A group of approximately 25 people met at the Niland Cafe in Colo this past Saturday as members of the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association. They were there to take part in the a ssociation’s quarterly meeting, which is moved around to different communities in the state throughout each year.
Those present included people from Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, State Center, Ames, Boone, Jefferson and Colo.
Colo Mayor John Wilson was present during the first part of the morning session to welcome visitors to the community. Visitors were then treated to a program given by Leighton Christiansen, librarian at the Iowa Department of Transportation.
Christiansen’s program was prepared for the Iowa DOT’s Centennial and titled “A Journey in Transportation.”
Of interest to the Iowa LHA members were parts of the program related to the Lincoln Highway. Christiansen showed several photos of a muddy Lincoln Highway in Story County, as he talked about why there was a need to create the Iowa Highway Commission, which preceded the Department of Transportation.
Between 1920 and 1930, he said, there were 7,000 miles of “primary road” in Iowa. These are roads where the majority of traffic was concentrated. Paving of these roads began, but by 1930, there were still over 1,000 miles of primary road that were dirt. One of the photos shared by Christiansen showed paving of the Lincoln Highway near Colo in 1929.
In the 1930s, he said, so much paving and work was taking place on Iowa’s roads that a new map had to be printed every month to keep up with the changes.
Another interesting part of Christiansen’s presentation had to do with the routes that developed in the State of Iowa and in Story County. Each of these routes (which grew into some of Iowa’s main highways) had a name and a marker to identify it. In Story County, five primary routes existed: the Custer Battlefield Highway; the Wilson Highway; the Eldora, State Center and Colfax Highway; the Jefferson Highway and the Lincoln Highway.
Christiansen said if anyone is ever going through old photographs and finds one of these highway markers in them, he’d love to have a copy for the Iowa DOT’s library.
Following Christiansen’s presentation, the ILHA members held a meeting to discuss items of both old and new business, including the continuation of the Lincoln Highway Buy-Way (yard sales event) again this August.
Future meetings are planned to be held in April at Denison and in July at Boone on the second Saturdays of those months. Anyone interested in joining the ILHA could contact Sandi Heumann-Kelly, who runs Niland’s Cafe and serves as a local ILHA contact. Her number is 641-377-3663 or she can be reached by email at email@example.com. Membership information is also available at the ILHA website: iowalincolnhighway.org.