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.
The 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]