Archive for the ‘roadside’ Category

Why dedicate the Lincoln Highway on Halloween?

October 30, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

The Lincoln Highway was officially dedicated on October 31, 1913, with bonfires, parades, concerts, and speeches along the coast-to-coast route. Lots of news articles can be found that describe the festivities — from masquerade balls to farmers placing jack-o-lanterns on fence posts — but was there a reason behind celebrating this momentous occasion on, of all days, Halloween?

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It’s logical that the LHA would have documented its reasons but Kathleen Dow (Archivist and Curator of the Transportation History Collection at the University of Michigan Special Collections Library) says neither the minutes from the LHA’s formation on July 1 nor those from October 27 mention the dedication on October 31.

The 31st would have been the 49th anniversary of Nevada’s statehood, and though that was important to President Lincoln’s re-election in 1864, it was not a close enough connection to the new road.

The Washington Herald (October 6, 1913) noted that LHA directors had just met in Detroit, coinciding with the Third American Good Roads Congress, and “discussed the arrangements for the dedication celebrations on the night of October 31 at every point along the proposed highway, and the discourses to be delivered by the clergy on Sunday [Nov. 2].” Still, no reason was given.

However, we can guess with great certainty that the celebratory nature of Halloween itself, especially being on a Friday that year, was the reason for choosing October 31.

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Pittsburgh Daily Post, October 26, 1913.

The U.S. was just beginning to celebrate “Hallowe’en” in 1913. Trick-or-treating did not become mainstream until the 1950s but there was a centuries-old tradition of fires, parades, and dressing up on All Hallows’ Eve that recent immigrants had brought to America. LHA leaders were masters at harnessing public relations, and what better date to choose for fanciful nighttime celebrations than the one day a year that such activities already took place?

The San Francisco Chronicle (October 26) hinted at just that: “It is the idea of the boosters of the transcontinental motorway that the dedication be a sort of spontaneous expression of gratification and it has been left to each city and town along the route of the proposed highway to devise and carry out its own plan of celebration.”

On the 31st, the Chronicle added, “The exercises will be a fitting Halloween celebration, but overshadowing all the goblins and ghosts of the evening there will be the spirit of the great national boulevard that is to be constructed during the next three years.”

In the dedication proclamation from Wyoming, Governor Joseph Carey stated “It is thought especially fitting that on the evening of October 31st there should be an old-time jollification to include bonfires and general rejoicing; this for the purpose of impressing upon the people and especially the younger generation-the services and unselfish life of Lincoln, and for the further purpose of painting a big picture so far as amusements are concerned of the highway which is to cross our state.”

Some of that wording likely came from an LHA press release, as an article in the November 1 Salt Lake Tribune similarly noted it had been “the request of the directors of the Lincoln Highway to make October 31 an evening of general rejoicing.”  In the next day’s Deseret Evening News, the dedication recap included that the LHA had adopted the now-familiar oval emblem with U.S. map in the middle, and that drawings of it were being sent to contributors.

Nebraska’s governor also declared October 31 a holiday, and Omaha had perhaps the largest event in the country. Celebrations started across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa, at 12:01 a.m. with fire bells, factory whistles, and a torchlight parade. The Union Pacific Railroad donated carloads of railroad ties and an oil company helped fuel a massive bonfire later that night attended by 10,000 people, plus supplied smaller bonfires lining the route for 300 miles to North Platte.

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“Lincoln Highway Day” in Wooster, Ohio, included everything from motorcycle races to an onion eating contest. ~Courtesy Francis Woodruff, Dalton Gazette, via Mike Hocker.

As for Nevada, Governor Tasker Oddie’s proclamation made the statehood connection only a pleasant coincidence: “Friday the 31st day of October, by statute a legal holiday, is the 49th anniversary of the admission of Nevada into the Union — the only state admitted during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. It happens that on the evening of this day, in all the cities and towns of all the states through which the proposed Lincoln Highway will pass, public services will be held, celebrating the naming of the route.”

Motor Age magazine (November 6) reported afterwards on some of the national merriment, most of which included parades and especially bonfires. Some towns, like Wooster, Ohio, renamed the road through the county as “Lincoln Highway” and a restaurant in town rechristened itself the Lincoln Highway Cafeteria. In fact, shops there began the 31st with “Lincoln Highway Day bargains” before closing at noon to start the revelry.

In Wyoming, the dedication did nothing to stem a long-running controversy about the routing between Laramie and Rawlins. The route was popularly believed to follow the more direct route via Elk Mountain, but directors favored arcing north through Medicine Bow, 18 miles longer but with calmer winds and fewer gates. The Elk Mountain Republican (November 6) reported on that town’s speeches, dancing, and bonfire but Motor Age noted that citizens there and in Medicine Bow “cast defiance at the other, both issuing statements to show that they had been placed on the official route.” The LHA’s 1916 road guide was still trying to mend fences by mentioning that “an alternate route to Rawlins is offered via Elk Mountain.”

Decades later, the Lincoln had been superseded by federal highways and the Interstates, yet the road’s name and mystique endured. On the 49th anniversary in 1962, the Chicago Daily Tribune noted that farmers still celebrated the highway’s anniversary on Halloween—and that “Jack-O-Lanterns still mark the way.”

Brian Butko is author of Greetings from the Lincoln Highway, revised edition coming in 2019, and the LHA’s official centennial publication The Lincoln Highway: Photos Through Time.

Monument to a Forgotten Lincoln Highway Booster

October 3, 2018

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The Coan monument following its dedication in September 1925. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library.]

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

On a busy corner west of Clinton, Iowa, you’ll find a Lincoln Highway monument, restored and well-kept after almost a century but mostly ignored by the passing traffic. The granite pillar honors Iowa State Consul and good roads pioneer William Folwell Coan, forgotten in LH lore but an important booster of the LH. It features original enameled LH emblems and had been wired for electricity so that “an electric dome will be placed at the apex of the shaft, illuminating the memorial for passing motorists at night.”

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The Coan monument is joined nearby by decorative Lincoln Highway lamppost bases dedicated by the city of Clinton, Iowa, in the 2000s.

The marker, dedicated with a small ceremony on August 5, 1925, was erected by the Clinton Chamber of Commerce at the southeast corner of Lincoln Way (also now US 30) and Mississippi River Scenic Highway (now US 67). Clinton County was rather progressive for its time; while half the U.S. states spent no finds at all on road improvement, Clinton was paving its roads with gravel.

Coan was inspired by an earlier local resident who had experimented with making concrete. In September 1913, Coan became one of the original 10 LHA consuls  — perhaps the only name familiar from that initial group is Gael Hoag for Nevada, later LHA Field Secretary and Managing Secretary.  In 1914, Coan was elected honorary vice-president of the LHA. Four years later, he passed away at age 57.

 

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Dedicating the Coan monument, 1925. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library.]

At the afternoon dedication ceremony, the flags covering the memorial were drawn back by six-year old William Rendall, Coan’s grandson. Gael Hoag was among the speakers, remarking how Coan’s name was held in such high regard at the headquarters of the Lincoln Highway Association.

The main oration was presented by local attorney and city solicitor Frank W. Ellis; it was reported the next day that he “paid high tribute to the man who probably more than any one other man in this vicinity, pursued an ideal of a great national highway.”  The monument, Ellis said, was a fitting reminder of the good which Coan had accomplished: “This monument teaches us a great lesson; that working for others is one of the highest attributes of humanity.”

Autocar comes to the Lincoln Hwy in Pittsburgh

August 15, 2018

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The old Guffey residence, looking stately in this 1920 photo, would make way a few years later for a new Autocar branch. This corner of Baum Boulevard, at Liberty Avenue, was in the middle of the city’s burgeoning Automobile Row. [University of Pittsburgh, Archives Service Center, Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection, 715.2032.CP.]

The Lincoln Highway entered Pittsburgh from the east via Baum Boulevard, the city’s Automobile Row. This neighborhood of large estates near Bloomfield and East Liberty spawned businesses to serve the horse-and-carriage trade between the city and the even-more-upscale suburb to the east. By the early 1900s, these businesses developed into auto repair shops and dealerships. In the above photo, you can see that the Autocar Company was about to demolish one more of the area’s stately homes for its local branch.

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1923 map showing that Autocar owned land at Baum and Liberty but had yet to build its dealership. [Historic Pittsburgh Maps.]

Autocar, at first a maker of autos, was founded in Pittsburgh in 1897 as the Pittsburgh Motor Vehicle Company. It got its new (and still current!) name in 1899 when it moved to Ardmore, Pa, on the Main Line west of Philadelphia, later to be along the Lincoln Highway. One of its offerings was the Pittsburgher car, but in 1912 the company switched to making only heavy-duty trucks.

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Ads for Pittsburgh’s new Autocar Factory Branch ran in all local papers on January 18, 1925.

Pittsburgh had its own Autocar factory branch near downtown. It would take till 1925 for the new dealership to be built; till then, Autocar Sales & Service filled the 1800 block of Forbes, a few blocks past Mercy Hospital. The new sales and service branch, seen below in 1932, filled an entire triangular corner at Baum Blvd. and Liberty Avenue.

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The same intersection in 1932 with the new Autocar dealership filling a corner of Baum Boulevard and Liberty Avenue. This view, looking northwest, also shows the Garden Tea Room. [University of Pittsburgh, Archives Service Center, Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection, 715.3217002.CP.]

Autocar was later absorbed by the White Motor Company, which was later taken over by Volvo Trucks, then acquired by GVW Group, which revived Autocar as an independent company. Autocar, now based in Indiana, continues to produce three models of custom-engineered trucks and holds the distinction of being the oldest surviving vehicle manufacturer in the Western Hemisphere.

Driving the LH in 1919 ~ part 5, yes, tarvia

June 5, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

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A 1920s postcard of Reel’s Corners, Pa., (now US 30 and PA 160), part of the famed “Seven Mile Stretch” on the Lincoln Highway east of Stoystown.

Onward through Western Pennsylvania with Beatrice Massey in her new Packard:

“It was with regret that we left the next morning for Pittsburgh. The day was clear and cool and the best part of the Lincoln Highway was before us; in fact, the first real thrill so far, and one of the high spots of the trip. This was a stretch of seven and a half miles of tarvia road on the top ridge of the Alleghany Mountains, as smooth as marble, as straight as the bee flies, looking like a strip of satin ribbon as far as the eye could see. On both sides were deep ravines,well wooded,and valleys green with abundant crops, and still higher mountains rising in a haze of blue and purple coloring, making a picture that would never be forgotten. The top was down and we stopped the car again and again, to drink it in, and, as one of us remarked, ‘We may see more grand and rugged scenery later on, but we shall not see anything more beautiful than this’ — and it proved true.”

Utah’s Carl Fisher Monument

January 9, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

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The Carl Fisher Monument, dedicated in 2009, was spearheaded for 10 years by Rollin Southwell. It is on SR 199, mp 12, along Fisher Pass, which was part of a plan by the LHA to shorten its route across the Great Salt Lake Desert. Rollin passed away in 2013 but had sent me notes about the project:

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“Carl Fisher’s donation to the State of Utah was the first of a series from automobile manufacturers to improve the roads in Utah and Nevada. Tooele County has more miles of the Lincoln Highway than any other county along the route. It will now be home to the only monument to Fisher, creator of the Lincoln Highway. There are four major parts to the monument:
* The rock was one of the rocks moved in the Devil’s Gate Narrows to make the pass suitable for autos in the construction phase of the Fisher Pass.
* The monument itself tells the story of Carl Fisher’s money, the Lincoln Highway Association, and the State of Utah.
* The beacon represents the Lighthouse that was to be built on the north side of Granite Peak as a guide for tourists across the Great Salt Desert, and was to have used gas from Prest-O-Lite, a company once owned by Fisher.
* The concrete marker recalls the building of the final section, the end of the Goodyear cutoff, and Fisher Pass as part of the Lincoln Highway.”

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Drive-In Gas Station’s 100th on Lincoln Highway

December 2, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
On December 1, 1913, the Lincoln Highway had only celebrated its dedication a month earlier when the world’s first architect-designed drive-in gas station opened along the new coast-to-coast road in Pittsburgh.

Gulf’s pioneering station in Pittsburgh.

Gasoline had been sold for years at hardware stores and other businesses serving the burgeoning auto industry. There were also places selling only gasoline, even drive-in stations.

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But the fuel was often kept in barrels and poured from large cans. And unlike those existing buildings or informal shacks, Gulf Oil had an architect design the new building to efficiently and elegantly pump gas and provide other services. In fact, the following year, the station would start giving away the first free oil company road maps.

The station featured a canopy to shield motorists from weather, new Bowser hand-cranked pumps, large incandescent-lit signs, attendants on duty day and night, and the checking of fluids — all new to the industry.

The station was on Baum Boulevard (the Lincoln Highway) at St. Clair Street. Baum was quickly becoming Pitsburgh’s “automobile row” (common in all cities), filling with garages, tire shops, and car dealers — even the local auto club. Baum already served the carriage trade so this was a natural outgrowth. That itself made sense since Baum connected the city to the mansions being built to the east along on Penn Avenue in Point Breeze — also  the Lincoln Highway.

An informal station was already operating on the site when landowner James Mellon contracted the new station. The Mellon family was Gulf’s first and foremost investors, intertwining their Mellon Bank and Gulf Oil for decades. Gulf was an early proponent of branding gas, especially with its bright orange circle logo, as opposed to generic gas that was also often of lower quality; a branded station was a natural next step.

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The station didn’t last long, perhaps as late as 1950. Since then it’s been a parking lot. In 2000, the Gulfoil Historical Society campaigned for, and helped erect, a state historical marker to the station. I visited the site today, on the station’s 100th birthday, in the Lincoln Highway’s 100th year.

US Senate recognizes the Lincoln Highway

June 28, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
On Wednesday, June 26, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution introduced by U.S. Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) to recognize the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway. The highway’s centennial celebration begins this Sunday in Kearney, Nebraska, with day-long events on Monday, the actual 100th anniversary.

Unfortunately, the resolution missed the actual date by one day, naming June 30 as the anniversary, when July 1 was the day of incorporation. That date and it’s significance to history and Lincoln held great importance to the LHA founders.

Also, headlines from the representative are calling it the centennial of “Highway 30.” Although much of the Lincoln Highway later became US Route 30, and that the numbering of much of the route that way was intentional, there is no real connection between the era of named auto trails from the 1910s and the federal numbered highways of 1926.

Still, Lincoln Highway fans can bask in the glow of federal recognition for their road.

See the full text of the resolution at
http://www.johanns.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=48e1da3a-7e19-482d-b5e2-137f0fc78a4f

New Lincoln Highway Mural in Chicago Heights

April 14, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
The 33rd roadside mural from the llinois Lincoln Highway Coalition was installed at 137 East 14th Street, Chicago Heights, Illinois. The mural depicts a vintage photo of the McEldowney Bridge that once crossed Thorn Creek in Chicago Heights and Henry C. Ostermann, the Lincoln Highway Association Field Secretary who traveled the Lincoln Highway to inspect it. Chicago Heights is known as the “Crossroads of the Nation” where the Lincoln and Dixie Highways intersect. A special element in this mural is the “L” sign, a three-dimensional piece attached directly to the mural surface.

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Another mural was installed the same day in Crest Hill, at 1701 Larkin Avenue in the Hillcrest Shopping Center. The story was also reported at nwitimes.com. For more information or to download an Illinois Lincoln Highway Visitor Guide, visit drivelincolnhighway.com.

 

Small-town Nebraska hotel to be demolished

February 24, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
As reported by Nebraska Outback, the town of Brule (west pf Ogalalla) wants to tear down an old hotel along the Lincoln Highway to make way for other businesses. According to KNOP-TV (source of the screen shot below), “A new Community Development Agency in Brule wants to revitalize the downtown area, starting with this old hotel building on 2nd and State streets.”

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Although no plan or even interest in the location is mentioned, the agency official nonetheless says a replacement “will be a nice looking structure that will start bringing in tax base. That basically helps all those entities that are dependent on upon tax income.”

It is unfortunate that when a structure looks old or in disrepair that so many want to demolish, when it is just those structures, restored or not, that  give a community its character. This sense of heritage is exactly what people come to such towns looking for, not chain businesses that can be found anywhere.

Illinois Lincoln Highway murals need your vote

January 29, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
IL_MuralsThe Illinois Lincoln Highway Murals, created by artist Jay Allen for the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition, won first place in the Murals/Exhibit Graphics category in an annual sign contest presented by Signs of the Times magazine.

Now the murals are competing in the Signs of the Times 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards. They need YOUR help. It’s EXTREMELY easy and fun to see the competing projects.

Every mural is a hand-painted, unique work of art.  So far, 29 have been installed. Upon completion, the series will be one of the largest works of public art in the country.

Visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8DV5THL and vote for your 3 favorite projects, including of course the murals. Voting is limited to once per computer and concludes on February 8.