The Susquehanna Trail as a Ribbon of Concrete

Story of the Susquehanna Trail in the Good Roads Movement: Part 14

CarOnConcreteDuring Halloween of 1920, a masked carnival was held to celebrate the Susquehanna Trail’s completion, as a concrete highway, through Shrewsbury. The goal of the Board of Governors of the Susquehanna Trail Association was to construct the whole road surface from the New York border to the Maryland line as a concrete highway. However, the whole Susquehanna Trail was not even close to being completed as a “ribbon of concrete” in 1920. It would be 1924 before the official opening of the Trail.

CarInMudIn fact, parts of the Susquehanna Trail in York County remained as unimproved roadway until early 1924. One section of the unimproved Trail in Northern York County resulted in over 100 motorists getting stuck in the mud after a 1923 rainstorm. By 1923, it had been over six years since the initial idea for a north-south Susquehanna Trail improved highway in Pennsylvania had been conceived.

ConcreteHwy1923This illustration appears on page 262 of the November 1923 issue of Concrete Highway Magazine. By the end of the 1923 construction season, the solid black lines represent the sections of the Susquehanna Trail that had been improved as a concrete highway. Quoting from that article:

It is difficult to find a more pleasant region in which to motor than eastern Pennsylvania. The rolling hills, the rugged mountains and the beautiful waterways delight the eye. And because the land has been settled since early Colonial days, there are quaint houses, old fashioned hedges enclosing tilled fields and interesting cities. It is a friendly, homelike region, quiet and peaceful, for the spirit of William Penn pervades the land.

Extending across the Commonwealth in an almost due north and south direction is the Susquehanna Trail. For the greater part of its journey it parallels the picturesque shores of the Susquehanna, leaving the river at Williamsport to plunge into the rugged mountains to the north. This modern highway is now almost entirely paved with concrete.

Starting at Baltimore, the motorist drives north to the Pennsylvania line where a concrete road leads him through a rich farming country to York. Years before the Revolution, the public square in the heart of this historic city was deeded by William Penn for a common pasture ground.

Could the old Quaker fathers of those early days see the teeming, bustling square today, they would be astonished. Instead of the old common pasture, they would see a traffic way, so busy that it was necessary to install an automatically timed bell at the first ringing of which all motor traffic stops to give pedestrians an opportunity to cross the square. Another bell and pedestrians are halted in the safety zones while vehicular traffic has the right of way.

Proceeding north the highway dips into hallows and ascends hills from which there are inspiring views of broad valleys and distant mountain ranges. Soon the Susquehanna River is crossed and the motorist finds himself suddenly in the heart of Harrisburg near the beautiful capitol building.

We learn from this article, that by 1923, York is using an automatically timed bell to regulate traffic in the square. York’s square being at the crossroads of two of the greatest highways in the good roads movement; the Lincoln Highway and the Susquehanna Trail.

Next Friday, this series will continue on the Story of the Susquehanna Trail in the Good Roads Movement.

Related posts include:

Reading the HEADLINES; A Quick Index to ALL YorksPast Posts

About Stephen H. Smith

Stephen H. Smith is a design engineer who worked at York International Corp. for 33 years before retiring several years ago to research and write books full time; his second career. The initial emphasis was on family history when he won a national award during 2002 for his first book “Barshingers in America." Positive feedback and that award were influential in his decision to retire early from engineering and start a retirement career.
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