Wish You Were Here
Welcome to Roadtrip-'62 ™! This week we’re cruising along highway US-22. This route runs from Newark, New Jersey to Cincinnati, Ohio, crossing about 665 miles through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Through New Jersey, US-22 runs close and parallel to, or even with, I-78, but the number has not been removed as many other states did when their interstate freeways were constructed. Throughout most of Pennsylvania, US-22 also carries the name “William Penn Highway”, from before the days of the US numbering system. Some of the route in Ohio even dates back to before automobiles, roughly following the route of Zane's Trace, which was a pioneer road blazed by Colonel Ebenezer Zane as early as 1796. Very little of US-22 through New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania is still a 2-lane highway, because it connects major cities.
To begin our trip in 1962, we could have flown in to Newark Airport and stayed at the Airport Motel before heading off from the beginning of US-22 the next morning. This motel was apparently new in 1962, as the postcard shows an artist’s rendering of the building instead of the more usual photograph of the time. It was located off Exit 14 of the New Jersey Turnpike, on US-1 and US-22. The motel boasted 80 rooms with air conditioning, tile showers, telephone, television, wall-to-wall carpeting, and free ice. It even offered twenty minute bus service to Times Square in New York City! I hunted around on aerial and street level photos and cannot find any trace of it today, but there are modern motels at the same interchange and beginning of US-22, so you could reproduce the trip. Let’s buckle up and see some sights on US-22!
At Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, US-22 finally breaks away from the interstate freeway, heading north along the Susquehanna River and later west across the state as a 2-lane road. Harrisburg is the capital of the state, and so we find ourselves at the State Capitol building. The current building is the third to be built in the city, and the government was moved twice before that, having originally been seated in Philadelphia. This building was completed in 1906 and incorporates a number of different Renaissance designs: Italian in the House Chamber, French in the Senate Chamber, and English in the Governor's Reception Room. The design by Philadelphia architect Joseph Huston also reflects Greek, Roman, and Victorian influences in its art. The Capitol's centerpiece is a spectacular 272-foot, 52 million-pound dome inspired by Michelangelo's design for St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The statue at the top of the dome is an allegory of Commonwealth, representative of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the state’s official name. Though the building was completed in 1906, much of the artwork was not. The murals in the rotunda were not installed until 1908 and the sculptures outside the entrance were in finished 1911. The Capitol contains 475 rooms on four floors, a mezzanine, and a basement. Besides the Interactive Welcome Center, you can take a 30-minute guided tour on weekdays.
In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Fort Pitt Tunnels opened in 1960, completing the Penn-Lincoln Parkway to the Airport, so we could have driven through them in 1962. That parkway is so named because it runs together with US-30, the Lincoln Highway. Eastbound, this tunnel and bridge system is renowned as the "best way to enter an American city" because of the awe inspiring view motorists get as they exit the tunnel and suddenly see downtown Pittsburgh rising in front of them, framed by the golden crossbracing of the bridge's steel arches.
Of course we need some snacks to munch on the road, so let’s go right to the source. Zanesville, Ohio is famous for its “Y Bridge”, a bridge with three ends. Highway US-22 crosses it on the southernmost leg of the Y. They also have a regional potato chip manufacturer, Conn’s Potato Chips. Conn’s has been in business since 1935 and has constructed larger plants at least twice. They continue to innovate with new flavors such as Cinnamon & Sugar Potato Chips. I’m not sure if they are regularly scheduled or not, but you can sometimes get a plant tour! Later in Ohio, we cross our US-23 roadtrip at Circleville, where we canoed the Scioto River on day nine of that trip.
I often pass the Cincinnati end of US-22 and my favorite places there are the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Krohn Conservatory. Both are within historic Eden Park, with the Art Museum occupying the top of a hill. The entire park is scenic, largely due to this hilltop location. Excellent views of Cincinnati, the Ohio River, and even Kentucky are available from many points, including Eden Park Drive. Mirror Lake is also beautiful, as the landscape seems to drop off the edge at one end. The Art Museum is always free to attend and includes over 60,000 works of art from around the world. I particularly enjoy the many works by Cincinnatians: in the late 19th century the city was a happening place with artists working in oil paints, furniture artisans, and many other mediums. The original building was built in the 1880s period as “The Art Palace of the West.” As the collection grew, the building has been added to many times over the years. The Bouguereau painting shown above is one of my favorites.
The nearby Krohn Conservatory was built in 1933 at the height of the Art Deco era and the interior shows it. The Krohn displays over 3,500 plant species from around the world in the Palm, Tropical, Desert and Orchid houses. My wife used to grow orchids and still enjoys seeing them here. The rainforest waterfall and stream are relaxing, and if you’re lucky, you might see the turtles in the stream along with the fish. Changing displays for holidays are a highlight, as is the ever-popular "Butterfly Show" each year, where butterflies fly throughout the specially-themed garden showroom.
Other places of 1962 vintage to see in Cincinnati at the end of your own Roadtrip-'62 ™ include:
- The Cincinnati Museum Center – within the former Cincinnati Union Terminal, an Art Deco railroad station built in 1933, are three museums. These have only been here since 1990, so the terminal building itself is the only thing that relates to our favorite year.
- The Cincinnati Music Hall - This 1878 building has been completely renovated but features its original architecture with arched entranceways, a huge round window, and two square towers. The Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra, Cincinnati Ballet, and Cincinnati Opera all perform here.
- The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens lies less than 2 miles west of US-22 and has been here since 1875, which makes it the second oldest Zoo in the United States. Besides a typical zoo, it also has large and colorful floral plantings.
- The Taft Museum of Art – If you didn’t get enough art in Cincinnati, this museum in a majestic 1820 home will fill in the gaps for you. This Italian villa-inspired home went through several owners before ending up in the hands of President William Howard Taft, who donated it along with its private collection of 690 works of art to the people of Cincinnati in 1927. The Taft Museum opened in 1932.
After a couple of museums, it’s time for dinner, so let’s do something very Cincinnatti: chili. It’s not exactly your usual chili, but Skyline Chili is a Cincinnati original and has become the "official chili" of many local professional sports teams and venues, including the Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Cyclones, Columbus Blue Jackets and even the Kings Island theme park. It all began in 1949 with by Greek immigrant Nicholas Lambrinides’ restaurant that he named Skyline because it sat on a hill in town that had a view of the downtown skyline. By 1953, he had a second restaurant and the company has grown to about 110 in 4 states. Lambrinides died in 1962 at the age of 82, but his sons continued to operate and expand the company until 1998, when they sold it to an investment company. The original location on Price Hill was eventually demolished but there is a Skyline Chili now on Vine Street downtown, between the two one-way streets that make up US-22. I’ve tried Skyline Chili before and was not fond of their signature “4-Way”, which is served with spaghetti. But this time, I’m trying the Chili Cheese Fries, one of my favorite dishes. Seems like a perfect place to end our trip, so I’ll see you next time on Roadtrip-'62 ™!
All photos by the author and Copyright © 2019 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.
All other content Copyright © 2019 - Milne Enterprises, Inc.