Skip to main content

Getting to Know US 20's History



On the evening of Thursday, January 19, 2017, I had a chance to attend a presentation on the history of US Route 20 at the New Lebanon Library in New Lebanon, New York. New Lebanon is probably best known for being the birthplace of Samuel Tilden, who narrowly lost the 1876 U.S. Presidential Election, and one of the centers of the religious group known as the Shakers. But New Lebanon is also a town where the longest highway in the United States runs through. That highway is US Route 20.

The speaker of this presentation was Bryan Farr, who I first became acquainted with around the year 2002, as he contributed a wealth of photos and information to the former Gribblenation website. These days, he is the founder and president of the Historic US Route 20 Association, which aims to promote and link together individuals, communities and small businesses located along US 20.

During the presentation, not only was US 20 itself discussed, but also the history and the roads leading up to what is now a highway that stretches from Kenmore Square in Boston to the Oregon Coast in Newport through such places like Cleveland, Chicago and Yellowstone National Park. Famous people in history were discussed, such as General Henry Knox, who used what is now US 20 between current day Westfield, Massachusetts and Cambridge, Massachusetts to help change the course of history during the American Revolution. He talked about historic roads like the Greenwood Road, which used modern day US 20 from Pittsfield, Massachusetts to Albany, New York via New Lebanon, as well as the Cherry Valley Turnpike and the Great Genesee Road, which ushered travelers along US 20 in Upstate New York. Early auto trails such as the Yellowstone Trail was discussed, as it used US 20 as part of its routing. The topic of how US 20 got its number when the U.S. Highway System was being formed during the 1920 was also a topic of discussion.

Tie-ins to more focused topics like how US 20 was once routed through New Lebanon was another matter of discussion. This really engaged the audience of about thirty as they could see how US 20 affects more of their daily lives. For those who are familiar with New Lebanon, what is now US 20 passed by the Darrow School. There is even a part of the old road that you can explore by hiking. Some mention was also made about the stories and tales of the towns along US 20, such as the tale of the Esperance Witch. This was something new that I learned about. I've passed through Esperance, New York many times during my travels and while I knew about their locally famous cheese house (which, sadly, was destroyed by fire), this was the first I heard about the Esperance Witch. This goes to show that every road has its story.

In all, I thought it was a very informative and entertaining presentation. I even learned a few new things about US 20, even after traveling about half its length over the course of my travels. If you get a chance to attend a presentation on US 20, or any highway for that matter, it is definitely worth checking out.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Goodbye Interstate 495; Hello Interstate 87

It seems like yesterday when I blogged about new Future Interstate 495 signs that were going to be installed along US 64 along the Knightdale Bypass and along the way to Rocky Mount.  Well after just three years, Interstate 495 is officially no more.  This week NCDOT crews began to install Interstate 87 shields along the Raleigh Beltline and Knightdale Bypass from Southeast Raleigh to Rolesville Road in Wendell.  The new interstate designation follows Interstate 440 west from I-40 near Garner leaving the Beltline at the Knightdale Bypass and following US 64/264 about another 12 or so miles until the six lane portion of the Knightdale Bypass ends just beyond Business US 64.

Eventually, Interstate 87 will continue east along US 64 past Zebulon, Rocky Mount and Tarboro to Williamston where it will head north and northeast along US 17 into Virginia and Norfolk.  The new signs reflect the first official section of Interstate 87 in North Carolina - as the Knightdale Bypass meets national I…

The story on how the unbuilt US 40 Expressway in Brownsville took 40 years to complete.

For nearly four decades, the four lane US 40 just east of Brownsville came to an abrupt end - shown in the photo above - at Grindstone Road in Redstone Township.   In the late 1960s, what was then the Pennsylvania Division of Highways (PennDOH) extended a new four lane alignment of US 40 eastwards from Broadway Street slightly over one mile to Grindstone Road where an incomplete diamond interchange was built.  Earlier in the decade, PennDOH had built a four lane US 40 in Washington County into Brownsville complete with a new crossing over the Monongahela River known as the Lane Bane Bridge.  This new highway and bridge allowed US 40 to bypass the older Intercounty Bridge and downtown Brownsville. 

After this new highway opened, nothing would happen to it for nearly forty years.  US 40 traffic would use the ramps for this planned diamond interchange and then jog on Grindstone Road briefly before continuing towards Uniontown on the original National Road. 
What is unknown (at least to…

Hunting for forgotten history; Old US 99 in Fresno

Coming back from my Great Lakes Trip the other day I encountered this sign goof at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport which incorrectly displays US Route 99.





That little US 99 sign was the inspiration I needed to start tracking all the former alignments through the City of Fresno.  Fresno in general has had a huge shift in highway layouts over the decades which is something I intend to finish with California 41 and 180 perhaps later this month.  Based off my research I came with the following three maps progressing northward through Fresno showing every iteration of US 99 before it was downgraded to a State Highway in 1967.




Essentially the route alignment history of US Route 99 in Fresno is as follows.

1926-1930 Alignment 

Progressing northward into Fresno US Route 99 would have followed:

Railroad Avenue
-  Cherry Avenue
-  Broadway Street
-  Divisadero Street
-  H Street
-  Belmont Avenue
-  Golden State Avenue

1930-1934 Realignment off of Railroad Avenue

Sometime between 1930 to …