March 2009 Issue
Trip Back in Time
Ohio’s portion of the Historic National Road offers eclectic insights into the past.
The Historic National Road stretches across Ohio’s midsection like a belt, and Columbus is the buckle.
Called “The Road that Helped Build America,” it’s grown up with us — evolving from frontier trail, to the National Road, to its modern successor, U.S. Rte. 40, twining over and under Interstate 70 all along the way.
Spanning 227 miles and 10 counties, cities and small towns, rich farmland and Appalachian foothills, it’s a journey not just into the heart of Ohio, but into the heart of its people. What you see in its length is the breadth of exactly what built America: Mail Pouch barns and sturdy brick homes, churches and courthouses, factories and general stores, service stations and mom-and-pop motels.
The National Road was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson in 1806 — the year Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery returned from exploring the American Northwest. Jefferson must have sensed the link between roads and discovery. Two centuries later, there is still much for modern-day explorers to find on the National Road — from echoes of the past and visions of the future, to a good fried bologna sandwich and a slice of homemade pie.
The official Traveler’s Guide to the Historic National Road in Ohio — an indispensable friend on this journey — is laid out east to west, but there is something exciting about beginning in the wide western breadbasket of Ohio on the Indiana border and traveling east. You glide across the plains and past the grand Broad Street mansions of Columbus, only to be swept up into the waiting arms of Ohio’s eastern hills that carry you to the West Virginia line.
From The West
To The East
Today, the Road That Helped Build America is the road less traveled, where light traffic leads to light spirits. It’s where the destination is the journey itself, where roadside shops and diners, museums and famous landmarks all invite exploration. The Historic National Road in Ohio is no relic. It remains a living, growing monument to the spirit of discovery.