Historic Auto Trails



In 1911 the Transcontinental Highway Association designated the route between Omaha, Lincoln and Denver as the OLD Highway, and identified it as a primary U.S. route.

Goodrich 12-foot mile markers In 1913, a crew from the B.F. Goodrich Company traveled from Omaha to Denver placing tire-shaped metal signs on top of 12-foot posts identifying the OLD Highway. Painted black and white, the distances to various towns were printed in the center of each sign. At the time, Goodrich published one of the most popular travel guides, in addition to manufacturing bicycle and automobile tires.

Route expansion changes name to DLD Highway Apparently with some reluctance, the OLD Highway Association gave up its identity in 1920 when it became part of the Detroit-Lincoln-Denver (DLD) Highway Association, whose goal it was to establish a continuous route from Detroit to Denver.

Iowa route registration

In October 1920, the DLD Highway Association sought to register their route in Iowa. The highway was planned to cross the entire length of the state (approximately 326 miles) and pass through Pottawattamie, Shelby, Audubon, Guthrie, Dallas, Polk, Jasper, Poweshiek, Iowa, Johnson, Muscatine, and Scott counties.

Notable individuals involved in the process of registering the route in Iowa were Charles H. Roper, president of the DLD Highway Association, and O.M. Parke, secretary and person identified as being the individual responsible for all negotiations at the time.

Approval of the DLD Highway Association’s application was delayed after the Iowa State Highway Commission (ISHC) learned that the association had defaced the markings of the River to River Road. While it was well known that the DLD Highway eventually turned into the River to River Road, members of the DLD Association believed their highway had precedence over the River to River Road and had a representative paint over the markings, a clear violation of the Marked Highway Registration Law.

Initially the old highwayThe defacing episode triggered a major dispute between the DLD Highway Association and River to River Road Association. Heated letters were exchanged between the two associations, each making various accusations against the other.

Based on these allegations and fact that the DLD Highway did overlap the River to River Road, the ISHC suspended approval of the DLD Highway’s registration until the River to River Road Association granted the DLD Highway Association permission to share jurisdiction over portions of the route.

The River to River Road Association granted the DLD Highway Association permission to overlap their route on the condition that they replace the markings that had been defaced. The DLD Highway Association agreed and resubmitted their route registration application to the ISHC, along with an additional $5 fee.

The DLD Highway’s second route application was dated July 1, 1921; received by the ISHC on July 5, 1921, and approved Sept. 6, 1921.

After the DLD Highway was registered, documents show negotiations were entered between the River to River Association and DLD Association about the possibility of the River to River Road Association abandoning their duties and turning over control of their route to the DLD Highway Association. The proposal was later withdrawn after the River to River Road Association decided to remain an active organization.

Eventually, the DLD Highway passed through six states, spanning a distance of 1,700 miles, connecting the population centers of Detroit, Lincoln and Denver.

DLD route marker

DLD post marker The route marker for the DLD Highway was described as a white square with the letters DLD centered inside diagonally from the top left to the bottom right, with the letter L overlapping both of the Ds. In addition, there was to be a thick black border on the top and bottom of the square.

Reminders of the bygone era.

Just east of Hastings, Nebr. on U.S. 6 is the D-L-D (Detroit-Lincoln-Denver) State Recreation Area. This is a former road wayside area encompassing seven acres of lane and offers picnicking. In Nebraska, the D-L-D Highway became U.S. 38 in 1926 and then U.S. 6 in 1931.

DLD state recreation area signIn 2006, glimpses of the old brick pavement from the D-L-D Highway could still be seen in the city of Lincoln, Nebr., on portions of West “P” Street. This section of roadway was mentioned in the city’s Northwest Corridors Redevelopment Plan, a guide for redevelopment activities in the area to overcome blight and substandard structures and properties. In 2007, the city of Lincoln’s Urban Development Department announced that it was pursuing funding to restore and relocate the D-L-D mile marker located on West “P” Street. In December 2007, the city of Lincoln was awarded a $380,036 transportation enhancement grant from the Nebraska Department of Roads for improvements to a four-block segment of West “O” Street between Third Street and the Salt Creek Bridge. Among other activities, funds will be spent to create a historic interpretive plaza commemorating the Detroit-Lincoln-Denver Highway.

Another unique architectural relic associated with the DLD Highway is the Public Comfort Station for Men, located at Ninth and “O” streets in Lincoln, Nebr. The entire block of Government Square is part of the National Register of Historic Places. The building served as a rest area, a place for road-weary men (only) could have their shoes shined, buy a cigar or use the facilities. The building was constructed for $22,000, according to a May 30, 1925, Lincoln Evening Journal article. The article said the comfort station featured Bedford stone outer walls, glazed white tile interior walls and its “plumbing fixtures are the best.”

In 2008, remnants of the original concrete DLD Highway were found buried under a county gravel road (Red Willow County Drive 716/717) east of McCook, Nebr. The old roadway was exposed due to a crumbling wing wall of a box culvert. When the DLD Highway was relocated to the north many years prior to the discovery, the original portion of the concrete highway through Red Willow County became a county road. When the old concrete roadway became too potholed and unsafe, the county simply built a gravel road on top of it.


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