• automobile;
  • liminal space;
  • mass consumption;
  • mobility;
  • representation

ABSTRACT. Federal support for planning and building roads provided an opportunity to create a new kind of place, the American roadside. The roadside grew up beside the public road as a distinct private space, yet the two were linked as road travelers came to depend on the services provided by people who lived at the road's edge. Federal road-improvement legislation brought discipline to the surveying, construction, and configuration of roads. But roadside structures remained largely the creation of local people, who built a vernacular landscape that was undisciplined and in strong contrast to the road's regimentation. The roadside became a new kind of space occupying the unstable zone between the discipline of the road and the informality of the countryside, a spatial contradiction that gave license to a new, free-wheeling, mercantile logic, an improvisational departure from the staid formality of Main Street.