LINCOLN HIGHWAY HISTORY (1912) The Lincoln Highway was one of the earliest transcontinental highways for automobiles across the United States of America. Conceived in 1912 by Indiana entrepreneur Carl G. Fisher, and formally dedicated October 31, 1913, the Lincoln Highway ran coast-to-coast from Times Square in New York City west to Lincoln Park in San Francisco, originally through 13 states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California.
Between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming, Interstate 80 climbs to its highest point - an elevation of 8,640 feet at the summit of the Laramie Range in the scenic Pole Mountain Area. Travelers have crossed the summit in this area since the last half of the nineteenth century.
In 1912, construction began on the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental highway, named in honor of Abraham Lincoln. It ran alongside the first transcontinental railroad route and was later designated U.S. Highway 30.
In 1958, philanthropist Dr. Charles E. Jeffrey sponsored a project to erect a Lincoln memorial on top of Sherman Hill - the highest point of the highway.
The 11 foot bronze bust was designed and created by Robert I. Russin, a former University of Wyoming art professor and Wyoming’s best known sculptor.
LINCOLN MONUMENT - THE PROJECT (1958)
It took over 11 months and 10 tons of clay to complete. Russin needed to work in constant, favorable climate, so the 7,000 lb. bust was formed and cast in Mexico City, then transported by railroad to Wyoming. When it arrived, the stone base for the sculpture was unfinished. In order to meet the project deadlines, local crews worked around the clock to precisely cut granite and assemble the 35 ft. tall stone base in one week.
PRESENT DAY LOCATION (1969)
The sculpture was moved in a snowstorm approximately one mile to its present location in 1969 when I-80 was completed. Robert I. Russin coordinated the project, seeing that each stone of the base was marked in order to be put back precisely where it had been. In the move, one of the stones was cracked, requiring that a new one be cut to replace it.
Few people know that the base is actually a hollow concrete pillar filled with ladders and lightning rods. Also, unknown to most, the head itself was cast in 30 pieces and is bolted together much like the inside of the Statue of Liberty. It is the only monument to Abraham Lincoln along the Lincoln Highway and is the largest bronze head in the U.S. A 4 ft. high plaster model of the bust sits in the Governor’s office in Cheyenne and another original bronze bust is in the Gettysburg Museum in Pennsylvania.
There is a memorial on site honoring the late Robert I. and Adele M. Russin. Russin’s fascination with Abraham Lincoln inspired the work. His second son is also named Lincoln.
ABOUT THE ARTIST: ROBERT ISAIAH RUSSIN
Russin was born on Aug. 26, 1914, in New York City. Russin died in 2007 at the age of 93, leaving as lasting legacies both his work and the countless students who had learned from a master. His ashes were interred inside the hollow granite base of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Monument.
Online brochure: http://visitlaramie.org/the-old-lincoln-highway-brochure.
Photo credit BHP Images 2016