It may be debatable which state can rightly claim the moniker “Land of Lincoln,” but his influence on Middle America is clear, as evidenced by the creation of the Lincoln Highway.
On July 20, people from around the nation will descend on this route to recognize its historical significance as part of the 2013 Lincoln Highway Adventure.
In Indiana, residents and visitors can use their own vehicles to journey along the 1928 route of the Lincoln Highway, from the Ohio state line west, starting with light breakfast in Besancon southeast of New Haven, lunch in Fort Wayne, dinner in Winona Lake near Warsaw, and dessert in Plymouth.
The nonprofit Indiana Landmarks organization is coordinating the event and Traveling Feast, in collaboration with the Indiana Lincoln Highway Association.
Other activities include a scavenger hunt, shopping and meeting fellow visitors. The fun runs from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Cost is $15 per carload for members of Indiana Landmarks, Indiana Lincoln Highway Association and local historic preservation group ARCH; and $25 for nonmembers, with breakfast and dessert included. The entire adventure, including all meals, is $35 per person for members of Indiana Landmarks, Indiana Lincoln Highway Association and ARCH; and $45 per person for nonmembers.
Indiana Landmarks, which works to preserve historic properties statewide, and the Indiana Lincoln Highway Association, which seeks to preserve, mark and educate people about the Lincoln Highway routes in Indiana, invite the public to experience the highway's splendor firsthand.
“It's a fun opportunity to explore in your backyard, in some respects, and discover areas you didn't know existed,” said Todd Zeiger, director of Indiana Landmarks' northern regional office in South Bend.
It's a great way to get people to slow down and notice places they might have missed, he added.
Jeff Blair, president of the Indiana chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association, explained how this volunteer group works to bring awareness to this national treasure.
“Our mission is to do exactly that … promote the historical significance of the Lincoln Highway, honor Lincoln and (Carl) Fisher and the other forward thinkers who developed it, and work with cities and towns along the routes to preserve the heritage, buildings and other structures of the Indiana Lincoln,” he said.
As a member of an organization dedicated to preserving history, Blair is quick to point out the highway's origins. The Lincoln Highway was the brainchild of Hoosier Carl Fisher, founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a Miami Beach developer and owner of Prestolite Corp.
Fisher pulled several other automotive leaders together for dinner in Indianapolis in the fall of 1912, and together they organized the Lincoln Highway Association. According to Blair, the purpose was two-fold: to honor Abraham Lincoln and to create coast-to-coast tourism, which might result in the sale of more cars.
“Fisher was a marketing genius and a real driver in all this “ Blair noted. “Everyone on the potential route wanted to be on it, and, by mid-1913, they named the route, and began working with states and towns to figure out how to pave the route. It remains one of the first memorials for Lincoln and certainly the longest memorial to a U.S. president.”
But there is more to the story than the highway's distinction as a memorial, Blair contends.
First, this is the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway becoming the first transcontinental road across the country, he said. It predated the numbering system, Route 66 and all others. It runs from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco, totaling more than 3,300 miles.
Northeast Indiana residents likely know the highway as “Route 30,” which runs parallel to U.S. 30 for several miles through Indiana towns like Townley, Zulu, Besancon, then rejoins U.S. 30 into New Haven.
Although the road is far-reaching, awareness about its historical significance could be greater. That's why “we promote the road at every opportunity, meet as a group four times a year, and decide our next projects, and seek and obtain grants for things like signage or community kiosks telling the Lincoln Highway story,” Blair said.