lincoln highway13.jpg

Lincoln Highway in East Lampeter Township looking east on April 18, 2017.

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The stretch of road that Lancaster County residents call Lincoln Highway East or Route 30 East isn't just a highway. It's a part of the fabric of life here.

The outlets, the Amish, the tourists - and most of all, the traffic.

We've all driven it; we've all complained about it. But how much do we really know about it?

Here are seven things you might not know about the roadway Lancaster Countians love to hate:

Turnpike notice 1796

This stockholders' notice from June 17, 1796, contains the first reference to the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Road Company in the LNP | LancasterOnline archives.

1. The state couldn't afford to build it, so a private company did

The road we know as Route 30 East started its life as the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike. It was built by a private company - The Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Road Company - because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania couldn't afford the construction cost of $465,000 (which would amount to about $9.5 million today).

Check out a 1796 Lancaster Journal front page with the first reference to the turnpike here.

Early toll booth 2

This file photo, circa 1930s, shows a car nearing a toll house on New Holland Pike, one of several turnpikes in the early days of Lancaster County motoring.

2. It was the first toll road - and the first engineered road - in the United States

Completed in 1795, the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike was the nation's first toll road, or turnpike - a word that also referred to the wooden gates used to make travelers stop to pay tolls. It was touted as the first "engineered" road in the nation, referring to the fact that it was surveyed, graded and paved with packed gravel for its entire length, from Columbia to 34th Street in Philadelphia - a distance of about 70 miles.  

Early toll gate

Elizabeth Greiner takes tolls on New Holland turnpike in 1930. The swinging wooden gate that was opened to let cars through was called a "turnpike," a word which also came to refer to roads which used such devices.

3. There was a word for people who tried to dodge the tolls

In the early days of the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike, toll gates were placed every 10 miles. However, some travelers left the highway and took side roads to circumvent the gates. People who did this were known as "shunpikers."

NolenLincolnHighway.jpg

This view, looking west, shows Lincoln Highway East approaching Lancaster city in 1929.

4. But there were lots of people who were exempt from tolls

In the early years of the turnpike's use, the state legislature codified numerous exemptions to the toll system. People who didn't have to pay tolls included: Anyone who lived along the turnpike; anyone passing from one part of a farm to another; anyone on their way to a funeral; anyone on their way to church; anyone engaged in military service; and anyone on their way to vote in an election.

Lincoln Memorial

This image appeared in the Lancaster New Era on May 30, 1922, at the time of the Lincoln Memorial's dedication.

5. It was the first national memorial dedicated to Abraham Lincoln

The former Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike was absorbed into the transcontinental route known as the Lincoln Highway in 1913. At the time of its dedication, it was the only coast-to-coast roadway in the country, and was established with the newly popular automobile in mind. It was formally dedicated to President Abraham Lincoln, with several statues of Lincoln placed along its 3,389-mile length. Given that the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC wasn't dedicated until 1922, the highway remained the only national memorial to Lincoln for nine years.

Here's a page from the Lancaster New Era of May 30, 1922, featuring the newly dedicated Lincoln Memorial.

Amish Farm and House

The Amish Farm and House, with Amish buggy and horse, in 1958.

6. The county's first tourist attraction was on Lincoln Highway - and it's still there

In recent decades, Route 30 East has been synonymous with tourism. Lancaster County's first-ever tourist attraction, the Amish Farm & House, opened in 1955. It's still there, sandwiched tightly between a Target and a strip mall at Covered Bridge Drive.

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Tanger Outlets off Lincoln Highway East.

7. The first of many Route 30 outlets opened in 1982

Amish-based tourism peaked in Lancaster County in 1985, and since then, outlet shopping has competed with the Amish attractions for tourist dollars. The first outlet mall, Lancaster Outlet City, opened in 1982 at the site that now holds Tanger Outlet Center. The former occupant of that tract? The SkyVue Drive-In Theater, an 825-car drive-in that, by the 1980s, had fallen from its glory days decades earlier.

Sources: LNP | LancasterOnline archives; www.fhwa.dot.gov; explorepahistory.com.