During America’s westward expansion, Pennsylvania played a critical role thanks to engineering projects like the Horseshoe Curve, the National Road, and the Lincoln Highway.
The Lincoln Highway was one of the country’s first transcontinental roads traveling from New York City’s Times Square to San Fransisco in 1913. In Pennsylvania, it crossed the Delaware River north of Philadelphia, and traveled into the city, before picking up what is now primarily Route 30 for the trip across the rest of Pennsylvania.
Today, the Lincoln Highway is an often forgotten legacy of America’s transportation history, but this legacy is kept alive at the Lincoln Highway Experience near Latrobe, PA.
The Lincoln Highway Experience is located inside the historic Johnston House, which was the childhood home of mid-19th century PA Governor William Johnston, as well as in a modern wing added to the building. The museum tells the story of this important roadway over a 200-mile stretch from the Susquehanna River in York County in the east to Westmoreland County in the west.
Visits to the museum start with a 13-minute film titled “Through the Windshield,” which takes visitors on a virtual ride along this historic roadway. This award-winning film does an excellent job highlighting the history and culture of the Lincoln Highway.
After watching the film, head into the main exhibits of the museum. While the Lincoln Highway Experience doesn’t have a large number of galleries, they do a great job covering a lot of ground in the space that they do have.
Throughout the museum, there are exhibits that highlight many different aspects of the Lincoln Highway, both in the 200-mile section of Pennsylvania that they cover and throughout the highway’s 3,000-mile route.
One particularly interesting exhibit features a Carbondale bike (which were once made in Bedford, PA). Visitors can climb aboard this stationary bike and, as they pedal, power is produced that lights up highlights of the Lincoln Highway across the entire country.
Another room in the museum is dedicated to historic architecture across the Lincoln Highway in PA. This is primarily focused on the roadside oddities, both still existing and gone forever, and the more recently created Roadside Giants.
Having personally traveled nearly the entire 200-mile stretch of road that the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor covers, it was neat to see spots featured that I had seen including the Haines Shoe House in York, the giant coffee pot in Bedford, and the Roadside Giants.
Adjacent to this room is a room for kids to play. It is outfitted with a variety of toys and interactive experiences that are related to the Lincoln Highway. I have no doubt that if I had visited with my young kids that they would have wanted to spend their entire morning in just this one room.
The next room on the tour is also the largest. Located in a modern wing attached to the main historic home, this room houses several large exhibits from the history of the Lincoln Highway. These included an authentic tourist cabin, an old gas station, and even an antique Packard automobile.
However, without a doubt, the highlight of this room is Serro’s Diner. This 1938 diner was operated in both Irwin and Youngwood until 1990. Today, it has been fully restored and is located inside the Lincoln Highway Experience.
Visitors can walk into this incredibly restored piece of history and have a look around. Even better, every ticket to the museum includes a piece of locally-made pie and a cup of coffee. This treat is a great way to end a visit to the Lincoln Highway Experience.
Before you leave, head back into the hallway adjacent to the gift shop. Here, there are tables and postcards from the Lincoln Highway Experience. Take a minute to write home and tell someone about how much fun you had, and the museum will even cover postage for you.
Admission to the Lincoln Highway Experience also includes a 60-page guide to the 200 miles of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor. The museum is located near the western end of this corridor, so this works great if you are traveling east, but is still interesting to flip through if you are traveling west. Nevertheless, this is a great guide to the many highlights along the Lincoln Highway in PA.
Over my time writing Uncovering PA, I’ve visited many fantastic spots along the Lincoln Highway including the Gettysburg Battlefield, the Abandoned PA Turnpike, the Flight 93 National Monument, the Compass Inn Museum, and Fort Ligonier, just to name a few.
Visiting the Lincoln Highway Experience offered me a great appreciation for this roadway, its history, and the many great spots along it.
If you love history and want to learn more about a roadway that was Route 66 before Route 66 even existed, don’t miss the Lincoln Highway Experience near Latrobe.
Note: My visit to the museum was hosted by the site. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Looking for more to do in the area? Check out Polymath Park, Adams Falls in Linn Run State Park, and Historic Hanna’s Town.
Lincoln Highway Experience
Hours: Monday-Saturday: 10am-4pm
Cost: Adults: $14, Children: $5
Address: 3435 State Route 30 E