Did You Know You’ve Most Likely Driven Down Maine’s Oldest Road?
Full disclosure: I didn't drive until I was in my 30's.
Call me a weirdo, I just never cared about getting my license. Living on the peninsula in Portland for years kind of ensured that I didn't need one. I just walked to and from work. Honestly, it was almost never an issue. These days, I can't imagine ever being without it. But until then, I had traveled quite a bit, seeing many parts of the country from a van window on the nation's highways.
In doing so, I had no idea that on an almost weekly basis, I was traveling on a road here in Maine, that actually pre-dates Maine by almost 200 years. These days it looks nothing like it did nearly 400 years ago, but we definitely couldn't be where we are today without it, as it's the cornerstone of in-state travel.
Yes, we're talking about Route1, but...
So here's the thing... Before Route 1 became the road that we know it as, there was only one road into Maine from Massachusetts, known as King's Highway. Before 1820, we pretty much belonged to Massachusetts, we all learned that in school. But there was only one road up here.
The original "highway" was little more than set of wagon ruts and a horse path. This road pretty much stopped in Wells because the conditions were considered too poor. This was in the mid-1600's. Crazy, right?! Then the people in charge down in Mass. tasked towns north of there with building their own roads that attached to it to keep the path moving north.
Travel north was miserable.
Before that, there were no bridges at all, so streams and rivers were to be crossed at low tide. When Ben Franklin was finally made Postmaster of the U.S. in the mid-1700's, he tasked the people with getting the roads in better shape to allow for better postal delivery. That really began the route we're all most familiar with today.
Now, it's Route 1 and Route 1A that make up most of what was once Maine's oldest road. In fact, there are still sections labeled as King's Highway, according to MaineRoads.org. Personally, I think it's totally crazy that people have been traveling this road in Maine for almost 400 years. When's the last time you went down it?