ASHLAND – The local historical society has recently joined a national tourist association that celebrates a noted coast-to-coast highway that travels through Ashland.
The Saline Ford Historical Preservation Society, also known as the Ashland Historical Society, joined the U.S. 6 Tourist Association, a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to the economic development and cultural preservation of inner cities, small towns and rural communities located along U.S. 6. This 3,652-mile long roadway has been called many names, including Grand Army of the Republic Highway, Grand Old Highway and Route 6.
Historic U.S. Route 6 runs between the waterfront at Long Beach, Calif. and Provincetown, Mass., which is located on the tip of Cape Cod. It is the longest highway established in the United States and today remains the longest continuous highway in the nation. In Nebraska, the highway runs west from Omaha to the Colorado State line, along the southern part of the state. The only known remaining original (as constructed) sectional concrete alignment of Route 6 is a one and one-half mile stretch near McCook.
Mary and Russ Lombard, Jennifer Harrison, Hilary Oppelaar and Karla Hartley founded the U.S. 6 Tourist Association in 2001. They are creating state divisions to coordinate activities in the over 600 cities and towns along the highway. The Nebraska U.S. Route 6 Tourist Association was formed in 2003.The association also supports efforts to restore and maintain remaining portions of the historic highway by promoting tourism along Route 6 in Nebraska, Iowa, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Utah. Their goals include establishing regional museums and educational and assisting in the development of roadside parks, rest areas and visitor centers, as well as create a preservation program to keep and/or restore all remaining portions of the original (as built) sections of Historic U.S. Route 6 which were constructed prior to 1956 that would be designated as “historic destination roadways.”
U.S. 6 began in 1925 with the construction of a segment from Massachusetts to New York and was extended in stages west when the American Association of State Highway Officials adopted a numbering system in 1926 for the main highways in the country. In 1931, the highway was built to Greeley, Colo. Six years later, it was extended to Long, Beach, Calif.
The roadway was known by several names over the years. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, it was named the Roosevelt Highway after President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1953 it was redesignated the Grand Army of the Republic Highway. That name faded over the years, but began to reappear in the 1990s. Locally, the highway was known by different names in some areas. For example, in Nebraska it was also known as the Detroit-Lincoln-Denver highway and the Omaha-Lincoln-Detroit highway.
In 1965 U.S Route 6 lost transcontinental status when California decommissioned the final stretch of the roadway Long Beach to Bishop, shortening the highway by 225 miles and making it the second longest highway (Route 20 is 3,345 miles long). However, the U.S. 6 Tourist Association hopes to restore that final stretch to retain the roadway’s claim to fame.