Saturday, June 23, 2018
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Gothenburg Stair Step unique

Most Lincoln Highway enthusiasts know about the Gothenburg Stair Step.

However many local residents may not realize that a series of 90-degree turns, from Gothenburg to North Platte, are part of an original 3,400-mile highway from New York City to San Francisco, CA, established in 1913.

This summer, history buffs and others are celebrating the 100th birthday of the Lincoln Highway, a roadway created to expand American tourism and economic growth.

Celebration in Kearney

The celebration will climax in Kearney, the middle of the transcontinental highway named after President Abraham Lincoln, on June 30 and July 31 (see schedule on pg. A3).

Motorists traveling the roadway from the east and west will meet in the city for a host of celebratory activities.

Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce director Anne Anderson, who is also treasurer of the Lincoln Highway Scenic Historic Byway, said local residents should also know that Highway 30 is the original Lincoln Highway except for a few meanderings along the route like the stair steps.

Farmers created stair step

The stair steps southwest of the Platte River were used by farmers for years before the highway to bring grain and livestock to market, Anderson said.

Because it was an established road, and the only part of the highway south of the Platte River in Nebraska, Anderson said the route became part of the Lincoln Highway.

“And, because of the sandy soil, little grain was grown on the north side of the river so there were no good roads,” she said.

For the most part, the road follows section lines and a lot of “turn right, turn left” cornering, according to Gregory Franzwa who wrote The Lincoln Highway in Nebraska.

The stair step actually begins at the corner of Highway 47 and Banner Road and winds its way south of the Platte River to North Platte.

According to the 2013 Centennial Edition of the Nebraska Lincoln Highway by the Lincoln Highway Scenic & Historic Byway, the last stretch of the highway in the United States to be paved was in North Platte in 1935.

‘Old highway’ part of route

Original Lincoln Highway travelers motored in and out of Gothenburg on 12th Street, which is part of the “old highway” to and from Cozad. The route included Avenue G and a road where Cottonwood Drive is today.

Motorists crossed the Platte River on a bridge that started south of Frito-Lay.

“There was no dam at Lake McConaughy then so the Platte was really wide,” Anderson said.

Over the years, the Lincoln Highway has been improved, realigned, paved and shortened. By 1924, officials said the original length was decreased to about 3,100 miles.

In addition to a centennial celebration, many towns along the route are commemorating the event with the placement of 4-foot high concrete markers with official Lincoln Highway medallions.

Two will be placed in Gothenburg, one at the corner of Highway 30 and Lake Avenue that is being rehabilitated by a local Rotary group, and the other at a location not yet chosen, Anderson said.

A banner paying tribute to Gothenburg and its stair steps will be hung at the corner next to Highway 30 for motorists to see when they pass through town on June 29.

She noted that local Boy Scouts placed markers in Gothenburg in 1928 as Franzwa wrote about in The Lincoln Highway Nebraska.

Franzwa said: “The Boys Scouts in Gothenburg did their part in marking the coast-to-coast highway on Sept. 1, 1928.

E.A. Calling, still referred to in The Gothenburg Times as the Lincoln Highway consul, took delivery of eight of the 275-pound concrete markers in North Platte and brought them to Gothenburg.”

Anderson said she knows of one original marker that still exists in Gothenburg.

Camps also sprung up along the Lincoln Highway route where tourists could stay for free.

Tourists could camp at two locations at Gothenburg, at Lafayette Park or on west Highway 30.

For more information about the Lincoln Highway and celebration, contact the Chamber at 537-3505 or LincolnHighway

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