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Massillon History: The Lincoln Highway

America's "Main Street:" The Lincoln Highway

written by archives intern Kelly Eggleston

 

Inspired by his newly built Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1911, Carl Fisher imagined a paved, trans-continental road. By 1913, with help from automotive industry leaders and cement contractors, Fisher’s thoughts crystallized in the form of route plans for the “Lincoln Highway”

Until this point, there was no single route spanning the length of the United States; the best option to travel from coast to coast was the “Transcontinental Road” which merely consisted of a series of trails that could be hooked together between the coasts. This treacherous route was not paved, and motorists would often find themselves stuck in mud holes and sand pits. Not only would The Lincoln Highway provide a convenient route for motorists, but would also serve as the greatest monument possible to President Abraham Lincoln. From auto industry executives to farmers, the highway became a labor of patriotism for all who helped to build it—a perpetual memorial to the late president.

Fisher declared, “The Lincoln Highway is to be something more than a road. It will be a road with personality, a distinctive work of which the Americans of future generations can point with pride—an economic, but also artistic triumph.”

On its three-thousand mile route from Times Square in New York City to San Francisco, this nation-spanning route would cross through Stark County on the Old State Road through downtown Massillon. Because of the Lincoln Highway’s profound impact on the local economy, Massillonians discussed renaming Main Street “Lincoln Way” in 1915, but the name change did not occur until 1927 during the city’s street renaming project.

The highway sparked economic growth in Massillon; increased tourism through the city inspired a series of new businesses: Lincoln Theater, Lincoln Pharmacy, Lincoln Inn, Lincoln Hotel, Lincoln Way Motors, and The Weslin Theater.

In 1928, when the Federal Government abandoned street names for route numbers, the Lincoln Highway through Massillon became U.S. Route 30. The highway’s historical significance fell further into obscurity when it became overshadowed by Route 66, though it pre-dated it by a decade. The importance of the Lincoln Highway street name was not fully recognized again until 1992 when the Lincoln Highway Association was reactivated for the purpose of historic preservation. The association reintroduced the important role that the Lincoln Highway played in local heritage and tourism.

For more history, driving highlights, and more, visit the Lincoln Highway Association's website.

For more information contact Archivist Mandy Pond over the phone: 330-833-4061, or via email.

 

 
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