The Lincoln Highway in PA

The Lincoln Highway was envisioned as an improved, hard-surfaced road that would stretch almost 3400 miles from New York to San Francisco. The Lincoln Highway Association was created in 1913 to promote the road using private and corporate donations. Today, the Lincoln Highway Association is dedicated to preserving and promoting this highway and has individual chapters in each state along the route.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

New Drive-In in York....A Sign of the Times?

In the Winter Issue of The Lincoln Highway Forum, the Lincoln Highway Association's quarterly publication, I reported the following information:

Columbia Drive-In Lost
Efforts to save the Columbia Drive-In Theatre on the Lincoln Highway in Lancaster County have not been successful

Since 1956, this drive-in has been providing good family entertainment to the local community but in October, it showed its last movie much to the disappointment of many long-time fans. Since the owner of the drive-in did not own the land on which it sat, it has fallen prey to the greed of development. The 18-acre site is currently zoned commercial but township supervisors are considering a request from the new property owner to rezone the site to mixed use. Preliminary plans show the property planned for commercial buildings and townhouses. The drive-in is an allowed use under both the current and proposed zoning, but the property owner’s desire for “a more intense” development on the site.

Local residents, led by Lancastrian, Stephanie Specht, organized a petition effort to save the drive-in and gathered almost 20,000 signatures. At the final show, the owner of the drive-in thanked everyone for their patronage and said he would consider relocating his business if suitable land can be found. But sadly for the Lincoln Highway, this is a loss of yet another drive-in.

This is not a new story; sadly drive-in movie theatres all over have been lost. There is a great website with an inventory of all of the drive-ins throughout the country. Check it out: Roadside Architecture fans all over will talk about their happy times at their childhood drive in piling all the kids in the car with blankets and snacks for a great family night out. Most of us who are above the 40 year mark have a memory or two about a drive-in movie date that brings a blush to our cheek. But the reality is, those drive-ins closed becuase American's tastes changed. We rejected the heat, humidity and mosquitoes for the comfort of "stadium" seats and air conditioning in brand new multi-screen theatres. With declining attendance, drive-in movie owners had to close and their land was much more valuable as a building site for mini storage units.

So imagine my surprise when I read that the York Expo Center ( in York and on the Lincoln Highway incidentally) was opening up a drive-in movie theatre. The articles that have followed the progress of this new concept have contained lots of quotes from people about how great it is to have a drive in again. I have to admit, I didn't embrace the idea as quickly as the folks interviewed for the article.

On the one hand, I am thrilled that people still care about drive-ins and are excited for all the same reasons that patrons of drive-ins have always talked about. On the other hand, why do we have to lose so much before we appreciate what we have? I'm a preservationist and I want to preserve and protect the original. I'm exicited about the retro look of so many diners and signs that have popped up recently but we've lost so much already. The "reproduction" just isn't the same. So I urge you to go out and support the businesses that are still there. Many are struggling to hang on and that makes them even more precious.

I'm headed to the drive-in tonight! Not to the new one at the York Expo but to Haar's Drive-In in Dillsburg (the last remaining in York County) . Check it out: Two first run movies for only $7.00! What a bargain!

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

'Tis the Season for Traveling

Spring has finally arrived. Even though we didn't have a harsh snow-filled winter here in Pennsylvania, spring is always so welcome to me. I love the colors of spring: the beautiful spring green of the fields that they only have for a short time each year, the redbud trees in full bloom as you travel along the road.

When I was a kid, this is the time of year when "going for a ride" on a Sunday afternoon was a pretty common occurance. After church and dinner at grandma's house, we'd all pile into the car and my dad would take us for a ride. I didn't know at the time how much of an impression it would make on me now that I'm all grown up. I still find myself eagerly looking for the landmarks that used to mark our various routes. Many of those landmarks are on the Lincoln Highway.

I remember the first time that I discovered the Lincoln Highway went across the country. We were living in Chambersburg where the Lincoln Highway name is still widely used. I asked my dad why that road was called the Lincoln Highway. I don't remember what he told me about the name, but I do remember that he told me that I could get on the highway and drive west and eventually I would reach California. I don't think I had much concept of how far that really was but it made me feel so connected to the rest of the country. I remember thinking that someday, I was going to get on that road and travel the whole way.

I guess I'm still planning that trip....someday. I just haven't had the time to do it yet. But I sure do take every opportunity to drive on sections of it when I can. This June, I will drive from Pennsylvania to Iowa for National Conference. I love looking at the maps that will take me there and planning little stops along the way; just like when dad took us all for our Sunday rides. I have to admit sometimes it takes me a while to get where I'm going. I don't hesitate to stop and take pictures of things I find interesting. Last year, my drive from Sacramento to Ely, Nevada for National Conference included quite a few stops. That section of the Lincoln is Highway 50. I took pictures and I visited shops in small towns. I talked to people about the highway and asked them what sites I shouldn't miss. Thanks to Brian Butko's Lincoln Highway book, I made a note not to miss this great neon sign. The hotel is gone but the sign is still there. But that might not be the case for long. These photographs that I gather on my travels are not just a memory of the "ride" for me but sometimes an archive to icons that are lost over time.

So spring is here and even though gas prices are out of control, I encourage you to take a little time and "go for a ride". You don't know what you might find.

Happy motoring!