Did You Know?
November 11, 1914
December 12, 1914
- Atlanta's Beaux-Arts style Georgian Terrace Hotel — where state highway engineers first met to form AASHO in November 1914 — opened in 1911 and still stands today in what is now that city's Fox Theatre Historic District. Those who have stayed at that luxury hotel over the years include Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Tallulah Bankhead, Calvin Coolidge, Walt Disney, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
- The Raleigh Hotel where state engineers held the first official meeting of AASHO was located at Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th Street, N.W., in Washington, D.C. (across from where the Old Post Office Building still stands). The hotel had been built in 1893, but the original building was razed in 1911 and replaced with a new 13-story Beaux Arts-style structure. The hotel came to an end and was torn down altogether in 1964. Prior to the debut of the Raleigh Hotel in 1893, that site had been the location for other enterprises — perhaps most famous one being the Kirkwood House, which was the hotel where then-Vice President Andrew Johnson was staying when he became president as the result of President Lincoln's assassination.
July 11, 1916
- A total of 27 states were represented the meeting at the Raleigh Hotel on December 12, 1914. Only 17 of the states were actually represented in person by either by their highway commissioners or engineers, however, and the remaining 10 were represented instead by proxy.
- Henry G. Shirley was chief engineer of the Maryland State Roads Commission (forerunner of the present-day Maryland State Highway Administration) when he was elected AASHO's first president. A native of West Virginia, Shirley served in the Spanish-American War and had worked for various railroad companies as well as the District of Columbia's engineering department. In 1922, he was appointed Virginia's State Highway Commissioner and served in that position until his death in 1941. The Shirley Highway, a 17.3-mile segment of Interstates 95 and 395 and Virginia's first limited-access freeway, was named in his honor.
- At 2:00 p.m. on the same day as AASHO's first official meeting in Washington, D.C., on December12, 1914, a delegation from that new association visited the White House. Those highway officials were received there by President Woodrow Wilson — "Roads Men Visit President," announced a headline in one west coast newspaper -- and even posed in front of the White House for a group photograph.
- While the establishment of AASHO was arguably a bright moment for many, the weather that greeted the association's "founding fathers" in Washington, D.C., in December 1914 was anything but ideal. President Wilson's cousin Helen Bones (who was serving at the time as official White House hostess following the death of First Lady Ellen Wilson) lamented in a December 13 letter how they had been experiencing "the most horrible weather the past two weeks — damp, dark, cold, depressing!" As a matter of fact, the nation's capital had been experiencing what the Washington Herald newspaper called "its first real snowfall of the season" on December 11. Wilson nonetheless spent a good part of that snowy day playing golf at a local country club course with the White House physician. The Herald noted the next day that — barring any bulletins from the White House — it "was presumed that the Chief Executive suffered no ill effects from the exposure." And evidently he did not, since he was able to meet with the AASHO delegation.
November 9, 1921
- The Federal-aid Road Act of 1916 carried the bill number H.R. 7617, which had been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Dorsey W. Shackleford of Missouri. The Democratic lawmaker was chairman of the House Committee on Roads. The Senate version of his bill had been sponsored by Senator John H. Bankhead of Alabama (that Democratic lawmaker, incidentally, was the grandfather of the flamboyant actress Tallulah Bankhead).
- Far from being a disinterested observer or somebody at best half-hearted about highways development, Woodrow Wilson was a staunch good-roads advocate who signed the 1916 bill into law with great enthusiasm. He was also an avid fan of automobiles. "No more ardent motorist ever occupied the White House than President Wilson,' wrote L. Ames Brown in an article about the president that appeared in the September 1916 issue of "Northwest Motorist" magazine. "Mr. Wilson probably has spent an average of two hours a day in an automobile since he became president."
- The emphasis of the 1916 law on the organization of state highway departments as a condition for the allotment of federal aid led to all of the then-existing 48 states to form such agencies by the end of the following year.
- By the end of 1917, 26 states had submitted for approval a total of 92 projects encompassing 948 miles of roads altogether (although the U.S. entry into World War I would drain a lot of manpower and materials and also restrict projects only to those essential to the war effort).
January 1, 1923
- The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921 was also known as the Phipps Act since that bill had been sponsored by U.S. Senator Lawrence C. Phipps (R) of Colorado.
- In a comparatively rare occurrence for that time, the bill-signing ceremony for the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921 was filmed.
- The law launched an unprecedented period of work and improvements on the nation's highways throughout the remainder of that decade. Annual federal authorizations remained at $75 million through 1930 and, by that year, total highways expenditures at all levels of government reached $2.5 billion.
- William Colfax Markham was a multi-faceted man with a broad range of professional and personal interests. Along with a highways-oriented career that included serving as the first secretary-director of the Kansas State Highway Commission as well as AASHO's first executive secretary, he was also the publisher and editor of a newspaper, a postmaster who took on national leadership duties for that group, an artist, a published poet, and playwright who both staged and directed his own historical productions. Markham was eulogized for "nearly a century of life and accomplishments" when he died just short of his 93rd birthday in 1961.
- Markham's journalistic background could be seen at work in what was one of his key accomplishments on behalf of AASHO — the launching of what became the association's longtime magazine "American Highways," which he established just before becoming executive secretary and further strengthened and sustained after he stepped into that position.
- At about the same time that Markham became executive secretary, an office for AASHO was established in the Munsey Building at 1329 E Street, N.W., in Washington, D.C. (between 12th and 13th Streets). Gilded Age capitalist Frank Munsey arranged for the construction of that 12-story building in 1905 to house his newspaper acquisition, the Washington Times (there's no connection between that newspaper and the current one). That immediate area was a sort of "Newspapers Avenue," a fact that was likely not lost on one-time publisher and editor Markham; the Washington Post building was just a few doors down from the Munsey Building, and the Evening Star building was just a couple of blocks west. When it came to the building's style and furnishings, Munsey spared no expense. The upper corridors had black-and-red marble designs marking the entrances to the various offices, and the even the restrooms were designed with marble lining. The Munsey Building was among the tallest structures in the nation's capital at one point, surpassed in height by only the Washington Monument, U.S. Capitol, tower of the Post Office headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, and a few church spires. AASHO's office was in Room 639 of the Munsey Building and would remain there until Markham moved the operations to the newly opened National Press Building in 1927. The Munsey Building was demolished in 1982, and a three-level shopping mall called the Shops at National Place now stands at that site.