The Grand-daddy of all Auto Routes: The Lincoln Highway In Indiana

This post appeared originally on the ITH Facebook group on 19 June 2014.

Among those roads displaced by the creation of the US Highway system was the Grand-daddy of the Auto Trails – The Lincoln Highway.

Believe it or not, the idea of the Lincoln Highway, an auto-trail that ran from San Francisco to New York, started right here in Indianapolis. Businessman Carl Fisher had a brain storm one day, and thought it would be a good idea to create a coast-to-coast all weather road.

In Indiana, it ran nothing close to resembling in a straight line…unless you consider Fort Wayne, Elkhart, South Bend, La Porte, Valparaiso, and Dyer in a straight line.

I mention Dyer because it was there that “the ideal section” was created – the perfect section of roadway, showing how the Lincoln should be built from coast to coast.

In 1919, the state of Indiana created the State Highway Commission, and gave the Lincoln Highway the same number from border to border: SR 2. (In my research, this is the only SR I have found that, in sections, had kept its originally assigned number – although it had to be changed back to that number.)

In 1924, SR 2 was rerouted – along a straighter alignment that would become another version of the Lincoln Highway. The original Lincoln Highway was broken into sections with different state road numbers: 42 (Valparaiso to New Carlisle), 25 (New Carlisle to Elkhart), and 46 (Elkhart to Fort Wayne). The new route connected Valpo to Fort Wayne through Plymouth, Warsaw & Columbia City.

With the coming of the US Highways, the new original SR 2 became US 30. The original route was not assigned as a state road between New Carlisle to South Bend when the numbers all changed in 1926. However, the rest of the route from Valpo to Rolling Prairie, and Elkhart to Fort Wayne became SR 2 again.

The section from New Carlisle to South Bend would eventually be added to the State Road system – as a replacement for the originally assigned US 20, which was renumbered as SR 2.

The section from Elkhart (I guess technically from South Bend…but I digress) to Fort Wayne would be changed to US 33 when it was assigned in Indiana.

Now in 2014, most of the original Lincoln Highway route, and the secondary route that became US 30, can be followed, although not easily. Most of both routes have been passed back to the counties as INDOT removed them from the state road system by rerouting or decommissioning. I have made most of this trip. It is one that I would STRONGLY recommend.

5 thoughts on “The Grand-daddy of all Auto Routes: The Lincoln Highway In Indiana

  1. I’ve never understood why INDOT still routes 20 over the LH between SB and about Rolling Prairie. It sure seems like the four-lane, divided SR 2 would make a better choice for that more major route. I know the state maintains both roads so in a way it’s academid.

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