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Johnstown Magazine

Lincoln Highway

Once a marvel, the highway still holds a certain allure for today's travelers.

By Roger Gorgon

Driving down the road, nodding off a bit, and getting a little thirsty. You notice a huge, larger-than-life coffee pot on the side of the road.

That probably occurred time and time again from 1925 through the 1950s on the Bedford County stretch of the historic Lincoln Highway, the United States' first coast-to-coast highway, which runs more than 3,000 miles east and west across most of the country from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco. Whereas Interstate 80 serves as the primary highway nationally, locally the majority of the Lincoln Highway covers U.S. Route 30.

"The Coffee Pot is the landmark that attracts the most attention on the Bedford County part of the highway. It's a huge visual," says Dennis Tice, the Bedford Visitors Bureau executive director. "It stood empty for many years and then became a bar until it closed down in 1989." When the Coffee Pot was built during the rise of the automobile, it was the result of something called programmatic architecture, which is employed when a building is designed to resemble the product sold or service provided inside. The style flourished in the 1920s, '30s and '40s as businesses sought new ways to capture the attention of the mobile public. "Businessmen were concerned," Tice explains. "'Holy crud,' they thought to themselves. 'Now that horses are no longer lumbering by and instead we now have cars whizzing by at 30 miles per hour, how do we get their attention?' That was really how programmatic architecture got started."

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