NEXT Thursday will mark the anniversary of the birth of General Robert E. Lee. On that day an important step will be taken for a great memorial to Lee in the form of a transcontinental highway extending from New York to San Francisco by way of Washington, Memphis and San Diego. In a way the Lee Highway will parallel the Lincoln Highway, and as one road now runs through the land of Lincoln, the other will run through the land of Lee. Together they will practically encircle the national domain, binding together North, South, East and West.
On the anniversary of General Lee’s birth the Lee Highway Association, the organization behind the building of this great pavement from one coast to the other, will hold a celebration in Richmond as part of the meeting of the Virginia Good Roads Convention. Although only twenty months old the work of the Lee Highway Association has already progressed so steadily that completion of the transcontinental route is anticipated within three years. The response from the various communities through which the road will pass has been splendid, and we feel repaid for the labor we have expended on the project.
The Eastern section of the highway will lead from New York to Memphis, passing out of Washington over the great bridge to be erected from the Lincoln Memorial to General Lee’s former house at Arlington, and thence by historic Falls Church, Va.; Fairfax Court House, through Manassas Battlefield, Warrenton, the heart of the fox-hunting country; over the crest of the Blue Ridge by way of Massanutten Mountain and Luray Cave and on into the famous Shenandoah Valley of Virginia at Newmarket.
By Wilson’s Birthplace.
Thence the road turns southwest to Staunton, the former home of ex-President Wilson, and proceeds to Lexington and on to the majestic Natural Bridge. From this celebrated spot the highway progresses through Roanoke, Va., to Bristol, just on the line between Virginia and Tennessee. From Bristol superb mountain country is traversed all the way to Chattanooga, as the road trails through the Southern Appalachians. The distance from Washington to Chattanooga is 640 miles. Two routes are under consideration from Chattanooga to Memphis. One which goes by way of the now famous Muscle Shoals is 385 miles long, the other by way of Nashville is 390 miles.
The next step is to fix the route from Chattanooga to San Diego and on to San Francisco. On Nov. 12., accompanied by M. O. Eldridge of Washington, representing the American Automobile Association, and several Government officials, I went by automobile to the Pacific Coast, reaching San Diego Nov. 30. The route inspected was through Little Rock, Hot Springs and De Queen, Ark.; Durant, Lawton and Altus, Okla.; Childress and Plainview, Texas; Clovis, Roswell and Alamogordo, N.M.; El Paso, Texas; Las Cruces, Deming and Lordsburg, N. M.; Duncan, Safford, Globe, Roosevelt Dam, Phoenix, Gila Bend and Yuma, Ariz.; thence to San Diego, Cal. Returning by train I held conferences at Amarillo, Texas, Oklahoma City, Okla., and Little Rock, Ark.
The itinerary of this trip was made out in advance in Washington, and the present condition of the road may be inferred from the fact that the schedule was maintained throughout, but there were no roadside delays except twice, when a nail picked up on a city street necessitated a change of tires; that not a serious hill was found between the Mississippi and the Pacific, and that the average running time was twenty miles an hour.
Each State has offered us a line to be designated as Lee Highway and will co-operate with us and the Federal Government in its construction as an interstate highway. It is the expectation that within three years or less all unfinished sections will be completed and our road will be a reality from Washington to San Diego, usable 365 days in the year and shorter by many hundreds of miles than any other road likely to be built within the next several years. Over the routes surveyed the distance from the Zero milestone in Washington to San Francisco is 3,453 miles, from Washington to Los Angeles 2,990 miles.
The principal business before the Chattanooga convention is the formation of a working plan for the completion of the Southern transcontinental highway. The pavement is continuous from New York City to Washington, 238 miles, and from San Diego to San Francisco, 590 miles. Between Washington and San Diego lie eight States and eighty-odd counties. From each county seat in the series the pavement has been growing in either direction toward the next county seat, and in many instances pavement reaches all the way across counties, sometimes for hundreds of miles. There are, however, many gaps to fill in; and the association has secured the aid of the Federal and all the Lee Highway State Road Boards for a construction program whereby contracts will be let this Spring for the construction of all remaining unfinished sections.
The association proposes to infuse into the national life the inspiration to noble things that cannot fail to result from a knowledge of the life, character and services of Lee. At the annual meeting in Richmond on his birthday next Thursday, C. H. Huston. Assistant Secretary of Commerce, will preside as President of the association.
On Jan. 23 to 25 the second annual convention of the association will be held at Chattanooga, Tenn.
The significance of such an enterprise as the Lee Highway is easily grasped. It means the co-operation of the Federal Government, a dozen or more States and over a hundred counties and two hundred towns and cities; and all these with the Lee Highway Association, the American Automobile Association and other national road bodies, for the accomplishment of a worthy work of patriotism in honoring a great American.