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Lincoln Highway: New Jersey November 9, 2011

Posted by Jenny in history, travel.
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The "Trenton Makes" bridge conveys the Lincoln Highway out of NJ, into PA

In this series of posts, we journey on the Lincoln Highway from New York City to San Francisco, taking it state by state. Go here for an introduction.

As described in the last post, when the Lincoln Highway was first conceived in 1913, vehicles started at Times Square and took the Weehawken Ferry over to the steep Hudson Palisades. There, they climbed Pershing Road (not known by that name until after WWI, of course) and reached what was then Weehawken’s 5th Street, now 49th Street, and took it to Hudson County Boulevard, now JFK Boulevard. I mention these name changes not so much for getting every finicky detail right as for conveying a sense of the continual dizzying changes of history.

In 1927, when the Holland Tunnel was completed, the route to the Boulevard changed. The highway picked up what is now US Route 1/9 Truck and crossed the Hackensack River. The whole Lincoln Highway in New Jersey was designated as Route 1 in 1927, during the early phase of numbered highway designations. However, the route number was moved before long in many places to more convenient bypasses.

Looking south along the Hackensack River at the Lincoln Highway Lift Bridge

The highway crossed the Passaic River to reach the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark. The name is believed to have originated in the 1830s, when newly built railroads completely encircled the area. Residents of Ironbound worked at local foundries in the late 1800s, later at breweries, a paint factory, a varnish company, and a zipper factory. Many ethnic groups were represented there, and in the mid-20th century, African Americans became an important part of the mix. Jazz singer Miss Rhapsody was born there, and Sarah Vaughan went to church in the neighborhood. (Listen to Sarah sing her terribly seductive song here.) At present, Ironbound is primarily Portuguese.

Looking east at US 1/9 leaving Ironbound on a lift bridge over the Passaic River

From downtown Newark, the Lincoln Highway followed what is now state route 27 as far as Princeton and US 206 from there into Trenton. It passed through Edison, where one can make a very short detour to view the Edison Tower. (The township was not known as Edison until 1954.)

Edison Tower, just off Lincoln Highway on Christie St. in Edison

The tower, built in 1937, boasts an enormous light bulb at the top. As the Thomas Edison Center describes it, “The Art Deco tower has quite literally been a beacon for the community for the community for decades.” The 13’8″-high bulb is made of Pyrex glass segments.

At Kingston, the highway originally passed over a stone bridge built in 1798 that replaced an earlier bridge destroyed during the American Revolution. The route now uses a bridge built in 1969 just north of the historic bridge.

In Princeton, the highway passes by the shore of Lake Carnegie, an artificial lake constructed in 1905-1906. The lake was funded by Andrew Carnegie at the request of the Princeton University varsity crew, which had tired of rowing on the narrow Delaware & Raritan Canal. It is still used for rowing practice by the university team, as well as for ice skating and fishing.

Lake Carnegie in Princeton, NJ

Finally reaching the end of the NJ segment at Trenton, the highway used the tolled Calhoun Street Bridge over the Delaware River until 1920, when the route shifted to what was then known as the Warren Street Bridge. After the famous sign was installed in 1935 (see photo at top), it became popularly known as the “Trenton Makes” Bridge. I can remember being fascinated by the sign as a child riding the train from Washington, DC to New York. It is clearly visible on the left when riding northbound and on the right when riding southbound. The bridge has made many appearances in movies and elsewhere in pop culture.

Lincoln Highway near Hackensack River, 1920. Streetcar tracks are visible beside the automobile.

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