The community of Nipomo is located on US Route 101 in southern San Luis Obispo County. Within the community of Nipomo the original alignment of US Route 101 can be found on Thompson Avenue. Depicted below is the alignment of US Route 101 through Nipomo when it was located on Thompson Avenue as seen on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of San Luis Obispo County.
Part 1; the history of US Route 101 through Nipomo
The creation of Nipomo can be traced back to Mexican Alta California when Rancho Nipomo was granted to William G. Dana 1837. In 1839 Dana Adobe was established as a stage stop on El Camino Real between Santa Barbara and Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. The route of El Camino Real was intended to solidify a path of travel between the Catholic Missions of Las Californias. In 1804 Alta California was formed out of the larger Las Californias. El Camino Real would ultimately connect 21 Catholic Missions of Alta California ranging approximately 600 miles spanning from Mission San Diego de Alcala in San Diego north to Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma. The Missions of El Camino Real were established from 1769 through 1823. In the case of Mission San Francisco Solano it was established two years after Mexico had won it's independence from Spain in 1821. Each Mission was meant to be approximately 30 miles apart from each other which would require a single day of travel by horseback.
In 1846 during the Mexican-American War the forces of John Fremont stopped in Rancho Nipomo on their way south towards Santa Barbara. During the American period California the town site of Nipomo was plotted when the Pacific Coast Railway arrived at the community during 1882. Nipomo can be seen on the 1890 George F. Cram Railroad Map of California
In 1904 the American El Camino Real Association was formed with the goal to mark a modern highway that corresponded to the historical route between the Spanish Missions. Ultimately the path of American El Camino Real was to be marked by the signature bells the corridor is known by today. The first bell marking the American El Camino Real was placed in 1906 and it is estimated by 1915 that there may have been anywhere from 158 to 400 placed in-field. Nipomo being along the main highway at the time were signed as part of the American El Camino Real. The American El Camino Real was one of the earliest analogs of what would become the signed Auto Trails. The background of the American El Camino Real is covered extensively on CAhighways.org.
CAhighyways.org on the American El Camino Real
The era of State Highway Maintenance through Nipomo would begin with the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act which was approved by voters in 1910. One of the highways approved through the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act was a 481.8 mile highway originating at the City Limits of San Francisco which terminated in San Diego. This highway would ultimately come to be known in time as Legislative Route Number 2 ("LRN 2"). In 1913 the Pacific Highway was plotted as a major Auto Trail which had Nipomo along it's planned route.
Early LRN 2/American El Camino Real/Pacific Highway can be seen passing through Nipomo on the 1917 California State Automobile Association Map.
The 1920 Rand McNally Highway Map of California
shows El Camino Real and the Pacific Highway following LRN 2 through Nipomo.
The 1924 Rand McNally Map of California shows the California Banff Bee-Line Highway co-signed with the Pacific Highway on LRN 2 through Nipomo.
The initial draft of the US Route System was approved by the Secretary of Agriculture during November of 1925. The US Route System within California was approved by California Highway Commission with no changes recommended by January 1926
. The initial alignment of US Route 101 ("US 101") was planned to follow LRN 2 from San Francisco to San Diego via Nipomo. US 101 is shown on a map published in the 1926 California Highways & Public Works following LRN 2 south from San Francisco towards San Diego.
As noted above US 101/LRN 2 through Nipomo can be seen aligned on Thompson Avenue on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of San Luis Obispo County.
The May/June 1956 California Highways & Public Works announced an upcoming upgrade and realignment of US 101/LRN 2 through Nipomo. The new alignment of US 101/LRN 2 through Nipomo is stated to originate 3 miles north of Santa Maria at Hourihan Grade and ending approximately another 7.1 miles to the north at Russell Turn. The upgrade to US 101/LRN 2 through Nipmo is stated to include numerous freeway structures.
The January/February 1957 California Highways & Public Works
notes the new alignment of US 101/LRN 2 north of Santa Maria on the "Nipomo Mesa Freeway" as being in the process of construction. The Nipomo Mesa Freeway was completed during 1957 and would see US 101/LRN 2 realigned off Thompson Avenue through Nipomo.
During 1964 the Legislative Route Numbers were dropped as part of the California Highway Renumbering in favor of the field signed highways. Since 1964 there has been no changes to US 101 through Nipomo.
Part 2; a drive on former US Route 101 on Thompson Avenue through Nipomo
From modern southbound US 101 traffic can access Thompson Avenue via Exit 182.
Former US 101 on Thompson Avenue tracks east of the modern freeway and enters downtown Nipomo south of Willow Road.
Former US 101 on Thompson Road intersects Tefft Street in downtown Nipomo. Since the Nipomo Mesa Freeway opened in 1957 the community of Nipomo has grown westward from Thompson Avenue to take advantage of access to modern US 101.
Former US 101 on Thompson Avenue exits Nipomo south of Tefft Street.
Former US 101 on Thompson Avenue south of Nipomo tracks immediately east the Nipomo Mesa Freeway and ends at California State Route 166.