GRANDVIEW, Wash. — It’s now an unremarkable back road with little hint of its rich history.
But in 1909, cars in the first transcontinental race from New York City to Seattle rolled down this stretch of road outside Grandview.
Six years later, it became part of the fabled Yellowstone Trail. The nation’s first paved transcontinental motor route, the Yellowstone Trail ran 3,719 miles from Plymouth, Mass., to Seattle.
Today, it holds the decidedly unglamorous title of Grandview Pavement Road. While no doubt safer than it once was, something else was lost. Its once graceful curves have been straightened. Its narrow width, originally designed for the slower days of the newfangled horseless carriage, has been widened to modern standards.
Its once-state-of-the-art concrete roadbed — poured in 1921 — is gone, either torn up or buried under a layer of asphalt. But look hard enough and you’ll find traces of the past.
Legendary Northwest photographer Asahel Curtis once owned a home not far from the road. Other turn-of-the-last-century homes are scattered among some of the farms that border the road.
Until recently, there were the decrepit remains of an auto court. A kind of forerunner to the motel, auto courts offered cabins, attached garages and courtyards.
The concrete that was poured nearly a century ago was something of a cutting-edge experiment in road construction technology. Bidding was competitive and contractors were proud enough of their work that they stamped their name and the pour date into the pavement at regular intervals.
The stamp used by contractor R.M. Hardy has been preserved and can now be seen at the R.E. Powell Museum, 313 Division St., in Grandview. More than two dozen such stamps were reportedly saved as part of a long-term goal of building an interpretive center along the roadway.
To reach Grandview Pavement Road, follow West Fifth Avenue west out of Grandview. At Appleway Road, it becomes Grandview Pavement Road. It runs about 3 miles westward until it intersects with State Route 241 south of Sunnyside.