On the Road Again: In Search of the Lincoln Highway in Pennsylvania, Part TWO

I awoke from a delightfully cozy sleep at the Lincoln Motor Court, about five miles east of Schellsburg, ready to resume. Again the day was clear and sunny. I walked around the charming court and gazed back westward at the mountains I had come through. Across the road was an abandoned former inn, an early 20th century hotel built on foundations more than a hundred years older.

looking west on US30 from Lincoln Motor Court
Lincoln Motor Court

I headed east into Bedford, only a few miles beyond. The town, laid out in 1766, was so charming I had to walk around for a bit and admire its 18th and early 19th century buildings–and inquire the whereabouts of the Coffee Pot, which it turned out I had passed coming in! (There was a well-leafed tree in the way, and I hadn’t been looking for it.)

The Coffee Pot, Bedford, Pennsylvania

This wonderful building, no longer in use but a three-dimensional historical document of the Lincoln Highway’s heyday, was moved from its original location and refurbished with the help of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor. I then stopped at an amazingly intact 1933 filling station, gloriously art deco-styled in polychrome terra cotta, still owned by the same family. Mrs. Dunkle herself presided within.

Dunkle filling station, Bedford, Pennsylvania

Onward into the mountains once again, after going through Everett, which boasts a New Deal-era post office containing an unusual sculptural mural, “Signing of the Constitution,” by Hazel Clere.

“Signing of the Constitution” in Everett, Pennsylvania post office

A much-altered art deco theater barely survives, no longer showing movies, alas. Faded signs suggest there had been some effort to save it. On the east edge of town is The Igloo drive-in, closed for the season, but apparently still in business. Sorry to have missed it, even though it cannot seem to make up its mind whether to be an igloo or a giant sundae, with its splash of chocolate sauce and cherry on top.

The Igloo, Everett, Pennsylvania
Everett Theater

I kept to the old Lincoln Highway then eased onto its reunion with current US30; there has been much alteration coming down to and around a plethora of motels and gas stations, which I later realized was the hamlet of Breezewood, where I-70 bumps into the old road.

Lincoln Highway east of Breezewood, Pennsylvania

Then the mountains took up in earnest and I had ample chance to test my downshifting skills as I twisted through the bronze-tinged peaks and valleys, whisking through the occasional stringtowns and pike towns–often peppered with stone houses and barns–on this road that in the 19th century was what passed for a turnpike. Suddenly found myself in a lovely “fair as the garden of the Lord” valley–there was even a sign pointing toward Edenville–filled with orchards and pastures, produce stands and dairy farms, such a contrast to what I had just been through! Then a picturesque string of buildings that comprised the village of St. Thomas.
Reached Chambersburg, charming but congested, and spotted its Family Diner on the way out, with offerings such as sloppy joes and homemade soup. Yes!

Lincoln Highway, looking east near Fayetteville

Onward through more mountains on that beautiful two-lane road. Passed through Fayetteville, Caledonia State Park, and paused at the Thaddeus Stevens Blacksmith Shop, which I later discovered was renovated and restored by the Works Progress Administration in 1938. The original had been built in 1837 but was destroyed during the battle of Gettysburg. Rebuilt after the war, it remained in in business until the 1890s, after which it languished until the New Deal came along.

Thaddeus Stevens Blacksmith Shop, east of Fayetteville, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg at last, still as I remembered it from passing through 30 years ago. Statues along the highway that were in tourists’ snapshots from the 1920s. Rolling hills laden with ghosts, even in the sun.

Gettysburg National Military Park on the Lincoln Highway

Gettysburg the town was charmingly historic, for the most part, albeit crowded. This Midwesterner is not accustomed to seeing so many wonderful late 18th/early 19th century structures! New Oxford, Abbottstown . . . the road becomes messy after that. York remains amazingly intact, even in its center. Market Street is narrow and congested, flanked by rowhouses with shops on the first floor, block after block. How I longed to explore–but so many miles to go before I could sleep.

York, Pennsylvania

Passed the York Fair, the oldest fair in the country, begun before America even was a country, in 1765. Then I spent quite awhile searching for a shoe. Not just any shoe, mind you, but another famous Lincoln Highway landmark, the Haines Shoe House, which, ironically, is today most visible from the US30 bypass. Built in 1948 by Mahlon Haines, the 25-foot tall oddity was intended to promote his forty shoe stores and stands up a hill from the Lincoln Highway on the west side of Hallam. Haines apparently allowed older couples to live in it, even providing groceries and other amenities. Later, honeymooners could register at his stores to stay there. The present owners offer tours of the five-level Shoe House, but it was closed for the season.

Haines Shoe House, Hallam, Pennsylvania

Continuing on the ever more crowded road, I stopped at Jim Mack’s (origins in the 1950s) for ice cream, then arrived in Wrightsville, where a stunning art deco bridge crossed the broad Susquehanna River to Columbia. When it was constructed in 1930 it was said to be the longest multiple arch concrete bridge in the world.

bridge across Susquehanna River between Wrightsville and Columbia, Pennsylvania

Entering Lancaster I found it to be much larger than I had imagined, although, like York, laden with blocks of late 18th/early 19th century buildings–and also very congested.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

East of town was particularly sprawl-awful but bits of old highway kitsch kept it interesting, such as the Dutch Wonderland amusement park, built in 1963.

Dutch Wonderland, east of Lancaster

Finally I was back on a two-lane road again, but this was not the Lincoln Highway experience I had hoped for; once again, night was drawing nigh and I was a very long way from the cheap hotel in Trenton I’d booked. I continued on 30 and, even as accustomed as I am to following old roads, lost it. It seemed simply to end and I was uncertain where I was, only that by this point in the growing gloom, I knew I needed to make my way around the Philadelphia metropolis if I was ever to sleep (not to mention meeting friends who live in Princeton for supper.) After getting numerous wrong directions, 911 and the Pennsylvania State Police saved me while I was caught in a hopeless morass of cars on some unidentified interstate. Ironically their directions led me to drive on  at least part of one iteration of the Lincoln Highway, the fabled Highway 1. 

Modern technology kept me talking with those friends and letting them know of my progress toward Trenton, so they were able to meet me almost as soon as I arrived and whisked me off to a lovely and civilized supper, followed by a tour of Princeton by night and a visit to what I might call the Orson Welles memorial in Grovers Mill. Back to the Trenton hotel, which had not an ounce of charm. Exhaustion won out, however, and I dreamed of the next day’s adventures.

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1 Response to On the Road Again: In Search of the Lincoln Highway in Pennsylvania, Part TWO

  1. Eric Grayson says:

    More! More! This looks fun!

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