Route 6, Roosevelt Highway, near Troy PA 1920s
by Chester P. Bailey
Route 6, because of its natural flow through the Endless Mountains of Northern Pennsylvania, and at times following old Indian Trails has never become a highway to those who live along the road and have enjoyed its vistas. It is always just Route 6.
Route 6 is the connecting link between the County seats of the northern tier of Pennsylvania. It is 400 miles across eleven counties. It was the Act of legislature in 1807 that gave the counties an east – west road. The first such road we know today as the Old State Road.
In the spring of 1922 when the Pennsylvania Highway Officials came to Mansfield to meet with the Borough and Normal School Officials to discuss paving Route 6, mud was more than ankle deep on Wellsboro street and on Academy street in front of Alumni Hall where the meeting was held. The new pavement was done in 1924.
Route 6 Highway Association was operating in the Endless Mountains area from Wyoming County to Bradford County in 1940 – 50’s. In the late 50’s it became known as the Roosevelt Highway, U. S. 6 Association. Fred Leiberg was executive secretary. Large billboards proclaiming Roosevelt Highway as the short scenic route were located from Port Jervis to Towanda. Today the Federal Highway Department has named U. S. 6 the GAR Highway (Grand Army of the Republic) in honor of the Civil War veterans.
In 1954 there were discussions of plans for a northern Pennsylvania Turnpike. The Williamsport Board of Trade called a meeting of interested business people to a meeting in the Lycoming Hotel. Representing the Mansfield Business Men Association were Chester Bailey, David Cummings and Ronald Sick. The proposal was a highway from Sharon to Stroudsburg. Following this meeting the Scranton Business area objected to the Turnpike but favored a Freeway. The Roosevelt Highway Association followed them.
Senator Confair of Williamsport became active in promoting the route and eventually it became Interstate I-80. Attempts to bring it north of Williamsport were soon smoothed over and Route 6 got a number of improvements.
When the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation began thinking that U. S. Route 6 should stay a Scenic Route we are not sure. At the time of building Route 6 in the Wyalusing to Wysox area, they stressed the famous Wyalusing Twin Cuts and created a vista overlooking the Susquehanna River. From the overlook you can look down on the area settled by the French, who built French Azalium, the planned future home of Queen Marie Antoinette.
At the first meeting Chester Bailey conducted as President of the Route 6 Association, held at the Penn Wells in Wellsboro in 1964, N. A. Stapler, Chief Engineer from Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Montoursville office, said, "there is no doubt but that Route 6 is the most scenic highway in the east and every effort will be made to keep it that way".
At a later meeting held at the Ox Yoke Lodge in Galeton, pushing for a new road at Galeton, a resolution was passed by the Association asking for 22 feet wide highway with passing lanes on hills.
In 1964 a new route 6 was opened between Laceyville and Wyalusing. That was followed by a new road between Laceyville and Meshoppen. It included an overlook on the Susquehanna and on Bunnel Hill, the highway was three lanes, and finished in 1965.
In 1965, also Wilber Webb, chief deputy commissioner of the Highway Dept. told Route 6 Association members and others at the Hotel Corry, Corry, PA that the bypass of Corry was on schedule. District engineer William Trexell also assured the group that the bid would be let July 1. They revealed that $27.5 million was allotted to route 6 that year, but not all of it would be to beautify Route 6.
Interstate I-84 begins in Mass. Crosses Conn., New York and ends south of Scranton, Pa., north of I-80. New officers were elected in 1966; members in the west were still eyeing a northern freeway.
The first meeting of the new slate was held in Smethport at the Colonial Lodge. Leonard B. Johnson, Smethport president; Gilford Sanfort, vice president Youngsville; Fred Leiberg executive secretary and Jane Case, field representative. Mrs. Case had been hired in 1965. She traveled over the entire highway getting memberships and advertisements for the road map, which was produced in 1966. The map was supported by the state tourist agencies and Chambers of Commerce across the state on Route 6.
At that Smethport meeting members voted to adopt a slogan I-84 by 1984 and to attempt to have I-84 continue across the Northern Tier. The new president was the brother of Congressman Johnson representing that area, however, the interest and money was not to be.
Today U. S. 6 is a nationally recognized Scenic Highway and efforts continue to improve it. In 1999 the by-pass of Tunkhannock got underway. Tourist promotion agencies across the Northern Tier Counties have produced a second Pennsylvania Route 6 map, "Take the Scenic Route, Pennsylvania Route 6". It is a beautiful and well-illustrated route map.
It has established itself in history – The 20-mule team of the Borax Co. came over it in the 1920’s and it was one of the routes used by the Wagon Train during the 1976 Bicentennial across Pennsylvania to Valley Forge.
National Geographic Magazine calls Pennsylvania Route 6, "One of America’s Most Scenic Drives".
1930s Postcard above
At Right photo on Potter-Tioga County line by Joyce M. Tice May 2000
John A. Tice, presently of Elmira and first cousin to my father, told me this little story about his childhood. He lived in Gray Valley, Sullivan Township, Tioga County PA as a small child, right on Route 6. When the road had been paved, it was done one lane at a time. After the first lane was paved and still wet, chickens walked across it leaving a trail of little chicken foot prints in the wet surface. Later, when the other lane was paved it left the impression of the chicken footprints on one side only. John used to stand there in the middle of the road when he was very small and try to figure out how those chickens could have come up out of the middle of the road and walk across. This was back in the 1920s when a child could actually stand in the middle of the road without being hit.
Wellsboro Gazette - April 3, 1924
Roosevelt Highway Name of New Northern Tier State Road
Harrisburg, April 26. - The proposed modern highway across the northern tier couties from Port Jervis to Erie will be known as the Roosevelt Highway, the State Department of Highways announced to-day. Under an act of 1923, the Department of Highways, with the consent of the Governor, has authority to designate by name any Pennsylvania highway. Nine trans-state routes have been officially designated by the department. All of them have been listed under the names officially designated, with the exception of the Roosevelt Highway. The highway named after the great President will extend from the state line at Port Jervis via Milford, Scranton, Towanda, Wellsboro, Coudersport, Smethport, Warren and Corry to the Lakes-to-Sea highway at Waterford. Within a few years it will be improved from one end to the other. Contracts for improvement of stretches of the highway have already been let by the department. A strong demand for the improvement of the Roosevelt Highway was voiced by a big delegation of northern tier residents who visited the department during the 1923 session of the legislature. The eight other routes, the names of which are to be retained along with the routes they now cover, are the Lincoln, William Penn, Lackawanna Trail, Susquehanna Trail, Lakes-to-Sea, National Pike, Baltimore Pike and the Chicago Buffalo Highway. Within a few years when the modern highway from Amity Hall, north of Harrisburg, to Millerstown, Perry county, is completed, the William Penn will be routed over it instead of leaving the Susquehanna Trail at Liverpool as at present.
November 19, 1924 - Newspaper Clipping
ONE ROAD FINISHED ANOTHER ONE STARTED
Concrete Road Between Mansfield and Mainesburg Can Now Be Travelled
and Work Has Already Been Begun on the Road from Mainesburg to Sylvania.
The Mansfield-Mainesburg road has been finished and the concrete has set so that it can be traveled, although not formally opened for traffic. It is a fine piece of road and a great improvement to the locality, but needs a trip over it to describe it better than words.
The contractor has already started work on the road from Mainesburg to Sylvania and it is expected that that will be finished by a year from now. Work on the road from Sylvania to Troy was started some time ago, and is well under way.
The road from Mainesburg to Sylvania does not strike the old road except in two or three places. Leaving the old road at the F. M. Welch farm, at about the end of the Highway contract from Mansfield to Mainesburg, the route turns to the left and skirts Robbins Hill on the north, instead of south as at present. It goes through the properties of B. C. Smith, O. W. Smith, Kate Richmond, Barton Rumsey, N. Smith, and Joe Strange, hitting the old road again on the Ida Squires property it turns again to the left through the S. B. Rockwell farm and skirts Bailey hill on the north. It passes through the properties of H. P. Hulslander, Harry Tice, George Strait, Durwood Shattuck, F. L. Bradford and B. R. Strange, striking the old road again this side of Sylvania where the old township road joins the present highway in the property of Cynthia Wheeler.
There will be nothing more than a seven percent grade on this route, although we would say that there is plenty of that. The engineers reported that they could not get a seven percent grade on the other routes.
Wellsboro Gazette - April 29, 1925
The Roosevelt Highway
Most of Route Across State is Completed or Under Contract
The Roosevelt Highway, which is to be the shortest and best paved route between New York and Chicago, across the northern tier counties of Pennsylvania, is now mostly completed or under contract. All the road west of Wellsboro to Erie, where paved roads lead to points west, is either completed or under contract, except the section between Walton and Coudersport, via the Nine-Mile, and 2,000 feet at Ansonia, where a viaduct is to be built with long approaches. The Nine-Mile section is being surveyed and as soon as plans and specifications are completed, which will take several weeks, the contract will be advertised for letting. As soon as the Public Service Commission apportion the cost of the Ansonia viaduct between the N. Y. Central Railroad, Tioga county and the state, this project will be ready for contract. This grade crossing elimination has been approved by the Public Service Commission. All the Roosevelt Highway, east of Wellsboro to Scranton, is finished or under contract, except a section west of Towanda, via Sugar creek, where bridges must be built by Bradford county, and over which there is controversy, and a few other gaps of a few miles each between Towanda and Scranton. From Scranton to the Delaware Water Gap and across New Jersey to New York, the roads are all improved. Another year should see the whole Roosevelt Highway in use.
Much Depends on Amount and Character of Grading Necessary – Other Factors Considered.
(Prepared by the United States Department of Agriculture.)
The cost of a road is dependent upon not only the type of construction, but the amount and character of grading to be done, the cost of labor and materials, the width and thickness of surfacing, the character and amount of drainage required, and other factors of equal variability. Based upon general averages, it has been ascertained by highway specialists of the United States department of agriculture that under average conditions macadam roads can be built in southern states at from $4,000 to $5,000 per mile, gravel roads at from $1,500 to $2,500 per mile, and sand-clay and top-soil roads at from $800 to $1,500 per mile. In New England and the other eastern states, macadam roads are reported at from $6,000 to $9,000 per mile, gravel roads at from $3,200 to $5,000, and bituminous macadam from $8,000 to $13,000, according to the character of construction, whether surface-treated, penetration, or mixing method. The bituminous type is quite general in the eastern states. As indicating costs in other sections of country, the state highway commissioner of Michigan reported in 1913 the average cost of macadam roads $4,300 per mile, clay-gravel roads $1,500 per mile, and concrete roads about $10,000 per mile. The average cost of state highways constructed in Ohio in 1913 was $8,383. According to types in 1912, the brick-paved highways averaged $14,650 per mile and the macadam highways, $5,950. In California the first 356 miles of the state system of highways cost an average of $8,143 per mile and consisted principally of thin concrete with a thin coat of bitumen. The maximum and minimum figures given in this paragraph are not absolute, but are intended to present the usual range of costs. The rates given include grading, drainage, surfacing, and engineering costs.
BOOSTER FOR BETTER ROADS
Cost of Transportation of Produce to Market is Lessened – Ditch, Drain
and Drag Roads.
|First Added to the Site on 16 DEC 2002
By Joyce M. Tice