While sitting in rush hour traffic along U.S. 30, it may be hard to remember that some 85 years ago -- when the road was new -- the stretch between Schererville and Dyer was state of the art.
Local author Cynthia L. Ogorek hopes her new book will help ensure that people never forget.
Part of Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series, "The Lincoln Highway Around Chicago" is a collection of photographs and information gathered from newspaper clippings and interviews that details the Schererville to Geneva, Ill., stretch of America's first transcontinental highway.
"It's basic history, but the fact is we have a very important route coming through our part of the country," Ogorek said. "I hope people will look at this piece of local and national history and preserve it."
The Lincoln Highway stretches from Manhattan in New York City to the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco. It was the brainchild of Indianapolis businessman Carl Fisher, who was a principal investor in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and saw the highway as the straightest, most efficient route from the East Coast to the West Coast.
In writing the book, Ogorek poured through the resources from between 18 and 20 historical societies in Illinois and Indiana. A member of the Illinois chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association and an attendee of several of the association's national conferences, Ogorek has been trying to write the book for 10 years.
The finished product offers insight into the unique stretch of highway, built with the goal of bypassing Chicago. The 1.3-mile stretch between Schererville and Dyer, which was dubbed the Ideal Section, set a standard for highway construction across the country. The stretch was built between 1922 and 1923.
Ogorek said the project included revolutionary concepts such as four lanes for traffic, a drainage system and lighting.
"(That) wasn't common at that point in time," she said. "But the ideal standards were promoting better roads for the rest of the country, and it came through our part of the country. We should be proud of it."
Ogorek was born at St. Margaret Mercy Healthcare Centers in Hammond and grew up in Calumet City. Growing up, Hammond was the center of the world, and shopping near the Sibley Boulevard and Hohman Avenue intersection was "where the action was," she said.
Her book is the first to look at this particular stretch of the Lincoln Highway, said Ogorek, who became involved with the Lincoln Highway Association while working for the village of Matteson. Several books have been published that look at the highway as a whole, she said.
"I was concentrating on connecting the story with the photographs and vice versa," Ogorek said. "It's a juggling act between what visuals there were and what I had to write about. Some people didn't know the Lincoln Highway existed."
BOOK ON SALE
Cynthia L. Ogorek's new book, "The Lincoln Highway Around Chicago," goes on sale today and is available locally at Barnes & Noble and Borders and online at Amazon.com. The book is part of Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series. It features photographs and information gathered from newspaper clippings and interviews about the local stretch of America's first transcontinental highway.
LINCOLN HIGHWAY'S 'IDEAL SECTION'
In 1920, the Lincoln Highway Association set out to develop a section of road that would be adequate not only for current traffic but for highway transportation over the following two decades, according to a Federal Highway Administration Web site. The association assembled 17 of the country's foremost highway experts for meetings in December 1920 and February 1921 to decide design details of the Ideal Section -- a 1.3-mile stretch of the Lincoln Highway between Schererville and Dyer. The stretch was built between 1922 and 1923.