As you stand at the corner of Highway 137 and the railroad tracks in Wellborn, many of the buildings surrounding you, as well as the brick road and the railroad tracks, are what you would have been looking at if you were living in the thriving town of Wellborn during its heyday from 1890 to 1920. Our Wellborn brick road, paved in 1919, is one of the few surviving pieces of the Old Spanish Trail. Wellborn thrived in part because of its location on the railroad and on the Old Spanish Trail.
The Old Spanish trail is an auto trail that once spanned the USA – 3,000 miles. Work began in 1915, and by the 1920s, the trail linked St. Augustine, Florida, to San Diego, California. The OST highway is not to be confused with the 19th century cattle trail of the same name that wound from Santa Fe to Los Angeles.
It was launched in 1915 in Mobile, Alabama, as a connector route between New Orleans and Florida. Progress on the highway stalled in the late teens due to the World War I, and the considerable expense of building bridges across the numerous waterways emptying into the Gulf. After several years of near inactivity, the highway project shifted west to Texas and took on new vigor. Under the direction of Harral Ayres, Managing Director, the Old Spanish Trail Association successfully brought the highway to completion in 1929. The lure of the OST continued to captivate travelers until the early 1960s, when new interstates redirected traffic off the old road.
There will be a decade-long Centennial Celebration beginning in 2019 and ending in 2029 with a motorcade grand finale from St. Augustine to San Diego. The OST100 has held several meetings, and different towns along the way have prepared exhibits and are collecting oral histories. Some towns have turned their old brick roads into recreational trails. Others are trying to convince AMTRAK to stop in their town if they build a depot.
The “drive the ost” group lists Wellborn on their website http://www.drivetheost.com/ with a picture of our brick road. They feel that we definitely have something that can be “marketed” if we wish. This is a quote from their website:
“Twelve miles west of Lake City and north of US 90 is a rare section of the 1920s Old Spanish Trail roadway. The town of Wellborn, population 2,597, is situated along the tracks of the former Pensacola & Georgia Railroad. Much of its right-of-way, charted in 1856 from Lake City to Pensacola, became the path of the Old Spanish Trail. South of the railroad tracks, along E. 8th Street, is a brick section of the Florida State Highway 1 and the Old Spanish Trail. Though only 2/10ths of a mile, the short segment provides an authentic feel of a vintage highway with its narrow nine-foot roadway and grass shoulders. The road continues to the east beyond First Avenue for 7/10ths of a mile, terminating at a barricade. Beyond, the old road continues on private property. Gazing down this moss-covered corridor gives a glimpse of how the Old Spanish Trail must have appeared in the 1920s.”
Another interesting website is http://www.americanroads.us/autotrails/oldspanishtrail.html.
Our Wellborn brick road is paved with Copeland-Inglis bricks which were used in the construction of the highway in the Southeastern U.S. The use of these bricks in road construction is discussed on this page from a “Paving Brick Industry” newsletter.
Above picture is from our Wellborn Brick road.
We should appreciate the history we have here in Wellborn. Hopefully those who come after us will be inspired to preserve it.