Written by Robert P. Savitt.
The 200-year-old National Road is often referred to as “The Main Street of America.” It was the nation’s first federally funded highway and eventually passed through more than 25 cities and towns in Maryland. The 33-mile Maryland portion of the original road was linked with privately constructed turnpikes to extend it to 170 miles in the state. In its early days, the National Road thrived as it helped to open the American West to settlement and commerce. With the rise of railroad transportation in the 1850s, the turnpike became almost obsolete and deteriorated significantly. But the road was rescued in the early 1900s as the increasing popularity of automobile travel led to its revival. In recent years, some of the original structures along the road have been restored, including restaurants, inns, and other commercial establishments. Hostelries and eateries such as the Casselman Inn in Grantsville, the South Mountain Inn between Middletown and Boonsboro, and the Vintage restaurant in New Market draw on their links to the old National Road to attract travelers. Through exhibits and lectures, local civic groups and historical societies continue to memorialize and celebrate the rich history of America’s main street–the National Road.