Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum

Great Lakes To Florida Highway Museum, Wytheville, Virginia

Great Lakes To Florida Highway Museum, Wytheville, Virginia

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase  –

The Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum is the latest addition to the town of Wytheville’s museums.  Located in a 1926 gas station, the museum offers visitors a chance to return to the days when the Great Lakes to Florida Highway (Route 21) was the main route from Ohio to Florida.

Highway 21 was a north-south main road in the 1920s and 30s.   Contrary to its nickname, the road never actually reached Florida.  The nearest it got was in 1935 when it was extended to Beaufort, South Carolina, and again in 1953 to its current southern terminus at the Atlantic Coast at Hunting Island State Park, between the city of Beaufort and Fripp Island.  However, by its connections with other roads it was a one of the main north–south routes to cross the middle Appalachian Mountains by which it became an important corridor for motor traffic between northeastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and western New York state with central North Carolina, central and southeastern South Carolina, and onward to coastal Georgia and most of Florida.

H.R. Umberger opened the gas station in 1926, naming his business the “Lakes to Florida Service Station.”  It enjoyed good business through the 1950s until the road was rerouted through Wytheville.  The business was basically finished once I-77 became the main north-south corridor that paralleled U.S. 21 and part of U.S. 52.

Great Lakes To Florida Highway Museum, Wytheville, Virginia

Great Lakes To Florida Highway Museum, Wytheville, Virginia

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase  –

Now owned by the town of Wytheville and reopened as a museum, this little gas station with the period gas pumps, has been restored to how it looked when opened in 1926.  It’s amazing to think that the small country road which passes the front was once one of the major north-south roads in America.

Great Lakes To Florida Highway Museum, Wytheville, Virginia

Great Lakes To Florida Highway Museum, Wytheville, Virginia

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase  –

Wytheville should be a stop on the itinerary of anyone interested in historic structures. The Wytheville Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places has 245 contributing buildings including the Frank P. Milburn designed Wythe County Court House. With a contributing ratio in excess of 80%, the Wytheville Historic District has one of the highest overall levels of architectural integrity I have experienced. The earliest structures appear to date from about 1830 with the biggest expansion, including the W F Slater building, dating from the 1840s and 1850s. I should note here, though, that the museum is not one of the contributing buildings.

Summary
Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum
Article Name
Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum
Description
The Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum offers visitors a chance to return to 1926 when Route 21 was the main route from Ohio to Florida
Author
Publisher Name
Mark Summerfield
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6 Comments

  1. Really cool shots of a unique place, Mark. Never heard of the highway but I am sure, in its day, was the eastern equivalent of Route 66.

    • Many thanks, Len. It always amazes me what can be found if you wander a little off the beaten track. This unique little museum was on a small lane which really only lead to the visitors center. There were no signs for it or anything else to advertise its existence.

  2. Those images really ‘pop’, Mark. What a fantastic color Red is.

  3. I just love explorations like this, a real throwback to a time 100 years ago! Great shots here, Mark, you’ve really captured the spirit of this place. I’d love to have a chance to visit personally one day.

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