Touring Indiana’s historic two-lane highways

My thoughts are turning to touring some two-lane highways. I’d like to share some of our past tours for your consideration. Indiana is fortunate to be the crossroads of many of the country’s early federal highways that are a relaxing way to get away from the hassle of interstate driving.

Lincoln Highway
Lincoln Highway original section near Ligonier

The National Road is the first highway built with federal funds and the most important route linking the Midwest with the Atlantic seaboard in the early nineteenth century. In 1811, workers commissioned by the federal government began building this ambitious project. It was the road that led wagons and coaches westward.

The National Old Trails Association was formed in 1912 to mark the auto route and convince local and state officials to improve it. In 1926, the Old National Route became the new U.S. 40. Completion of Interstate 70 in the 1960s changed the importance of U.S. 40. Today the National Road is a byway in the country’s transportation history. You can check out my National-Road-Indiana-Style notes if you are interested in following the Indiana section.

Another historical significant route is the Lincoln Highway. In late 1912, Indianapolis industrialist Carl G. Fisher proposed a plan to finance America’s first transcontinental highway from New York to San Francisco. Fisher received a letter from Henry B. Joy, Packard Motor Company president, suggesting that the road be named for Abraham Lincoln. Contributors were motivated by the idea that if decent roads were available, people would travel more and product demand would increase. Within 30 days, he had $1 million in pledges and publicity nationwide.

On July 1, 1913, the Lincoln Highway Association was created with the route running through or touching 12 states. The federal highway numbering system was enacted in 1925. In Indiana, the highway was replaced with highways U.S. 30, U.S. 33, U.S. 20 and S.R. 2 as it meanders through the state from Fort Wayne to Dyer. Historical markers for the Lincoln Highway and “Ideal Section” are found today along U.S. 30 near Dyer. Remnants of the original highway can be found in eastern Allen County. Check out my Rediscovering-the-Lincoln-Highway description of the Lincoln’s Indiana route.

Fisher was involved in another trailblazing project. His conception of the north-south Dixie Highway from Chicago to Miami was shared with Indiana Governor Samuel Ralston in December 1914. In April 1915, The Dixie Highway Association was formed. The Dixie Highway followed a route through South Bend, Indianapolis, Paoli and then to New Albany. In September 1916, Fisher and Ralston attended a celebration in Martinsville opening the Indiana section of the roadway. Sometime after 1925, the southern route was straightened out from Indianapolis to Jeffersonville and marked U.S. 31. See my Dixie-Highway-Indiana route notes as referenced in a 1916 tour book.

I invite you to peruse these highways or others in your area to experience travel from another era. It is a great way to get away from the hassle.

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