With the Shove of a Boulder, The Coast (Road) Was Clear

June 27, 1937

On California’s central coast, a major portion of State Route 1 (better known at the time as the Roosevelt Highway, in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt) was officially dedicated in the rugged but picturesque Big Sur region. Thousands of people were on hand to witness the debut of this highway segment in what had been a generally isolated area of the Golden State between the city of Carmel and the town of San Simeon. The ceremonies were held at what is now Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in Monterey County.

The planning and construction efforts for the segment had taken about 18 years altogether, with proponents of the link having to deal with everything from protracted wrangling for funds to the engineering challenges of the Big Sur region’s rough terrain. “A Dream Comes True,” proclaimed the California Highways and Public Works magazine in its article on the Sunday festivities for the dedication of the segment.

The magazine reported, “The opening of the Carmel-San Simeon link of the Roosevelt Highway on June 27th between Carmel and San Simeon brought to a successful culmination the dream of many far-sighted men who, in spite of opposition and lethargy, have carried through the fight to open up to the people of California and of the entire United States this section of coast country which is outstanding in its beauty and scenic grandeur.”

In its own article on the inaugural festivities, the Madera Tribune likewise underscored the formidable logistics involved in making the Carmel-San Simeon link a reality. “The road, 150 miles [241.4 kilometers] long, was hewed out of the side of cliffs of the Santa Lucia range, which drops from the mountains to the Pacific.” The Madera Tribune also noted, “The dedication of the road, which opens a region that heretofore had been inaccessible to motorists, was unusual [in] that the customary speeches were replaced by an historic pageant.”

This pageant entailed having actors dressed as various individuals, including the Native Americans originally living in that part of California, who figured prominently in the history of the Big Sur region. Another highlight of the dedication took place when California Governor Frank F. Merriam, along with the state’s public works director Earl Lee Kelly, operated a bulldozer to remove a large boulder – symbolizing all of the obstacles encountered in building the Carmel-San Simeon link – from the new road. The following day, this segment of State Route 1 was opened to traffic.

For more information on California State Route 1, including the link between Carmel and San Simeon, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_State_Route_1.

Read the California Highways and Public Works magazine featuring more pictures and the article describing the opening of the highway here: http://libraryarchives.metro.net/DPGTL/Californiahighways/chpw_1937_jul.pdf.

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