THE 1000-MILE OCEAN HIGHWAY, branching south from US 1 in the industrial area of New Jersey and providing the shortest route between the New York City region and Florida, crosses swamps and tidal estuaries and inlets; it traverses flat country never far above sea-level. Thanks to the Gulf Stream most of it is ice-free when roads further inland are coated with a dangerous glaze. Except for the 88-mile section in New Jersey the route runs through the Old South; the Eastern Shore, the narrow peninsula it traverses between the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay, was never a cotton-growing area and was occupied by Union troops early in the Civil War, but it was southern in customs, traditions, and sympathies. The Ocean Highway country, in spite of modern agricultural and industrial developments, lives much in the past. It cherishes the speech and habits of its ancestors, and speaks of long-ago happenings as though they had occurred last year. Everybody knows the kin of his great-aunt’s second husband’s grandmother, servants work all their lives in one family, sharing their folks’ prosperity and hard times, and The War is still the Civil War. In many places the modern road follows the Colonial route connecting the first settlements made on this part of the Atlantic Coast; in North Carolina a side route runs to Roanoke Island, where in 1585 Raleigh planted the first English colony on American soil; on the Eastern Shore the route runs close to a settlement made by Jamestown colonists, sent into supposed exile to make salt but remaining to enjoy the abundance of the land. The Ocean Highway goes through New Castle, the capital of the Province of Delaware, through New Bern, for a time the capital of the Province of North Carolina, through Charleston, the capital of the Province of South Carolina, and through Savannah, capital of the Colony of Georgia. The early inhabitants of these regions brought old cultural traditions with them and the fecundity of the country soon enabled the new Americans to build churches and homes of architectural elegance and grace that would have merited respectful attention in western Europe. Travelers who linger here have many opportunities to wonder at the imagination and craftsmanship displayed in the early structures on these shores.

—From The Ocean Highway: New Brunswick, New Jersey to Jacksonville, Florida, which was published in 1938 as a part of the government’s New Deal guidebook series. Unlike the state guides, this book was a mile-by-mile look at the one-thousand-mile road spanning the country’s Eastern shoreline.