Broadway of America
(Bygone Byways(TM) since 2001)

 

It began in 1916.  Sponsored by Senator John Hollis Bankhead, pathfinders fanned out towards the southwest to find alternate auto routings across the U.S.  The routings that grew out of these multiple path finding trips would eventually adopt his name and become known as the Bankhead Highway (BH).   In 1920, a transcontinental convoy set out from Washington, D.C. to follow those early pathfinders and determine the best 'all-weather' military road across a United States that had not yet developed the infrastructure for what would become the greatest car-oriented culture the world had ever seen.  

Swinging southwest out of Washington, an early BH swung across the northern fringes of the southern states, passed through Texas and ultimately meandered over to San Diego, California and the far Pacific Ocean.   After a Good Roads Organization conference in 1920 to solidify the official routing, the BH quickly became an important transcontinental auto route.  As was common in those days, the BH developed a loose-knit promotional organization that published its own maps, promoted local backers, and even put up local highway markers so that travelers along these early auto trails would be sure to follow the 'right and best' auto trail through the area.  

About the mid-1920's, another promotional organization and proposed auto routing also came into being: the Broadway of America (BOA).  From Broadway, New York to Broadway, San Diego, this group promoted their road as the fastest and best 'all-weather' high gear highway across the country.  As can be seen by the brochure image (right), this group also published maps and recruited local backers to promote its auto route as the road of choice to points out west.  The BOA crowd never tried to build new roads, but took bits and pieces of existing roads and tied them together into a network.   For some reason, the BOA crowd almost exclusively followed the pathways as laid TX-Garland-State_Bank1.jpg (61164 bytes)down by the earlier BH.  Was there an affiliation between these two organizations?  The history is unclear.  But what IS clear, is that this roadway, this Bankhead Highway, this Broadway of America, would become one of the great auto trails of an early 20th century America and would leave its mark upon the landscape from coast to coast.  The history is there, we just have to find it.  For example, this pic from 'back in the day' is of a building (see circled building in photo) in downtown Garland, TX that today, is seeing new life as a coffee shop. (Pic supplied by Garland's Councilman John Willis)

Help finding those early alignments is here!

A terrific find!  After long conversations with the Library of Congress, I've finally come into possession of the 1922 Bankhead Highway Tourist Guide - a detailed mapping of the BH as it existed in 1921.  Below, I've created individual state pages where you may see the detailed map photos of hat state.  It is my sincerest hope that this wonderful plethora of new found information helps impel you, the inquisitive roadie reader, out of the computer and into the car to find some snippets of these oft long forsaken bits of American roadside history.  Feel free to drop me a note and photo or two as who knows, I may never make it all the way out to the east coast to find all of these lost segments.  The first three pages of the guide are below.  The rest are broken out by state below.  The images themselves are very large so you can see the detail, so they can be slow loading.  A pain I know, but you will enjoy the fact that you will be able to 'really 'zoom in' on these maps.  Enjoy!

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Click on a state below for the detailed map images of that area!

 

Feel free to drop me a photo or two of what you find, and with your permission, I'll post it on the respective state's page!   

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