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U.S. 29 Maryland to Florida
When the Joint Board on Interstate Highways issued its proposal on the U.S. numbered highway system in October 1925, the report identified the main interstate highways that would be included. U.S. 29 was among them, with the route described as:
The Secretary of Agriculture submitted the Joint Board's proposal to the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) for consideration. Over the next year, AASHO acted on requests, many initiated by named trail associations, for changes in routings and numbers. Finally, by ballot of the State highway agencies on November 11, 1926, AASHO adopted the U.S. numbered plan.
The first official description of the approved U.S. 29 appeared in the initial U.S. numbered log, which AASHO printed in April 1927:
United States Highway No. 29.
The route served as a connector between U.S. 70 and U.S. 80.
On June 8, 1931, AASHO's Executive Committee approved requests from the States involved to extend U.S. 29 to the north:
U.S. 29, North Carolina, Virginia. U.S. 29 is extended north from Kings Mountain, North Carolina, via Gastonia, Charlotte, Concord, Salisbury, High Point, Greensboro, Reidsville to the North Carolina State line north of Reidsville. VIRGINIA, beginning at the North Carolina-Virginia line, north of Reidsville, via Danville, Chatham, Altavista, Lynchburg, Amherst, Covesville, Charlottesville, Madison, Culpeper. This route now absorbs all of U.S. 170 [the first branch route of U.S. 70 between Lynchburg and Charlotte].
The northern terminus, in Culpeper, was at the junction with U.S. 15.
In 1933, the District of Columbia and Maryland approached Virginia and AASHO about an extension of U.S. 29 north. In an undated letter (probably in May 1933), Commissioner Henry G. Shirley of the Virginia Department of Highways informed AASHO Executive Secretary W. C. Markham:
On May 23, Shirley wrote to inform Markham that, "We are thoroughly in accord with taking No. 29 on through north when the District of Columbia and Maryland, and the other states have worked out a route." He did not think the extension would have to follow U.S. 211 except for a short distance. "There are several routes being developed whereby we may be able to take this in without duplicating 211 or 50". Although he did not plan to take any action until "it has been worked out on either end", he assured Markham that Virginia would "try and work out some feasible plan" for the routing of U.S. 29.
Markham, who was finalizing proposals for the Executive Committee to act on during its mid-year meaning, informed Shirley on May 26 that "we were trying to work out something that would be satisfactory for 29 and yet not duplicate U.S. 211 and 15." Markham asked:
Based on Markham's contacts with the three jurisdictions, he included the U.S. 29 extension in a June 14 letter to all members of the Executive Committee for consideration and voting by ballot:
The Executive Committee approved the change, as Markham informed Shirley, Chairman G. Clinton Uhl of the Maryland State Roads Commission, and Director of Traffic W. A. Van Duzer of the District of Columbia by letter on June 22:
The change was recorded in AASHTO's 1933 Annual Report as:
During AASHO's annual meeting, October 9-11, 1933, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Executive Committee agreed to investigate consolidation of U.S. numbered routes, the discontinuance of alternate routes and the disapproval of requests for recognition of named routes. The Executive Committee considered these issues during its midyear meeting on June 22-23, 1934, in Chicago, Illinois. The route log that emerged from this review reflected the temporary extension of U.S. 29 to Baltimore, Maryland, and a southern extension to Pensacola, Florida:
(The figures following the name of the city (e.g., Cottagehill 16) indicate the mileage between that city and the next one given.)
The southern extension followed a combination of State routes from Tuskegee to Flomaton, Alabama. From the intersection with U.S. 31 in Flomaton, the extended U.S. 29 followed existing U.S. 331. The extended route, from Baltimore to Pensacola, was 1,102 miles long.
Through the 1955 edition, AASHO's U.S. numbered highway logs retained the language about the temporary routing in Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Maryland.
During the annual meeting in Seattle, Washington, on November 9-11, 1954, the Executive Committee approved a change in the routing of U.S. 29 and created U.S. 29 Alternate in Maryland:
Relocation of U.S. 29 on the Baltimore-Washington highway, more particularly that portion between Columbia and White Oak. The new location is essentially direct, going through Scaggsville and Burtonsville to a junction with the present route at White Oak. The old route from Columbia through Ashton to White Oak is to be designated U.S. 29 Alternate, the change to be effective upon completion of the construction work, which is indicated as being in the latter part of 1955.
This routing is shown in the 1955 log, as is a new northern terminus at the junction of U.S. 29 and U.S. 40 about 12 miles west of Baltimore. AASHO modified the terminus on June 18, 1968:
Origins of the Route
When the original U.S. numbered highway system was selected and numbered, several parts had been included in named trails. The original route, the one selected by the Joint Board in 1925, was almost entirely part of the Bankhead Highway, a transcontinental route, 3,640 miles from Washington, D.C., to San Diego, California. It had been conceived during a good roads meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, on October 6, 1916, and was named after Senator John H. Bankhead of Alabama, whose advocacy for Federal-aid and role in passage of the landmark Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 had earned him the honorary title of "The Father of Good Roads in the United States Senate."
From Spartanburg to Tuskegee, U.S. 29 was also identical with the Gulf-Atlantic Division of the Southern National Highway. This transcontinental route (Washington, D.C., to San Diego) was one of the earliest in the country. It had been formed in 1912 by promoters from the Southwest, but never achieved the prominence of some of the other early routes. The Gulf-Atlantic Division was a branch off the main route.
In Virginia, U.S. 29 also included segments of the Lee Highway (also Washington, D.C., to San Diego), and the National Roosevelt Midland Highway (Washington, D.C., and Newport News, Virginia, to Los Angeles, California).
The segments that became U.S. 29, however, can be traced well beyond the early days of the automobile. The Maryland section is known as the Columbia Pike, reflecting its days as a toll road (in some areas, a nearby road is marked "Old Columbia Pike," showing an earlier location of the route). A report of the Maryland Geological Survey in 1899 mentioned two turnpikes still in operation on the route (the Ellicott City and Clarksville Turnpike, 10 miles, Howard County, and the Washington, Colesville, and Ashton Turnpike, 12.5 miles in Montgomery County).
In Virginia, the section from Warrenton to Washington was known as the Warrenton Turnpike, dating to 1808. It played an important part in the first and second Battles of Bull Run (Manassas). Following the initial battle, the route was the scene of a hasty, disorganized retreat when Confederate forces gained a victory, sending northern soldiers running for Washington. The soldiers vied for room on the road with escaping citizens who had traveled to Manassas with picnic lunches to observe the battle.
When a Jubilee of national reconciliation was held in Manassas in July 1911, President William H. Taft (the first Chief Executive to purchase automobiles for the White House) decided to drive to the festivities on the same route taken by Federal troops and Washington revelers in 1861. As described in The Washington Post (July 21, 1991):
The article explained that festivities at Manassas continued while "the jovial Taft ate and motored his way through Northern Virginia, unruffled by such impediments or the illness of one senator in his car." Taft and his party arrived 2 hours late, and "with only one vehicle, the other cars having been abandoned in rain-gorged streams, their passengers left to scavenge for carts and buggies." Although "dusty and bespattered," Taft addressed the crowd of Union and Confederate veterans, saying of Virginia hospitality that "its soil and its streams gather about you and cling to you." He then, as the article note, "returned to Washington by train." (For a detailed account of the trip, see Michael L. Bromley's William Howard Taft and the First Motoring Presidency, 1909-1913, McFarland and Company, Inc., 2003, pages 285-291.)
The original road between Greensboro, North Carolina, and Georgia was part of the Upper Road, and played a part in the Revolutionary War. According to Douglas Waitley in Roads of Destiny (Robert B. Luce, Inc., 1970):
In North Carolina, the section through Salisbury and Charlotte had been part of the Great Trading Path of the Catawba and Cherokee Indians. In 1791, President George Washington used part of the Upper Road/U.S. 29 between Charlotte and Salisbury on the return leg of his southern tour of the Nation. The tour was part of his effort to hold the country together in very tough times by going to see the people in remote places--and letting them see the country's greatest hero. (He had conducted a similar tour of New England in 1789). The trip moved south through Richmond to Wilmington, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; and Savannah, Georgia; before turning north and passing through Charlotte, Salisbury, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and finally returning to Virginia on a more or less direct line to Fredericksburg.
The trip got off to an unpromising start, especially in view of the South's reputation for "notoriously bad, sandy roads," as biographer Douglas Southall Freeman put it:
As for his venture on future U.S. 29, the President found Charlotte "disappointing but the approaches to it were through better farm lands than Washington had seen in days, and the district between Charlotte and Salisbury seemed to him "very fine."
Another section, in Florida, follows the route of an old trail used by General Andrew Jackson on the way from Pensacola to Fort Montgomery in the spring of 1818 during the First Seminole War. His successful efforts help the United States acquire Florida from Spain in 1819. The road had been part of the Great Pensacola Trading Path, known in pioneer days as the Wolf Trail, between the Creek Indian settlements at present-day Montgomery, Alabama, and Pensacola.
Another President On The Road
When President-elect Thomas Jefferson left his home at Monticello near Charlottesville, Virginia, on November 24, 1800, he was headed to the new city of Washington, D.C., to take the oath of office as President. According to research by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Jefferson traveled the Three-Notched Road (Route 250) to Fredericksburg Road (Routes 22 and 231). From Gordonsville, he took Chicken Mountain Road (Route 639) or a plantation trail to Montpelier. Jefferson followed the Carolina Road (also known as Rogue's Road) to Brandy Station, a route that eventually became U.S. 29. From Centreville, where he had breakfast on November 27, he reached Washington later that day via Falls Church. Thus, for at least part of his trip, Thomas Jefferson followed the predecessor roads of future U.S. 29.
Inspired by this trip, President-elect Bill Clinton and Vice President-elect Al Gore followed a parallel route on the way to Washington for his inauguration on January 20, 1993. Clinton, who had often campaigned by bus during the period leading up to his election, wanted to begin his journey at Monticello, home of someone he considered a spiritual mentor.
The trip took place on January 17, 1993. Gabriel Escobar of The Washington Post described the tour of Monticello (the President-elect especially liked Jefferson's library), and a meeting with school children who had won the newspaper's contest. "Dear Mr. President", One student addressed the future President as "Governor Clinton", Or President-elect, whatever . . . " Clinton grinned, "Whatever."
People lined the 121-mile route, waving flags and holding signs. Some offered advice ("Small Business and Agriculture need help"), while others simply offered food and hot coffee to the President-elect and his party. Many of those along the way had voted for President George H. W. Bush; one held a sign predicting bad economic times under the new President.
For the last leg of the trip via I-66, President-elect Clinton could see a sign posted by the Virginia Department of Transportation in the spirit of the old Burma Shave signs:
Thanks Mr. President
This page last modified on 04/07/11