Lincoln Highway: The Nation's First Coast to Coast Highway Turns 100

Dec 18, 2013

One of the original concrete bridges on the "Lincoln Highway" in Tama, IA
Credit Carl Wycoff / Flickr

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States is recognized in currency with statues, a monument in DC and many other areas along the way.

One commemoration includes the Lincoln Highway. Brian Butko is director of publications for the Heinz History Center and an expert on the highway's history, which celebrates its centennial this year.

Butko's knowledge of the Lincoln Highway begins even before the highway was started.

“By the turn of the century, 1900, lots of people were starting to think beyond just their city. They wanted to take their car or more often their bicycle beyond just the city streets. and there were various ideas, But it was hard to get that idea organized. Because the government, believe it or not, was not yet involved in road building. But it took a man of vision, named Carl Fisher, who is perhaps best known for starting the Indianapolis Speedway and paving it in brick and later turning some swampland in Florida down at the southern tip into Miami beach. Carl Fisher came up with the idea for what he called ‘a coast to coast rock highway.’ So he got all the movers and shakers in the automobile industry in 1912 together and invited them to a dinner. Proposed this idea and said, ‘Let’s build it before we are too old to enjoy it.’”