Classic Roads: Pennsylvania’s Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor

Feb 28, 2017 View Comments by

Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor

The notion of building a transcontinental highway across America in 1914 was, back then, a very radical idea. Nevertheless, Carl Fisher, who built the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Henry Joy, president of Packard Motor Car Company, joined forces to do just that. It was Joy’s idea to name the Lincoln Highway after our sixteenth president, which gave it an imprimatur of patriotic appeal. The route originally stretched some 3,400 miles from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco.

By 1925, though, the burgeoning number of “named” highways, which were generally marked by painted colored bands on telephone polls, had created a confusing menagerie of roadways. To improve navigation the federal government adopted a national system of “numbered” highways, which didn’t necessarily correspond, precisely, with the routes of the former “named” highways. The Lincoln Highway was replaced by several numbered highways, including U.S. 30, parts of which constitute about two-thirds of the Lincoln’s original route.

Like Route 66 and some other classic roads, the Lincoln Highway may be gone officially, but it’s definitely not forgotten. Nostalgic road warriors still want to step back in time by traveling historic roads. One of the most notable Lincoln Highway commemorative associations dubbed a 200-mile stretch of U.S. 30 in Pennsylvania as the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor (LHHC).

Original Lincoln Highway alignments of the LHHC transport riders through charming small villages and to historic locations, which tell a compelling story of America and its people. Beautifully painted murals adorn the sides of buildings and barns. They frequently depict the vehicles and the experiences of those early Lincoln Highway travelers. While most stretches of the LHHC have scenic vistas and interesting ribbons of asphalt, a few other sections travel through a grittier Old America, largely victims of the modern interstates.

The Lincoln was America’s original symbol of road culture and its citizens’ restless spirit, who were forever curious about what lay over the next hill and around the next bend in the road. For us classic road warriors, this 200-mile museum of Roadside America in Pennsylvania is an experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Points of Interest:

1. Greensburg Train Station: The Pennsylvania Railroad constructed this visually striking station in 1912, and Amtrak still stops there. The station’s Supper Club restaurant offers an enticing menu of epicurean delights. www.greatamericanstations.com/Stations/GNB

2. Lincoln Highway Experience: Visitors can see an orientation film, interpretive exhibits, the history of the Lincoln Highway across America captured in black and white photos, and a preview of the roadside exhibits and quirky artifacts scattered along Pennsylvania’s LHHC. www.lhhc.org/lhexperience.asp

3. Fort Ligonier Museum: The original fort was constructed in 1758 and played an important role in the French and Indian War (also known as the Seven Years’ War). www.fortligonier.org

4. Compass Inn Museum: This authentically restored stagecoach stop has been a landmark in Laughlintown, PA, since 1799. www.compassinn.com

5. Flight 93 National Memorial: The Flight 93 crash site was a makeshift memorial for many years, but the finished National Memorial Visitor Center opened here on September 10, 2015, and is a must-see. www.nps.gov/flni/index.htm

6. Jean Bonnet Tavern: George Washington, wagonloads of westward-bound pioneers, and, later, motorists on the Lincoln Highway passed by here. And it’s still providing accommodations and sustenance to 21st century travelers. www.jeanbonnettavern.com/history

7. Giant Coffee Pot: Don’t miss the iconic 18-foot-high coffee pot-shaped building in Bedford, PA, which was restored to its full glory in 2004. www.roadsideamerica.com/story/6177

8. Dunkle’s Gulf Station: While in Bedford, fill up your tank at this Art Deco-style terra-cotta gas station that’s been serving motorists since 1933. www.roadsidewonders.net/dunklesgulf

9. Historic Round Barn & Farm Market: Stop for fresh fruit at one of only a handful of round barns that have survived into the 21st century. Last day for the season is December 4. www.roundbarn.farm

10. Gettysburg National Military Park: Visit the site of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle, which put Union forces on the path to victory. www.nps.gov/gett/index.htm

Text and Photography: James T. Parks

 

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