Wisconsin Department of Transportation

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Rest areas and waysides - History of rest areas in Wisconsin

Historical marker located at rest area 11.

Erected 1979 - This historical marker located at rest area in Portage, in Columbia County.

Rest areas on the I-roads

Early roadside rest areas consisted of rural school grounds and country churchyards with their two little "houses" in back.

In Wisconsin, by 1920, curves were built to eliminate sharp road corners. Local garden clubs, with the American Legion and Auxiliary, began to beautify many of the resulting triangles with flowers and shrubs. Motorists used these places to relax and picnic.

In 1931 the Wisconsin Legislature authorized highway beautification, and later the familiar waysides – small roadside parks at first, and for many years, with no water or sanitation.

In 1940, garden and women’s clubs, the Legion, the Wisconsin Friends of Our Native Landscape and others organized the Wisconsin Roadside Council, joined by the County Highway and County Boards Associations, to aid the State Highway Commission in roadside development and increasing and improving waysides.

Through such initiatives Wisconsin gained the experience to become one of the very first states to provide these modern, full-facility I-Road rest areas you now enjoy approximately every 50 miles.

Wisconsin Historical Marker plaques, commemorating historical facts and events are located on-site at many rest areas and waysides.

For more information on Wisconsin Historical Markers, visit Wisconsin State Historical Society website. It displays a current list of official Wisconsin Historical Markers.

SSI - Contacts Questions about the content of this page:
Robert Spoerl, robert.spoerl@dot.wi.gov
Last updated: May 17, 2013

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