The White Pole Road

Come take a drive!

You'll experience a piece of history by traveling the White Pole Road- Iowa's first certified State Route.

 


Back in the early 1900s, Iowa roads were in terrible shape.  Not only were we getting a bad reputation in other states like being called "the gumbo state", but our roads became impassable for weeks at a time due to snow and mud.  Farmers weren't able to get their products to the nearest rail station and it slowed and even halted mail delivery at times. Governor B.F. Carroll called for a Good Roads Convention in Des Moines on March 8-9, 1910.   Delegates from throughout the state attended and it was decided that a well maintained River-to-River Road from Davenport to Council Bluffs would help change Iowa's reputation as the popularity of the automobile was taking off.  Iowa then made history and set a record in road building when ten thousand farmers engaged in building a 380 mile road out of existing lines of dirt road in one hour flat and not one of them received a penny for his service.  But this River-to-River road followed a more northern route through our area.  Earlier our five towns had been promoting a marked road between Atlantic and Des Moines through the White Pole Auto Club (formerly known as the Southwestern Iowa Auto Club that met in Menlo) and we thought we could improve on this longer and hillier official northern route with a more southern route that passed through our communities.

The original White Pole Road was then designated in 1910 and followed along the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad from Des Moines to Council Bluffs. This section of Iowa's River-to-River road insured motorists a straighter, leveler and shorter route across the state with a town every five to six miles along the way.  As a predecessor to the U.S. highway system, the White Pole Road was not funded by the state and it was up to the people to maintain or "drag the road" with their King Drags in order to grow their communities.  The more travelers you could get to travel the White Pole Road, the more business in your town... and your town would stay on the map.  Poles along the route were painted white and auto tourists were encouraged to travel the "Great White Way".   



In the fall of 1912, the road eventually extended east from Des Moines to Davenport to encompass the entire state with plans to eventually extend from Chicago to Denver.  The State Legislature then created the Iowa State Highway Commission in 1913 and the Iowa Highway Route Registration Act gave the commission the role of registering named trails that were more than 25 miles long.  The Great White Way Association applied on October 6, 1913; paid the $5 fee and was awarded a certificate on July 20, 1914 making it the first certified route under the provisions of the State Highway Commission's rules.


In 1922, the Great White Way Highway merged with the rival River-to-River Primary No. 7 Highway to form the new Whiteway-7-Highway... only to be changed again to US Highway 32 in 1926.  In December of 1931, sections of our White Pole Road officially became a part of U.S. Highway 6, which at one point was the longest continuous east-west route in the United States stretching from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Long Beach, California.   In 1947, Iowa joined other states in officially designating US 6 to be named the Grand Army of the Republic Highway at the urging of an association of Union veterans of the Civil War.  In 1965, Interstate 80 was completed and the popularity of this once important highway diminished.   In 1980, the section of highway in this area was renumbered 925 and now parts of I-80 have been declared US 6 in order to save on federal transportation costs.  In 2003, state highway 925 was given to the area counties and has been officially renamed the White Pole Road.  This route has gone full circle over the past 100 years!  Poles along this 26-mile stretch have been painted white and once again it's up to the people to maintain the road and grow their communities. 

The White Pole Road Development Corporation formed in 2002 in order to create a tourism industry that brings visitors and related revenues to each of the five communities and improve the quality of life with its residents.  The name "White Pole Road" was selected as a tribute to this original road that connected the communities of Adair, Casey, Menlo, Stuart and Dexter.  If it hadn’t been for the tenacity of the leaders in our communities in the early 1900’s, the Great White Way Highway wouldn’t have existed… the Dexter to Council Bluffs route wouldn’t have been saved with the merger of the River-to-River Road into Highway 6… and the federal government wouldn’t have assigned the interstate system through our corridor.  Our community leaders knew the value of a good road going through a town.  Now we want to tap back into the travelers on Interstate 80 and bring life back into these small towns.


To date, we have incorporated a non-profit foundation for the five communities, held a Road Show community kickoff, painted over 700 poles on the route white, posted signage, conducted surveys and presented individual community development plans, made a brochure and this website, attracted the Motor Ioway tour and became officially designated as a "scenic & historic route" in the Iowa Travel Guide.  We've hosted Progressive Dinner fundraisers (a 5-course dinner with a different course in each town), Bike Rides, Marathon Sales (26-mile garage sale), Motorcycle Rides, Tractor Rides, and Holiday Lights Contest & Tours between the communities. 


It's the people who built the original road and again, it's the people building it again in spirit.  The WPR Development Corporation meets the fourth Tuesday of the month at 7:00pm at the AmericInn in Stuart.  Everyone is invited.  For more information or to arrange a group tour, please contact
liz@gilmanmedia.com.


If you would like to be a part of future restoration projects, please send your tax deductible contributions to the First State Bank c/o White Pole Road Development Corporation, 215 North Division St., Stuart, IA  50250.