Old Spanish Trail

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The Old Spanish Trail (the OST) was an auto trail that once spanned the United States with a full 3,000 miles (4,800 km) of roadway from ocean to ocean. It crossed eight states and 67 counties along the southern border of the United States. Work on the auto highway began in 1915 at a meeting held at the Battle House Hotel in Mobile, Alabama; and, by the 1920s, the trail linked St. Augustine, Florida, to San Diego, California, with its center and headquarters in San Antonio, Texas.

The cities along the route shared a heritage of Spanish missions, forts, and colonies.

Much of that trail still exists, and preparations have already begun for a decade-long Centennial Celebration to begin in 2019 and end with a 2029 motorcade grand finale from St. Augustine to San Diego. The present-day, all-volunteer Old Spanish Trail Centennial Celebration Association OST100 is collecting oral histories, travel logs and news articles related to the Old Spanish Trail in order to conserve the roadways, businesses and historic sites of the original Old Spanish Trail auto highway both physically and in the memory of the American people.

The current work of revitalization, historic preservation, public/private partnerships, restoration, and road enhancements, follows the lead of the original founders of the OST, who involved greatly diverse interests in building and beautifying the original roadway.

Texas Route

In eastern Texas the Old Spanish Trail can still be seen in many places. The trail runs alongside Interstate 10 through Orange and Vidor; when the trail reaches the Neches River, it merges with Interstate 10 crossing the Purple Heart Bridge, then detours through Downtown Beaumont. While in downtown the trail meets College Street and goes directly west from there to Liberty.

The trail enters Houston on Navigation and turns down Main Street, exiting the city as U.S. 90 ALT. On the way, it passes Rice University, University of Houston, and the Astrodome.

A portion of the trail remains as a segment of U. S. 290 west of Ozona, Texas in Crockett and Pecos Counties. This scenic loop includes the descent of Lancaster Hill, a crossing of the Pecos River at an old iron bridge, and passes through the small community of Sheffield before rejoining Interstate 10.

1.4 Mile Segment

Property Name Old Spanish Trail from U.S. 90 to Interstate Highway 10
Reference Number 13000176
State Texas
County Colorado
Town Columbus
Street Address County Road 268 between U.S. 90 and the north access road of 1-10, Columbus, TX

Built in 1921, the 1.4-mile-long segment of the Old Spanish Trail (OST) immediately east of the Colorado River near Columbus, Texas, is a rare drivable section of an early Texas highway in its original rural setting. Known during various periods as Texas Highway 3, the Southern National Trunk Line, and U.S. 90, the highway served as a primary automobile route between Houston and San Antonio, and as part of a national highway running between St. Augustine, Florida, and San Diego, California. The western half-mile of pavement consists of 16-foot-wide concrete slabs, while the remainder of the road is asphalt on a gravel base, ranging between 16 to 20 feet in width. Bypassed in 1939, the segment is maintained as a county road, and serves as a remarkably intact example of state highway design built by the county with state and federal aid through the Texas Highway Department, established in 1917. The property is nominated to the National Register under Criterion A in the area of Transportation and Criterion C in the area of Engineering at the state level of significance.

The Old Spanish Trail was a pack mule trail linking land-locked New Mexico with coastal California between 1829 and 1848. Over this trail moved people, goods, and ideas. Recognizing the national significance of this historic long distance trade route, in 2002 Congress designated it the Old Spanish National Historic Trail.


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