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July 1, 2024 38 mins

This episode covers three examples of historically important roads. One is quite ancient, one is an important part of the development of the U.S., and the third is a more modern road that’s been lauded for its design.

Research:

  • “The Ancient Ridgeway.” Friends of the Ridgeway. https://ridgewayfriends.org.uk/the-trail/the-ancient-ridgeway/·
  • Atkins, Harry. “The Best Historic Sites in Oxfordshire.” History Hit. May 24, 2022. https://www historyhit.com/guides/the-best-historic-sites-in-oxfordshire/·
  • “Avebury.” English Heritage. https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/avebury/
  • Benetti, Alessandro. “The bridge-type autogrill, infrastructure and icon of the Italian highways.” Domus. July 27, 2020. https://www.domusweb.it/en/architecture/2020/07/27/infrastructures-and-icons-the-bridge-type-autogrill-by-angelo-bianchetti-and-mario-pavesi.html
  • Benetti, Alessandro. “Italy’s ‘Sun Motorway,’ the story of an exceptional infrastructure.” Domus. Aug. 5, 2023. https://www.domusweb.it/en/architecture/gallery/2021/07/16/the-sun-motorway-is-65-years-old-a-short-story-of-an-extraordinary-infrastructure.html
  • Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "macadam". Encyclopedia Britannica, 11 Aug. 2014, https://www.britannica.com/technology/macadam-road-construction
  • Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Saxony". Encyclopedia Britannica, 1 Jun. 2024, https://www.britannica.com/place/Saxony-historical-region-duchy-and-kingdom-Europe
  • Calvano, Angela & Canducci, Andrea & Rufini, Andrea. (2023). Urban regeneration of public housing settlements, in Rome: the case study of San Basilio district. Renewable Energy and Environmental Sustainability. 8. 10.1051/rees/2023012
  • Cleaver, Emily. “Against All Odds, England’s Massive Chalk Horse Has Survived 3,000 Years.” Smithsonian. July 6, 2017. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/3000-year-old-uffington-horse-looms-over-english-countryside-180963968/
  • Ellis, Sian. “Just follow the Ridgeway, Britain’s oldest highway.” British Heritage. April 30, 2024. https://britishheritage.com/travel/the-ridgeway-britains-oldest-highway
  • Haughton, Brian. “The White Horse of Uffington.” March 30, 2011. https://www.worldhistory.org/article/229/the-white-horse-of-uffington/
  • Johnson, Ben. “Ancient Standing Stones.” Historic UK. https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Ancient-Standing-Stones/
  • “Lane Width.” U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/geometric/pubs/mitigationstrategies/chapter3/3_lanewidth.cfm
  • Lenarduzzi, Thea. “The Motorway That Built Italy: Piero Puricelli's masterpiece is the focus of an unlikely pilgrimage.” Independent UK. Jan. 30, 2016. https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/the-world-s-first-motorway-piero-puricelli-s-masterpiece-is-the-focus-of-an-unlikely-pilgrimage-a6840816.html
  • Longfellow, Rickie. “The National Road.” U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. https://highways.dot.gov/highway-history/general-highway-history/back-time/national-road
  • Mclaughlan, Scott, PhD. “What were the enclosure acts?” The Collector. Nov. 12, 2023. https://www.thecollector.com/what-were-the-enclosure-acts/
  • McNamara, Robert. "The National Road, America's First Major Highway." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/the-national-road-177405
  • “The National Road.” National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/articles/national-road.htm
  • “National Road Heritage Corridor.” https://nationalroadpa.org/
  • "The Nation's First Mega-Project: A Legislative History of the Cumberland Road" United States Department of transportation. 2021. https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/68561
  • Nifosi, Giuseppe. “Michelucci's Highway Church.” Art Unveiled.  https://www.artesvelata.it/chiesa-autostrada-michelucci/
  • “RESEARCH AND SOURCES FOR WAYLAND’S SMITHY.” English Heritage. https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/waylands-smithy/history/research-and-sources/
  • “The Ridgeway.” National Trails. https://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/en_GB/trails/the-ridgeway/
  • “The Ridgeway Information.” National Trails. https://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/en_GB/trails/the-ridgeway/trail-information/
  • Stenton, F. M. “The Road System of Medieval England.” The Economic History Review, vol. 7, no. 1, 1936, pp. 1–21. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.2307/2590730
  • “WAYLAND'S SMITHY.” English Heritage. https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/waylands-smithy/
  • “Wayland’s Smithy chambered long barrow, including an early barrow and Rion Age and Roman boundary ditches.” Historic England. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1008409?section=official-list-entry
  • Whittle, Alasdair & Brothwell, Don & Cullen, Rachel & Gardner, Neville & Kerney, M.. (2014). Wayland's Smithy, Oxf
Mark as Played
Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class, a production
of iHeartRadio. Hello, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Holly
Frye and I'm Tracy V. Wilson. Summertime, which for a
lot of people means travel time. I historically summer is

(00:23):
when I travel the least, except this year, apparently because
I figure I travel since you know, we are not
burdened by having to pay attention to like school year
calendars and whatnot, Bray, we try to travel when the
big travel season isn't happening, so we can have it
a little more relaxed. But this year, I don't know why,
just ended up with lots of travel. But a lot

(00:45):
of people plan road trips for summer getaways. I love
a good road trip. I like to drive, So this,
of course has me thinking about roads and highways today.
I thought it would be fun for a lighter note
to talk about a few such roadways from around the
Western world that are historically significant in one way or another.
All of these also still exist in one way or another.

(01:07):
One is quite ancient, and it is still accessible, although
not by car. One is an important part of the
development of the US. It is not route sixty six,
I'll tell you now. And the third is a little
more modern, it still exists pretty much in its entirety.
It's actually a road that Tracy and I have traveled
on during one of our podcast trips, and we're going
to start by talking about what is one of the

(01:30):
oldest roads in the world, and then we'll progress through
those three chronologically. The first road we will talk about
is the Ridgeway that's in England, and it's a thoroughfare
that's been in use for an estimated five thousand years,
making it the oldest road in Britain. That means really
no documentation on its creation. We do know that over

(01:52):
time though, this path became established as a route for farmers,
travelers and military troops. It runs on a chalk ridge
through Oxfordshire and southern central England, from Overton Hill in
Wiltshire to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire. If you're like me
and you're like, how long is that? Eighty seven miles long?

(02:14):
Calling it a single road or a path is actually
a little bit misleading. This wasn't a single road for
most of its history. It was a lot of slightly
different roads that converged and diverged with one another. One
of those is a lower path that would have offered
people easier access to water in the springtime. People walking

(02:35):
the ridgeway today might marvel at the incredible views that
it offers, but it's probable that this wasn't just about
taking in lovely vistas. Also it was about spotting dangers.
And it also offers a relatively dry walking surface even
in inclement weather, so precipitation really drains away from it

(02:57):
really well. Because it is so old, the ridgeway has
been used by a lot of different groups of people
at various points in history, and as a consequence, traveling
on it today offers access to a look at various
moments in history. There is a prehistoric burial mound there
called Wayland Smithy, and it's near the town of Ashbury.

(03:18):
Wayland Smithy, which is on the list of National Heritage
Sites of England, was named it's believed by Saxons for
the Norse mythology figure known as Wayland the Smith. That's
a blacksmith who, in his mythological story escapes enslavement in
this whole scheme involving ingenuity and a lot of violent revenge,
but the burial mound is older than the Saxon culture,

(03:41):
was built in the Early Neolithic era in two phases.
The first is a burial structure that's believed to have
been created between thirty five ninety and thirty five point
fifty BCE. The second phase, which is built on top
of the first, came an estimated one hundred years later,
sometime between thirty four sixty and thirty four hundred BCE.

(04:04):
The exploration and examination of this site are fairly recent,
happening since nineteen nineteen. That's when the first reportedly pretty
clumsy excavation was mounted. A seconds and more careful excavation
took place in the early nineteen sixties. After that the
site was reconstructed to its original form and you can

(04:25):
visit it today. A thirty five minute walk from Wayland
Smithy along the ridgeway takes you to the Uffington White Horse,
which is a massive pictogram. It's the size of a
football field, so when we say massive, we mean it.
That is believed to have been created between fourteen hundred
and six hundred BCE, right on the cusp between the
Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. What this horse

(04:48):
represents is unknown. There are loads of theories connecting it
to various mythical horse figures or gods, but those are
only theories, and it too is an English heritage site.
About eighteen miles southwest on the ridgeway from the area
where Whyland's Smithy and the White Horse are located is
the Avebury Hinge and stone circles on the timeline. The

(05:12):
hinge and its circles are right between the two sites
that we have talked about already. This hinge was erected
and estimated forty six hundred years ago, and the entirety
of the site's structures are believed to have been created
between twenty eight fifty and twenty two hundred BCE. The
hinge as it exists today is a bank and ditch

(05:33):
that forms a circle. The ditch sits inside the circle
that the raised bank creates, and within the hinge there
is also a very large circle of stones at one
mile in circumference. It is the largest stone circle in Britain,
and there are two more smaller stone circles within that
largest one. Avebury is a really interesting situation where there

(05:56):
is a village that sits partially within this arrangement of
hinge and stone circles, with people living modern lives in
that village immediately adjacent to the elements that make it
a World Heritage Site. There are more interesting stops along
the ridgeway where you can see other historical sites, but
we're going back to the ridgeway itself. We mentioned earlier

(06:18):
that it was originally a lot of paths that largely
ran parallel and often converged with each other. But that
loose group of paths eventually became one clear path, and
that was due to England's enclosure acts sometimes that spelled
enclosure with an I rather than an E. At the beginning,
going back to the times when the historical structures we've

(06:40):
been talking about were created, the countryside of England was
largely open. People worked on farms, but the property lines
just weren't as rigid as we might think of them
today in most cases. Over time, of course, there were
plenty of people who wanted to mark where their property began,
and the solution was to enclose that property with hedges

(07:02):
or fences. Initially, this started as a practice to keep
peasants away from the land that was intended for the nobility.
That's something that started with the tutors, but over time,
the idea of private property was adopted through the various
socioeconomic levels of the population. Additionally, as agriculture became a

(07:23):
more refined science and focused techniques for developing crops became
more widespread, people started to recognize that in some cases
it would be really beneficial to cordon off different crops
from one another. Farmers wanted to carefully plan and rotate
their crops, and having open fields made it kind of
hard to fulfill those plans. If you've ever had your

(07:45):
own garden, sometimes you know, plants will just kind of
get each other's business. And they didn't want to do
that anymore. And so, starting in seventeen fifty, the enclosure
acts started to carve out the lines of ownership of
what had been open fields in the countryside also helped
carve out different crops. Common property like roads started to
be delineated because that common property, often abudded areas that

(08:08):
were getting enclosed, is privately owned. And so, starting with
the enclosure acts in seventeen fifty and through eighteen thirty,
when the last of those enclosure acts were passed, all
of those varying little tributaries of the richway were slowly
and artificially eliminated through this legal establishment of property boundaries. Also,

(08:29):
just as an aside, the enclosure Acts also caused a
lot of problems. They were very controversial in many ways.
They could be their own episode. One day today is
not that day. Yeah, I feel like that's also something
that we at least got a basic overview of in
British history class in school. I remember that coming up.

(08:51):
I don't remember it, but that doesn't mean anything I
made have been busy doodling dresses. As this path became
more by these hedges, it became more worn in as
a roadway. It had been traversed for centuries, but the
consolidation made it really a clear path. In nineteen seventy

(09:12):
three the ridgeway became a national trail and you could
walk or bike on it today, or you can even
follow it on horseback. You cannot buy car though carriages
are allowed on some sections, and mobility devices are allowed
for disabled people who wish to visit. It's a little
bit early, but we're gonna pause here for a sponsor
break so that we can keep each section together in

(09:34):
its entirety. And the next one is kind of chunky.
So coming up, we will talk about the first federally
funded road in the United States. Next up we have
the National Road. This US road is also called the
Cumberland Road. You'll see why in a second, sometimes the

(09:56):
National Turnpike. It also has an assortment of other names,
but it runs fro from Cumberland, Maryland, to Vandalia, Illinois,
with many tributaries branching off of it. But that route
and many other things about it were matters of great debate,
and that's because this was the first road in the
US that was funded by the federal government. Right from

(10:17):
the beginning of the United States as a nation, people
recognized that this was a big place, even in the
early stages of the US when it was much smaller
than it is today. So people understood they were going
to need some travel infrastructure. President George Washington talked about
this issue as early as seventeen ninety. Anybody along the

(10:41):
east coast of North America was automatically connected by seaports,
but as people started to move farther inland from the coast,
particularly into the area known as the Northwest Territory, it
became apparent that there needed to be a way to
connect these places, both for travel and for transport. And
when we say transport there we mean transporting of goods.

(11:04):
Initially people counted on river transport to get around, but
that didn't obviously connect to everyone. There were also mountains
that made traveling overland difficult at best and treacherous at worst.
There were trails that had been blazed by indigenous peoples,
and in some areas there were military roads that were
a little more than trails that had been established during

(11:25):
the French and Indian War, which of course was part
of the Seven Years' War. But many of the military
trails in particular were not made for long term use,
and once they were no longer needed as part of
troop movement during a conflict, they were kind of just
left to grow over. There absolutely were roads that had
been built or blazed already or expanded from existing pathways

(11:49):
built by indigenous people or migration routes of animals. The
most famous of those is probably the Wilderness Road, which
was initially cut to open up a trail into Kentucky.
The Wilderness Road is credited to Daniel Boone and his
company of men. They were commissioned to do this and
expanded some already discovered and cut roots. Boone's group was

(12:14):
tasked by entrepreneur Richard Henderson with cutting away through the
passage through the Allegheny Mountains known as the Cumberland Gap,
for the benefit of his land speculation company. And that
last part is the important bit there. This was the
road that was privately funded. It opened up a passage
for expansion into the West and was important in growing

(12:35):
the footprint of the United States. But this had not
been a government effort. So when Ohio became the seventeenth
state admitted to the Union in eighteen oh three, and
even when it just looked like it might be, it
precipitated a look at the future of the land of
the Northwest Territory, and it sharply focused the already known
problem that the United States was a country in which

(12:58):
some parts of it were real difficult to get to.
This isn't something that was an issue of unity. Of course,
that was, you know, part of the ideological stuff that
was talked about, but really the big driver was commerce.
The US wanted the economic benefit of being able to
take advantage of the resources that would be accessible through
Ohio and the states that would come after it like

(13:20):
fur trading, and it was not as though there were
a bunch of Richard Henderson's just throwing money at massive
public works projects to get Rhades built. In an effort
to solve the issue and make it easier to travel
within the United States, Congress took steps starting in eighteen
oh two to try to make it happen. Money made

(13:41):
from the sale of federal land was earmarked for the
development of a road from Cumberland, Maryland, to reach the
new state of Ohio and then eventually connect to new
states farther west as those were established. Cumberland was chosen
as the starting point because that was where the Potomac River,
which starts on the Atlantic Coast south of Washington d

(14:02):
c ends, but getting to both the financial and geographic
decisions naturally came with some give and take and a
lot of debate. Also just for clarity and not anything
Tracy did. But I did we know Ohio not a
state in eighteen oh two, because it was even before
that statehood, but knowing that it was likely. In February

(14:24):
of eighteen oh two, Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin
wrote a letter to William B. Giles, who was a
representative from Virginia who was chairman of the Select Committee
on the Northwest Territory, and in that letter Gallatin suggested
a way that a portage road, a road to connect
the Northwest Territory to the Eastern Seaboard could be funded,

(14:44):
writing quote that one tenth part of the net proceeds
of the lands hereafter sold by Congress, shall, after deducting
all expenses incident to the same, be applied towards laying
out and making turnpike or other roads, first from the
navigable waters emptying into the Atlantic to the Ohio, and
afterwards continued through the New State. Such roads to be

(15:08):
laid out under the authority of Congress, with the consent
of the several states through which the same shall pass.
The roads will be as beneficial to the parts of
the Atlantic States through which they are to pass, and
nearly as much so to a considerable portion of the Union,
as to the Northwest Territory itself. But a due attention
to that particular geographical situation of that territory and of

(15:31):
the adjacent western districts of the Atlantic States, will not
fail to impress you strongly with the importance of that
provision in a political point of view, so far as
it will contribute towards cementing the bonds of the Union
between those parts of the United States whose local interests
have been considered as most dissimilar. The following month, which

(15:53):
was March of eighteen oh two, Giles gave a report
to the House of Representatives. It incorporated Gallison's ideas and
cemented the idea that the nation had to be proactive
in thinking not just about one thoroughfare, but the future
needs for roadways that would be encountered as the nation expanded.
In April thirtieth of eighteen oh two, the Enabling Act

(16:16):
was signed by President Thomas Jefferson, with some changes including
a reduction from one tenth of the land sales proceeds
to one twentieth that's five percent as road funding. Things
were further reduced in an amendment the following year, which
set aside three percent of that five percent for creating

(16:36):
roads within the state, and then just two percent for
the portage road that would connect the Atlantic States to Ohio.
When it came time to decide on specifically where the
road would begin, one of the first factors introduced was
trade in particular what city had the highest volume of
commerce moving goods to and from Ohio. Philadeli and Richmond

(17:00):
were both considered, and also those were kind of laid
out as the boundaries of how far north and south
the starting point should be considered, so Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Richmond
in Virginia. A congressional committee noted that Philadelphia and Baltimore
were the chief trade cities and that sites along to Potomac,
specifically Georgetown and Alexandria were just below that. But even

(17:23):
further down the list in terms of volume was Richmond, Virginia.
But the committee's report also noted that they were dealing
with quote scanty sources of facts, and that it was
entirely likely that those kinds of statistics would change anyway
as the country grew and evolved. It kind of subs
up to, well, we think these are the busiest centers
of trade right now, but that can all change soon,

(17:45):
so I don't know who knows. So in the end
they kind of turned their focus off of just that
and further report the committee quote endeavored to fix on
that which for the present will be most accommodating to
the citizens of the state of Ohio. Leaving to the
future benevolence and policy of Congress, an extension of their
operations on this or other routes, and an increase of

(18:07):
the requisite fund. As the discoveries of experience may point
out their expediency and necessity. They looked at expanding an
existing road that ran from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to a
river point, and then continuing that road into Ohio from there.
Then they looked at a similar plan to expand a
road from Baltimore to the manonga Hala River which I

(18:31):
have also heard people say Manongahela, so don't yell at us,
and then from Richmond to the Ohio River. In each case,
distance was considered to calculate how much each of these
options would cost, but the final recommendation for the starting
point was Cumberland, Maryland, with the logic that quote, this

(18:52):
route will meet and accommodate roads leading from Baltimore and
the District of Columbia. It will cross the Monongahela River
at or near Brownsville, sometimes called Redstone, where the advantage
of boating could be taken, and from the point where
it will probably intersect the river Ohio. There are now
roads or they can easily be made over feasible and

(19:14):
proper grounds to and through the principal population of the
state of Ohio. When the bill that outlined all of
this was read on the Senate floor, a second and
third reading were requested, and then the committee's bill passed
apparently without much fuss, on December twenty seventh, eighteen oh five.
It had a harder time in the House of Representatives

(19:37):
because representatives from southern states felt like their states had
been completely ignored in what was important legislation aimed at
growing the country's infrastructure. There was concern that the Senate
had passed the bill without consent at the state level.
After efforts to postpone the bill indefinitely failed and a
lot of back and forth, the final bill, which was

(19:58):
titled an Act to Regulate the lanfe Paying Out and
making a Road from Cumberland in the state of Maryland
to the State of Ohio, was finally passed. This act
set up some of the earliest standards for US roadways,
including a standardized width of four rods, which is sixty
six feet. This required road markers every quarter mile plus

(20:21):
quote at every point where an angle occurs in its course. Today,
road standards in the US are by lane width, with
freeways requiring twelve feet or three point six meters per lane.
This also established that the center of the road had
to be slightly raised for proper runoff of precipitation. In

(20:42):
September of eighteen oh five, twelve thousand, six hundred and
fifty two dollars had been earmarked for the National Road,
with the expectation that these funds would continue to grow
with additional land sales. When the bill was moved forward
in eighteen oh six, the budget was laid out at
thirty thousand dollars. The bill became law on March twenty ninth,

(21:02):
eighteen oh six, although it had not actually been a
sure thing that President Thomas Jefferson would sign it. He
had previously stated that he was not confident that road
building was within the authority of the federal government as
lead out in the Constitution, but he did see that
the various centers of trade needed to be connected. Further,
he noted that the plan would eventually have to be

(21:24):
expanded beyond its initial scope. From eighteen oh six to
eighteen eleven, surveying and planning was done for this road,
noting where it could take advantage of older existing trails
and roads and how they would need to be altered
to meet the requirements of the law. Also where entirely
new cuts of road would have to be made. Some

(21:46):
of the military trails from the French and Indian War
were determined to be usable for this. Yeah, by usable,
we mean like usable to reset. They forget to do
it over. They couldn't just like connect to them. There
was a lot of overgrowth, according to most of the
stuff I read. Once the surveying and the route planning
was completed, construction began and this involved a new approach

(22:09):
to laying roads. Because this project was important, the National
Road needed to be more resilient than the standard dirt
road finish that was normally used. Right Like, one of
the things I read in several different accounts was that
wagon wheels would kind of dig these grooves into roads,
and then you didn't have a lot of options. You
had to go where previous wagons went. During an improvement

(22:33):
project to the road, which actually took place before it
was completed, this included the use of what's called a
McCadam road. That's a form of pavement that uses broken
granite or greenstone with another layer of lightstone on top.
You're named after the man who inventded them, whose name
was McCadam. McAdam roads are still paved today, but now

(22:54):
hot tar or another binder is poured over the compressed
broken stone, and today a Cattam road is laid, of
course using heavy machinery, but in the early eighteen hundreds
the version required crews of men to break the stone
apart with sledgehammers to prepare it for placement. The Cumberland
Road also required a number of bridges, and like the roadway,

(23:16):
they needed to be built in the sturdiest possible way
for longevity and reliability, and that actually resulted in a
lot of stone bridges being laid along the route in
areas where the Cumberland or National Road passed through small towns.
In a lot of places it became the main street
that served as the community center, with businesses clustering along it,
kind of forming what people would call the main drag

(23:38):
or main strip. But all of that work took years
and years, and the first year of construction a mere
ten miles of road was laid. It took more than
six years for the road to reach the Ohio River
at Wheeling, Virginia, which of course is now part of
West Virginia. Congress funded extension of the road in subsequent years,

(24:01):
eventually lengthening it to six hundred miles, reaching it then
to Vandalia, Illinois. Although an additional expansion to Saint Louis,
Missouri was considered, this was not funded because it was
believed that railroad access to Missouri would make it obsolete.
The National Roads funding remained controversial over the years the

(24:22):
entire time it was being built. In eighteen thirty three,
the burden of cost for the road shifted from the
federal government to the states that it passed through, and
then there was like a clause that the federal government
would handle upkeep of the parts that had been constructed
while it was under their auspices. While it was initially
intended as a free road to anyone in the US,

(24:43):
once it shifted to being state funded, tolls were levied
in various places to meet the expense. But the National
Road was an important and reliable way for people to travel,
and it did help foster westward expansion. There was a
period where railroads caused the use of popularity of this
road to drop. But once automobile travel existed, the road's

(25:05):
use was once again on the rise, and it experienced
a revival both in usage and just in general interest
because of growing interest in touring via car. The Federal
Highway Act of nineteen twenty one included provisions for states
to have federal aid to build and maintain highways once again. Eventually,
parts of the National Road became incorporated into US Route forty.

(25:28):
You can even plot a history road trip through the
National Road Heritage Corridor, which covers about ninety miles of
the road's original path through Pennsylvania. Yeah, sort of like
the Enclosure Acts. The building of all these highways and
the effects they had on communities a totally different story
beyond this one. So our last road today is a

(25:51):
more modern highway. It's the Sun Motorway of Italy. This
is not Italy's first highway, although Italy does get credit
for having the first true purpose built highway in the world,
which is commonly called the Lake Highway, that was constructed
in the nineteen twenties to make a connection from Milan
to the Lake District. That highway was designed by Piero Barricelli,

(26:12):
and he pulled off the construction and design of it
in just fifteen months. You can still drive it, although
now it is part of the larger Autostrade de Lagi.
But Porricelli's work on the Lake Highway set the stage
for another Italian highway project that wouldn't start for another
three decades. In nineteen fifty four, a huge infrastructure package

(26:35):
called the Romita Law was drafted in Italy, and the
years after World War Two the country had seen a
lot of degradation of its roads and a huge problem
with a lack of availability for affordable housing, particularly in
densely populated areas, so this law established financial provisions to
try to address some of these issues with a ten

(26:56):
year plan for implementation. One of the product on it
was a highway to run from the north of the
country down about two thirds of its length, so in
nineteen fifty six the first stone for the highway that
was planned to run from Milan to Naples was laid.
Its name in Italian is Arostrare des Sole, the Sun

(27:17):
Motorway or Highway of the Sun, and it's also just
known as the A one Aristrade one because of its
significant length and how much of the country it connects.
It's also sometimes referred to as the backbone of the
Italian highway system, and it was a huge investment. It
was budgeted at one hundred billion lire and over its

(27:38):
length of more than seven hundred and sixty kilometers, it's
about four hundred and seventy miles. It connects not only
its two end point cities, but also Bologna, Florence and Rome.
And the whole thing includes one hundred and thirteen bridges,
thirty eight tunnels and five hundred seventy two flyovers. The
plans for the Highway of the Sun owed a lot

(27:58):
to the Pirichelli design of the La Lake Highway, along
with a good deal of additional engineering. Fidelikhova was head
of the Societa Auto Strata Perrettalia, which was founded as
a joint stock company that was publicly owned as part
of the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction. The joint stock company

(28:18):
still exists today as a publicly owned company, but it
went through a lot of changes over the years, including privatization.
This is all contexts so you know why Fidela Kova
was in charge of coordinating this project. He's credited with
coming up with a plan to make the highway construction simplified,
efficient and beneficial to as many workers as possible. And

(28:40):
that plan that he had that was you know, pretty new,
was to break the highway up into sections, like kind
of partitioning them off, so each of those sections had
its own crew. And this meant that work could be
done along large stretches of the road simultaneously instead of
going like a little at a time. And also that

(29:01):
a lot of construction companies had government contracts to bolster
employment numbers. And it succeeded in all of that, but unfortunately,
as is the case with many large scale construction projects,
there were also we should know, many fatalities in the process,
and we'll talk about how those who died during this
construction have been honored in just a moment. It took

(29:22):
eight years for the Autostrata to be completed. When it
was officially opened on October fourth, nineteen sixty four, it
was a marvel. It shortened the travel time by car
from Milan to Naples from a two day journey to
one you could make in just seven or eight hours,
but also stoked the fires of industry. Companies like Fiat

(29:43):
saw this as a harbinger of new markets, and they
ramped up the production of cars. Yeah, there were a
lot of companies that backed this whole idea because they
saw how quickly it could grow their profits and their business,
you know, like tire companies and travel companies that were
setting up hotels and whatnot. One of the enduring legacies

(30:05):
of the a Ones Engineering and Construction is its ongoing
association with just really impressive design. As the project was
nearing completion but still under construction, it had the unique
honor of having several of its bridges featured at the
Museum of Modern Art in New York for an exhibit
on twentieth century engineering. The works of engineers who had

(30:27):
designed sections throughout the entire stretch of the highway were
included in the exhibit. Also, before the highway was complete,
an architect named Geovanni mcclucci designed a church to memorialize
the workers who had died during its construction. The Quisa
del Atti Strada de Sole, which is also called the

(30:48):
Church of San Jovanni Battista, is a unique and striking structure.
It combines traditional and modern design and uses concrete, stone,
and copper as its prominent material. This church is clearly
visible from the highway as it passes through Florence, and
in some ways it looks like a tent from the exterior,

(31:08):
and that's by design. It's intended to beckon travelers who
need a place to stop and reflect or replenish spiritually.
The interior of the church is just as innovative as
the exterior, and it also blends the traditional and the modern,
including concrete pillars that are cast to look like trees.

(31:29):
Even after the highway opened, it was home to innovation
that continues to echo today. In nineteen fifty nine, the
first auto grill opened along the A one. So an
autogrill is kind of like a rest stop, but if
you're from the US, they're not like our rest areas.
They're closer to some other things that Tracy and I
will talk about in behind the scenes. Autogrills have food

(31:49):
service where you could typically get things like pannini or
hot plates, and sometimes even have a buffet. This is
also in addition to the candy and to go snacks
and bathrooms and all the things you might see in
a convenience store. The first one was a joint venture
by industrialist Mario Pavesi and designer Angelo Biancuetti. Today there
is also a company called Autogrill that runs a number

(32:12):
of these little rest spaces, but the word is also
used as a non proper noun. Holly also read a
quote on an Italian site called Domus in an article
written by Alessandro Benetti that was a translation into English,
so it's sort of impressive for its poetic quality. Holly
is not sure if this was auto translated shockingly well,

(32:34):
or if a human being did this translation and then
served it to site visitors based on their locale, but
it kind of sums up the way a lot of
people feel about the a one quote. The auto strata
del sole is sometimes sensible and other times a violent
insertion whose transformation potential reverberates well beyond its physical boundaries.

(32:55):
It implies a global reorganization of the road network, with
several now national and provincial routes turned from major thoroughfares
to panoramic paths in parallel. Settlements with similar urban histories
see their destinies and their appeal being redefined on the
basis of their distance from the closer toll. I feel

(33:16):
like that not only is a good way to look
at the autostrata, but kind of all of these important roads, right,
like where a road goes, so goes gross uh. And
there are a lot of towns who throughout history have
been booming places and then a road, a significant thoroughfare,
gets installed away from them, and they lose their prominence

(33:39):
in terms of their importance in trade and whatnot, and
others are suddenly brought into a more industrialized way of
life than they may have had before. Yeah, but I
can't speak to this outside of the United States, But
in the United States, we also have a long standing
pattern of roads and highways just plowing through neighborhoods, particularly

(34:00):
poor people people of color, in a way that's terrible.
It's really just devastated a lot of places. It's such
a problematic and difficult to reconcile duality. Right. The idea
of connecting to one another, making connecting to places easier

(34:22):
is very romanticized, certainly in the US. Right. But then
that often means that we're ignoring the fact that somebody's
got to lose to make those happen. In most cases.
I am always fascinated by roads and roadways. I definitely
grew up in a family where we drove everywhere. So
I have spent a lot of time riding the roads

(34:44):
of the US, and it is interesting to me the
way you will see just you know, highway that is
passing through areas that don't seem to benefit from it,
maybe seem to be hurt by it, and another cases
clearly have been helped by it. And all of that

(35:05):
also has a subjective angle of what you consider to
be a good way of life and a good worthwhile
benefit versus the loss. So always food for thought as
you travel on your summer trips. I have a fun
piece of listener mail because it involves a place I

(35:26):
like to travel on our summer trips, Oh Good, which
also in the nerdiest way will which I will explain
at the end, is kind of an echo of the
things we have just been talking about. This is from
our listener Miranda, who writes, Hi, Holly and Tracy. I'm
a longtime listener to the podcast and first time writer.
I used to drive forty five miles each way to

(35:48):
get to my university in undergrad and I got my
stuff you missed in history class doctorate. While getting my
bachelor's degree, I just listened to your episode about popcorn
and the behind the scenes episode, and I laughed at
the out loud at the description of Holly's R two
D two air popper. I'm now a music professor at
a local college in Central Florida, and during the summers,
I'm a seasonal cast member at Walt Disney World, specifically

(36:11):
Galaxies Edge. I am a resident of Batu serving up
quick service food. I'm sure Holly is very familiar with
kotsakas in the marketplace, but we have two types of
popped grains, one with salt and butter, a classic with
a twist as our salt is blue, and one sweet
and savory with blueberry, lemon pound cake and sweet chili
lime flavors. I had to laugh listening to the episode

(36:32):
because I think Galaxy's Edge might truly be out of
Holly's Star Wars dreams, including popcorn. I'm attaching my cat
tax and my two little old cat ladies. Camellia is
our tiny old orange cat. She is a holy terror
and I love her. Serenity is our big old lady
brown cat, and she's incredibly snugly. They are clearly plotting
something in this picture. Thanks for all you do Miranda, listen.

(36:54):
I love little old cats. I have them. I love them,
and they are very cute. And I think all cats
are always plotting something, even the ones that maybe aren't
the brightest ones, seem to always have some kind of
plan going on. So thank you for those. This is
also interesting because you know, Batu and Black Spire Outposts,

(37:14):
specifically per the Lore, used to be a very bustling
stop in space until the space lanes changed, and now
it is more of an out of the way out post.
Kind of echoed today's discussion a little bit, which made
me delighted. And I sure do like going to Batu

(37:37):
a lot. I will confess that I don't go to
Katsaka's Kettle as much as I might because it has
the unfortunate placement of being next to Ronto Roasters, where
I go constantly because I have an addiction to Toronto refs,
thus my Ronto Roasters tattoo. But I do go to
Katsaka's for the very very yummy, very indulgent coffee drinks

(38:02):
that they make, which they will also make an alcoholic version.
It also has cereal on top of it. It's so good, ye,
and I want to keep an eye out for you, Miranda,
because I have a couple more trips down there planned
for this summer, so I'll have my eyes peeled and
hopefully we'll run into you. If you would like to
write us, you can do so at History Podcast at
iHeartRadio dot com. You can also find us on social

(38:25):
media as Missed in History and if you have not
subscribed yet and you would like to, you can do
that on the iHeartRadio app or anywhere you listen to
your favorite shows. Stuff you Missed in History Class is
a production of iHeartRadio. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit
the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to

(38:47):
your favorite shows.

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