The Highways of North Carolina
N.C. 18 
< 17 | Home | 19 >
18-A | 18 Bus
Photo: NC 18 leaving its northern terminus of NC 89 (Mapmikey)
NC 18
N.C. 18  148 miles
The Road: Begins at NC 89 near Low Gap (Alleghany County) and ends at the South Carolina State Line below Shelby (Cleveland County). The route continues another 37 miles as SC 18 to end at US 176/SC 215 Union, SC.
Towns and Attractions: Surry Co: Blue Ridge Pkwy
Alleghany Co: Sparta, Blue Ridge Pkwy
Wilkes Co: Mulberry, Fairplains, North Wilkesboro, Wilkesboro, Moravian Falls
Caldwell Co: Lenoir, Gamewell
Burke Co: Morganton
Catawba Co: None
Lincoln Co: None
Cleveland Co: Fallston, Shelby
History: NC 18 is an original state highway that initially ran from NC 20 (now US 74 Bus) Shelby north to Morganton where it crossed its parent NC 10, then northeast through Lenoir and ending at NC 67 (now "Old NC 16-18") Moravian Falls.
In 1925, NC 18 was extended south to South Carolina as new primary routing. It certainly looks as though it used today's 18 routing. However, the 1926 Official clearly shows a brief duplex with NC 20 east and proceeding south to South Carolina via Patterson Springs and Earl, crossing the state line on Betts Rd.
In 1930, NC 18 was straightened out south of Shelby to today's routing, leaving behind secondary roads that would later be parts of NC 226 and NC 180.
In Cecil Brown's 1931 book describing the development of the North Carolina HIghway System, there is a story related to NC 18 south of Shelby. There was a debate whether NC 18 should serve the piece of Cleveland County southwest of Shelby that was south of the Broad River so that those residents would come to Shelby for their commerce instead of going to Gaffney, SC. On the other hand, a direct route south would essentially force South Carolina to build the highway bridge over the Broad River -- a substantial savings to North Carolina. You see which option was eventually chosen...
1925 Official
NC 18 extended to SC
1926 Official
NC 18 through Patterson Sprs.
1930 Official
NC 18 straight to the border

In 1929, NC 18 was extended north through Wilkesboro and N. Wilkesboro before ending at US 21/NC 26 Sparta. This was a renumbering of a section of NC 67.
In late 1930, NC 18 was extended northeast as new primary routing to NC 89.
1924 Official
NC 18 initial routing
1928 Gen Draft
NC 67 Wilkesboro to Sparta
1929 Official
NC 18 Wilkesboro to Sparta
1930 Official
NC 18 extended to NC 89

Also in 1929, NC 18 was rerouted in the Enola area south of Morganton. Orignially, NC 18 followed Enola Rd south of Broughton State Hospital through Enola. Now NC 18 followed "Old NC 18" through Sunnyside on its way southward.
In 1948 or 1949, NC 18 was rerouted to bypass central Lenoir. Harper Ave became NC 18-A (now NC 18 Business).
1944 Caldwell County
NC 18 through Lenoir
1949 Caldwell County
NC 18-A through Lenoir

In 1952, NC 18 was rerouted again south of Morganton onto its current alignment, leaving behind "Old NC 18" which clipped Cleveland County and avoided Catawba County entirely.
1926 Official
NC 18 through Enola (1921-28)
1930 Burke County map
NC 18 bypasses Enola (1929-51)
1953 Official
NC 18 on modern alignment

Between 1943 and 1948, NC 18's routing in North Wilkesboro changed. Before, NC 18 used 6th or 7th St north to Hinshaw then northeast on SR 1517 out to the current NC 18-268 split area. Afterwards it looks as though NC 18 received its current southern approach. Maps are hard to interpret for this change but the 1942 and 1947 Gen Drafting Maps seem to show a distinction.
By 1982 it appears NC 18-268 through N. Wilkesboro formed a "square", using A St, 6th St, D St, and 11th St.
1942 Gen Draft
NC 18 initial N. Wilkesboro approach
1947 Gen Draft
NC 18 revised N. Wilkesboro approach
1982 Wilkes County map
NC 18 in N. Wilkesboro center

In 1969, NC 18 was rerouted through Moravian Falls to the current routing leaving behind "Old NC 16-18", Fletcher St and Corporation St.
1968 Official
NC 18 initial Moravian Falls route
1969 Official
NC 18 moved out to new NC 16

Not much else has changed with NC 18 since then. Eric Calhoun reported the following to Matt Steffora in 2001 that between 1989 and 1995, 18 had a slightly different alignment through Morganton than it does today. Heading into town on South Sterling Street, northbound 18 turned right onto East Meeting Street (Business U.S. 70), then left on Bouchelle Street and right onto Avery Avenue. Coming the other way, southbound 18 ran from Avery Avenue along Bouchelle, then right on East Union Street (Business U.S. 70), then left on South Sterling Street. 18 was rerouted this way in order to get state funding to widen Bouchelle Street. Before 1989, 18 used its current routing through Morganton.
I ventured through Morganton a few times in 1989 and vaguely recall some one-way alignments, but I wasn't paying much attention. The 1993 DeLorme of N.C. does not show this temporary routing.
The 1982 Burke County map shows this reported variation as the NC 18 routing through downtown Morganton, while the 2007 Burke County Map shows NC 18 using Avery all the way to NC 181 and avoiding a duplex with US 64-70 Bus entirely.
1982 Burke County map
NC 18 with much zig-zag
2007 Burke County map
NC 18 avoids Bus 64-70

There is a signed NC 18 Truck in Shelby but I do not know the exact routing. If anyone knows, please e-mail me!
NC 18 is nearly a border to border route but connecting it to today's VA 18 would be too complicated!

Last Update: 11 December 2007

Previous: N.C. 17  |  Next: N.C. 19

18-A | 18 Bus
Top  | Home ------------------------------------------------