The Andrew Turnbull Network

Digging Deeper

Manitowoc, Wisconsin's Forgotten Highway

Interstate 43 in northeast Wisconsin was not completed until 1981. Before that time, traffic between Milwaukee and Green Bay was routed on U.S. 141, running parallel to or along what would become the current Interstate alignment. U.S. 141 was decommissioned south of Green Bay at the same time the Interstate was completed. 141 was also not a highway that stayed static from beginning to experienced a number of minor realignments over the years, most of which were bypasses. The highway's presence in Manitowoc was shifted from a rather out-of-the-way alignment over to and through the city center to a more direct, westerly route in 1956. In doing so, it supplanted a short, pre-existing road known as State Trunk Highway 119.

[STH 119]

There were actually multiple STH 119s in existence over the years, as a number of highways were shifted and renumbered several times over in the early years of a state highway system. The Manitowoc incarnation was the third overall, and lasted for about fifteen years. Decades later, the same number was reused for a freeway connector to General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. As interesting as the tale of the number is, the most interesting coincidence is the fact that a number of other short state trunk highways existed in Manitowoc County around the same time, all of which had numbers clustered in the 100s:

HighwayNorthwest terminusSoutheast terminusLengthCurrent status
STH 119 Waldo Blvd. and Rapids Road, Manitowoc Calumet Ave. and STH 42, Manitowoc 3 mi Replaced by U.S. 141 (later CTH R) and city streets.
STH 147 CTH Z and U.S. 141 (later CTH R) east of Maribel 22nd and Washington Sts., Two Rivers 14.5 mi Still in existence.
STH 148 U.S. 10 and CTH A, Cato Calumet Dr. and Liberty St., Valders 5.5 mi Now part of CTH J.
STH 149 U.S. 151 northeast of Fond du Lac Dairyland Dr. and North Ave., Cleveland 40 mi Gradually turned to county control 1978-2006; now chiefly CTH WH, G, HH, and XX.
STH 163 Main St. and Center Dr., Luxemburg State and Main Sts., Mishicot 23.5 mi Replaced by CTH AB and A in 1999.
STH 177 CTH V and STH 42 north of Two Rivers Current CTH O northeast of Two Rivers 2.5 mi Now part of CTH V.

The Manitowoc incarnation of 119 originated as part of a nineteenth-century Green Bay-to-Chicago military trail. It attained the "119" designation in 1931 when STH 42 was moved from its earliest local alignment, and served as a short, 3-mile connector between Waldo Boulevard (U.S. 10) and Calumet Avenue (U.S. 151).

[1935 map] [1958 map] [1977 map]

Left: STH 119 is clearly visible on the 1935 state highway map.
Center: When U.S. 141 was realigned in 1956, it absorbed some portions of STH 119 and bypassed others. The former course is still labeled "119" on this 1958 plat map; however, the newer road is also visible and labeled in small letters as "U.S. 141 By-Pass."
Right: Even on this 1977 plat map, the old alignment is still acknowledged as "Old Co (sic) Hwy 119." Note also the dashed pink line in the lower left corner, marking the not-yet-built "approximate alignment" of I-43.

[1992 photo] [Current map]

Left: As it turned out, the completion of I-43 ended up splitting the southern portion of STH 119 once more. This initially left behind a short stub of closed and abandoned road on the south side (arrow); this has since been obliterated by newer development.
Right: The bypassed southern portion of STH 119 is chiefly a residential street called Vista Road; part of which runs through the county fairgrounds. South of the Interstate, the stub of the highway is part of Dufek Road. The more northerly bypassed section (visible on the 1958 map), meanwhile, is Mill Road.

[Manitowoc Rapids Bridge] [Manitowoc Rapids Bridge] [Manitowoc Rapids Bridge]

Above: The most prominent artifact of the old highway is this rather scrawny-looking truss bridge at the north end of the Mill Road portion; dating all the way back to the nineteenth-century days of the Green Bay Road. A maker's plate is cast with the information "1887, builders Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Co., Milwaukee Wis." Although closed to vehicular traffic, it remains in use as a fishing platform and foot and cycle path. The first picture also reveals the railing from a newer bridge constructed for the 1956 U.S. 141 bypass.

[Vista Road]

Above: The north end of Vista Road terminates with a cul-de-sac, with the U.S. 141 bypass (now CTH R) in the background. Note that the utility poles continue to stand in alignment with the original road.

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Last update September 7, 2011.