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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, January 4, 2009

With the production of the automobile in the early 20th Century, everyone wanted to travel year-round in these new machines.


What was missing were all-weather highways connecting the cities and towns of America.


Between 1910-1915, many "named auto trails" were established across the country by highway associations.


There purpose was to promote improved "all-weather" highways that could be used all-year.


One of the more obscure auto trails passed through Jefferson County.


"The Pikes Peak Ocean To Ocean Highway," called the PPOO Highway, was established in 1914 in Missouri.


The PPOO Highway crossed American joining New York City with San Francisco.


Pikes Peak was in the name as the road passed within sight of that famous mountain in Colorado.


The PPOO Highway between Philadelphia and Illinois utilized the existing National Road as its path.


Around 1921, the route moved north of the National Road and came out of Columbus and through Newark, Coshocton, Uhrichsville, and into Steubenville.


Today, we call that the "back way to Columbus" on Ohio 16, U.S. 36, U.S. 250, and U.S. 22.


The route was marked with red and white painted signs with the letters PP and OO, often affixed to existing poles along the route.


In 1926, the federal highway system was marked with U.S. 40 assigned to the National Road and U.S. 30 assigned to the Lincoln Highway further north.


By 1932, some of the PPOO Highway was designated as U.S. 36 as far as Dennison-Uhrichsville.


Highway historian Richard F. Weingroff noted that the PPOO Highway was marketed as the "Appian Way of America" in reference to the famous route of the Roman Empire.


In reality, he labels it as the "highway that couldn't make up its mind."


Further confusion took place in 1926 when the route was shifted north of U.S. 40 west of Columbus through the towns of Delaware, Marysville, Urbana, and Piqua.


The PPOO Highway faded into history, never again to appear on a highway map.


One final curiosity was that the route was shifted away from Steubenville, and left the former route at Hopedale to extend to Smithfield, and on to the Ohio River at Brilliant where it crossed the ferry and headed for Washington, Pa.


That routing may have never received the PPOO signs, and appears in only one document.


Today, the PPOO Highway has retained local naming only in Illinois and Missouri, unlike the Lincoln Highway, which is remembered by street names and markers along its length in Ohio along U.S. 30.


A 1927 map guide of the Pikes Peak Ocean To Ocean Highway map closes the chapter on the highway described as providing a "superlative scenic route leading to places of beauty and grandeur."


Thanks goes to Lincoln Highway historian Michael Buettner of Lima, who has supplemented his histories with the known facts of the PPOO Highway.