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1895
 

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The year 1895 was important for California’s road system.  On March 26th, the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road became California’s first state highway.  The state secured title and right-of-way for the former toll road from El Dorado County.  Running from Placerville to the state line, the road is now part of U.S. Highway 50.

Additionally, on March 27th, an Act of California’s Legislature created the Bureau of Highways, first predecessor to the California Department of Transportation. Governor Budd appointed R.C. Irvine of Sacramento, Marsden Manson of San Francisco, and J.L. Maude of Riverside as commissioners of the Bureau.


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Inspecting California’s Roads. This June 19, 1895 entry in a Bureau of Highways minute book details the schedule of a proposed road inspection tour to be undertaken by the Bureau’s commissioners. Minutes of the Bureau of Highways, Records of the Dept. of Public Works, Division of Highways, California State Archives.

Inspecting California’s Roads

In 1895 and 1896, the three Bureau of Highways’ commissioners drove 16,830 miles by buckboard wagon across the state.  They visited every county in California, surveying roads and mapping out a proposed highway system.  Commissioner Irvine’s Gordon setter, Maje, made the entire trip.  Irvine declared that Maje “has a bone buried in every county in the state.”

This June 19, 1895 entry in a Bureau of Highways minute book details the schedule of a proposed road inspection tour to be undertaken by the Bureau’s commissioners.

Minutes of the Bureau of Highways, Records of the Dept. of Public Works, Division of Highways, California State Archives.


A Proposed State Highway System. Upon completion of its statewide road survey in 1896, the Bureau of Highways submitted a report to the Governor recommending that a state highway system be constructed.  This map accompanied the report, illustrating the Bureau’s proposed system.  The highways would connect all of the state’s population centers, reach every county seat, and intersect California’s great belts of natural wealth.  These recommendations became the foundation of the system that exists today.

A Proposed State Highway System

Upon completion of its statewide road survey in 1896, the Bureau of Highways submitted a report to the Governor recommending that a state highway system be constructed.  This map accompanied the report, illustrating the Bureau’s proposed system.  The highways would connect all of the state’s population centers, reach every county seat, and intersect California’s great belts of natural wealth.  These recommendations became the foundation of the system that exists today.

Sketch map as reproduced by Ben Blow, California Highways: H.S. Crocker Co., Inc., San Francisco, 1920


Improving the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road. After  acquiring the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road in 1895, the State of California began the  long process of improving its first state highway.  In 1907, a party of men, including future Secretary of State  Frank M. Jordan, surveyed the highway, recording data and notes in field survey  books. Lake Tahoe Wagon Road, Field Survey Books, 1907, Dept. of Public Works, Division of Highways, California State Archives

Improving the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road. After  acquiring the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road in 1895, the State of California began the  long process of improving its first state highway.  In 1907, a party of men, including future Secretary of State  Frank M. Jordan, surveyed the highway, recording data and notes in field survey  books. Lake Tahoe Wagon Road, Field Survey Books, 1907, Dept. of Public Works, Division of Highways, California State Archives

Improving the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road. After  acquiring the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road in 1895, the State of California began the  long process of improving its first state highway.  In 1907, a party of men, including future Secretary of State  Frank M. Jordan, surveyed the highway, recording data and notes in field survey  books. <cite>Lake Tahoe Wagon Road, Field Survey Books, 1907, Dept. of Public Works, Division of Highways, California State Archives</cite>

Improving the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road. After  acquiring the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road in 1895, the State of California began the  long process of improving its first state highway.  In 1907, a party of men, including future Secretary of State  Frank M. Jordan, surveyed the highway, recording data and notes in field survey  books. Lake Tahoe Wagon Road, Field Survey Books, 1907, Dept. of Public Works, Division of Highways, California State Archives

 

Improving the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road

After acquiring the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road in 1895, the State of California began the long process of improving its first state highway.  In 1907, a party of men, including future Secretary of State Frank M. Jordan, surveyed the highway, recording data and notes in field survey books.

Lake Tahoe Wagon Road, Field Survey Books, 1907, Dept. of Public Works, Division of Highways, California State Archives

Survey of Lake Tahoe Wagon Road. Road survey party at work on California’s first state highway, 1907. Future Secretary of State Frank M. Jordan is to the right of the post, facing the camera.

Survey of Lake Tahoe Wagon Road

Road survey party at work on California’s first state highway, 1907. Future Secretary of State Frank M. Jordan is to the right of the post, facing the camera.

Photographs, Records of the Department of Public Works, Division of Highways, California State Archives



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