Map of Braddock's Mliitary Road, precursor to Route 40
and the National Freeway
What is There Now
When Did it OpenBraddock Road - Begun by the Ohio Company with construction continued by George Washington and the Virginia Militia prompting the start of the French and Indian War (May 28, 1754) in the early 1750s. General Braddock would begin in May 29, 1755, buliding the mliitary road to get equipment for his expedition to Fort Duquesne.
National Road - First known as the Cumberland Road and authorized by Thomas Jefferson as the first federally funded highway in 1806. It originally stretched from Cumberland, Maryland to Wheeling, then in Virginia. Construction began in 1811 and the road reached Wheeling on August 1, 1818.
Interstate 68, the National Freeway - 112.9 mile road from Hancock, Maryland to Morgantown, West Virginia. It follows the path of the National Road, Route 40, from Hancock to Keysers Ridge. Construction began in 1965. Freeway opened August 2, 1991.
How Much to DriveAlthough the National Road did have toll booths (photo above) and was considered a turnpike in some places, the National Freeway is just that, free.
How to Get ThereFrom Baltimore - Interstate 70 takes you to Interstate 68 at Hancock, Maryland and Route 40. Route 40 goes north at Keysers Ridge into Pennsylvania and beyond. Interstate 68 connects to Interstate 79 in Morgantown, West Virginia. From points north and south, you can reach Interstate 70 at Hagerstown, Maryland on Interstate 81.
Interesting Sites Along the Route
Cumberland, Maryland - Marker noting the start of the National Road in Riverside Park.
Grantsville, Maryland - Casselman River Bridge built 1813-4. Was longest single-span stone arch bridge at the time.
Sideling Hill Road Cut - On Interstate 68 showing highway cut through the Allegheny. Rest area where you can walk across a bridge near the cut provides a great view of the surrounding area. (Photo left)
Along Route 40 in Addison, Pennsylvania; Uniontown, Pennsylvania, and La Vale, Maryland - Three original tollhouses for you to visit.
Fort Necessity - The Washington Tavern Stagecoach Station along the National Road, Route 40.
Website: Fort Necessity
History Along the Way You Might Like
C & O Canal National Park
Friendship Hill National Historic Site
Okay, we admit, it's a little odd to have a lesser known spotlight
on the history of dirt and macadam, but the story of the first national
road west comes with not only a bit of pre-American Revolution history,
but westward expansion lore that took the men of the coastal
settlements to the mountains, and now includes getting to tourism or
recreation quicker for modern times. And we are talking about the
west as a road that runs from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh (Fort
Duquesne) at first, one which included Indians, French, the British,
and George Washington to boot.
The roads that would span this area began with General Braddock, who was a British general charged with creating a military road through the Appalachian Mountains to make it easier to confront the French at Fort Duquesne in Pittsburgh. So he put together a group of men from the Virginia Militia, including some guy named George Washington, then a colornel in the militia who wanted to be in the British regular army. Hmmm. didn't turn out quite that way. Braddock began building the road in 1755, actually continuing what George Washington had started the year earlier which would lead to the first battles of the French and Indian Wars. Braddock, with Washington along as an aide, got to Fort Duquesne in fits and starts, only to meet defeat and his demise, eventually buried in the road he built.
Jump forward past the revolution and Washington's victory over the British, not with them, and you now had a federal government who wanted settlers to expand west and needed a better road to accomplish that. So, in 1811, what began with Braddock became an effort to create the National Road (also called the Cumberland Road for the town where it started). It would be the first federally funded road, spanning 620 miles from the Potomac to the Ohio Rivers. It reached Wheeling by 1818, later was expanded to Indiana, and was made a macadam (the first) road in 1830. Prior to that, it reached east to Baltimore. Today, you know it as Route 40.
After a century of being the most dominant road in the region, Route 40, with its winding turns, became a bit of a dinosaur, so in many ways, the National Freeway, which parallels the road and even becomes it in some places, now runs from Route 70, then dekes to Morgantown, West Virginia. Construction began on this incarnation in 1965 and took until 1991 to complete. This interstate only covers 112 miles or so of the original journey, but does it faster, and parallels not only those former first roads, but in many places the Potomac River to the south and the Interstate 70/Pennsylvania Turnpike to the north.
So there you have it, the history of one section of highway that moved men within the French and Indian Wars, settlers west to the Mississippi River (Route 40 eventually got across it), and now tourists to their recreation destinations in western Maryland and West Virginia. And we won't even get into the industrial designers, like Norman Bel Geddes, who in the 1930s foresaw cloverleaf construction and the entire interstate system, which leads back to why we now have I-68.
Past SpotlightsAmerica On Wheels
Heinz Wildlife/Fort Mifflin
Reading Railroad Museum/Reading Phils Minor League Baseball
Rancho Los Cerritos, Long Beach, CA
Trexler Game Preserve/Horseshoe Trail
Battle of Kelly's Ford, Phelps WMA, VA
Museum of Indian Culture/Lil Le Hi Trout Nursery
Totem Pole Playhouse
Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Maryland