Oldest Roads in the United States

8 Oldest Roads in the United States

The first roads in America were built during the colonial era by the various European colonies. These early roads were used as transportation routes. They were also some of the first postal routes. After the United States became a country, the first highway was built using routes that were established by colonists. Many other highways followed and today, its possible to travel across the United States using these national highways. All of the old roads on this list exist in some form today and are often paralleled by today’s national roads and highways.

8. Lincoln Highway

Year Established: 1913
Location:  coast to coast from Times Square in New York City, New York to Lincoln Park in San Francisco, Califronia
Length:  3,389 mi (5,454 km)

Lincoln Highwayphoto source:  Wikimedia Commons

The idea for the Lincoln Highway was conceived by a group of automobile enthusiasts and industry officials who called themselves the Lincoln Highway Association (LHA). The LHA was led by Carl Fisher who dreamed of a road that spanned across the United States from coast to coast and would accommodate automobiles. Fisher called his idea the Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway and wanted the new highway to serve as a model for how all future highways in the United States should be built.

To fund the highway, Fisher convinced his friends in the automotive industry to pledge $1 million each.  However, Henry Ford was notably absent from the list of donors event though Fisher had asked because Ford believed that the government should be responsible for building the country’s roads. The Lincoln Highway was built over many years and today, most of the road is now part of U.S. Route 30.

7. The National Road

Year Established: 1811
Location:  from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois (connected the Potomac and Ohio Rivers)
Length:  620-mile (1,000 km)

photo source:  Wikimedia Commons via Sethbernard87

The National Road was the very first highway built in the United States entirely through federal funds.  Construction of the National Road was authorized in 1806 by Congress under President Thomas Jefferson. Congress wanted to establish a road from what was then the center of the United States (Maryland) to the westward side of the country at the time, which was Ohio.

The route of the National Road followed a similar path to a military road (Braddock Road) carved out by George Washington and General Braddock in 1754-55. Unlike a lot of early roads, the National Road was built to last from the start and it was paved with broken stones. Today, the National Road is part of US Route 40.

6. Forbes Road

Year Established: 1758
Location:  from Carlisle, Pennsylvania to French Fort Duquesne (now downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Length:  about 200 mi (321.87 km)

Forbes Roadphoto source:  Wikimedia Commons

The Forbes Road was an important trail used by colonial British forces during the French and Indian War (Seven Year’s War) in Pennsylvania. The road was named for Brigadier General John Forbes, who led the expedition to build the road. Once completed, Forbes Road was used to transport the British troops, supplies, and artillery to the French Fort Duequesne, in what is now downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

After the Seven Years’ War, Forbes Road continued to be used and made communication and trade easier between the eastern and western parts of the Pennsylvania colony. There are several historic markers making note of Forbes Road on modern roads such as US 22, US 11, and US 522.

5. Connecticut Route 108 (Farm Highway)

Year Established: 1696
Location:  from Huntington, Connecticut to Stratford, Connecticut
Length:  11.05 mi (17.78 km)

photo source:  Wikimedia Commons (route highlighted in red)

The oldest part of Connecticut Route 108 dates back to 1696 and was originally called the Farm Highway. It was Trumbull, Connecticut’s first highway and was completed on December 7, 1696.

The modern version of Route 108 was established in 1932 and for many years the road was fairly neglected. Originally, Route 108 only went from the town of Shelton to a dead-end in Huntington village. Eventually, the road was extended in 1952 and then given three more miles in 1963.

4. Boston Post Road

Year Established: 1673
Location:  from New York City, New York to Boston, Massachusetts
Length:  about 117.37 mi (188.89 km)

photo source:  Wikimedia Commons

The Boston Post Road was the first official postal route established between New York City and Boston in 1673. The route of the Boston Post Road was first mapped out in 1645 by John Winthrop Jr., the son of the Massachusetts Bay Colony governor who went on to become governor himself when the first postal rider was sent on the Boston Post Road. Winthrop based the Boston Post Road on the trails used by the Native Americans in the area.

Over time, the Boston Post Road carved out three travel routes: the upper post road, lower post road, and middle route. Today, these three routes of the Boston Post Road are now the I-95, I-91, and I-94.

3. Connecticut Route 32 (Mohegan Road)

Year Established: 1670
Location:  from New London, Connecticut to the Massachusetts state line
Length:  54.88 mi (88.32 km)

Connecticut Route 32 (Mohegan Road)photo source:  Wikimedia Commons (route highlighted in red)

Connecticut Route 32, which was originally called Mohegan Road, was first laid out in 1670. Before this, the road was used as a Native American trail for more than a century. The original route of Mohegan Road was between New London and Norwich, Connecticut along the east side of the Thames River. In 1792, the Mohegan Road was updated and it became the first turnpike in New England and the second turnpike ever built in the United States.

The modern Route 32 dates back to the New England Interstate Era, which is where the road got its number. Even after Connecticut stopped using the New England Interstate route, Route 32 kept its numbering.

2. Albany Post Road

Year Established: c.1669
Location:  from New York City, New York to Albany, New York along the east side of the Hudson River
Length:  Unspecified; remaining section of road is 6.6 mi (10.6 km)

Albany Post Roadphoto source:  Wikimedia Commons

The Albany Post Road was officially established in 1669 when the Dutch colonists in New Amsterdam (New York) created a post road based on trails used by the Wappinger/Wicopee tribes of Native Americans. In 1703, the Provincial Legislature passed a “Publick Highways” act and the postal road was turned into a public highway. The colonists decided to name the road Queen’s Road after Queen Anne.

Most of Albany Post Road has been renamed and updated, but a 6 mile stretch of unpaved original road still exists. This historic part of the road is called the Old Albany Post Road and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

1. King’s Highway

Year Established: from 1650 to 1735
Location:  from Charleston, South Carolina to Boston, Massachusetts
Length:  1,300 mi (2,100 km)

King's Highwayphoto source:  Wikimedia Commons

The King’s Highway was built from 1650 to 1735, decades before the United States became a country, which makes the King’s Highway the oldest road in America. The road was 1,300 miles (2,100 km) long and connected Charleston, South Carolina to Boston, Massachusetts. The King’s Highway was the most important road in colonial America and served as the major transportation route for the colonies.

Today, most of the original King’s Highway has been paved over by modern roads and highways. There are some key historical landmarks that were along the King’s Highway that are preserved today and are on the National Register of Historic Places. A few years ago, a documentary film was created about the King’s Highway and many of the landmarks along the road.



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