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Report of the Conference
by J.R. Manning
The Lincoln Highway Association held its 12th annual meeting and conference in Chester, West Virginia, on June 16-19, 2004. The modern Lincoln Highway Association, dedicated to the memory and preservation of America's first transcontinental highway, holds its conference the second week of June each year. West Virginia was the last state to be crossed by the Lincoln Highway and was the last state to host the annual conference.
Bob Lichty, from Canton, Ohio, was co-chair of the event and he acted as the emcee of the welcome dinner. He told the membership, "The original Lincoln Highway route followed the Ohio River out of Pittsburgh and crossed into Ohio a few miles north of here. West Virginia became the last Lincoln Highway state in 1927, when a new bridge was built from Chester to East Liverpool, Ohio. The West Virginia section of the Lincoln Highway is also the shortest. It is only about 6 miles through West Virginia."
The annual meeting has been held at least once in each of the Lincoln Highway states to this point. West Virginia became the 13th Lincoln Highway state, but there is no chapter of the association in West Virginia. The host chapters of this event were from Ohio and Pennsylvania.
John Harman, the co-chairman representing Pennsylvania, explained that there are several major events at each conference. "Each national conference includes meetings of the board of directors and the annual membership meeting. There are bus tours that follow the routes of the highway used over the years. Members experience the highway and see points of interest of both historical and contemporary significance. Seminars are held to describe history, current events and discuss the future of the highway," he explained.
"The book room is also a popular place at each conference, too," Harman said. The book room is like a miniature swap meet, where members buy and sell memorabilia, ephemera, not to mention the requisite T-shirts and golf shirts, a staple item for every event these days. One group was selling bricks recovered from an original stretch of the Lincoln Highway in Illinois. "There is also always an awards banquet where good effort is recognized," Harmon went on to say.
Every conference has a seminar day and there are usually very interesting and relevant breakout sessions. The West Virginia Conference was no exception. Seminars covered topics past and present as well as a report of last summer's cross country trip.
Lisa Kolakowski Smith reported to us about the National Park Service survey of the Lincoln Highway. From a historical perspective, Dr. Bernie Queneau explained the evolution of alloys used in the construction of Lincoln Highway bridges, and Dr. Kevin Patrick explained the past, present, and future in the life of a Lincoln Highway bridge. Noted Lincoln Highway author Brian Butko did a slide show of Lincoln Highway memoirs. Andrew Masich, President and CEO of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, gave a fascinating presentation of Lewis & Clark's expedition as it began in Pittsburgh. Rollin Southwell, The Man from Utah, sponsored the annual postage cancellation.
Following the annual meeting, Olga Herbert, Executive Director of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor in Pennsylvania, made a fascinating presentation about the efforts of the Heritage Corridor and their efforts to preserve the Lincoln Highway in Pennsylvania.
The last seminar of the day was a tag-team presentation by Bob Lichty and his wife, Rosemary Rubin, of the 2003 Cross Country Cruise. It is next to impossible to compress into 40 minutes, a tour that traveled 3,331 miles and involved at least 50 cars and over 100 people. They were able to do so, however, and those who were not able to take the cruise were able to travel vicariously through Bob & Rosemary's slides and memories.
The evening finished with the annual awards banquet.
Two bus tours were available, as usual, on different days of course, so everyone can take the tours. One went west into Ohio, and he other went east, into Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania tour followed the pre-1927 alignment along the congested Ohio River route and returned to Chester on the post-1927 route. Excellent tour commentary was provided in Pennsylvania by noted author Brian Butko and Dr. Kevin Patrick of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Ohio tour guides were Jim Cassler, noted merchant of Canton, Ohio; and Bob Lichty, also of Canton.
One of the highlights of the tours were stops that explored several splendid examples of brick paving of the Lincoln Highway. Pristine brick sections are extant in both Ohio and Pennsylvania. Near East Canton, a fine example of brick paving is Cindell Street. A few local residents wish to pave over the bricks, but historical preservation groups and the Ohio Lincoln Highway League are fighting to preserve this section. The bus tour also turned in Robertsville to take the group on a tour of Baywood Street, a 2.4 mile section of original brick paving.
In Glenfield, Pennsylvania, yet another stunning section of original Lincoln Highway brick paving is extant. Referred to as "the yellow brick road" because of the yellow color of the pavers, the road was preserved by bypassing the section entirely with modern roadways. Landlocked between the Ohio River and the triple-track Conrail right of way, the only way to get to the street is over a viaduct that is also cleverly hidden. Residents of the street were most confused to see two giant tour busses driving down their normally quiet street. Entrance to this section used to be provided by dangerous grade crossings. Those crossings were eliminated years ago, and today one end of the roadway curves into a small park on the Ohio River.
The Ohio tour left the Lincoln Highway on a side trip to Akron, to see Stan Hywet, the magnificent mansion built by Frank A. Seiberling between 1912 and 1915. Seiberling was the founder and president of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Seiberling was also a significant player in the building of the Lincoln Highway by serving as President three times and also by making substantial injections of cash into both the association and the highway itself. His pledge of money helped to start the association in 1913, and he made a sizable donation to start construction of the Goodyear Cutoff in Utah. (Despite his best efforts, the cutoff was never completed.) Seiberling was president of the association three times, between 1918 and 1927. He became President for the third time in November 1927 and presided over the end of the Lincoln Highway Association that December. He was also the founder of Seiberling Tire and Rubber Company.
The tour to Pennsylvania stopped at Pittsburgh's Duquesne Incline, a cable-operated "funicular" railroad that has been operating since 1877. (A funicular combines elevator cable technology with railroad technology to pull heavy loads up steep inclines.) Lincoln Highway bus tourists were able to ride the famous lift. Kevin Patrick did an impromptu seminar at the station on top of Mount Washington, where he explained the various Pittsburgh bridges used by the Lincoln Highway over the years. Dr. Patrick says that the "City of Bridges" has an unwritten rule: "As soon as you start to cross a bridge in Pittsburgh, you immediately see the bridge you want to be on."
The Pittsburgh trip, held on the last day of the conference, ended with a dinner cruise on the three rivers of Pittsburgh. The buffet dinner also included a running commentary by the pilot, who explained the various points of interest along the shores of the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio Rivers. The cruise ended under a spectacular sunset, and as the sun set on the cruise, it also brought a colorful end to the 12th Annual Lincoln Highway Conference. It was a colorful and fitting end to a wonderful conference.
Photographs of the Tours
J.R. Manning is a member of the Public Relations Committee of the Lincoln Highway Association.