Historic U.S. 61: Buck Hollow Road, Homer Township
Buck Hollow Road
Located In: Homer Township, Winona County
Length: 0.63 miles
Also Marked As:
A piece of one of Minnesota's first paved highway survives today as a private driveway off of Watkins Drive, just east of Homer.
An 8 foot concrete road was constructed along U.S. 61 between Winona and La Moille in 1913/14 as one of three constructed in the Winona area, the other two being along the future alignments of U.S. 14 and State Highway 43. The road was graded to twenty feet wide, with 8 feet of concrete pavement in the middle, and 6 feet of gravel shoulder on each side. Construction was funded under the provisions of the Elwell Highway Act of 1910, which created a funding scheme that split the cost of highway construction between the state, counties, and local authorities. Roads built under this act were known as "State Roads", a designation that would persist until the trunk highway system was created by the Babcock amendment in 1920.
The construction of the road was marred by difficulties. The original contractor, Carlton and Prinz of Minneapolis, forfeited their construction contract when they were not able to complete the roads by the end of 1913, citing labor difficulties. The paving was completed by the firm of Hanlon and Oakes in 1914.
By the time U.S. 61 was routed onto Highway 3 in 1926, the 8-foot pavement's days were numbered. A contract had been let by the Department of Highways to replace the old road with a more modern grade and pavement. The November 20th, 1926 edition of the Minnesota Highway News announced the beginning of grading work to replace what they called "Minnesota's first concrete highway". The press release also stated that the concrete was still in decent shape despite the primitive techniques used to construct it. However, traffic had increased too much to let the old road remain in use. The new grade was completed in 1927. This section was bypassed in order to straighten the road.
Information for the above history was primarily taken from articles in the Winona Republican Herald, accessible online courtesy of Winona State University.
1956 aerial photos from just before the construction of the modern divided highway clearly show this section of the old road paralleling the main highway. Sadly, most of this section has since been totally overgrown, and the exposed portion is no longer public. The visible section is accessible just off of Watkins Drive, and can be seen from the modern highway if you look carefully. Part of the original pavement is still exposed and readily visible just to the east of a private residence. The old concrete in front of the house has been paved over. Past the house, the concrete highway emerges, and continues off into the woods. Highway plans indicate that there was once a bridge just a bit further to the east. Sadly, I was not able to investigate any further.
Photo Tour - Photos taken in October, 2007
Looking east down Buck Hollow Road. The old road is now used as a private driveway. Much of the old concrete has been paved over.
Looking east at the exposed pavement at the end of Buck Hollow Road.