Archive for August, 2018

Autocar comes to the Lincoln Hwy in Pittsburgh

August 15, 2018

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The old Guffey residence, looking stately in this 1920 photo, would make way a few years later for a new Autocar branch. This corner of Baum Boulevard, at Liberty Avenue, was in the middle of the city’s burgeoning Automobile Row. [University of Pittsburgh, Archives Service Center, Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection, 715.2032.CP.]

The Lincoln Highway entered Pittsburgh from the east via Baum Boulevard, the city’s Automobile Row. This neighborhood of large estates near Bloomfield and East Liberty spawned businesses to serve the horse-and-carriage trade between the city and the even-more-upscale suburb to the east. By the early 1900s, these businesses developed into auto repair shops and dealerships. In the above photo, you can see that the Autocar Company was about to demolish one more of the area’s stately homes for its local branch.

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1923 map showing that Autocar owned land at Baum and Liberty but had yet to build its dealership. [Historic Pittsburgh Maps.]

Autocar, at first a maker of autos, was founded in Pittsburgh in 1897 as the Pittsburgh Motor Vehicle Company. It got its new (and still current!) name in 1899 when it moved to Ardmore, Pa, on the Main Line west of Philadelphia, later to be along the Lincoln Highway. One of its offerings was the Pittsburgher car, but in 1912 the company switched to making only heavy-duty trucks.

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Ads for Pittsburgh’s new Autocar Factory Branch ran in all local papers on January 18, 1925.

Pittsburgh had its own Autocar factory branch near downtown. It would take till 1925 for the new dealership to be built; till then, Autocar Sales & Service filled the 1800 block of Forbes, a few blocks past Mercy Hospital. The new sales and service branch, seen below in 1932, filled an entire triangular corner at Baum Blvd. and Liberty Avenue.

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The same intersection in 1932 with the new Autocar dealership filling a corner of Baum Boulevard and Liberty Avenue. This view, looking northwest, also shows the Garden Tea Room. [University of Pittsburgh, Archives Service Center, Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection, 715.3217002.CP.]

Autocar was later absorbed by the White Motor Company, which was later taken over by Volvo Trucks, then acquired by GVW Group, which revived Autocar as an independent company. Autocar, now based in Indiana, continues to produce three models of custom-engineered trucks and holds the distinction of being the oldest surviving vehicle manufacturer in the Western Hemisphere.

Driving the Lincoln Highway in 1919 ~ part 10, “Don’t wish this trip on your grandchildren!”

August 10, 2018

As our journey alongside Beatrice Massey comes to an end, she has a few words of wisdom for transcontinental travelers who might follow:

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Lincoln Park, 1920. This bronze of Rodin’s The Three Shades was installed in 1920; it now resides inside the museum. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc0140]


“Yes, this was indeed ‘the end of the road,’ with all of California yet to see. We had traversed the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific without an accident or a day’s illness, and with only two punctures! We look back on comparatively few discomforts, and many, many pleasures and thrilling experiences, with keen satisfaction.

“Unless you really love to motor, take the Overland Limited. If you want to see your country, to get a little of the self-centered, self-satisfied  Eastern hide rubbed off, to absorb a little of the fifty-seven (thousand) varieties of people and customs, and the alert, open-hearted, big atmosphere of the West, then try a motor trip. You will get tired, and your bones will cry aloud for a rest cure; but I promise you one thing—you will never be bored! No two days were the same, no two views were similar, no two cups of coffee tasted alike. In time—in some time to come—the Lincoln Highway will be a real transcontinental boulevard. But don’t wish this trip on your grandchildren!”

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Muddy roads in Indiana, just before work on the Ideal Section was started in 1920. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc2806]

Driving the LH in 1919 ~ part 9, Pacific Ocean

August 9, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

It’s early September, 1919, and our cross-country travelers have finally reached San Francisco. The LHA had aimed to complete improving and marking its highway for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915; just four years later, almost nothing remained of that grand world’s fair.

However, one odd connection to the fair remains: the California Palace of the Legion of Honor (now simply The Legion of Honor Museum) famously marking the end of the Lincoln Highway is a full-scale replica of the French Pavilion from the 1915 Expo, which itself was a 3/4-scale version of the Palace of the Legion of Honor in Paris.

And now back to Beatrice Massey and her book, It Might Have Been Worse: A Motor Trip from Coast to Coast:

“The next day we were in the thick of the whirl. I did not consider our trip really ended until we stood on the sands of the Pacific. We motored through the city, out to the former Exposition grounds, where but a few buildings were left standing, and to the Presidio, one of the oldest military stations in our country, embracing an area of 1542 acres, overlooking the harbor….

“Driving through Lincoln Park, we entered Golden Gate Park, covering 1013 acres, with hundreds of varieties of plant life from all parts of the world, artificial lakes, boulevards, and the gorgeous flowers for which California is famed….

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The third and current Cliff House, built 1909. [NPR]

“The park extends to the Ocean Beach Boulevard, on the edge of the sands, where the breakers come bounding in against the Seal Rocks and the high promontory on which the Cliff House stands. The water is cold, and a dangerous undertow makes bathing unsafe, but the shore is lined with cars; hundreds of people and children are on the sand, and the tame sea-gulls are walking on the street pavement very much like chickens.

“We went up to the historic Cliff House, the fourth of the name to be built on these rocks. Since 1863, the millionaires of this land and the famous people of the world have dined here, watching the sea-lions play on the jagged reefs. It is closed now, and looks as deserted as any of the tumble-down old buildings which surround it.”

The Cliff House was actually just the third, opened in 1909. It was closed in 1918 after a government order halted sale of liquor “within a half mile of military installations,” soon to be followed by Prohibition. Nonetheless that same building still greets tourists to this day.