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NAMED BY JAMES SIMPSON IN 1850, COMMISSIONED BY THE GOVERNMENT TO DEFINE THE ROUTE WEST, HE IDENTIFIED THE CUTS IN THE MOUNTAINS AS "GATES". THE GOLD RUSH INCREASED TRAFFIC ACROSS THE GREAT DESERT AND IN 1859 THE OVERLAND STAGE BUILT MIDDLEGATE TO SERVICE THE STAGE & FREIGHT LINES TRAVELING ACROSS THE COUNTRY. THE PONY EXPRESS USED THE MIDDLEGATE STATION AS A CHANGING STATION DURING THEIR SHORT EIGHTEEN MONTH HISTORY. AT THE END OF THE GOLD RUSH MIDDLEGATE FELL INTO DISUSE AND THE RANCHERS AND MINERS CARRIED OFF MANY OF THE ZEOLITE BLOCKS USED IN THE ORIGINAL CONSTRUCTION. IN 1942 IDA FERGUSON BOUGHT THE STATION AT A B.L.M. LAND AUCTION AND STARTED RESTORATION, TEN YEARS LATER SHE OPENED A BAR AND CAFE AND ENJOYED A BUSTLING BUSINESS ON THE HISTORIC LINCOLN HIGHWAY ( FIRST TRANSCONTINENTAL HIGHWAY ACROSS AMERICA) BUT IN 1962 THE STATE REROUTED THE THE HIGHWAY AND BUSINESS SUFFERED, LACKING THE FUNDS TO COMPLETE HER DREAMS OF RESTORATION, IDA SOLD MIDDLEGATE AND RETIRED. THE BUSINESS CHANGED HANDS SEVERAL TIMES, THERE WERE NO PHONES, STILL NO ELECTRICITY, AND FIFTY MILES TO TOWN, A PRETTY RUGGED EXISTENCE FOR MOST PEOPLE. THEN IN 1984 THE STEVENSON'S PURCHASED THE PROPERTY AND WITH THE HELP OF CHURCHILL COUNTY AND THE WONDERFUL CREW AT THE MUSEUM, RESTORATION AGAIN RESUMED, IT IS STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS, THE ARTIFACTS WERE ALL FOUND IN THE AREA, BUT NOTHING IS FOR SALE!
Around 1986 to 1988, Life Magazine is said to have ran a very negative article about Nevada State Highway 50 titled "The Loneliest Road." An AAA spokesperson had described Nevada State Highway 50 route through Nevada in these words: "It's totally empty. There are no points of interest. We don't recommend it. We warn all motorists not to drive there unless they're confident of their survival skills."
Nevada tourism officials were quick to agree that while Highway 50 did not have traditional tourism related stopping places like amusement parks, "The Loneliest Road" has many little-known and unique items of interest. In addition, most of these places along the Loneliest Road were free for the tourist to see.
To combat the article's negativity, the White Pine County Chamber of Commerce in Ely suggested calling highway 50 "The Loneliest Road in America." Later, the Nevada Commission on Tourism developed the now popular "The Loneliest Road in America, Official Highway 50 Survival Guide."
Travelers can pick up the free Loneliest Road survival kits at Chambers of Commerce, museums, restaurants, motels, and gas stations along Highway 50. The kit contains a state road map, the Loneliest Road Survival Guidebook showing some things to see and a line map of the road. Travelers stop in the towns of Fernley, Fallon, Austin, Eureka, and Ely to get the Loneliest Road map stamped. When all five of the boxes are stamped in each town, the completed form is mailed (postage free) to the Nevada Commission on Tourism. You then receive a Loneliest Road survival certificate signed by the Governor, a Loneliest Road lapel pin, and a Loneliest Road bumper sticker announcing that you survived this "uninteresting and empty" road.
In reality, one of the best ways to truly experience Nevada is to travel the Loneliest Road. The Loneliest Road roughly parallels the Pony Express Trail, which goes from Silver Springs through Fallon and along the towns across Highway 50. Remnants of the Pony Express Route are visible for much of the way along the Loneliest Road. Stretching the width of Nevada, the Loneliest Road is a fascinating scenic and historic corridor through a land seemingly untouched by man. The Loneliest Road travels through snow-mantled mountains that reach summits of more than 11,000 feet.
There are many things to stop and do along the Loneliest Road. Travelers can easily access ghost town sites and historical cemeteries. They can visit the elk viewing areas and camping and picnicking places abound along the Loneliest Road. There are many off-road, hiking, snowmobiling and skiing trails. Historical markers point out where significant sites are located along the Loneliest Road.
The magnificent Great Basin National Park is found just a short distance off Highway 50, the Loneliest Road. The Great Basin National Park has several sites listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.
The Loneliest Road winds through high mountain desert blanketed with sagebrush. Many species of flora can be identified along the Loneliest Road. Travelers find warm or hot days and cool nights in the summer. Bands of sheep with their herders and working sheepdogs can often be spotted along the Loneliest Road. Small bands of wild horses can be seen across the plain as deer doze in the shade of pinion pine trees. Other wildlife and birds of prey are often seen close to the Loneliest Road.
Travelers of the Loneliest Road are well rewarded by the almost surrealistic intensity of the wild western landscape. Deep blue skies and jagged stone tower above the bone white desert floor. The hypnotic rhythm of telephone poles march single file, a solemn procession beside the road.The Loneliest Road in America, Highway 50 is really one of the most beautiful and interesting drives you’ll ever take.
The Lincoln Highway - General Highway History - Highway History - Federal Highway Administration
In 1912, the Nation's highways were just emerging from the "Dark Ages" of road building in the second half of the 19th Century. Railroads dominated interstate transportation of people and goods. Roads were primarily of local interest. Outside cities, "market roads" were maintained, for better or worse, by counties or townships. Many States were prohibited by their constitution from paying for "internal improvements," such as road projects. The Federal-aid highway program would not begin until 1916 and, because of structural problems and the advent of World War I in 1917, would not accomplish much until 1921. The country had approximately 2,199,600 miles of rural roads and only 190,476 miles (8.66 percent of the total) had improved surfaces of gravel, stone, sand-clay, brick, shells, oiled earth, bituminous or, as a U.S. Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) bulletin put it, "etc." Many people thought of interstate roads as "peacock alleys" intended for the enjoyment of wealthy travelers who had time to spend weeks riding around the country in their automobiles.
Fisher saw the situation differently. He was an early automobile enthusiast who had been a racer, the manufacturer of Prest-O-Lite compressed carbide-gas headlights used on most early motorcars, and the builder of the Indianapolis Speedway. (In the 1920's he would be known as the promoter and builder of Miami Beach.) He believed that, "The automobile won't get anywhere until it has good roads to run on."
He began actively promoting his dream, a transcontinental highway, in 1912. On September 10, he held a dinner meeting with many of his automobile industry friends in the Deutsches Haus in Indianapolis, his home town. He called for a coast-to-coast rock highway to be completed by May 1, 1915, in time for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. The project would cost about $10 million, he said. "Let's build it," he told the group, "before we're too old to enjoy it!"
Within a month, Fisher's auto industry friends had pledged $1 million. Henry Ford, the biggest automaker of his day, was a notable exception. He refused to contribute in spite of a personal plea by Fisher over a pigpen at the State Fair in Detroit. Ford believed the government, not private individuals or companies, should build the Nation's roads.
By July 1913, Fisher and his associates had chosen a name for the road. After rejecting the "Fisher Highway," the "Jefferson Memorial Highway," and the "American Road," among other possibilities, the group named its highway after one of Fisher's heroes, Abraham Lincoln. Fisher adopted the name only after Congress rejected a proposal by another group to build a "Lincoln Memorial Road" from Washington to Gettysburg; instead, Congress authorized construction of the Lincoln Memorial on the Mall in Washington.