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America’s National Road

By Linda Tancs

Authorized by Congress in 1806, the National Road was the first highway built entirely with federal funds. It linked the eastern and western states in the first half of the 19th century, running from Cumberland, Maryland, to Vandalia, Illinois. Known in many places as Route 40, its charm lies in the many historic stone bridges along its path and the quaint, untouched towns and villages that called the road “Main Street.” In fact, the road earned the nickname “the Main Street of America.” Of the many inns dotting the route, Mount Washington Tavern (adjoining Fort Necessity Battlefield) in Pennsylvania is an example of a typical stagecoach stop for early travelers on the National Road. Unlike those early settlers, if you drive straight through without stopping, you should be able to complete the route in about 13 hours.

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