CANTON, Ohio - As Gary Anderson fried a couple of eggs and laid two pieces of whole wheat toast with them for a customer in his roadside diner, cars and trucks whizzed by outside on a piece of one of the most historic roads in the United States.
The LA City Diner in Canton is on US 30, which is the Lincoln Highway.
"Last week, I had a lot of people come in and mention the Lincoln Highway," said Stacy Vance, a server at the diner. As she placed the eggs and toast on the counter, over the customer's shoulder was a stretch of the road.
In Canton and throughout most of its more than 3,000 miles, the Lincoln Highway resembles most other highways in the nation. However, there are stretches of it that are much as they were in the early-20th century when it was built. Outside of Canton, there is an 8-mile stretch that’s paved of brick and is only 16 feet wide.
In parts of Ohio, a brick-manufacturing state, brickmakers helped build the road. They and other big industrialists actually paid for the nation's first transcontinental road.
"The government didn't believe it was their duty to pay for paved roads across the country," said Bob Lichty, former president of the Lincoln Highway Association. "Governments only paid for roads in cities.”
The wealthy men who built the Lincoln Highway were all in the automobile business. They figured if there were roads that could be traveled, then people would buy cars. The plan worked. Even the cement people got into the act.
The historic highway covers 241 miles of Ohio countryside. Its eastern edge is the Pennsylvania-Ohio border. The Lincoln Highway, named for President Abraham Lincoln, passes through East Liverpool. It runs through Canton, East Canton, Robertsville and Massillon as it slices to the west. In the western part of the state, the highway passes through Delphos and Van Wert before it reaches the Indiana line. In all, the highway passes through 14 states.
It did not pick up the name U.S. 30 until 1938 when the government decided that roads needed more than names; roads also needed numbers because there was such confusion for drivers traveling the country. Drivers drove the Dixie Highway or the Jefferson Road or the Lincoln Highway. When the government got involved, it assigned numbers to all the highways.
Through part of Ohio, tens of thousands of drivers a day travel on U.S. 30, perhaps unaware it is also the historic route of the Lincoln Highway. Every few miles or so, there are markers noting the name Lincoln. However, at 60 miles an hour, some drivers miss the signs. It is where the old road slows to 35 miles an hour or less that the signs stand out.
The Lincoln Highway is 100 years old this year. And still going. New York to San Francisco on the same road that passes through Ohio.
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