The Lincoln Highway was the first road across the United States of America. Actively promoted by entrepreneur Carl G. Fisher, the Lincoln Highway spanned coast-to-coast from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco, originally through 13 states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California.
In 1915, the "Colorado Loop" was removed. In 1928, realignment relocated the Lincoln Highway from Beaver County, Pa to the northern tip of West Virginia. Thus, there are a total of 14 states, 128 counties, and over 700 cities, towns and villages through which the highway passed at some time in its history. The first officially recorded length of the entire Lincoln Highway was 3,389 miles in 1913.
Over the years, the road was improved and numerous realignments were made, and by 1924 the highway had been shortened to 3,142 miles. Counting the original route and all of the subsequent realignments, there is a grand total of 5,869 miles.
Conceived in 1912 and formally dedicated October 31, 1913, the Lincoln Highway was America's first national memorial to President Abraham Lincoln, predating the 1922 dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., by nine years. As the first automobile road across America, the Lincoln Highway brought great prosperity to the hundreds of cities, towns and villages along the way. The Lincoln Highway became affectionately known as "The Main Street Across America".
In 1995, former Governor Tom Ridge designated this region as an official heritage area, with the intent of increasing economic development through tourism. Governor Tom Ridge designated several Pennsylvania counties from just east of Pittsburgh to beyond Gettysburg as the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor (LHHC). The LHHC is one of twelve special heritage areas in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, collectively known as "Heritage PA," which are committed to improving operations, marketing, government relations and public advocacy for all of Pennsylvania's Heritage Areas. The mission of the not-for-profit LHHC is to identify, conserve, promote and interpret the cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and economic resources along the Lincoln Highway in Pennsylvania’s Westmoreland, Somerset, Bedford, Fulton, Franklin, and Adams counties. LHHC’s 200-Mile Roadside Museum makes a uniquely historical presentation of the route with funky roadside attractions. Traveling that part of the Lincoln Highway provides experiences in nostalgic Americana and confirms that getting there can be more than half the fun.
The Ohio River Trail lies along the original 1913 and 1915 alignment of the Lincoln Highway and the Ohio River Trail Council applauds the effort of Governor Tom Ridge and honors this historic route.
1913 Lincoln Highway Route
The path of the Lincoln Highway was first laid out in September 1913; it was defined to run through Canton, Ohio, Beaver Falls, Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Ligonier, Bedford, Chambersburg, Gettysburg, York, Lancaster and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Camden, New Jersey.
1915 Lincoln Highway Route
This route entered Pennsylvania along PA Route 68. After crossing Little Beaver Creek, it turned south on Main Street, passing under the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Railroad (PRR) into Glasgow. After passing through that community on Liberty Street, the highway turned north and passed under the railroad again at Smiths Ferry, merging with Smiths Ferry Road. This alignment through Glasgow carried the Lincoln Highway until ca. 1926, when the present PA 68 was built on the north side of the railroad.
The Lincoln Highway left the banks of the Ohio River on Smiths Ferry Road, which includes an old stone bridge over Upper Dry Run. It turned east on Tuscarawas Road through Ohioville, entering Beaver on Fourth Street and turning south on Buffalo Street to reach Third Street (PA Route 68). By 1929 this inland Glasgow-Beaver route was numbered PA Route 168, while the route along the river, never followed by the Lincoln Highway, was PA 68. PA 68 crosses the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad from Beaver into Bridgewater along The Lincoln Highway instead ran along Bridge Street, just to the north, and crossed the Old Rochester-Bridgewater Bridge into Rochester.
Continuing through Rochester to Pittsburgh, the Lincoln Highway left the Old Rochester-Bridgewater Bridge on Madison Street, turning onto Brighton Avenue, and then crossing the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway (PRR) on New York Avenue. After running alongside the Ohio River on Railroad Avenue, the highway crossed the railroad again in Freedom (about a block north of Third Street), running through Freedom on Third Avenue.
South of downtown Freedom, Third Avenue merges into the Ohio River Boulevard, also known as PA Route 65, which runs along the old Lincoln Highway into Conway. There the old highway went onto First Avenue and State Street, rejoining PA 65 in Baden. Further into Baden, the old highway left PA 65 again, onto State Street, becoming Duss Avenue in Harmony Township. At the Ambridge limits, this becomes PA Route 989, but the old highway turned west at 14th Street and then south on Merchant Street.
Crossing Big Sewickley Creek from Ambridge, Beaver County into Leetsdale, Allegheny County, Merchant Street becomes Beaver Street, a brick road. Beaver Road and Beaver Street continues through Edgeworth, Sewickley, and Osborne, merging back into PA 65 at the border with Haysville. Sewickley officially changed the name of its piece to Lincoln Highway by an ordinance in January 1916, and Osborne, Edgeworth and Leetsdale soon followed suit, but that name is no longer used. This section of the Lincoln Highway follows the proposed North Shore Extension.
In Glenfield, the highway crossed the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway twice, once near the present overpass and again west of Toms Run Road. The old road next to the Ohio River, Beaver Street, is still a yellow brick road but now used only by local traffic.
The old road left PA 65 again in Emsworth as Beaver Road, becoming Brighton Road in Ben Avon before re-merging with PA 65. It splits yet again, also in Ben Avon, onto Brighton Road, another yellow brick road. In Avalon it is California Avenue, and in Bellevue it is Lincoln Avenue, coincidentally named after Lincoln soon after the U.S. Civil War.
The highway crosses into Pittsburgh on a high concrete arch bridge over Jack's Run, built in 1924 to replace an earlier bridge built for a streetcar line, and returns to the California Avenue name. It crosses Woods Run on a similar 1928 bridge next to a newer bridge built for the Ohio River Boulevard (PA Route 65). Where California Avenue curves away from PA 65, the Lincoln Highway continued next to it on Chateau Street, turning east on Western Avenue and then south on Galveston Avenue onto the 1915 Manchester Bridge to the Point.
During the time that the Lincoln Highway ran through Rochester, the Rochester-Pittsburgh segment was locally maintained. It was often foggy, and a July 1926 Lincoln Highway Association road report states that it was "paved city streets, mostly poor", in stark contrast to the good paving east of Pittsburgh. By 1924, reports recommended following an alternate on the other side of the river between Rochester and Pittsburgh. The route west of Rochester had similar problems; it was a dirt road, despite being a state highway. By 1922 an official detour was recommended via East Palestine, Ohio and Beaver Falls, largely identical to the initial 1913 plan. Work began in the mid-1920s on a new route to the south of the existing route, passing through West Virginia and bypassing the problematic sections on both sides of Rochester; the Lincoln Highway was moved to it December 2, 1927. This new route had already been numbered U.S. 30 in late 1926.