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Lincoln Highway: Ohio—part 1 December 16, 2011

Posted by Jenny in history, travel.
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Admiral Byrd's Snow Cruiser had problems on the Lincoln Highway in Ohio before it even reached Antarctica

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.

I will confide in you, dear readers, that the subject of the Lincoln Highway has proved so vast, so complex, and so deep that my lightly undertaken project has turned out to be much harder than I expected. Pennsylvania presented an enormous challenge; West Virginia should have been trivial but offered its own hurdles; and Ohio now looms on the horizon, looking to be the toughest state to tackle so far. But I will persevere!

One of the first places I look when I start researching each blog piece is the website of the Lincoln Highway Association. It is a treasure trove of information about both the highway as a whole and the state segments. When I started looking at Ohio, I discovered that, for reasons not entirely clear to me, residents of the Buckeye State have embraced the subject with particular dedication and enthusiasm. In particular, Michael G. Buettner, president of The Ohio Lincoln Highway League, has authored a guide to the highway that impressed me mightily with its detail, its rigor, and its elegance of presentation.

Looking at Mike Buettner’s guide, I understood that he is a purist of sorts, focusing on the physical remains of the earlier highway, the exact zigs and zags of the route, and the topographic considerations involved in route decisions. For instance, he discusses at length the relationship between surveyors’ “section lines” and highway routes in the western part of the state. He wonderfully says in a photo caption, “In rural rectangular Ohio, the one-room schoolhouse was ideally at the center of four square-mile sections of land” (my italics).

I support his enthusiasms. I have the same gnerd-like dedication when it comes to understanding routes for exploring streams in the Smokies and the discrepancies of the USGS maps.

As you see, Ohio has led me to probe more deeply into the different ways we can understand this historic highway. My extra pause in Ohio also has to do with a childhood memory: on trips from Northern Virginia to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to visit my grandparents, we generally took the Ohio Turnpike. But on a few occasions my Dad insisted that we follow more southerly, more interesting routes. One of these, I’m pretty sure, was the Lincoln Highway.

My next Lincoln Highway post will describe the points of interest along the way in Ohio, as best as I can understand them—not the physical aspects of the road but the cultural ones.

House in Mansfield, Ohio, close to Lincoln Highway