The History of America’s First Highway: U.S. Route 1
Once known as Pequot Path, King's Highway, and the Boston Post Road, U.S. Route 1 has paved the way for interstate commerce in the United States.
What is now U.S. Route 1 was once colonial America’s first highway. Originally called Pequot Path by Native Americans, Upper Post Road (the portion of Boston Post Road north of New York City) was a narrow group of roads, including Native American trails, Old Connecticut Path and Bay Path.
A Path from Boston to Charleston
Early colonists used some of these paths to drive cattle between locations, which naturally widened some areas. By order of Charles II of England, colonial governors were instructed to construct a roadway connecting Boston, MA to Charleston, SC, creating a system of routes known as Boston Post Road. Planned in 1673 and completed in 1735, what was known as King’s Highway (part of present day U.S. Route 17) would become Upper Boston Post Road, and was considered the beginning of the Boston Post Road route. This road was first used by colonists as a mail delivery route, and allowed for faster dissemination of information and the expansion of the economy, creating an exchanges of goods throughout the colonies and an early form of “interstate commerce”. The first official mail delivery ride on Upper Post Road occurred on January 1, 1673. Initially, Boston Post Road was primarily used to transport mail between Boston and New York City – two of the most important cities for commerce in colonial America.
A Reliable Passageway For American Travel
In 1783 the first stagecoach service was established, and the road was widened to allow horse-drawn carriages to pass comfortably. As the road expanded and included newly constructed roadways, it became a reliable passageway for people and goods, furthering the growth of cities and towns, and providing new trade opportunities. The route from Hartford, CT to the Eastern Upper Highlands was known to be the most dangerous stretch of the Boston Post Road system, as it passed through a largely unsettled area that was patrolled by Native Americans who were hostile towards settlers and travelers. Lower Post Road followed shorelines, including New York City, parts of Westchester County, Bronx County, Long Island and Connecticut, known as the Long Island Sound, and extended to Providence, RI, and Boston, MA.
Expansion of U.S. Route 1 Connects Major American Cities
The route eventually extended from Washington Street in Boston to Federal Hall in New York City (current day financial district). In the 1800’s, turnpike companies assumed the operation and maintenance for parts of the road. The Metropolitan Railroad Company built a system of streetcars along parts of Boston Post Road in the early 1850’s. What was Boston Post Road and its system of roadways can be found along U.S. Route 1 and U.S. Route 20. Upper Post Road runs through what is now known as U.S. Route 5, from Connecticut to Boston, MA. Portions of the road, which have since been re-purposed as new roadways and highways, can be found in New York City along Broadway, Wall Street, just north of Central Park, areas in the Bronx, and parts of Westchester County. Some original mileposts remain today.