Indians started Route 1 as a random path. The horse widened it, the carriage rutted it, the pack horse energized it, and eventually concrete smoothed it. In parts of the Northeast it was known early on as the Boston Post Road and the Kings Highway.It wasn't until 1926 that the new Joint Board of Inter-State Highways under the United States Department of Agriculture decided to designate federal highways with numbers: The north and south roads received odd numbers, east and west got even numbers. Thus Route 1, the first designated highway in the US, was born as a collection of fairly good roads and bridges stretching across state lines from Fort Kent, Maine, to Key West, Fla. The federal highway became a reality, enabling a driver to forever say, "I drove Route 1." Instant meaning and instant adventure, and the politics of oil that provided cheap gas. In the 1920s Route 1 helped break the common practice of using autos only for trips around town and "moth-balling" them in the winter. When snow "compacting" (and later snow removal) became a common practice in the Northeast, Florida and the open road of Route 1 beckoned cars and families irresistibly.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.