Two roads that helped build America
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Raritan Ave. also had one other name, and this is important: It was/is part of the famous Lincoln Highway.
The Lincoln Highway was America's first transcontinental, coast-to-coast highway. Construction began in 1912 and it ran from Times Square in Manhattan all the way to Lincoln Park in San Francisco. And yes, it ran right through the heart of my small hometown, through New Brunswick, down towards Princeton, eventually making its way to Pennsylvania, and finally westward to the Pacific coast. As a kid I remember seeing the Lincoln Highway sign buried among all the other street signage on Raritan Ave., but had no idea what it meant. I'm sure that can be said of most of most Highland Park residents. They haven't a clue as to how important a role the Lincoln Highway/Raritan Ave. played in the development of our country.
Is it a fun road to drive? Not really; at least not the section I'm familiar with. Is any road in the traffic-clogged central Jersey corridor fun to drive? Maybe back in the day, before it was paved, before it became so congested, it might have been fun. Certainly it was interesting if not challenging. But is it historically significant? Absolutely!
Fast-forward to my post-college days living in rural Howard County, Maryland. There, 7/10 of a mile from my home, was another road of huge historical merit: MD 144, aka the National Road. Constructed in the early 1800s, it was the first major highway funded by the federal government. It was the road west from Baltimore. If you were headed to Kentucky and beyond, that was the road you took. Even today, if you look carefully, you will see along the edge of the road many tombstone-like mile markers.
I love these old roads, so many years and so much history. Unfortunately time has not been kind to many of them. Significant sections have disappeared, giving way to progress, or are just in really terrible shape. Still, they are fun to check out. Maybe there's one near you. Maybe it's even fun to drive. Check it out.
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