The Lewiston Spiral Highway was a huge project for the Idaho State Highway Commission in 1915 and 1916. It sucked up so much of the highway fund other parts of the state complained bitterly. But what a project. The road was to start in the valley at 725 feet above sea level, and top the hill above the city at 2,750 feet. That’s less than half a mile, as the crow flies, but Model T’s did not fly. The twisting road would run ten miles forth and back, and back and forth, testing many radiators in the climb.
An article in the September 27, 1916 edition of the Lewiston Morning Tribune reported that “Within just two and six tenths miles of the goal—which is the summit of Lewiston Hill—the big Marion Caterpillar steam shovel is still trembling with willing energy, still digging, still climbing, still creeping out of the valley over its own triumphant trail—a trail destined in time to become one of the noted scenic highways of the west.”
The Spiral Highway, sometimes called Uniontown Hill Road, cost the state and the Lewiston highway district $141,587. Oh, and 42 cents. The photo is courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society Digital Collection.
There was much demand for the new highway. According to a story in the January 12, 1918, edition of the Idaho Statesman “an actual count made by a man stationed at the Eighteenth street bridge” recorded 1280 cars climbing the hill on a single November day. The same article noted that you could see the Blue Mountains in Oregon to the southwest from the top of the hill.
Safety was a big concern. The Statesman article put everyone’s fears to rest. “The right-of-way has been fenced on both sides for the entire distance. Guarding railings, made of frame material with heavy posts were constructed at exposed points on the grade. Barbed wire was used for the balance of the distance. Both the guarding fencing and the wire are set in far enough on the highway to serve as a guide to autoists going over the road on the darkest nights.”
Oh, blessed barbed wire guiding our nighttime autoists!