More than 200 people Saturday honored a thin stretch of history that helped spawn the nation's passion for the automobile.
Boy Scouts from Omaha pulled the canvas off the Nebraska Historical Society's 500th marker, which describes the 100-year-old Lincoln Highway and the three-mile portion of that roadway east of the Elkhorn area.
The Lincoln Highway, the United States' first transcontinental road, has largely been altered and obliterated by the wheels of change. But a historian from Wisconsin told the crowd at the celebration Saturday that the three-mile brick stretch is probably the best-preserved portion of the Lincoln Highway anywhere.
“It's very much the way it was built,” Drake Hokanson said after the ceremony. Not only is the road preserved, he said, but there aren't “strip malls on both sides of it.”
The ribbon of road in question runs from about 174th Street to 204th Street south of Blondo Street. The original bricks cover most of that stretch.
At least 15 antique and classic cars lined the two-lane road for the celebration. Three were 1913 Fords and one was a 1913 Studebaker truck, all four brought out because they were made the same year the Lincoln Highway was started.
Other classics at the event included a 1955 Packard, a 1907 Ford, a 1950 Ford pickup, a 1962 Austin-Healey, a 1966 Cadillac and a 1949 Jeepster.
Among the speakers were Michael Smith, director of the Nebraska State Historical Society; State Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha; Douglas County Board Chairwoman Mary Ann Borgeson; and Dan Kutilek, Douglas County engineering manager.
The 1913 Studebaker belonged to Bill Merwald for 50 years, but he sold it a year ago to a friend, 52-year-old Roger Winsor of Bellevue.
“He's gonna take care of it for me,” said Merwald, 83, also of Bellevue. Merwald sat in a chair beside the old Studebaker. He held a cane and a camera.
Bob Puschendorf, associate director of the historical society, said he was thrilled with the interest shown in the highway and the 500th historical marker.
People stood on the old Lincoln Highway for the ceremony, which was framed by a green field and trees on one side, and railroad tracks and a ranch on the other. The sun was bright and a breeze blew.
“Well, we had 60 cookies and they were gone like that,” Puschendorf said. “We didn't expect this
kind of a turnout.”