Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

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July 13, 2013

The long and winding road

New public-library exhibit celebrates Bankhead Highway

By CLINT FOSTER

After the First World War, the United States began an interstate highway project that would connect Washington D.C. on the East coast with San Diego, California on the West coast. A large portion of this highway system would go through the Lone Star State with one particular town, famous for its mineral water, as a pit stop on the route.

The highway was Bankhead Highway and the town was Mineral Wells.

The Boyce Ditto Public Library is displaying a historical exhibit about the creation and path of the highway to celebrate its importance to the community.

Library director Palin Bree organized the exhibit. She said she hopes it gives visitors a sense of the past.

“To me it’s very interesting because until we were bypassed, we were on a main artery,” she said. “We really didn’t recover from losing that, until the base opened up for army replacement training. It was a boon to us when we had it and it was catastrophic when the highway system went further and further south.”

Bree said she “caught the fever” of her interest in the highway’s history when she invited Dan Smith to come speak at the library. Smith is writing a book on the subject.

“We were such an agrarian society at this time and population centers were so far between that if you’re not aware of that, your sense of history is skewed,” she said. “We were out here fighting indians while the people on the East Coast are becoming very urbane. Texas has a very unique history and our part of Texas has a unique history.”

To learn more about the Bankhead Highway’s unique history, visit the Boyce Ditto Library: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays. The exhibit is free to view and will be up through April of next year.

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