The 1913 Lincoln Highway began in Times Square

LincolnhighwaytimessquareIn 1913, before Times Square became the crossroads of the world, its streets were known for another milestone: the starting point for the nation’s first coast-to-coast highway.

Called the Lincoln Highway, this 3,389-mile interstate linking New York and San Francisco has been mostly forgotten.

But its eastern terminus was Broadway and 42nd Street (below, in a 1914 postcard). “The route proceeded west for one mile along 42nd Street to a ferry that took travelers across the Hudson River to New Jersey,” states the website of the Lincoln Highway Association.


From there, the highway went through New Jersey, crossed the Delaware into Pennsylvania, and wound its way through nine more states before reaching California.

This was a pretty big deal at the dawn of the automobile age, when most roads were unlikely to be paved.


Traveling by train was the only way to get from one city to another, until Carl Fisher (below), an Indianapolis businessman who made a fortune producing carbide-gas headlights, had an idea.

He convinced the heads of car companies to donate money to build a transcontinental road crossing the United States, deciding on the Lincoln moniker to give it a patriotic flair.

CarlfisherlincolnhighwayThe Lincoln highway was dedicated on October 31, 1913. At the time, highway officials figured that a trip from New York to California would take 20 to 30 days . . . at 18 miles per hour!

The highway’s glory days were over after World War II, with parts of it absorbed into other interstates.

But in 2009, amid a wave of Lincoln Highway nostalgia, a contemporary street sign marking the highway’s New York beginning went up at Broadway and 42nd Street.

[Images: Wikipedia; Times Square postcard stamped 1914, from the NYPL Digital Gallery; New York Times headline, 1913; Carl Fisher]

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2 Responses to “The 1913 Lincoln Highway began in Times Square”

  1. Claire Says:

    I am from Indianapolis and live in Speedway. Carl Fisher was one of the 4 founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for which the town was named. I went to Carl G. Fisher Elementary for kindergarten. There are 3 more elementary schools in town named for the other men – Newby, Allison and Wheeler.

  2. Untapped Staff Picks: 18 Things You Didn’t Know About the Rockefeller Christmas Tree | Untapped Cities Says:

    […] The 1913 Lincoln Highway began in Times Square [Ephemeral NY] […]

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