In 1913, very few roads were paved, so not everyone in the general public outside large cities had first-hand knowledge of the benefits of driving on paved roads instead of dirt roads. Paving over 3,300 miles of road could not be done overnight--it would take too much labor and financial funding, so the Lincoln Highway Association constructed Seedling Miles.
The Seedling Miles were meant to show samples of how pleasant driving an automobile could be compared to getting stuck in the mud. The LHA chose particularly muddy sections to pave with concrete. Paving a mile-long section gave automobile owners the experience of driving on a good road.
In Illinois, the LHA organized the paving of the First Seedling Mile outside Malta in 1914. That particular stretch of the Lincoln Highway was in a low area where spring rains pooled into a muddy mess.
The LHA collected private donations from local people, including one farmer who donated because he understood that a paved road would make it easier for his horses to pull his wagon of grain into town. The LHA combined donations with a pledge of barrels of cement from the Portland Cement Company to pave the Seedling Mile.
After the paving of the Seedling Mile, automobile drivers traveled to Malta to try out the smooth road, especially enjoying how fast they could drive on it. Some people brought their roller skates and went skating on the road.
The Lincoln Highway Association helped start and refine the nature of road building in the early 20th century. Using Portland cement, these improved road sections were also constructed in Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and Nebraska.
In 1920, the LHA started work on the ultimate seedling mile, a short stretch of road constructed to the highest standards in Dyer, Indiana. A 1.3-mile section of rural road was selected and built as a four-lane, concrete highway bordered by pedestrian walkways and illuminated with electric lights.
Opened in 1923, the Ideal Section incorporated many new innovative highway features and was considered a model for highway construction for the future. The Ideal Section handled traffic until 1997 when U.S. 30 was widened in that location.
The Then image shows a section of the Ideal Section shortly after construction was completed. The Now image shows a similar view today.