Lincoln Highway Traveling Exhibition  Premiers at the 2022 Bell Tower Festival

Lincoln Highway Traveling Exhibition Premiers at the 2022 Bell Tower Festival

An audiovisual exhibition telling the story of the national Lincoln Highway debuts at the Bell Tower Festival in Jefferson this year. Promise Road: How the Lincoln Highway Changed America opened June 9 at the Greene County Historical Society Museum and will remain through June 26.

“Many of us have driven the Lincoln Highway but haven’t realized its significance for the unfolding of our country’s modern history. This exhibition tells that story,” said Shellie Orngard, the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway coordinator.

Lincoln Highway Traveling Exhibit

The building of the Lincoln Highway was initiated in 1913, when most people traveled by foot or by horse and the roads were mud or gravel. America’s first coast-to-coast highway, the Lincoln Highway starts in Times Square, New York City, and travels through 14 states, ending at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A dramatic story of ingenuity, personality, and commerce, Promise Road will engage visitors in a new understanding of and appreciation of our forgotten past and what it means for us today.

The exhibition culminates with a presentation on June 26 by Bob and Joyce Ausberger of rural Greene County, who helped found the new national Lincoln Highway Association in 1992, which now has hundreds of members across the country and around the world.

1st president of the Lincoln Highway Association Henry Joy in the mud (gumbo) - near La Mouille, Iowa June 1915.

After this first stop in Greene County, the exhibition will travel to Marshall and Story counties, and on to the rest of the 13 Iowa counties traversed by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway.

The traveling exhibit Promise Road: How the Lincoln Highway Changed America was funded in part by a grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and with support from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

In 2021, the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway in Iowa was recognized as a National Scenic Byway. The National Scenic Byways Program is a voluntary, community-based program administered through the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to recognize, protect, and promote America’s most outstanding roads. 

For more information about the national Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway in Iowa, visit Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s website at Prairie Rivers of Iowa is a nonprofit focused on conserving natural and cultural resources, using its expertise to address Iowa’s most challenging needs. It manages the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway in Iowa on behalf of the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Update on Status of the Bridge over Mud Creek in Tama, Iowa

Update on Status of the Bridge over Mud Creek in Tama, Iowa

The bridge over Mud Creek in Tama, Iowa, will be preserved in its current location, in a decision made at the March 21 Tama City Council meeting. City Council member Ann Michael, who had been pushing to repair the bridge, said after the meeting, “It took the work of all of us to preserve this historic little bridge.”

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and considered one of the most visited sites along the Lincoln Highway nationally, the Tama Bridge has been cited for repair since 2016. 

Historic Lincoln Highway Bridge in Tama, Iowa

With the assistance of Prairie Rivers of Iowa, nearly $100 thousand dollars have been raised for that purpose which, along with funding from the Iowa Department of Transportation would have paid for the repairs, but various administrative issues have delayed the project.

Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Coordinator Shellie Orngard at Tama City Council

PRI Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Coordinator Shellie Orngard speaking in support of the historic Lincoln Highway Bridge to Tama City Council. KCRG Photo

Earlier this year, the Tama City Council began to consider moving the bridge and replacing it with a culvert, sparking a nationwide campaign to contact the Council or attend City Council meetings and ask them to save the bridge and repair it in place.

To gain a full understanding of the options, Tama city staff called a meeting with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) that included representatives from the Iowa Department of Transportation, City of Tama, the structural engineering firm Shuck-Britson, Prairie Rivers of Iowa, and the Lincoln Highway Association. SHPO indicated that moving the bridge without prior approval would cause it to be de-listed from the National Register.

A process to gain such pre-approval could take two years, with no guarantees of re-listing. Additionally, the project engineer cast doubt on the feasibility of moving the concrete structure and maintaining its structural integrity. With this information, and the prodigious input from people across the country, the Tama City Council decided to let bids for repair through the Iowa DOT. City Council members said they were surprised by the amount of interest and the passion for bridge’s preservation from so many people across the country.

Women’s Suffrage History Along the Lincoln Highway in Iowa

Women’s Suffrage History Along the Lincoln Highway in Iowa

As you travel along the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway you’ll find many cultural and historic points of interest — including a retracing of footsteps taken by many responsible for pioneering women’s suffrage in Iowa. This March, we commemorate Iowa History and Women’s History month, let’s take a look at a couple of related stories.

A historic milestone during the decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States took place in the Lincoln Highway community of Boone, Iowa over 100 years ago. At 11:45 a.m. on the morning of October 29, 1908, more than one hundred women gathered at the corner of 7th and Carroll, hoisted their banners, and began to march towards downtown in support of women’s suffrage.

Championing the ensuing parade was a car transporting the then National Women Suffrage Association President Dr. Anna Howard Shaw.

Women's Suffrage March in Boone, Iowa
Carrie Chapman Catt and Anna Howard Shaw in 1917

Carrie Chapman Catt and Anna Howard Shaw in 1917.

When the marchers reached the intersection of 8th and Story, the crowd paused to allow Shaw to speak. The Woman’s Standard newspaper reported that Shaw “…held the breathless attention of her hearers, wit, humor, pathos, sentiment and clear, hard logic from one to the other she passed, naturally, entirely without self-consciousness, with the greatest sincerity of manner and at time with much dramatic fire.”

Women's Suffrage Monument in Boone Iowa

At the site today you’ll find a monument in honor of that 1908 parade that was organized by Boone Equality Club President Rowena Edson Stevens and former Iowa Equal Suffrage President Rev. Eleanor Elizabeth Gordon. Be sure to stop at this location, stand in these women’s footsteps, imagine, be inspired, and immerse yourself in their bravery and sacrifice.

At the top of Oakland Avenue and Lafayette along the Byway corridor in Council Bluffs, you’ll find Fairview Cemetery, the resting place of Mormon pioneers, Mrs. Caroline Pace who rode the first locomotive to come to Council Bluffs, and Amelia Jenks Bloomer a social reformer, temperance activist, suffragist and one-time editor of The Lilly, the first newspaper by and for women, which became a model for women’s suffrage publications thereafter.

The Bloomer family settled in Council Bluffs in 1855 where Amelia continued her activism and was Iowa’s first resident to speak publicly for women’s suffrage. She started the Soldiers’ Aid Society of Council Bluffs to assist Union soldiers and served as president of the Iowa Suffrage Association from 1871-1873.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer

Though she became the namesake, the late Victorian era fashion of “Bloomers” inspired by Turkish pantaloons did not begin with Amelia, but in the Lilly, she advocated for their wearingSoon they became a symbol of the women’s rights movement, freedom, and feminist reform.

The next time you’re traveling the western edge of the Lincoln Highway in Iowa be sure to visit Council Buff’s Fairview Cemetery and pay respect to the American women’s movement pioneer Amelia Jenks Bloomer.

The Lincoln Highway Bridge Over Mud Creek in Tama in Need of Repair

The Lincoln Highway Bridge Over Mud Creek in Tama in Need of Repair

One of the most iconic bridges in the 3,389 mile length of the historic transcontinental Lincoln Highway is in Tama, Iowa, and its structural integrity is in need of repair. As manager of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway, Prairie Rivers of Iowa has been working with the City of Tama to restore and protect the bridge, but process delays and COVID have slowed progress to a near standstill.

Tama Bridge showing state of disrepair
Military Vehicle Preservation Association crossing Tama Bridge in 2019

The Tama Lincoln Highway bridge holds an important place in the history of transportation in our country. It was constructed in 1915 when Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States and before we got tangled up in World War I. It was the year Babe Ruth hit his first career home run. Half of the US population lived on the farm, and most transportation was still by foot or horse. The Model T was popular and promised increased mobility but roads could be treacherous, especially after a rain. 

The idea for the first improved transcontinental highway generated support across the country and gave birth to the Lincoln Highway Association. Towns along the roadway’s charted path were grateful for the honor, anticipating an influx of travelers and hence growth in commerce.

Tama’s now-famous bridge was constructed to attract interest and burnish the town’s image as a destination. Designed by Iowa Highway Commission architect Paul N. Kingsley, the Lincoln Highway Bridge is distinctive for spelling out the name of the roadway in its railings. Concrete lampposts topped by globe lights decorated the bridge’s four corners, adding to its graceful charm.

The Tama bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, nominated by the Tama Bicentennial Commission. The nomination included a quote from the July 1919 Lincoln Highway Forum, a publication of the Lincoln Highway Association, asserting that the bridge is “a good example of up-to-date highway advertising. Tourists over this section of the famous road cannot fail to be impressed with the advertising values as well as the pleasing and distinctive appearance of this unique feature of bridge construction.”

While the bridge has continued to attract admirers over the years, time has taken its toll. Prairie Rivers of Iowa has worked with the City of Tama to assess the integrity and safety of the bridge and put together a plan for its restoration. In 2018 PRI applied for and received a grant from the state Historical Resource Development Program of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to help cover the costs. Additional support and funding has come from the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association, the Mansfield Foundation, and other donors, but a series of delays and the advent of COVID have held up progress. In October of this year, the Iowa DOT informed Tama that Iowa Code necessitates yet another delay to gather additional information and rebid the work. Meanwhile, the original cost estimate of $115,000 has mushroomed to over $300,000.

The Tama-Toledo News Chronicle reported in October that the City of Tama is planning to re-bid the project and complete the repair by August 2022, but the situation is being closely monitored by PRI, the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association, and history buffs across the nation.


Enjoy the End of Summer on the Byway!

Enjoy the End of Summer on the Byway!

by Iowa’s Heritage and Scenic Byway Coordinators

Can you believe that summer is already coming to a close? There’s no better way to end the season than with a tour around the most scenic overlooks and hiking spots all throughout the state of Iowa. Whether you’re traveling with family, friends or by yourself – these are locations you won’t want to skip! 

In addition, the Iowa State Fair is set to begin on August 12 and run through the month, but there are several other events happening on and around each of the Scenic Byways in Iowa, too. Pick an event, pick a byway or pick a destination… you won’t be disappointed. 

Ledges State Park

Ledges State Park Boone, Iowa

Overlooks & Scenic Views

From east to west and north to south, our state is filled with the most beautiful locations and hidden gems. Take a look at each of these featured spots along all of the Iowa byways. Where are you going next?
Click Here for August’s Featured Locations!

There’s town celebrations, farmers markets, and fun scheduled all month long. Take a look at the calendar of events for what’s coming in August. Click Here for August Events!