Posted 8 months ago
By John Axtell
An estimated 12,500 people gathered in Kearney on Sunday for the first day of the two-day 100th anniversary celebration of the nation’s first coat-to-coast highway…the Lincoln Highway, now U-S Highway 30.
Some 140 vintage cars in a pair of 7-day cross-country caravans…one that left from San Francisco, the other Times Square in New York City…met Sunday at 12:30 pm CT in Kearney, roughly the midpoint of the highway to start the centennial celebration.
Re-enactors donned costumes from the teens, ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, and a parade of classic cars traveled through Kearney over a 6-hour period. Many were Ford Model Ts and Model As, but one was a 1948 Tucker, one of only 51 manufactured.
The Great Platte River Road Archway which crosses Interstate 80 at Kearney currently has an exhibit on the history of the Lincoln Highway.
Events Monday include educational presentations and dedications at the archway and a gala with big band music. Many Lincoln Highway buffs plan to continue the celebration throughout the week by traveling to various Nebraska destinations along the highway between Grand Island and North Platte.
Unlike today’s highways, the Lincoln Highway was built with a combination of private donations and contributions from towns along the route…which was announced on Halloween 1913.
When Omaha residents learned the highway would pass through their city, they shot off fireworks and some 10,000 of them burned a huge pile of railroad ties donated by the Union Pacific for the celebration.
Future president Dwight Eisenhower led one of the first military convoys across the country on the nearly all unpaved highway in 1919…an experience that led him to propose as president in the 1950s the construction of what became the nation’s modern freeway system.