America's Best History Spotlight 

On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area.  And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find.  You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't.  It'll be fun.  Visit them.

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First Roads West:
Braddock Road
National (Cumberland) Road
National Freeway

Braddock's Road Map
Map of Braddock's Mliitary Road, precursor to Route 40
and the National Freeway

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What is There Now

Tollhouse along the National Road

When Did it Open

Braddock 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 Drive

Although 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 There

From 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.

Washington Tavern Stagecoach Station along the National Road, Route 40

Fort Necessity - The Washington Tavern Stagecoach Station along the National Road, Route 40.

Website:  Fort Necessity


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About Them

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.

Sideling Hill Cut along Interstate 68, the National Freeway

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.

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Historic Sites
Acadia National Park
Alamo, San Antonio
Appalachian Trail
Ball's Bluff
Barbary Coast - San Francisco
Big Cypress National Preserve
Blue Ridge Parkway
Bryce Canyon
Cape Canaveral
Cape Cod National Seashore
Carlsbad Caverns
Chickamauga & Chattanooga
Colorado NM
Crater Lake
Ellis Island
The Everglades
Ferry Farm/Mount Vernon
First State National Monument
Fort McHenry
Fort Sumter
Fort Vancouver
Glacier National Park
The Grand Canyon
Grand Teton
Great Smoky Mountains
Harper's Ferry
Hawaii Volcanoes
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Joshua Tree National Park
Mammoth Cave
Manassas (Bull Run)
Mesa Verde
Morristown NHP
Mount Rainier
Muir Woods
Natchez Trace Parkway
New Orleans
Niagara Falls
Oklahoma Land Rush
Olympic National Park
Oregon Trail
Pearl Harbor
Petrified Forest
Philadelphia - Independence
Pinnacles National Park
Plymouth Rock
Redwood National Park
Rocky Mountain NP
The Roswell Incident
Saguaro National Park
San Antonio Missions NHS
San Juan NHS
San Juan Islands
St. Augustine
St. Louis Gateway West
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Springfield (Lincoln)
Statue of Liberty
Stones River
Sutter's Mill (Gold Rush)
Valley Forge
Theodore Roosevelt NP
War of 1812
Washington, D.C.
Washington's Crossing
White Sands
Wilderness, Battle of
Yellowstone National Park
Yosemite National Park
Zion National Park

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U.S. History Timeline
History Timeline Index

* 1770-1779 - The American Revolution
* 1780-1789 - The Nascent Democracy
* 1790-1799 - America Builds


1800-1809 - Exploration
* 1810-1819 - The War of 1812
* 1820-1829 - A Decade of Compromise & Doctrine
* 1830-1839 - Conquering the West
* 1840-1849 - The Mexican War
* 1850-1859 - Expansion & the Looming Divide
* 1860-1869 - The Civil War
* 1870-1879 - The Nation's Centennial Decade
* 1880-1889 - America Invents
* 1890-1899 - The Age of Immigration


1900-1909 - The World Begins to Fly
* 1910-1919 - World War I
* 1920-1929 - Properity and Its Demise
* 1930-1939 - The Great Depression
* 1940-1949 - World War II
* 1950-1959 - Two Cars in Every Garage
* 1960-1969 - Civil Rights and Turmoil
* 1970-1979 - The Nation in Flux
* 1980-1989 - The Reagan Revolution
* 1990-1999 - Prosperity as the World Turns


2000-2009 - The Fight against Terrorism
* 2010-Present - Economic Recovery

1490-1499 - Columbus/Cabot
1500-1599 - Exploration
1600-1699 - Settlement
1700-1769 - American Rights

National Park Timeline
Abraham Lincoln to Cuyahoga Valley
Dayton Aviation to Gulf Islands
Hagerman Fossil Beds to Muir Woods
Natchez to Russell Cave
Sagamore Hill to Zion NP

Other Important National Park Service Dates