The Historic National Road
The Historic National Road, over 700 miles long, stretches from Baltimore, Maryland to the edge for St. Louis, Missouri. The National Road, originally conceived as a corridor through the Allegheny Mountains, is the first federally-funded interstate highway.
Work on the road began in 1811 in Cumberland, Maryland. For the first 70 miles of the road, it was the only macadam road in America. The National Road was extended into Ohio in 1825. It wasn't until 1838 that the road was finally constructed past where the Buena Vista Tavern had stood for two years.
The National Road was the main passage to the West until the railroads replaced wagon and horseback travel in the 1860s. During the height of Westward Expansion, thousands of travelers in wagons and coaches stopped at the Buena Vista Tavern on their journeys west.
The introduction of motor vehicles in the early 1900s sparked new interest in travel down the National Road. Tourist camps and gas stations sprang up along the road, and it was paved with asphalt in 1932. The road was renamed U.S. 40 in the 1920s and remained America's Main Street until the 1960s, when Interstate 70 was built to follow a similar route west. During its new peak, the Buena Vista Motel prospered as a motel and motor lodge. The guest cabins were full every night with motor travelers.
Today, the Historic National Road has been adopted by the Ohio National Road Association, a preservation group that has worked to have a guide to the road printed and signs placed along the original route of the road. As you travel along the Historic National Road, look for the red, white, and blue signs designating the path of the original road. Then take a trip through 200 years of history as you take in the sites of historic homes and businesses along the road.
Visit Johnson's Lamp Shop for Historic National Road souvenirs and information about sites to see along the road.