News Snippets of the Lincoln Highway in Indiana

When Carl Fisher started work on the first transcontinental highway, the Lincoln Highway, the only that that was decided was that it would connect the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. Some Indiana cities, especially Indianapolis, realized very early on that the “straightest and shortest course” of the highway would come nowhere them. Others, like Fort Wayne, held out hope that the road would connect them to the rest of the country. And it would.

The route was being laid out in 1913. When the decisions were made, the entire route would be 2,945 miles in length. This made the Lincoln Highway just 200 miles shorter than the most direct railroad route across the country. Mr. Fisher would appear in Fort Wayne on 10 October 1913 to let people of the area know that the highway would, in fact, traverse through the town. While making this announcement, Fisher also added that the 15 foot wide, nine inch deep, road would cost, on average $12, 000 a mile. In Indiana, due to cost of materials, the cost would be less. (Source: Fort Wayne Daily News, 11 October 1913)

Plans had already been put in place when it came to marking the “new” road. It is important to keep in mind that very little of the route was “new road.” And in Indiana, none of it was. It had been arranged that Indiana Paint & Varnish Company start marking the highway with “a bar of red three inches wide, a bar of white fifteen inches in width, and a bar of blue three inches in width. On the bar of white will be painted a large black ‘L’.” The local crews, from Fort Wayne, would cover the area from the Indiana-Ohio State Line to a point two miles north of Fort Wayne. There the “Churubusco delegation” would continue along the Goshen Road to Ligonier.

The routing of the Lincoln Highway east from South Bend was brought into question in January 1914. (Source: South Bend Tribune, 20 January 1914) Officials were thinking about moving the Lincoln Highway from Vistula Avenue through Mishawaka and Osceola to Jefferson Boulevard to the Elkhart County Line. This would have the result of removing the highway from Osceola. Reasoning for this was the dangerous railroad crossings that will be described in next. It should be noted here that the officials at Osceola were not having any of this talk, and refused to help in financing, in any way, the removal of the Lincoln Highway from their town.

Shortly after the highway was completed, Elkhart County officials had already decided on a plan to move the already marked highway. It was reported in the South Bend Tribune of 20 May 1916 that a new highway would be constructed eliminating all at grade railroad crossings between Elkhart and Osceola. The New York Central Railroad was donating land for the move, and the Northern Indiana Railway was moving its tracks to the south of the then current road at Osceola. This moving of the road would benefit travelers between South Bend and Elkhart, as the traffic on the NYC lines through the area had increased quite a bit.

In August 1915, there was talk about abandoning a section of the Lincoln Highway. The Indiana Public Service Commission was considering abandoning 800 feet of the original route one mile east of New Carlisle. (Source: South Bend Tribune, 19 August 1915) “Possibility of a change in the road to avoid considerable expense in the construction of a subway to the three railroads crossing the highway at this point, seems more likely.” The New York Central was pushing for a less costly crossing of the tracks. “The right to change the route of the Lincoln highway, alter the contract for the work now being done, the question of drainage in the subways, and the expense involved, are being considered by the service commission.”

When the Indiana State Highway Commission was originally created in 1917, the Lincoln Highway’s route across the state became known as “Mark Market Highway #2.” But there was work afoot, again from Commissioners of Elkhart County, to move parts of MMH 2 in Benton Township from east to west along the Lincoln Highway to a more southern route. The plan was to leave the highway at Corns Corners, run 2.5 miles south, then turn due east toward Ligonier, meeting the Lincoln again at Hire’s Corners. Since Federal and State money would be (not for two years) available to pave MMH 2, having the road to Goshen being within three miles of Lake Wawasee was seen as something to petition a change in the road for.

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