By Hazen Kazaks
This year marks the centennial anniversary of the Lincoln Highway, the nation’s first coast-to-coast automobile route.
To commemorate this occasion, the latest permanent Hattie Weber Museum exhibit displays maps, pictures, books, signs and license plates from states crossed by the highway. The exhibit also commemorates the 3,300 mile bicycle journey Davis resident Bill Roe took along the Lincoln Highway in 1999. Following his trip, he donated his materials, which include his book “All the way to Lincoln Way.” In it, he chronicles his experiences riding across the country. Copies of his story are available for sale with proceeds benefiting the museum.
The Lincoln Highway was the first transcontinental highway in the United States and the first national memorial to Abraham Lincoln. Notable for today, private investors funded the effort, with surveys and road improvements. The route originated in Times Square in New York City and roughly followed present-day Interstate 80 to Lincoln Park in San Francisco. The route was finished in time for the 1915 World’s Fair, which was in San Francisco that year.
While the first Lincoln Highway route went south of Sacramento, the arrival of new bridges and improved roads opened the way for adjustments, and in 1927 the Carquinez Bridge opened and Davis officially became part of the route. However, the fame would be short-lived: the Federal Highway Acts of the 1920s stipulated a system of numbered highways, retiring the Lincoln Highway and other named routes like the Jefferson Highway and Yellowstone Trail. The Lincoln Highway became U.S. Highway 40 through Davis and U.S. Route 30 through much of the rest of the country as far west as Wyoming.
Its memory remains, however. The Boy Scouts of America, in conjunction with the original Lincoln Highway Association, in what would be its final promotional activity, placed thousands of concrete markers along the Lincoln Highway route on Sept. 1, 1928. Davis has two of these markers. One stands at the corner of Russell and B streets. The other can be found along the bike path at Russell Boulevard and Arthur Street. While they have been moved from their original locations, they are the original markers from 1928. Onlookers can identify them with a blue L on a red, white and blue background above a Lincoln medallion.
Visitors also will find black walnuts along Russell Boulevard. The state of California had a practice of planting these trees along the Lincoln Highway, including the Davis alignment.
The museum, 445 C St. in Central Park, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 .m. on Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. Admission is free; donations are gratefully accepted.
— Hazen Kazaks is a Davis resident and volunteer at the Hattie Weber Museum.