Iowa is among the 13 original states that are home to the first transcontinental highway in the United States. US Highway 30 – aka the Lincoln Highway – runs through 14 states today, due to rerouting over the years.
We set out to cover a 200-mile stretch one weekend – 100 miles into Iowa and then another 100 miles in Nebraska. You know what they say about best-intended plans. We ended up spending an entire day on the Iowa side, going from one small town to another along Highway 30. Attraction after attraction caught our eye, so we’d stop. Well, what started as a one-day adventure turned into a long-term project.
We eventually ventured easterly, from Missouri Valley to Grand Junction. Along Highway 30 in Iowa, you’ll see some interesting sites – a giant cornstalk on a grain elevator, a large art piece in the middle of nowhere featuring a girl and her dog, as well as a tribute to the president the highway was named after.
We started our adventure in Missouri Valley. The welcome center proudly shares its spot along the highway.
The welcome center has several older buildings that have been relocated to create a small Iowa town. You can visit an old schoolhouse, blacksmith, house or general store.
The center has a collection of antiques on display. Dolls, clothing, weapons and farm equipment can be viewed.
We continued our drive along Highway 30. Logan was the next stop for us. We visited the Harrison County Courthouse. Built in 1911, the courthouse was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
Woodbine is home to a giant cornstalk on the side of a grain elevator. That was one of my favorite attractions on our trip.
Downtown Woodbine has a few art pieces on display. One piece features a woman. Another highlights Iowa’s agriculture industry with a corn stalk.
An art piece featuring a girl holding a teddy bear in front of a Dalmatian is on Highway 30 near a cornfield on the way to Dunlap. It was created in 1999 by California-based artist John Cerney.
Denison is the hometown of actress Donna Reed. She starred in several movies and television series from the 1940s through the ’80s, including “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The city has a performing arts center named in her honor.
Main Street has a star recognizing her acting career.
The city hosts an annual Donna Reed arts festival. Celebrity guests have had their hand prints embedded in cement. The displays are located throughout downtown.
The city has a nice veterans memorial. A Civil War Union soldier stands guard over the flags and monument.
Denison is home to a throwback restaurant. Cronk’s has been serving meals since 1929. Meals have a home-cooked feel to them. And they are very reasonably priced.
Jefferson is the county seat of Greene County. Jefferson is home to several famous people, including George Gallup (Gallup Poll), astronaut Loren Shriver, Olympian Doreen Wilbur and Bryce Paup, who played in the National Football League.
The community has a bell tower dedicated to former resident and philanthropist Floyd Mahanay. It’s said the tower can be seen for miles.
Jefferson’s town square features a statue of President Lincoln.
Grand Junction is home to a Lincoln Highway memorial. The Lions Park display is an interpretative site examining the history of the Lincoln Highway, according to the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association.
The community has an old bridge from the original highway. It’s no longer used, but provides a great connection to the past.
Grand Junction has an old gas station that looks like it may have done some good business back in the day.
We covered almost half of the Lincoln Highway in Iowa. We had a lot of fun taking in the highway’s sites and visiting some of the smaller communities. Older highways can add to a trip by providing history you could miss by taking the interstate. The Lincoln Highway is truly America’s “Main Street.” It was the first highway to connect the coasts. If you live in any of the states it covers, take time and check out the area. You’ll have some fun.
For more information on Highway 30, please visit www.lincolnhighwayassoc.org.