Early transcontinental highway drives through Ames

Katie Titus

Editor’s note: In celebration of the 150th anniversary of our city, the Daily will highlight prominent figures, places and events in Ames’ history each week.

Lincoln Way, nationally known as Lincoln Highway, branches out much farther than Ames, Iowa. Lincoln Highway was started in 1912 by Carl G. Fisher of Indiana. The highway ran from coast to coast, beginning in Times Square in New York City and ending in Lincoln Park, San Francisco.

Lincoln Way became one of the first transcontinental roads. It runs all the way across Iowa, beginning in Clinton and ending in Council Bluffs, before entering Nebraska. The Lincoln Highway Association began in 1913, and soon after the highway began to transform.

The U.S. Army Transcontinental Motor Convoy used the highway to move across the country in 1919. According to the Ames Historical Society, this suggested that the route of the roadway was changed in the Ames area so that travel would be more efficient.

By the year 1920, there were nearly 250 national auto highways. In 1925, because of the United States’ decision to use a numbering system for all U.S. highways, Lincoln Highway was named U.S. Route 30. Lincoln Highway was not yet up to the standard of what the Lincoln Highway Association wanted it to be, and the association came to an end in 1928. The last 42 miles of Lincoln Highway were paved in 1930, just in time for the 25th anniversary of the highway in 1938.

Between 1913 and 1938, the Lincoln Highway became the most well-known cross-country roadway in the United States and helped begin the rise of automobile culture for Americans. In 1928, the Boy Scouts of America placed nearly 2,400 concrete markers along the highway in order to dedicate the roadway to President Abraham Lincoln.

In the ’60s, Lincoln Way in Ames went from being a residential neighborhood to having many of the houses torn down, burned down or relocated in order for the street to allow more businesses to move into the area. The booming businesses in Ames helped to boost the local economy and offer more attractions to the townspeople.

Iowans value Lincoln Highway. After the collapse of the Lincoln Highway Association, a meeting took place in Ogden, Iowa, to reform the association in 1992. Iowa still has the most members in the Lincoln Highway Association. The entire length of Iowa’s Lincoln Highway was designated the first Iowa Heritage Byway under Iowa’s Scenic and Heritage Byways program, according to the Ames Department of Transportation.

Today, Lincoln Way is a staple in the Ames community, having many businesses and residential areas. The highway is still a marker in the United States as one of the first roadways to stretch across the country, and it is right in the heart of Ames.