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The two lane roads stretches out to the horizon littered with abandoned buildings. In the distance the Interstate highway is visible, the epitome of modern road building. Once, traffic now going on the Interstate went on the narrow two lane road, an old US highway. What was its history? What was it like to drive on it?  The Historic California US Highways page is about questions such as these. It is a repository of information about the 18 US highways which were once traversed California. A lot has been written about landmark roads like Route 66 or the Lincoln Highway, but much less has been written about the other historic highways in California. Few know that US 6 once went to Los Angeles and was the longest continuous highway in the United States, or realize that US 99 was "99" in John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. This page is for people who love the old roads and highways that have shaped our history and who, like myself want to learn more about them.

The historic US highways of California have the same magic that Route 66 has, although much of theirs is still waiting to be rediscovered. Like Route 66, these roads remind us of a time when things seemed to go at a slower pace. This was the time of roadside kitsch, of gas stations that were still service stations with free air and water, and of unique "mom and pop" restaurants which were the norm, not a bunch of McDonalds and Denny's strung along the Interstate. These roads also hearken back to California's agricultural past, such as when US 101 meandered through orange fields in Orange County when it still had crops of oranges and not crops of subdivisions. They offer a glimpse into the past, into a different time and bring back long forgotten memories. It is fortunate that many of these roads have survived the ravages of time along with their architecture and can bring back to life a part of this country that was paved over by the Interstates.

California's Newest US Highway?

Alternate US 50 Shield

"Alternate US 50" is the first route to be signed as a US Highway in over 50 years. While it is not actually a legislative route nor one approved by AASHTO, the fact remains that this is a fully signed 66 mile route, of which 29 miles is on independent alignment. This sign (on SR-88) is interesting because it is posted on the a white pole of the same vintage as those that used to bear the old US highway shields. (Photo taken 1998)

Mission Blvd (US 60) in Riverside, 1930

The stone bridge still exists today, although the concrete road has since been paved over. This picture shows the attention to detail and themes on highways that have been notably lacking until relatively recently. This was part of the approach to the Rubidoux Bridge, which was removed in 1958 in favor of a higher level bridge. The old bridge had a distinctive mission style, where its replacement is a vanilla drab steel bridge - a symbol of the paradigm shift in California highway building.


About this Site

hollywood_sign.jpg (19426 bytes)

Before I-110:
US 6 and US 66 used to go through
downtown Los Angles.

1997 Hollywood Fwy Sign

This site is dedicated to showing that there is more to the past than abstract black and white pictures, World War II type documentaries, or the Leave it to Beaver model of a perfect world. While this site does contain many old photos, it is my intention to bring these highways and their past back to life by describing the terrain and world through which they passed and augment their history with current color photos of what the areas look like today. The Historic California US Highways page is a collection of facts, history, travelogues and photographs that document the development of California's incredible system of highways. I am fortunate to have many resources at my disposal for furthering this interest that includes other highway enthusiasts, old maps, field trips I have made and, most significantly, my collection of California Highways and Public Works, a publication printed by the California Division of Highways from 1927 through 1967 that documents virtually everything about highway construction in California.

This site is divided into four sections. The first is a listing of all 18 of the US Highways that links to overview pages of each and is shown below. The second section contains links to the travelogues I am writing. These give a detailed overview and describe the exact routing and history as well as describing where remaining sections may be discovered. The photographs page contains links to the growing "photo albums" I am creating for each route; the albums contain a wealth of both historic and current photographs. The fourth section is material that complements the first three sections, but which does not really fall under any of them. It includes an historical overview of the US Highway system, a glossary of terms I use and highway specific jargon, and a listing of related pages that may be of interest to the historical highways enthusiast. Keep in mind that I am constantly adding new information to this site, so please visit my list of updates to see what is new.

For those who wish to know more about this site, please have a look at additional information about this page.

Site Contents

Introduction and Overview Pages:

I have created an introduction for each highway that gives general background, including routing in and out of California as well as a brief history and highlights of the route. These also include listing of intersections with other US highways and are a jumping off point to other parts of the site.

The table below contains links to the Introduction and Overview pages.

US 6 US 40 US 48 US 50
US 60 US 66 US 70 US 80
US 91 US 95 US 97 US 99
US 101 US 199 US 299 US 395
  US 399 US 466  


Have a more detailed look at the history of the routes as well as a tour of where the routes once were and what remains. There are also many side trips included that offer a closer look remaining sections of highways which have endured to give a glance at the past.

Photo Albums:

A picture is worth a thousand words and having pictures is the key to this site. I have taken many pictures of remaining sections of old road and have many more historical pictures.

Other Interests:   

This last category includes miscellaneous items that do not fall in the above three categories as well as information that complements what I am presenting on this site. Have a look at what I have included.

Current Events on the Site

I am currently engaged in making structural modifications to the site that will allow for easier access as well as greater ease for my managing it. The most significant project is the addition of frames to several parts of this site, most notably the guides and background pages. They will not look any different until one scrolls the page down and sees the navigation bar on the left stays constant. I think this will be of benefit to the reader since it will make navigating my site much easier as well as cutting download times.

I am also working on creating more background and history pages, including one about the 1964 highway renumbering as well as adding more photographs. Please enjoy your visit to my site!

We are determined that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other hand.

George C. Marshall, 1945

What went wrong?

Acknowledgements, Etc.

A Web Book Award, 1998 This site was granted an Alsirat Web Book Award. Please visit the Web Book Award site for more information. I thank Joel and Lynn Gazis-Sax for giving me this consideration.

I owe the idea of creating an Historic US Highways Page to David Stanek who has, as part of his California State Highways Page, a section devoted to where the California US highways were located in 1963.

A "thank you" goes to Joel Windmiller, "The Highwayman," who provided the postcard images that appear on my pages, including the one used for my logo.

Legal Information

This site is not affiliated with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) nor any other government agency. Unless noted, all historical photographs are courtesy of Caltrans. These photographs are not in the public domain. Please be advised that you must have Caltrans' written permission prior to using any on your site.

If you wish to use any of the graphics on my page, please acknowledge the work as mine. I have spent many hours creating them and it would make me feel better to see my name next to them. Etc.

Last Update:  June 14, 2004

If you have any questions, comments, or if you would like to send me any
updates or pictures, please contact me at: casey@gbcnet.com

The Historic California US Highways site is authored by Casey Cooper.  Additionally, all other non-original material may be copyrighted by the respective organizations. Please obtain the permission of the owner prior to using any images.


[California Highways Logo] Part of the http://www.cahighways.org/ family of California Highway sites.