VAN WERT — While the nation will be observing the Lincoln Highway’s 100th birthday this year, those in Van Wert recognize the importance the highway has on its residents and community at large.
The Van Wert County Historical Society held an open house Sunday for those who wanted to observe the importance of the 100th year of the Lincoln Highway and share stories about how the nationwide highway has played a role in their lives. Many guests circled around the inside of the Annex building reminiscing on stories from the past, ranging from housing gypsies and bums during the 1940s and 1950s, selling fruits and vegetables on the side of the road, and paying 25 cents for two gallons of gas that could last them on all-night travels along the highway.
Larry Webb, president of the Van Wert Historical Society, led the group through discussion of the historical significance of the highway. He said the historical value of the highway travels all across the country, but has made a significant impact in the Van Wert area.
“The Lincoln Highway was the first transcontinental highway built across the United States that stretches over 3,300 miles,” Webb said. “There is a sort of nostalgia that exists along the road and has brought many visitors and created many stories for our city.”
The purpose of the meeting was to gather photographs, documents, memorabilia and any stories that could be used to relay the history of the Lincoln Highway. Those who attended made sure to bring along many different photographs and stories that told of the history and impact the highway has made on their lives. Wilson Duprey, who lived just on the outside of the Lincoln Highway, attended the meeting and shared his thoughts on what the highway means to him and the community.
“I grew up along the Lincoln Highway and spent most of my early life building many relationships because of it,” Duprey said. “Whenever I think about my past, I am drawn back to Old 30 and realize how significant it is to history as it serves as a crossroads for our country.”
In honor to celebrate 100 years of the Lincoln Highway’s existence, there are many upcoming plans that will take place in Van Wert. With the collection of photos and memorabilia, the Historical Society is planning on creating a kiosk dedicated to Fountain Park to show the historical context of the centennial mark. Along with the kiosk, the committee is planning on creating a historical booklet people will be able to purchase as a commemorative piece of the history of the highway.
Throughout the summer, Van Wert is also planning on hosting hundreds of classic cars in up to five separate tours travelling through the county on the Lincoln Highway. Events such as these are what will help promote the highway and bring more people to the Van Wert area, something Larry Lee, Director of the Communities and Visitors Bureau, hopes to achieve during the summer.
“With the historical 100 year anniversary, we are hoping to bring countless tourists who are enthusiastic about the Lincoln Highway to Van Wert,” Lee said. “We have many different events occurring in the summer and want to show people what this highway means to our city.”