The White Pole Road Development Corporation is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Iowa’s first registered state route. The White Pole Road (aka Great White Way Highway) was a dirt road that once stretched from Davenport to Council Bluffs and insured motorists a straighter, leveler and shorter route across the state with a town every five miles along the way. The White Pole Road became the first certified state route under the provisions of the then newly-formed Iowa State Highway Commission on July 30, 1914.
Leighton Christiansen, Iowa DOT Librarian, says “There were so many interesting names and road designations that crisscrossed the state at the beginning of the 1900s during the ‘Good Roads’ movement. When the Highway Commission was formed in 1913, they decided to organize these auto trails. The Great White Way Association of Iowa plotted their road on county maps, paid a $5 registration fee and soon became the first official route in Iowa.”
Today, the recreated 26-mile White Pole Road in the West Central part of the state is a tribute to this original road that once connected the five communities of Adair, Casey, Menlo, Stuart and Dexter. This particular stretch of road is also important because it served as the nucleus to Iowa’s first certified route. In the early 1900s, these towns were part of the regional Des Moines-to-Atlantic White Pole Auto Club which held meetings at the halfway point in Menlo. This road promotion then grew from Des Moines to Council Bluffs in 1910 and in the fall of 1912, the road continued on to the east of Des Moines to Davenport. Plans were made to eventually extend this statewide road from Chicago to Denver but by the 1920s the vision was merged with other routes and the name ultimately gave way to highway numbers.
In 2002, the White Pole Road Development Corporation formed with a mission to create a tourism industry that brought new visitors and related revenues in to each of their five communities and improved the quality of life. These community leaders knew the value of a good road running through their towns just like they did 100 years ago and decided to pay tribute to the route. John Fisher, president of the White Pole Road Development Corporation, said “It’s the people who built the original road and it’s the people building it again in spirit. 100 years later we’ve gone full circle and we’re using our old road to help grow and bring vitality back to rural Iowa.”
The group invites you to follow the over 700 telephone poles painted white along its 26-mile stretch on Saturday, July 12th and reflect on all those that have cruised before you. Refreshments will be served outside the Stuart City Hall from 6-8pm. A representative from the Iowa DOT will be present.