Classic Roads: Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor

Classic Roads: Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor

America’s obsession with motoring to distant destinations was just beginning to take root in the early 1900s. But, in those days, roads were mostly two ruts in the dirt or—when it rained—two deep ruts in the mud that often only stretched a few miles outside of towns.

It was the radical idea of Carl Fisher, who built the Indianapolis Speedway, to create America’s first transcontinental highway. The Lincoln Highway was initially a disjointed collection of gravel roads when it opened on July 1, 1913. It began on Times Square in New York City and terminated at Lincoln Park in San Francisco, CA. The route was marked by colored bands attached to telephone poles.

By 1925, the burgeoning number of named highways became a confusing assemblage of routes for motorists to navigate. The federal government stepped in and replaced official highway names with designated numbered roads. After that numerical reconfiguration, US 30 approximated about two-thirds of the former Lincoln Highway. Historical road enthusiasts, however, gave the route a new lease on life by founding the Lincoln Highway Association in 1992. State Lincoln Highway chapters followed with their preservation efforts.

On Pennsylvania’s Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, you will find museums, murals depicting travelers in the 1920s and ‘30s, Lincoln Highway signage, historic points of interest, and more. The route recommended here begins at the Lincoln Highway Experience Museum in Latrobe and follows US 30 to historic Lancaster. These four points of interest are only a sampling of what lies along the approximately 200-mile route.

Modern highway engineering has turned US 30 into a four-lane road. To get the full nostalgic effect of this riding experience, follow Lincoln Highway signage, which directs travelers to exit US 30 to the historic towns’ main streets that the road otherwise circumvents. Here, you will often find murals that depict period scenes from the Lincoln Highway’s halcyon day. These quaint villages are a visual step back in time and a refreshing change for 21st-century eyes.

Between Breezewood and Chambersburg, US 30 travels a more rural, less trafficked course. Narrow valleys contain a patchwork quilt of farms and small villages squeezed between heavily forested mountain ridges. This section is particularly pleasurable for riders who enjoy negotiating steep elevation changes and curvy two-lane tarmac. Riders should expect two days of travel time if they plan on stopping at many of the fascinating locations. RR

Points of Interest

Lincoln Highway Experience

The Lincoln Highway Experience is the ideal location for starting your journey along the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor in Pennsylvania. The large facility has numerous exhibits, including a restored 1938 diner, a postcard station, a restored tourist cabin, neon signs, a 1937 Packard car, a 1930s gas station façade with vintage pumps, and a museum shop. Find it at 3435 Rt 30 E, Latrobe, PA, (724) 879-4241.

Flight 93 National Memorial

Back in the Lincoln Highway’s heyday, no one could have imagined the tragedy that would occur near the route decades later. On 9/11,  United Airlines Flight 93, the last of the four passenger planes hijacked by terrorists that morning, would crash nearby. A planned attack on the Capitol Building was thwarted by brave passengers who sacrificed their lives to end the threat. The Flight 93 National Memorial, just off US 30, tells their story. Find it at 6424 Lincoln Hwy, Stoystown, PA.

Dunkle's Gulf Service Station

If there is at least one other thing that historical highway buffs enjoy seeing, it’s vintage gas stations. But Dunkle’s Art Deco-style Gulf Service Station isn’t a restored artifact. This gem of roadside Americana has been in continuous operation by the Dunkle family since 1933. Find it at 300 W Pitt St, Bedford, PA, (814) 623-1259.

Gettysburg National Military Park

Motoring farther east on US 30, you will approach Gettysburg along the same general route that was followed by General Lee’s invading Confederate Army on July 1, 1863. What followed was the largest and bloodiest battle of the Civil War. The two-hour guided bus tour, leaving from the visitor center, helps you understand the ebb and flow of the conflict’s three days of fighting. The historic town of Gettysburg is also worth exploring.