Check out the beautiful peaks and valleys along the Seven Mile Stretch of the Lincoln Highway in Pennsylvania! (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
For my birthday I decided that wanted to take a road trip that somehow incorporated the Lincoln Highway. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about the country’s first transcontinental highway throughout its centennial year. After all, it passes right through the town of Ligonier, where I’ve spent a lot of time and where most of my published works are based. In addition, I actually grew up near the Lincoln Highway, in White Oak, PA. The main road through the borough – Lincoln Way – was deliberately named in order to attract travelers off the real Lincoln Highway into McKeesport.
Well, I needed to pick a destination for our ramblings, so I thought it would be neat to spend a night in historic Bedford, Pennsylvania. I had heard wonderful things about the town and county and I’ve passed signs and the exit for it on the PA Turnpike many a time, but never made a venture there before. Originally known as Raystown, Bedford was incorporated around 1751, prior to the French and Indian War. It was the site of what was later named Fort Bedford, one of four fortified supply posts along the Forbes Road constructed across Pennsylvania – Great Britain’s 1758 campaign to capture Fort Duquesne from the French. Among other attractions, Bedford also boasts the Old Bedford Village (an 18th century living history village) and more than a dozen rare and scenic covered bridges.
To get to Bedford, I wanted to follow the original 1913 route of the Lincoln Highway. So Dave and I spent last weekend as Lincoln Highway gumshoes, following the road east, from Greensburg to Bedford, and back. I figured that was just far enough to allow us to take our time exploring the road with no strict timetable. I literally was a gumshoe, as I ended up stepping in gum at Grand View Point, checking out the site of the lost Ship Hotel. The one piece of gum on the ground and I found it! Argh.
On Saturday morning we left armed with three of Brian Butko’s Lincoln Highway books (the PA traveler’s guide was invaluable), some screen shots of the Lincoln Highway Association’s interactive map (thank you for the tip, Brian!) and some recommendations from Brian and my pal Cece Otto. I think we were pretty successful finding most if not all of the accessible sections of the 1913 route, plus some great attractions along the way, although we couldn’t hit everything, so we have some unfinished business to take care of next trip.
Dave was a great sport the whole time, hitting the brakes and turning the car around whenever we passed a turn-off, helping decipher maps and instructions and risking poison ivy while searching the roadsides for hidden history and lost sections of the road. I think he appreciated seeing all of this history with his own eyes.
You can follow our drive using the LHA’s interactive map and learn a bit more about the portion between Greensburg and Stoystown in my previous posts about the Lincoln (here, here and here). Here I’ll just highlight some of this past weekend’s adventure. Make sure to check out the captions for each photo.
There are so many great attractions along the Pennsylvania leg of the Lincoln Highway: historic buildings and sites; roadhouses and taverns offering delicious food; kitschy shops; murals, gas pumps and roadside giants of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor’s 200-mile Roadside Museum; and the sites of things and places that used to be. We enjoyed a few must-see places along the way:
We ate brunch/lunch at the Coal Miners’ Cafe located at the main intersection of Jennerstown, PA. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
We took a detour to the solemn Flight 93 memorial. This boulder marks where the plane crashed. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
This cool mural was located on a barn across the street from the Bison Corral Gift Shop in Schellsburg, PA. Times Square in the east, Golden Gate in the west, for cross-country travel, it was the best. Lincolnway! (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
You can see three states and seven counties from the Grand View Point, where the S.S. Grand View Ship Hotel used to be until it sadly burned in a 2001 fire. The nautical-themed landmark was built by “Captain” Herbert Paulson, who added on to his earlier castle-shaped hotel that hung over the sharp curve at the point. Paulson originally established a small roadside stand here which catered to the travelers and tourists who stopped to take in this beautiful view just east of Bald Knob Summit. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
The gift shop is part of Darrow’s Bison Range. Unfortunately all of the bison were off gallivanting somewhere in the distance so we didn’t get to see them. We bought some wooden nickels as souvenirs. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko),
The Old Log Church in Schellsburg, PA dates back to 1806. It was the first church built by the settlers of this area and was built built to accommodate the union of the Reformed and Lutheran denominations. The Lincoln Highway runs right through the Chestnut Ridge and Schellsburg Union Cemetery, which is filled with beautiful old gravestones. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko
This 1917 bridge is located on a segment of the Lincoln in Schellsburg that is blocked halfway through by a house. You can pick up the road on the other side of the house but the road is a bit rough. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
Dating back to the late 19th century, the Colvin Covered Bridge is one of Bedford County’s 14 surviving covered bridges. At one time there used to be 70 covered bridges throughout the county. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
Here are two surviving cabins from Shirey’s Lake View Motel, located on the west end of Ligonier, PA. We also saw others from the Ligonier Valley Cottages on the east side of town. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
I think the coolest part of the trip was following the Lincoln Highway onto side roads that veer off of Route 30 and tracking down defunct sections that are no longer drivable. Several things helped us confirm that we were indeed following the route: the interactive map, Brian’s descriptions and clues such as road signs (for “Lincoln Highway,” “Old Route 30,” Old Lincoln Highway”), businesses with “Lincoln” in their names, the telltale path of telephone poles which usually indicate a former roadway, and traces of the roadbed still detectable beneath the grass.
Here’s a pretty view of the fields south of Route 30 towards the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, PA. The Lincoln Highway passed through where the airport is now. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
Dave is following some original paving east of Jenner, PA and Route 219. You can tell where the road went by the path of the telephone poles. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
Here’s a remnant of the old Lincoln before it reached the Stonycreek River in Kantner, PA. A double bridge used to cross here but both are long gone. We found the remnants of the road on both sides of the river. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko).
This three-mile original section of the Lincoln near Buckstown, PA had been blocked by strip-mining operations a decade ago, but we were able to cruise right through. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
Under all of this growth lies the roadbed of the Lincoln Highway, east of Schellsburg, PA and near Shawnee State Park… (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
….which we trudged through. This segment is on the north side of Route 30 and can be accessed via Harrison Road. The way was blocked on the other side of Harrison Road, but we plan to return in order to explore this remnant some more, which splits in two. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
We walked up and down “Old Route 30” – a segment located right near our lodgings at the Lincoln Motor Court in the early morning. It’s suggested to drive this road with an ATV since it’s a bit rugged. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
Here we are traveling westbound on Cemetery Road near the Old Log Church in Schellsburg, PA. We are on the Lincoln and to the left is an earlier segment of the road that branches off. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
This “No Outlet” section of the Lincoln Highway west of Ligonier ends at someone’s house. It used to reach down the hill and cross where Route 259 meets Route 30. This is another road best traveled with a Jeep. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
We stayed at the 1940’s-era Lincoln Motor Court, located about five miles west of Bedford in Manns’ Choice, as Cece recommended. It was awesome! Bob and Debbie Altzier and their family have owned the Lincoln Motor Court since 1983. Long before that it had served many travelers along the Lincoln Highway as a tourist cabin court. Today it’s the only one of its kind still in operation on the Lincoln. Our cottage (one of twelve) was quaint and comfortable and we would definitely stay there again.
The Lincoln Motor Court is truly a roadside rarity: the only operating tourist or motor court on the Lincoln Highway today. It’s rumored the road even passed throught the court at one point. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
Here’s one of the twelve insulbrick-covered cabins at the Lincoln Motor Court, about five miles west of Bedford, PA. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
Knotty pine panels, lace curtains and vintage furniture abound at the Lincoln Motor Court! There’s no air conditioning so we had the windows open at night. After the crickets went to sleep all was quiet out here in the country! (Photo by Jennifer Sopko
We drove through downtown Bedford on Saturday afternoon into evening. The main street through town, Pitt Street, is the Lincoln Highway – Route 30 actually bypasses the town. What a charming town, filled with beautiful and historic buildings and attractions! We had dinner at the Jean Bonnet Tavern, which dates back to 1762 and sits at the intersection of two important roads: The 1758 Forbes Road and the 1755 Burd Road (later incorporated into the Glade Road in 1772). Here are a few cool things we saw as we passed through:
I’m hugging this giant, 18-foot-tall coffee pot, located at the western end of Bedford, PA. It was built in 1927 and originally served as a gas station luncheonette. It used to be on the other side of the road, but was moved and restored by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor in 2004. (Photo by David Zajdel)
Dunkle’s Gulf Station is another roadside rarity, with full-service and art-deco decor. You can’t miss it as you’re driving along Pitt Street in Bedford, PA. We supported Dunkle’s by filling up the gas tank here. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
The food was absolutely delicious at the Jean Bonnet Tavern. The tavern dates back to 1762 and it said to be haunted. The building has been primarily used as an inn and tavern throughout its history and was used by early travelers along the Forbes Road, for farmer meetings during the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s and also as a French fort and trading post. It sits at the intersection of the Forbes Road and the Burd Road/Glade Road (Route 30/Lincoln Highway and Route 31). (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
I loved this sign in the Jean Bonnet Tavern in Bedford, PA! (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
George Washington was here! Built in 1766, the Espy House on Pitt Street served as President Washington’s headquarters in 1794 during the Whiskey Rebellion. Prior to that, Revolutionary War General Arthur St. Clair used this house as his office. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
Here’s the Bedford County Courthouse about a block or two off of the Lincoln Highway in downtown Bedford, PA (Pitt Street). It’s the oldest PA county courthouse still in use. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
Here’s a wonderful monument located caddy-corner from the courthouse that recognizes that the Forbes Road/Trail passed through Bedford. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
We didn’t tour the Fort Bedford Museum on this trip, but we stopped by to check out where the original was located – along the Raystown branch of the Juniata River in Bedford, PA. The original stockade was probably gone by the time of the Whiskey Rebellion in 1790. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
We took a detour off the Lincoln Highway to have Sunday brunch at the historic Bedford Springs Resort, now known as the Omni Bedford Springs Resort & Spa, which dates back to the early nineteenth century. Dr. John Anderson began construction on the hotel in 1804 and it grew from there to serve the many people who were coming to Bedford to benefit from the medicinal properties of several mineral springs in the area, including several U.S. presidents and numerous prominent businessmen and ladies of society. After a massive $120 billion renovation, the resort reopened a few years ago after being closed for years.
This is the Iron Spring, one of the several mineral springs located around the Bedford Spring Resort, each of which was prescribed for specific uses. This spring was used to treat iron deficiencies and bone disorders. There are many trails you can follow through the mountains. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
The Bedford Springs Resort is a very beautiful, decadent and expensive place to stay! This resort is huge! And filled with lots of staircases, rooms, seating and historical documents and photos you can check out to find out about the resort’s history and the people who stayed there. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)(Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
This desk was used by President James Buchanan when he stayed at the Bedford Springs Resort. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
It was also fun trying to spot some history Easter eggs along the way. We saw three original concrete markers that the Boy Scouts of America installed along the Lincoln Highway in 1928 – in Ligonier, Stoystown and near the crossroads of the 1758 Forbes Road and 1755 Burd Road (later Glade Road) in Bedford (intersection of Route 30 and Route 31). Because the Lincoln Highway, as America’s first transcontinental road, was comprised of already existing roads through the country like the ones just mentioned, we can also find traces of those roads. Through Pennsylvania the Lincoln generally follows earlier roads includes the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia Turnpike (it was actually a string of turnpikes that stretched across the state), the Pennsylvania Road and the Forbes Road. We were able to find the locations of four circa 1818 markers from the Bedford-Stoystown Turnpike, thanks to Brian’s traveler’s guide; two of them on the Lincoln Highway and the two other are located on Route 30 where it diverges from the Lincoln. However, we sadly discovered that one is no longer there – only the base of the marker remains. Was it accidentally hit and demolished by a passing car? Or was it deliberately stolen (and sold)? If it’s the latter, I’m not only sad, I’m also angry. Part of that marker’s historical significance is the spot where it is located and to remove it from there is just reprehensible.
Here’s the first circa 1818 Bedford-Stoystown Turnpike marker that we found along the Lincoln Highway. Notice the typo on the left side of the stone: it says “OT” instead of “TO.” (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
There used to be a Bedford-Stoystown Turnpike marker along Route 30 at this spot in Schellsburg, PA, but all we could find left of it was this little stump. *gasp!* WHAT HAPPENED TO IT?! (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
We saw two more Bedford-Stoystown Turnpike markers during our road trip, The one pictured here is located along the Lincoln Highway on someone’s lawn! We also saw one more on Route 30 but there was too much traffic to stop and snap a picture. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
Here’s one of those rare 1928 concrete Lincoln Highway markers at the eastern end of Stoystown, PA. Once there were around 3,000 across the United Sates, about a mile apart from each other. In Pennsylvania, only a handful have survived. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)
Well, it was a jam-packed weekend traveling along the Lincoln Highway. I hope to get back out there again to explore additional sections of the road. This has just been a fun experience learning about this important road this past year. I have much respect for those highway historians and artists out there that have traveled this road extensively and solo. I couldn’t have followed the road as diligently as we did without having Dave along or my friends’ advice and I thank everyone for your help! Readers, if there’s anything we may have missed that you suggest we check out in this area, or what we should look out for on future trips east and west, leave me a comment below!