FULTON, Ill. — The Lincoln Highway, when created in 1913, was the beginning of a wonderful stretch of concrete across America, including the states of Illinois and Iowa.
It crossed into Iowa at Fulton, which was chosen because it was the shortest distance from Chicago to the Mississippi River (139 miles). Many of the tourists planned their trips so that they could stop at the Fulton Tourist Park, a leafy grove on the banks of the river where tents were pitched and showers were provided. A beach offered the weary traveler a unique adventure to swim in the “Father of Waters,” the only one place on the entire Lincoln Highway offering such an experience.
Photos of this park, the Twin Oaks Resort, which was located 4 miles east of Fulton, and many other local sites will be shown during the PowerPoint presentation on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 3:30 p.m. in the Masonic Lodge in Fulton. The program is in keeping with the theme of this year’s Fall Festival: “The Lincoln Highway Centennial Celebration.”
This highway’s motto, “Main Street Across America,” was an appropriate one as it was designed to pass through the cities and towns whenever possible. In later years, the interstate highways were built to bypass these communities. Also, included in the presentation, are the routes (there were four) through the city of Clinton. All of the routes took the tourists west on Fifth Avenue. William Folwell Coan was appointed as the State of Iowa Consul by the Lincoln Highway Association and is credited with the success of the highway in his state. Consuls were appointed in each community to handle local issues. (E. A. Smith served for Morrison; W. H. Mitchell in Fulton; J. Q. Jeffries for the city of Clinton). This organizational structure, in addition to a sophisticated marketing plan, were two major contributors in the completion of the Lincoln Highway.
One of the reasons for celebrating this centennial anniversary of the first transcontinental highway is this is the first official memorial to our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. It preceded the Lincoln Monument or the copper penny minted in his honor. Another significant factor is the new highway allowed thousands of Americans and foreign travelers to ‘go west’ and “see the USA” as never before.
The Lyons-Fulton High Bridge, erected in 1891, was also a major factor in the highway coming through Fulton to Lyons. Although the Clinton-Illinois Bridge (frequently referred to as the South or East Clinton Bridge) opened in 1892, the selected route was through Fulton, Lyons and Clinton. The Lyons-Fulton High Bridge photos are included in the program.
Barbara Mask is president of the Fulton Historical Society.