2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway. Stretching from New York City to San Francisco, America’s first transcontinental highway was designed for motorists. The Lincoln Highway in the Laurel Highlands is particularly rich with history, scenic beauty and small towns that flourished because of the historic route.
The Lincoln Highway
The Lincoln Highway, also known as U.S. Route 30, easily predates the great superhighways as America’s first transcontinental road and marks the birth of popular American tourism – vacationing by automobile. Beginning in New York City and ending in San Francisco, the highway boasts some 3,142 miles of roadway—well over 100 of which pass through the Laurel Highlands. Because the highway was, first and foremost, a thoroughfare for early motorists, many of its attractions are right along the roadway. And we’re not just talking “scenic overlooks, although there are plenty. With everything from Revolution-era fortresses to quaint “Main Street” communities with abundant shopping, there are plenty of stops you won’t want to miss.
Lincoln Highway Experience
Just in time for the Lincoln Highway’s 100th birthday, a new 5,000 square foot museum has opened in Latrobe as the centerpiece for the Laurel Highlands’ Lincoln Highway story. The new museum enhances the existing Lincoln Highway Roadside Museum and other landmarks. The museum uses landscape communities and sites to tell the region's stories. This is done through site markers, wall plaques, interpretive waysides and murals located along the historic road. Motorists drive the experience rather than walking through a building.
Great Allegheny Passage
Considered to be one of the nation’s most popular rail trails, the Great Allegheny Passage starts in Pittsburgh and continues more than 300 miles to Washington, D.C., with about half of the trail located in the Laurel Highlands. Following its completion in 2013, the gorgeous trail passes over bridges and through tunnels, making it a spectacular way to bike or hike through fall foliage or to just spend some time outdoors. Outfitters in the area even provide transportation for bikers’ luggage to allow them to bike the entire way.
This Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece is known as a 20th Century architectural milestone, celebrated worldwide and named “Best American Building of the Last 125 Years” by the Journal of the American Institute of Architects. Built as a summer home and expressing Wright’s concept of “organic architecture,” this National Historic Landmark house looks as though it grew naturally out of Bear Run’s rocks, trees and water and lies on a 5,000-acre nature reserve intended for both recreation and study.
Big Mac Museum
Home of the famous McDonald’s Big Mac, this site is home to the world's largest Big Mac, as well as high-tech displays, hands-on exhibits, historic memorabilia, and a state-of-the-art, jungle themed PlayPlace. Visitors can also enjoy their favorite McDonald’s treats with a full restaurant on site in tribute to the local inventor of the Big Mac, Jim Delligatti.
Along Main Street of this charming Laurel Highlands town are unique shopping opportunities around every corner. Take the time to enjoy a leisurely stroll and browse through more than 70 specialty shops with names that befit the Ligonier Valley’s country way of life such as Equine Chic for Horse and Home, Orvis, Currant Thymes, and Main Exhibit Gallery.
Powdermill Nature Reserve
Powdermill Nature Reserve, the biological research station of Carnegie Museum of Natural History, is home to the one of the longest continually running bird banding stations in the United States and features the latest in green technologies. Powdermill features programs throughout the year on green technology and conservation efforts. Today, Powdermill Nature Reserve offers more than 2,200 acres of woodlands, streams, open fields, ponds, and thickets.
When Highway 30, the "Lincoln Highway" was the main NYC-SF artery, diversions like a big coffee pot were well visited. Built in 1927, the 18-ft. high Coffee Pot was originally a lunch place adjoining a gas station. In 1937 it became a bar, with a hotel built in behind it. While it is not a functioning coffee shop today, it is a great example of "programmatic architecture" along the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor.