Feb 24 2011

1955 Lincoln-Mercury Times Article “Granddaddy of Superhighways”

As described yesterday, the Lincoln-Mercury Times in 1955 published an article "The Granddaddy of Superhighways" by David Kahn with illustrations by Harvey Kidder. Here are highlights of the article published 17 years after the Motor Parkway closed:


"Only ghost cars bearing legendary drivers now take the turns and shoot the dips of a deserted highway that wiggles across half of Long Island. Half a century ago, those cars, those drivers and the road were the most famous in the world. Today, only the road remains- a weed-grown ruin, abandoned, dismantled, and forgotten in the backwash of progress. This is the romance of the...Motor Parkway- a road which is considered the granddaddy of modern highways."


"The Motor Parkway became the marvel of the nation. Almost certainly it was the first road in the country to be built as a paved thoroughfare; it probably was America's first concrete road of any length. In Vanderbilt's single-minded passion for speed, he prohibited trucks, horses and pedestrians on his Parkway, he banked its curves, did away with a speed limit, landscaped its right-of-way.Most important of all, he eliminated all intersections and grade crossings by means of over-and-under passes, permitting access only through gates at certain points. Many of these highway "firsts" have since become standard features in current road-engineering practice- the reason why the... Motor Parkway can claim the title of "Granddaddy of Superhighways". "


"..the Vanderbilt Cup races moved away and the Parkway found itself bereft of its most spectacular attraction. But soon it was caught up in the new enthusiasm for automobiling and prospered mightily. It catered to the growing crowds of Sunday drivers. The Motor Parkway was the only road in the New York area on which Dad could take the family for a smooth, dustless, police-free ride in the country. The only entrances and exits were at the eight toll-stations scattered the length of the Parkway. This effectively eliminated horses, pedestrians and cross-traffic and kept the road clear for the pleasure driver... The practical aspect of the Parkway became so important that author Rex Beach immortalized it in a vivid description in The Auction Block (1914)":

...it was not until it had swept onto the Motor Parkway that the girl fully understood what her host had termed fast driving. Then it was that the chauffer let the machine out. Over the desired plains, it tore, comet-like, a meteor preceded by a streamer of light. it swung to the banked curves with no slackening of momentum; it devoured the tangents hungrily; the night wind roared past, drowning all other sounds. Crouched immovably in his seat, the driver scanned the causeway that leaped into view and vanished beneath the wheels, like a tremendous ribbon whirling upon spools...The finger of the speedometer oscillated gently over the figure sixty, and dropped back with a grasp. They had been running thus for a long time...I thank Heaven and Mr. Vanderbilt for the Motor Parkway.


"Now the once-busy Parkway meanders through quiet woods, each year losing more of its famed pavement to the oblivion of vines and dead leaves. It spans modern highways with bridges on which trees and undergrowth almost hide the faded white line. Telephone poles march down the center of a banked curve on which tires once screeched; housing developments flank the proud macadam, making it part of their backyards and allowing children to play where hurtling motors once roared."


"Today you can stroll down the abandoned sections of the Parkway, through woodlands and open plains, through echoing underpasses and over narrow bridges. The sighing of the grasses and the muted hum of the distant traffic whisper to you of the days of past glory, and suddenly you can see a ghostly Locomobile as it rockets past you and disappears down the straightaway."

Click here for a pdf of the 1955 article "The Granddaddy of Superhighways". David Kahn is currently widely regarded as the world's leading expert on the history of codes and cryptology.

Links to related posts on VanderbiltCupRaces.com:

The Long Island Motor Parkway Paintings By Harvey Kidder

Archives: Long Island Motor Parkway Articles

Become a Founding Member of the Long Island Motor Parkway Preservation Society


Join the Long Island Preservation Society, an outgrowth of the Long Island Motor Parkway Panel. If you like to become part of this group dedicated to preserving the historic Long Island Motor Parkway, please send an email to me at Howard@Kroplick.com . Current # Founding Members: 210 (Updated:March 16, 2014)


Feb 27 2011 Art K. 12:27 PM

Love the article Howard.  Very applicable today, but with much more of the Parkway developed over.

Feb 27 2011 guy 1:50 PM

Rex Beach’s words are like motion in poetry (from Grandaddy).
Can we see the rest of “The Auction Block”?
Thanks, Howard - carry on.

Feb 27 2011 Howard Kroplick 3:07 PM

Hi Guy:

This is a link to the entire book via Google Books. The Motor Parkway is mentioned on pages 85 and 94.

http://books.google.com/books?id=L1ghAAAAMAAJ&pg=PP1&dq=The+Auction+Block+Rex&hl=en&ei=Sa5qTYGTLsSugQfT8-zLCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Motor Parkway&f=false


Feb 28 2011 Tom 7:35 AM

Looking forward to driving and seeing what’s left of the Motor Parkway. Mid-Spring I’ll be there! Pick a day with nice weather, hop in the Oldsmobile and do some touring!

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