Lincoln Highway

Audio: “Lincoln Highway” featuring Tom Castaldi. Courtesy of WBNI-Fort Wayne.

Native American trails were the first roads in northeastern Indiana. Many trails crossed northern Indiana before the land was surveyed and sold to settlers in the first half of the 19th century. The Fort Wayne to Goshen Road was one of the first roads in northeast Indiana, which became the Lincoln Highway in 1913 and then US 33 in 1926. The original Lincoln Highway route through eastern Indiana passed through the small communities of Zulu, Townely, Besancon (the 19th century French settlement), the canal town of New Haven, and Fort Wayne. The route then headed northwest to the city of Churubusco. Lincolndale Café was located on the western edge of Fort Wayne along Goshen Road. From this point the original route of the highway continued on north to Churubusco. The 1926 route turned west on Washington Center Road. The Lincoldale area was completely altered when Interstate 69 was built. Road construction has caused sections of the original Lincoln Highway route to become dead ends. Fort Wayne celebrated the Lincoln Highway with bonfires, long parades, arches built to welcome travelers, and the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) erected a flagpole at the city limits to show their patriotic efforts.  Lincoln Highway Association’s promotional efforts included the building of concrete bridges. The Lincoln Highway Bridges in Fort Wayne opened in April 1916 over the St. Mary’s River at a cost of $200,000 as a part of Harrison Sreet. The granite plaques show that it is 742 miles to New York and 2,660 miles to San Francisco. Today the bridge is part of a greenway pedestrian and bike system.

During the days of the Lincoln Highway, the Anthony Hotel served as the control station. The hotel was located on the northeast corner of Berry and Harrison Streets. In 1927, the Fort Wayne City Directory listed the following Lincoln Highway route: Maumee Ave. (from eastern city limits) to Harman, Harman to Washington Blvd., west on Washington Blvd. to Harrison, north on Harrison to Putnam, west on Putnam to Wells, north on Wells to State Blvd., west on State Blvd. to Goshen Rd. (portions of Maumee and Washington are now one-way streets, with a non-Lincoln Highway section of Washington and Jefferson Blvd. as parallel alternates). In 1928, the route from the east was moved to New Haven Ave. This route change brought travelers into Fort Wayne along the city’s new Industrial Park. The International Harvester Tower and Art Deco buildings built for several magnet wire companies can be found on this route. The 1928 route travels west on New Haven Ave. to its terminus at Wayne Trace to Fletcher, and Fletcher to Maumee, where it meets the original route and continues into Fort Wayne.

Carl Fisher was born in Greensburg in 1874 and is now considered the “Father of the Lincoln Highway.” Fisher was the founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and was behind both the Lincoln and Dixie Highways that ran from New York to San Francisco and from north to south via Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Chicago on the Dixie Highway to Miami Beach. Fisher was the one who had the vision to create the nation’s first transcontinental automobile road. Fisher and his friend and business associate James Allison invited automobile leaders to a dinner at the Antheneaum or German House in Indianapolis in 1912. It was at this dinner that Fisher announced the idea for a coast-to-coast highway stretching from New York to San Francisco and had planned to fund the highway through private donations. The road officially became known as the Lincoln Highway in 1913 after Henry Joy, president of the Packard Motor Car Company, suggested to Fisher that the first transcontinental highway would make a fitting and appealing living memorial to Abraham Lincoln.

James Allison was born in Marcellus, Michigan in August, 1872 and died in 1928. He invented the Allison Perfection Fountain Pen and along with Carl Fisher was founder of Prest-O-Lite, an automobile headlight manufacturer.  Allison also co-founded the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500 mile race, with Carl Fisher, Frank H. Wheeler, and Arthur C. Newby. He also formed the Indy Speedway Team Company which later became the Allison Engineering Company that was eventually purchased by General Motors, becoming the Allison Division of General Motors.

The first gasoline pump was invented and sold in Fort Wayne by Sylvanus F. Bowser on Sept. 5, 1885.  The Bowser Company produced gas pumps for filling stations along the Lincoln Highway and the Dixie Highway. They had an agreement with the Lincoln Highway Association that gas pumps along the Lincoln Highway would only be available to businesses on the official Lincoln Highway route. The six story Bowser Pump Company Administration Building was built in 1917 at 1302 E. Creigton Ave. and displays the pre-WWI wealth of the company. In 1960, Bowser closed its Fort Wayne factory and Bowser pumps were then made and sold by the Keene Pump Company of Greeneville, Tennessee. Fort Wayne’s Police Department was located in the Bowser Pump Company Administration Building until the Department’s move to the City County Building on Main St. in 2012.

The Tokheim Corp. was located on Wabash Ave. at Wayne Trace/ New Haven Ave. and is located along the 1928 route. The highway route, now US 30, changed again in 1946 when a “Distribution Highway” was created to move traffic from Maumee and Washington into a merged four-lane highway that continued east to the “Cloverleaf”. Completed in 1950, Fort Wayne acclaimed one of the Midwest’s early interchanges where US 30 (Lincoln Highway) met the “Circumurban”, Fort Wayne’s first suburban by-pass.

The beginnings of the Lincoln Highway

The beginnings of the Lincoln Highway

Carl Fisher

Carl Fisher

Carl Fisher at Indy in 1911

Carl Fisher at Indy in 1911

Premier racer designed by Carl Fisher, 1904

Premier racer designed by Carl Fisher, 1904

S.F. Bowser and Co. (Former Fort Wayne Police Department)

S.F. Bowser and Co. (Former Fort Wayne Police Department)

Photos courtesy of Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society, The IMS Hall of Fame Museum, and Google.com

Resources:

  • Jan Shupert-Arick, for the Indiana Lincoln Highway Association, Images of America, The Lincoln Highway across Indiana (2009).

  • Other resources from the files of ARCH,Inc.