Along a traditional pathway for Native Americans, European settlers, and British troops during colonial times, in the early 20th century, the small valley that became known as Breezewood was a popular stopping place for automobile travelers on the Lincoln Highway, beginning in 1913. Greyhound Lines opened a Post House facility in the town in 1935; it closed in 2004.
In 1940, Breezewood was designated exit 6 on the just-opened Pennsylvania Turnpike. In the 1960s, Breezewood became the junction of the Turnpike and the new Interstate 70. Later renumbered exit 12, it is now exit 161 on the Turnpike following a change to mileage-based exit numbering.
A highway funding anomaly gave rise to a gap of less than 1 mile on I-70 that was not built to Interstate Highway standards, featuring traffic lights — one of only two such places on a major Interstate highway in the United States. In roadgeek terminology, such a location is known as a "breezewood."
The community which became known as Breezewood has a long history of serving cross-country travelers. Before the Europeans arrived, an old trail of the Native Americans crossed through there. Later, in colonial times before the American Revolutionary War (1776-1781) and the Conestoga wagons of the westbound settlers, a wagon road passed through. A British military trail was built in 1758 by General John Forbes from Chambersburg to Pittsburgh during the French and Indian War. It was later known as the Pittsburgh Road and the Conestoga Road. Through the tiny valley was built the Chambersburg-Bedford Turnpike, a private toll road which came later. 
Late in the 19th century, leaders of the New York Central Railroad (NYC) dreamed of building an east-west railroad across southern Pennsylvania through the Breezewood area to compete with the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). Over $10 million was spent and 26 lives lost when work on William H. Vanderbilt's planned South Pennsylvania Railroad project was halted in 1886. Control shifted to financier J.P. Morgan, and PRR interests. The potentially competing South Pennsylvania Railroad was promptly abandoned and never completed, although much grading and tunneling work had been done.
A community called Rays Hill (or Nycumtown) was located just east of present-day Breezewood where a man named John Nycum had a small store. In 1836, he succeeded in establishing the Rays Hill Post Office and he served as the first Postmaster. On the western edge of Breezewood, the Maple Lawn Inn opened around 1815. The 22 room building was used as a stage coach stop, and still stands today, with a foundation several feet thick, and walls 3 to 4 bricks thick. It has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.
With the advent of the automobile, by the early 20th century, the area in a small valley between Rays Hill and the Maple Lawn Inn had become known locally as Breezewood. The name was applied to a repair garage built in 1937.
On July 1, 1913, American automotive pioneer Carl G. Fisher and other automobile enthusiasts and industry officials announced plans for the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental paved roadway in the United States to be created specifically for motorists. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas A. Edison, both friends of Fisher, sent checks, as well as the current President Woodrow Wilson, who has been noted as the first U.S. President to make frequent use of an automobile for what was described as stress-relief relaxation rides.
In 1919, as World War I was ending, the U.S. Army undertook its first Transcontinental Motor Convoy. It followed the Lincoln Highway from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to San Francisco, California, passing through Breezewood. The trip demonstrated the potential military importance of such a roadway, as well as the need for consistency in both improvements and maintenance. One of the young Army officers was Dwight David Eisenhower, then a Lt. Colonel. The convoy was memorable enough for him to include a chapter on the trip entitled "Through Darkest America With Truck and Tank," in At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends (Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1967). During World War II, then-General Eisenhower was also deeply impressed with the German autobahn roadway network. Those experiences combined to convince him the need to support construction of the Interstate Highway System when he became President of the United States in 1952. The portion of the Lincoln Highway from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh received the transcontinental U.S. Route 30 designation, which it still bears.
When the largely parallel Pennsylvania Turnpike was built in the 1930s, the tiny eastern Bedford County locality made sure it wasn't left out. It was located at exit 6 when the new road initially opened at 12:01 A.M. on October 1, 1940. The new turnpike utilized much of the earlier South Pennsylvania Railroad project for its right-of-way, grading and tunnels.
Breezewood, with a faded sign proclaiming it the "Town of Motels" and the "Traveler's Oasis", boomed after the Pennsylvania Turnpike opened, with one gas station and the first traveler's stop, the Gateway Motel and Restaurant.
Over 25 years later, when Interstate 70 was built through Pennsylvania, it was co-located with the Pennsylvania Turnpike for an 86 mile-long stretch between Breezewood and New Stanton, Pennsylvania which includes tunnels under the eastern continental divide of the Allegheny Mountains and Laurel Hill, and crossed some of the state's most rugged terrain.
About the same time as I-70 was built, in the early and mid 1960s, a major group of improvements was made to the original turnpike. These included roadway capacity improvement along the portion shared with I-70 at the two major mountains, where traffic had been reduced to two lanes in tunnels, and a realignment of the Breezewood exit and the turnpike to the east from there.
I-70 uses a surface road (part of US 30) with at-grade intersections to connect the freeway heading south to Hancock, Maryland with the ramp to I-76, which through this section is the Pennsylvania Turnpike toll road. According to the Federal Highway Administration, a division of the United States Department of Transportation, the peculiar arrangement at Breezewood resulted from a combination of rules which made the substantial additional costs of a direct link unacceptable to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission at the time I-70 was built.
Although laws have been relaxed since then, local businesses, including many traveler services like fast food restaurants, gas stations and motels, have lobbied to keep the gap and not directly connect I-70 to the Turnpike, fearing a loss of business. This short stretch is one of only two locations in the U.S. where there are traffic lights on a two-digit Interstate Highway. In roadgeek terminology, gaps in Interstate Highways are referred to as "breezewoods."
There are a number of gasoline and diesel fuel choices, including several equipped to handle trucks and buses. Within the several block area, a wide variety of family-style restaurants and fast-food outlets are available. Breezewood continues to meet its claim of "Town of Motels" as well. Through the years, it's offered many hundreds of hotel and motel rooms, in a wide variety of price ranges.
Business Week stated in 1991, Breezewood is "perhaps the purest example yet devised of the great American tourist trap...the Las Vegas of roadside strips, a blaze of neon in the middle of nowhere, a polyp on the nation's interstate highway system."
There are few residences in the immediate area of Breezewood.