln Hwy Assn national office

February 16, 2008

LHA Executive Director David Hay, hired in March 2007 to oversee LHA activities, has left to take a position at Davenport University. I asked him about his plans: “While I may be leaving the LHA executive director position, I plan to remain an active member of the Indiana chapter and work on our state byway designation, the 2009 conference, and other Indiana-related projects.”

David Hay
Above: David Hay addresses Lincoln Highway fans at Teibel’s in western Indiana, 2007.

Bob Lichty, past LHA president who was on the director selection committee, told me, “This is a disappointment so soon. David was a good choice for the job, but it is understandable when he got such a better offer. It is my hope we do a search and find an even better person for the role, maybe with a bit more focus on fund-raising.” For now, the office will utilize an office manager. Here is the job posting:

Part-Time Office Manager, Lincoln Highway Association’s National Office in South Bend
A non-profit organization located in downtown South Bend is in need of a part-time Office Manager. This is a 12-15 hour per week position, and the part-time Office Manager works as an independent contractor. The pay rate is $10 to $12 per hour. Excellent communication skills and writing skills required. These include email, regular mail and phones. The position includes general office duties, management of computer records and mailings. Microsoft Excel and Word skills are a must. Internet research skills are a must. Other duties include:

Type letters and other correspondence.
Organize office processes and work with detailed records.
Outlook proficient.
Attention to detail and strong organization skills.
A professional attitude and appearance are a must.

An ideal candidate will be self motivated and have the ability to work independently with a strong work ethic. The Office Manager will communicate with the organizationʼs members across the United States on a regular basis, provide assistance to other professionals in related matters and provide administrative support for the work of the organization’s officers and committee chairs. Payroll is done twice a month. Free parking is available. This opening was posted on Feb. 13, 2008.

For immediate consideration, please send resume and a brief cover letter to: President, LHA National Office, 402 W. Washington St., South Bend, IN 46601.

Changes at Summit Garage atop Altamont Pass

February 15, 2008

When I visited the Summit Garage in July 2006, Dan Silviera showed me around the shop. Among his many efforts to help youth, he managed Tri-Valley Youth Services, and the garage was serving as the Tri-Valley Teen Center for teaching youths to restore classic cars. There was an assortment of cool old cars on lifts and along the road. The only dark cloud was that a utility company wanted to demolish the old place for a right-of-way.


I recently checked on the garage with Gary Kinst, editor of LHA newsletter The Traveler for California. I was looking for news about the utility but was sadly surprised to hear that the teen center lost its lease July 1, 2007, and Dan Silveira (above) passed away July 30. Click here to read Dan’s obituary from the Boy Scouts, where he was a scoutmaster for 17 years; that and his many other accomplishments are an inspiration.

Click the images below from my visit to see larger versions on Flickr – then click the Flickr pics to see them REALLY BIG. The T-Bird, one of the youth projects, was across the road.

10 x 10 white square

A local rancher has purchased approximately 240 acres that include the Summit Garage and a dwelling. Gary reports that LHA member Mike Kaelin is working with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and their State Representative to have the garage preserved as a historical site and the pass as a historic corridor. The new tenant, a former member of T.V.Y.S., has plans to open a antique/gift shop in the old garage. A “Historic Lincoln Highway” sign was recently dedicated there too.

Tragedy along the Lincoln Highway in DeKalb, IL

February 15, 2008

IL_NIU logoViolence sadly came to Northern Illinois University along the Lincoln Highway in DeKalb, Illinois (pop 43,000) yesterday when a former graduate student entered a lecture hall and opened fire, killing six, wounding 15, and then killing himself. The campus has 25,000 students about 65 miles west of downtown Chicago. The university’s home page has details, and more information is available at the Chicago Tribune here. NIU has scheduled a news conference for 9 am CST on Friday, February 15. A Mass is set for 12 noon at Newman Catholic Student Center, and an Ecumenical Prayer Service will be held at 7:30 pm.

Auburn Cord Duesenberg to host sculptures

February 14, 2008

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, 25 miles north of Fort Wayne in Auburn, Indiana (off the Lincoln Highway but a popular diversion), will exhibit automotive bronze sculptures created by nationally acclaimed artist Alexander Buchan, and his grandchildren Alex, 11, and Adeline, 6, from March 14 through April 12. Buchan worked as Chief Design Sculptor at General Motors for 38 years.


Above: This painted bronze sculpture by Alex Buchan (edition of 35) depicts a 1920 Indian motorcycle with a side car called the ‘Flexi’ being driven by Pop Dwyer.

The public is invited to attend the free exhibit opening on Friday, March 14 at 7 p.m. at the museum, where Buchan and his grandchildren will be on-hand to discuss their work. Included in the exhibit will be a very rare 1910 American Underslung automobile and a customized Buchan sculpture of the car and its owners.

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum houses more than 120 antique and special interest cars plus related exhibits on three floors. The museum is in the 1930s headquarters of the Auburn Automobile Company and is a National Historic Landmark. Group and family rates are available. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. year round.


Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum
1600 South Wayne Street
Auburn, IN 46706
(260) 925-1444 x30

Early Autos film, sometimes comic, inc/ US 50 NV

February 13, 2008

Here’s an educational film (well, somewhat) from perhaps the late 1940s showing the impact and follies of early autos. The short film begins and ends with old-car fans driving early autos in period dress along US 50 (often the same as the Lincoln Highway) and US 395 in Nevada. Much of the rest shows early clips of how they could be a challenge to operate. The disruption they brought to city streets is quite a contrast to today’s “good ol days” view — though it is comical to watch a crowd of kids chase one of the newfangled contraptions.