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Posts Tagged ‘highways

“Life is a highway”*…

 

In the beginning, the Lincoln Highway was more an idea than a highway. But it was a very powerful idea.

On its dedication—Halloween, 1913—the towns and cities along the 3,300-mile route erupted in what the San Francisco Chronicle called“spontaneous expressions of gratification”—a wave of municipal celebrations animated by “the spirit of the great national boulevard.” The governor of Wyoming declared a day of “old-time jollification … and general rejoicing” that included, in a town called Rawlings, the erection of an enormous pyramid of wool. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, residents enjoyed a festive shower of locally made Quaker Oats.

The Lincoln Highway, which ran from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco, gets credit as the first transcontinental road of the automobile age, but it was no highway in the modern sense; when it was dedicated, it was more like a loosely affiliated collection of paved, gravel, stone, and dirt paths, some recently trailblazed through the trackless rural West. Its boosters—a collection of auto industry execs and ex-politicians led by an auto-parts entrepreneur named Carl Fisher—were gifted promoters, and they successfully sold America on the notion that a sea-to-shining-sea motorway could both unite the nation and sell a lot of cars…

Head on down the road with CityLab On The Road.

* Tom Cochrane

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As we put the top down, we might spare a thought for Gebhard Jaeger; he died on this date in 1959.  An inventor, engineer, and manufacturer, he designed and patented the first cement mixer in 1905, then went on to add other patents (including, in 1928, the mixer truck) and build a successful manufacturing company equipping the suppliers who served road builders and construction contractors through the road and building construction booms of the 20th century.

From American Builder (March 1925)

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Written by LW

September 11, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Rest and be thankful”*…

 

Flower Mound, Texas

A new photography book, The Last Stop: Vanishing Rest Stops of the American Roadside ($45, powerHouse Books), captures the functionality and design of aging U.S. highway rest areas, with a heavy dose of nostalgia.

Over nearly 15 road-trips since 2009—several taken with her mother in tow—the California-based photographer Ryann Ford traveled the American West, Midwest, and parts of the South in search of the unique character that defines these highway fixtures. At one since-disappeared location in Flower Mound, Texas, a picnic table is covered by a roof in the shape of longhorns…

Bonneville, Utah

The rest stops in Ford’s book all seem to speak to the character of their respective locations in some way, and certainly to the moment in the late 1950s and ‘60s when most were constructed. America was in love with the automobile, and the new Interstate Highway System opened up easier, speedier access to the continental U.S. than before. But interstates also eliminated interaction with the towns and landscapes they passed through. Using vernacular architecture, rest stops became a way for states and localities to connect travelers to the surrounding environment, as the introduction to Ford’s book explains. They communicated a sense of place in a rapidly homogenizing countryside

More at “The Fading Glory of America’s Highway Rest Stops.”

* William Wordsworth

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As we pull over, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Walker Percy; he was born on this date in 1916.  Trained as a physician, Percy turned to literature, writing a series of novels largely set in and around his native Louisiana, the first of which, The Moviegoer, won the National Book Award.  Heavily influenced by his reading of  Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky, and by the Catholic faith to which he converted, his work was an exploration of “the dislocation of man in the modern age.”  He also published a number of non-fiction works exploring his interests in semiotics and Existentialism, the most popular work being Lost in the Cosmos.

Percy taught at Loyola University of New Orleans and mentored younger writers; he was instrumental in getting John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel A Confederacy of Dunces published in 1980.  He was a life-long friend of his childhood neighbor Shelby Foote, historian and novelist of The Civil War: A Narrative (the basis of Ken Burn’s series The Civil War.)

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Written by LW

May 28, 2016 at 1:01 am

The Annals of Semiotics, Vol. 27: Round and Round and Round We Go…

The image you see above is a “magic roundabout” in Colchester, England. It includes 5 mini-roundabouts embedded in a giant one. Imagine driving that on the left side of the road!

Roundabout. Traffic Circle. Rotary. According to the Harvard Dialect Study, we Americans are pretty divided about what to call a traffic circle, which is my own word of choice, like nearly 40% of the rest of you

Read on at Deborah Fallows’ “Magical Roundabouts and the Language of Signs,” one of a fascinating on-going series of dispatches from Deb and her husband James Fallows in the Atlantic series “American Futures“– tales of “reinvention and resilience across the nation.”

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As we name that turn, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that the last segment of the Natchez Trace Parkway’s Double Arch Bridge was set into place in the Franklin Crossing, over Route 96 near Franklin, Tennessee.  The National Park Service had been paving the Natchez Trace a little bit at a time since 1938, turning it into a scenic modern highway.  The last stretch was the Franklin Crossing, where engineers had to figure out how to elevate the bridge over Route 96 and the densely wooded valley below while preserving the natural beauty of the site.  Engineer Eugene Figg settled on an open, double-arched bridge that supports its deck without spandrel columns, preserving most of the view across the valley– the first precast segmental concrete arch bridge to be built in the United States.

The bridge was officially opened in the Spring of the following year, and the Parkway was complete.

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Written by LW

October 6, 2013 at 1:01 am

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