What Is the Lincoln Highway?

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Close up of the lincoln highway map

If you enjoy traveling, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of Route 66. You might have even taken a journey along the Mother Road and stopped at the Blue Whale or Cadillac Ranch for a selfie.

But before Route 66 ever came into being, there was the Lincoln Highway. Looking at the Lincoln Highway map, you’ll notice it was truly a transcontinental route, whereas Route 66 only connected Chicago to Santa Monica. 

So let’s look at this lesser-known route and whether or not it’s still a journey you can take today. Let’s dive in!

About the Lincoln Highway

Carl Fisher, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway founder, Frank Seiberling of Goodyear, and Henry Joy of Packard Motor Car Company worked together to build a coast-to-coast highway in 1913. The improved road system in America was supposed to lead to more interest in automobiles and travel. 

Named in honor of President Lincoln, the Lincoln Highway became known as “The Main Street Across America” and brought great wealth to cities along the route.

View of the lincoln highway map

Route

At the northeast corner of 42nd Street and Broadway in New York City, you’ll find a metal street sign with “Lincoln Highway” printed on it. The western end of the highway has a sign near the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

The original route dipped into Colorado, but that loop was shortened when Interstate 80 crossed from Nebraska into Wyoming. Various auxiliary routes go to Washington, D.C., Detroit, and Chicago.

Cities along the route include Pittsburgh, Omaha, and Cheyenne. You can find the Lincoln Highway map and its changes throughout the years on the Lincoln Highway Association’s website.

History

When the Lincoln Highway was dedicated in 1913, it began in Times Square in New York City and extended west to Lincoln Park in San Francisco. It ran through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California.

In 1928, a realignment moved part of the road to run through the northern tip of West Virginia.

Initially, the Lincoln Highway was 3,389 miles long, but builders improved and realigned it over the years. They shortened it by 1928 to 3,142 miles. When there was the introduction of the US Numbered Highway System in 1926, they replaced parts of the Lincoln Highway.

And when the Interstate Highway System came about in the 1950s, cross-country travel along the Lincoln Highway moved to these interstates.

What Is So Special About the Lincoln Highway? 

America’s first transcontinental highway turned 100 in 2013. The Lincoln Highway helped promote travel and tourism in the early 1900s and helped deliver goods across the country.

During the manufacturing of automobiles, people were encouraged to purchase new cars because of the improved road system in the country. It was now possible to drive from one coast to another via automobile.

How Much of the Lincoln Highway Is Still Drivable? 

You can still travel most of the old Lincoln Highway today via Route 30 and Interstate 80. You can start in the east and travel from New York City to Trenton, N.J. From there, you can follow the highway through Pennsylvania along Route 1 and Route 30.

Highway 30 will pass through Ohio and Indiana and into Illinois, where a portion is a national scenic byway. 

After passing through Iowa, you can remain on the old Lincoln Highway through Nebraska to travel along the longest stretch of the original Lincoln Highway paving in the country. Route 30 then enters Wyoming, where you’ll get on Interstate 80 to go to Utah. Nevada’s “Loneliest Road in America” will take you through ghost towns and mountain passes.

Alternative Route 93 and Route 50 will get you to the California border. From here, you can follow Interstate 80 to the Pacific Coast Highway, where you’ll eventually end at the west terminus marker at the Legion of Honor Plaza.

View of the lincoln highway map

Are the Lincoln Highway and Route 66 the Same Road? 

The Lincoln Highway and Route 66 don’t follow the same path on the Lincoln Highway map. The Lincoln Highway predates Route 66 and extends from coast to coast.

Route 66 only runs from Chicago to Santa Monica, so it’s about 1,000 miles shorter. The city of Joliet, Ill., boasts the intersection of these two highways as they cross the country.

What Are Some of the Best Stops on The Lincoln Highway? 

The Lincoln Highway Association headquarters is in Franklin Grove, Ill. Outside, visitors can view a huge sign that gives mileage to various cities: 999 miles to New York City, 93 miles to Chicago, 2,390 to Frisco, and 53 to Clinton. 

Along the route are numerous roadside attractions and cities with plenty of activities. But here are four of the best stops for the entire family.

The Haines Shoe House in Pennsylvania

Located in Hellam Township, Pa., the Haines Shoe House was built in 1948 by Mahlon Haines.

He owned a shoe business and wanted to use the shoe house as a form of advertising. The five stories include a living room in the toe, a kitchen in the heel, two bedrooms in the ankle, and a rec room in the instep. 

Initially, Haines offered the house to newlyweds, but currently, it’s an Airbnb rental.

Keep in Mind: While you’re in PA, make sure you add these Top 10 things to see in Pennsylvania to your itinerary!

The Haines Shoe House in Pennsylvania along the lincoln highway map

Scout’s Rest Ranch in Nebraska

Scout’s Rest was the home of “Buffalo Bill,” one of the most famous Wild West showmen.

Located in North Platte, Nebraska, the ranch used to be 4,000 acres. Today visitors can still see the 1886 French Second Empire house, the late 1880s barn, and several other structures. 

Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park and State Recreation Area are home to 250 acres of the ranch.

Virginian Hotel in Wyoming

The Virginian Hotel has been a place of hospitality since 1911. Registered as a national historic landmark, the hotel is in Medicine Bow, Wyo. It once was the largest hotel between Denver and Salt Lake City.

Although guests can still stay in the old hotel, new additions include Scotts’ Cedar Street with four rooms and the Virginian Motel with 20 rooms.

Donner Summit in California

About 20 minutes from Lake Tahoe, Donner Summit has all kinds of recreational opportunities and guest services.

Visitors will find general stores, knick-knack shops, motels, restaurants, hiking and biking trails, fishing guides, sandy beaches, and plenty of ski slopes. Donner Memorial State Park, King Vale Resort, and Cold Stream Adventures are other local attractions.

Keep in Mind: Have You Driven the Most Dangerous Highway in the US? Click the link to find out!

View of the donner summit bridge in california along the lincoln highway map

Drive the Lincoln Highway on Your Next Road Trip

If you look at the Lincoln Highway map, you’ll see that it’s a great route for a cross-country road trip. Route 66 is full of history, nostalgia, and quirky roadside attractions, but the Lincoln Highway was the first transcontinental highway. 

Imagine the pioneers and early travelers venturing along the route from New York City to San Francisco. You’ll join historical figures and Wild West cowboys that once traveled the same road. What a memorable experience!

Have you ever taken the cross-country journey on the Lincoln Highway?

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  1. While never having driven the Lincoln Highway from end-to-end, we have driven parts of the roadway, a small section every time we go shopping at our local Town Center. Born and raised in the Richmond District of San Francisco, I am very much aware of the portion of the highway at Lincoln Park and the Palace of Legion of Honor – decent golf course nearby with great views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Someday hope to pack the travel trailer and complete the journey.

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