Posts Tagged ‘Lincoln Highway’

Monument to a Forgotten Lincoln Highway Booster

October 3, 2018

Coan3.jpg

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.”

LH Coen 4530.jpg

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.

 

coan2.jpg

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.”

Coast-to-coast rock highway proposed in 1912

September 10, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Indy.jpg

The Athenænum in Indianapolis, site of the meeting in September 1912 that launched what would become the Lincoln Highway.

When automobile pioneer Carl Graham Fisher proposed a coast-to-coast highway in 1912, the idea had been around for more than a decade. But Fisher knew how to get things done: he knew the people who could supply materials and funds and promotion on a nationwide scale. Men like Henry Joy, president of Packard, or Frank Seiberling, president of Goodyear, and just about every other manufacturer of cars and parts and highway materials—save Henry Ford.

AAA had advocated for a cross-country highway from its founding in 1902. A few paths were named, and for a time in 1911, there was even talk of a cross-country “Lincoln Way.” The New York Times said it would be “a great transcontinental highway to be built by the States through which it will pass”—but it was not to be.

A year later, the Old Trails Road (also called the Ocean to Ocean Highway, and later used in parts to lay out Route 66) became the first cross-country route to have an organization behind it, from New York City to Los Angeles. That same spring of 1912, AAA sent renowned pathfinder A.L. Westgard to explore three more possibilities: the Northwest, Overland, and Midland trails.

And in August 1912, still a month before Fisher’s meeting, Frances McEwen Belford had a bill introduced in Congress “establishing the Lincoln memorial highway from Boston, Mass., to San Francisco, Cal., ” though the bill died.

Finally, on September 10, 1912, Fisher and his business partner and best pal James Allison held a dinner at the Deutsche Haus (or German House, now the Athenæum) in Indianapolis for fellow industrialists to hear their dream of a “Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway.” On July 1, 1913, that road that would officially become the Lincoln Highway. It wasn’t first coast-to-coast road, but the other named routes paled in terms of marking, mapping, funding, improvements, and promotion. It might more accurately be called the first improved coast-to-coast highway.

As Fisher told them that night, “Let’s build it before we’re too old to enjoy it.” And a year later to the day, a Proclamation was issued by the Lincoln Highway Association describing the route in general terms. Now the real work would begin….

A Bit of Sweden Along the Lincoln Highway

August 30, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

This story started simply: I had an old postcard of a restaurant in Aurora, Illinois, in my LH collection. The back lists the location as “US business Route 30” so I wanted to check if it was truly on the Lincoln Highway (which is not always the same as Route 30). As is often the case, there’s not a lot of info out there on a restaurant from long ago, but what remains paints a story of an interesting family business.

LH_IL Aurora_bb.jpg

Bit of Sweden Smorgasbord opened in 1955 on the east side of Aurora at 110 Hill Ave, on the southeast corner of Benton/Summit. It was across from today’s Hansens Motel, itself a vintage business still operating. Hill and Benton indeed served as the 2nd generation LH and later US 30.

Map2.jpg

map1.jpg

There was already a Bit of Sweden, closer to Chicago on Rush Road, that had opened about 1930. The Aurora restaurant — which would make sense to be related, though I could find no connection — was run by siblings Arvid (b. 1907) and Edith Nelson. For its next 15 or so years, it received a yearly profile in the local newspaper’s dining section.

A 1965 profile said its neon sign showed a dancing Poyk and Flicka (Swedish for little boy and girl), while inside there were more than 50 foods, a stone fireplace, and themed decor: “The smorgasbord tables are set against a background of a pastoral mural and under special Swedish styled modern lighting.” It also included this ad:

LH Sweden ad.1965.jpg

The largest profile, in 1960, described some of the food customers got for $2 buffet, including fish, roast spring chicken, Swedish meatballs, scalloped potatoes, baked ham, prime rib, Swiss steak, soup, and pickled herring. Homemade rolls and bread, dessert, and drinks were included, though no alcohol was permitted.

LH Sweden ad.1960.jpg

The last profile ran in 1972; by 1975, the equipment was being auctioned … after the place had been converted to BoJangle’s Discoteque. There ends the trail, and story, of Aurora’s Bit of Sweden.

I could find nothing online about Edith, but Arvid (who passed away in 1986) has a fund named in his honor. The Arvid Nelson Memorial Fund was established in 2013 by his son Alan (b. 1937) to support The Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley, a tax-exempt public charity of funds and resources given by local citizens to enhance and support the quality of life in the Fox River Valley. Visit
https://www.communityfoundationfrv.org/profile/nelson-arvid-fund to learn more.

Driving the LH in 1919 ~ part 8, California

June 26, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Our cross-country travelers of 1919 approach the West Coast, as recounted in the book It Might Have Been Worse:

“Beyond Reno the ascent of the Sierra Nevada begins, and you pass Lake Tahoe, six thousand feet high, the most delightful summer-resort region in America. The Lincoln Highway joins the other routes here, and is really a highway, making a glorious finish in Lincoln Park, San Francisco. One of the finest views is the mighty canyon of the American River, with the  timbered gorge and the rushing stream two thousand feet below. You are held spellbound by the scenery, as you descend the western slope to Sacramento, the capital of California, 125 miles from San Francisco….

“With four hundred miles of navigable waterways, transportation facilities are exceptional, and it is small wonder these valleys of the Sacramento and the San Joaquin are the banner ‘growing section’ of the state. It was like driving through a private estate all the way to Oakland, where our first view of glorious San Francisco harbor greeted us. Oakland and Berkeley, ‘the bedrooms’ of San Francisco (as a prominent banker explained to us), are on the east shores of the bay. On the front of the City Hall in Oakland (which, by the  way, we were told is the tallest building in California) was the sign, typical of these open-hearted people, ‘Howdy, Boys!’ (to the returning soldiers) in place of the proverbial ‘Welcome.’…

Oak.jpg

“Road near Oakland, California,” c. 1920. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc0022]

“We were landed at the ferry slip, and with a sensation never to be forgotten we drove off the wharf into San Francisco — ‘the city loved around the world’ — built upon hills overlooking the expanse of the Pacific, with a cosmopolitan throng of half a million people. We could not  have reached here at a more fortunate or auspicious time. San Francisco was en-fete in honor of the fleet. Every street and building was festooned with flags, banners, and garlands of flowers…. Bands were playing, auto-horns were tooting, and the air was alive with excitement — joyous, over-bubbling pleasure, that had to find a vent or blow up the place….

“The next day the Transcontinental Government Motor Convoy arrived, which added to the celebration that lasted a week. It had come over the Lincoln Highway, with every conceivable experience; the gallant young officer in command, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles McClure, told us at dinner the next evening that ‘Our worst experiences were in the desert. The sand was so  deep and the trucks were so heavy that at times we only made a mile an hour. When one got stuck, the men cut the sagebrush and filled the ruts, and then we were able to crawl.’ The city gave them an ovation, and “dined” them as well — and doubtless would have liked to have ‘Vined’ them also.”

Driving the LH in 1919 ~ part 6, smoky Pittsburgh

June 7, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Continuing our look at Beatrice Massey’s memoir of a cross-country trip, It Might Have Been Worse:

“We had come 442 miles, from New York to Pittsburgh, over fine roads and through beautiful country. Approaching Pittsburgh, we came in on a boulevard overlooking the river and ‘valley of smoke.’ Great stacks were belching out soot and smoke, obliterating the city and even the sky and sun. They may have a smoke ordinance, but no one has ever heard of it. We arrived at the William Penn Hotel, in the heart of the business center of the city, a first-class, fine hotel in every regard. We found the prices reasonable for the excellent service afforded, which was equal to that of any New York hotel. The dining-room, on the top of the house, was filled with well-dressed people, and we were glad that we had unpacked our dinner clothes, and appeared less like the usual tourist, in suits and blouses.

p2.jpg

Downtown Pittsburgh in 1919. [University of Pittsburgh, City Photographer Collection, 715.1924A.CP.]

“It was frightfully hot during our two days’ stay. You go out to drive feeling clean and immaculate, and come in with smuts and soot on your face and clothes, looking like a foundry hand. The office buildings are magnificent, and out a bit in the parks and boulevards the homes are attractive, and many are very handsome, especially in Sewickley. But aside from the dirty atmosphere one is impressed mostly by the evidences of the outlay of immense wealth. An enthusiastic brother living there took us through a number of the business blocks, and told us of the millions each cost and the almost unbelievable amount of business carried on. I can only describe Pittsburgh as the proudest city I’ve visited. Not so much of the actual wealth represented, but of what the billions had accomplished in great industries.

Pgh.jpg

Mills lined Pittsburgh’s rivers in 1919. Photo by Hugh C. Torrance. [Carnegie Museum of Art, 83.21.25.]

“We went out in the evening and stood on one of the bridges to look over the river lined with monster furnaces. The air was filled with sparks, jets of flame bursting through the smoke. All you could think of was Dante’s Inferno visualized. And what of the men who spend their lives in that lurid atmosphere, never knowing if the sun shone, nor what clean, pure air was like in their working hours ? I shall never look at a steel structure again without giving more credit to the men who spend their waking hours in those hells of heat and smoke than to the men whose millions have made it possible.”

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

June 5, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

RC.jpg

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.”

Driving the Lincoln in 1919 ~ part 4, Bedford PA

June 4, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Beatrice Larned Massey, her husband, and their two friends had stopped in Harrisburg, Pa., then headed to Chambersburg, where they joined the Lincoln Highway. Now they pointed their new Packard twin-six touring car towards Bedford:

lhc2371.jpg

Unidentified tourists along the Juniata River east of Bedford, Pa. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc2371.]

“Our third day was still a drizzle; we would no sooner have the top down than we would have to put it up again, and often the side curtains as well. Our objective point was the charmingly quaint town of Bedford, and the Bedford Arms. This part of Pennsylvania was more beautiful than what we had been through, and every mile of the day’s run was a pleasure.

“I have not spoken of our lunches, a most important item by one o’clock. We had brought a small English hamper, fitted with the usual porcelain dishes, cutlery, tin boxes, etc., for four people, and unless we were positive that a good place to eat was midway on the road, we prepared a lunch, or had the hotel put one up for us. This latter plan proved both expensive and unsatisfactory. Usually Toodles was sent foraging to the delicatessen shops for fresh rolls, cold meats and sandwiches, eggs, fruit, tomatoes, and bakery dainties, and the hotel filled our thermos bottles with hot coffee. We carried salt and pepper, mustard, sweet and sour pickles, or a relish, orange marmalade, or a fruit jam, in the hamper, and beyond that we took no staple supplies on the whole trip. We met so many people who carried with them a whole grocery-store, even to sacks of flour, that you would imagine there was not a place to get food from the Atlantic to the Pacific….

“We have been told so often that one has to develop an ‘open-air’ spirit to really enjoy a long motor trip! Quite true! I can’t imagine what the fun can be of touring in a closed limousine, and yet we have met that particularly exclusive party more than once. On the whole, an absence of flies, ants, mosquitoes, and sand and dust in one’s bed and food does not detract from the pleasure of the trip. It may be all right to endure such annoyances for a few days in the woods, to fish or hunt but weeks and more weeks of it….!

“But I have digressed, and left you at the Bedford Arms, one of the most artistic, attractive inns that we found. The little touches showed a woman’s hand. Flowers everywhere, dainty cretonnes, willow furniture, and pretty, fine china; in appearance, courtesy, and efficiency, the maids in the dining room might have come from a private dwelling.

“Will someone tell me why there are not more such charming places to stop at on our much-traveled main highways. Why must hotel men buy all the heavy, hideous furniture, the everlasting red or green carpets and impossible wall-paper, to make night hideous for their guests—to say nothing of the pictures on their walls? It is a wonder one can sleep.

“There is much of interest to see in Bedford—really old, artistic houses, not spoiled by modern gewgaws, set in lovely gardens of old-fashioned flowers, neatly trimmed hedges, and red brick walks. There were few early Victorian eyesores to mar the general beauty of the town. As we were walking down the main street about sunset, we heard a great chattering and chirping, as if a thousand birds were holding a jubilee. Looking up, we found, on a projecting balcony running along the front of all the buildings for two blocks, hundreds of martins discussing the League of Nations and Peace Treaty quite as vigorously as were their senatorial friends in Washington. They were fluttering about and making a very pretty picture. It sounded like the bird market in Paris on a Sunday morning, which, in passing, is an interesting sight that few tourists ever see.”

Driving the Lincoln in 1919 ~ part 2: depart NYC

May 16, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

When Beatrice Massey and her husband decided to set out for the West Coast in 1919, they invited two friends to join them in their Packard.

Hoag.jpg

The 42nd Street dock in New York City. This photo, taken five years later in 1924, shows LHA Field Secretary Gael Hoag with the group’s official Packard. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc2893.]

“We picked them up at the Seymour Hotel in New York City, at three o’clock, Saturday, July 19th, and started for the Forty-Second-Street ferry in a pouring rain, as jolly and happy a quartette as the weather would permit. Our guests were a retired physician, whom we shall speak of as the Doctor, and his charming, somewhat younger wife, who, although possessing the perfectly good name of Helen, was promptly dubbed ‘Toodles’ for no reason in the world….

“It had rained steadily for three days before we started and it poured torrents for three  days after; but that was to be expected, and the New Jersey and Pennsylvania roads were none the worse, and the freedom from dust was a boon. We chose for the slogan of our trip, ‘It might have been worse.’ The Doctor had an endless fund of good stories, of two classes, ‘table and stable stories,’ and I regret to say that this apt slogan was taken from  one of his choicest stable stories, and quite unfit for publication. However, it did fit our party in its optimism and cheery atmosphere.

“With a last look at the wonderful sky-line of the city, and the hum and whirl of the great throbbing metropolis, lessening in the swirl of the Hudson River, we really were started;  with our faces turned to the setting sun, and the vast, wonderful West before us.”

* From Beatrice Massey’s book, It Might Have Been Worse: A Motor Trip from Coast to Coast, 1920.

Driving the Lincoln Highway in 1919 ~ part 1

May 8, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

I love early automobile memoirs for capturing the feel of travel a century ago. It was common for wealthy Easterners in the 1910s to take their new play-toys across the country, then detail the experience in print (and just as often returning the car and themselves back east by rail). Of course, these travelers often packed up their elite mindsets (along with silver tea sets) but after a few days on the road, they found it would not be all smooth highways and fancy hotels, and instead were forced to fix flats and camp by the side of the road.

Massey.jpg

In 1916, Emily Post (not yet known as an expert on etiquette) wrote a book about her travels, By Motor to the Golden Gate. This inspired Beatrice Larned Massey to follow in her tire tracks, so to speak.

“I was fired by a desire to make a similar tour,” she wrote, but World War I delayed her for three years. “Then the ‘motor fever’ came on again…. After talking and planning for three years, we actually decided to go in ten minutes — and in ten days we were off.”

She captured her adventures from New York to San Francisco in her own book, It Might Have Been Worse: A Motor Trip from Coast to Coast, published in 1920. Most of her trip was not along the Lincoln Highway, though she followed much of the route through Pennsylvania, plus all of the trip gives wonderful insight into early auto travel.

Let’s get her started:

“All the necessary arrangements were quickly made; leasing our home, storing our household goods, closing up business matters, getting our equipment and having the car thoroughly looked over, and all the pleasant but unnecessary duties occupied the last few days. Why will people write so many letters and say so many good-bys, when a more or less efficient mail and telegraph service circles our continent? But it is the custom, and all your friends expect it — like sending Easter and Christmas cards by the hundreds. We are victims of a well-prescribed custom.

“It is always of interest to me to know the make of car that a friend (or stranger) is driving; so let me say, without any desire to advertise the Packard, that we had a new twin-six touring car, of which I shall speak later on. I believe in giving just tribute to any car that will come out whole and in excellent condition, without any engine troubles or having to be repaired, after a trip of 4154 miles over plains and mountains, through ditches, ruts, sand, and mud, fording streams and two days of desert-going. And let me add that my husband and I drove every mile of the way. It is needless to say that the car was not overstrained or abused, and was given every care on the trip. In each large city the Packard service station greased and oiled the car, turned down the grease-cups, examined the brakes and steering-gear, and started us off in ‘apple-pie’ order, with a feeling on our parts of security and satisfaction.

“The subject of car equipment, tires, clothes, and luggage will take a chapter by itself. But let me say that we profited in all these regards by the experience and valuable suggestions of Mrs. Post in her book.

“When we first spoke to our friends of making this trip, it created as little surprise or comment as if we had said, ‘We are going to tour the Berkshires.’ The motor mind has so grown and changed in a few years. Nearly everyone had some valuable suggestion to make, but one only which we accepted and profited by. Every last friend and relative that we had offered to go in some capacity — private secretaries, chauffeurs, valets, maids, and traveling companions. But our conscience smote us when we looked at that tonneau, the size of a small boat, empty, save for our luggage, which, let me add with infinite pride and satisfaction, was not on the running-boards, nor strapped to the back. From the exterior appearance of the car we might have been shopping on Fifth Avenue.”

* to be continued….

 

Utah’s Carl Fisher Monument

January 9, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

R1.jpg

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:

r2.jpg

“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.”

r3.jpg