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

The Sierran Death Highway, Blackrock Road

Back in 2016 I was pursuing dangerousroads.org looking for a interesting paved road akin to Kaiser Pass Road and Mineral King Road both which I had done earlier in the year.  I found what I was looking for in Blackrock Road located in rural eastern Fresno County at the confluence of the Kings River with it's North Fork.


Suffice to say that if I was looking roadways on dangerousroads.org it probably lends suggestion that Blackroad is somewhat on the hazardous side, it is.  Blackrock Road is an approximately 26-27 mile long one-lane road located in Sierra National Forest.  Blackrock Road is partially paved running from the Bailey Bridge at the Kings River north to the Wishon Reservoir roughly following the west bank of the North Fork Kings River.  Every documentation I've seen shows the road is really spelled "Blackrock" as opposed to "Black Rock" like the nearby Pacific Gas & Electricity Reservoir.

My goal on Blackrock Road was simple; I wanted to see al…

Ghost Town Tuesday; Mannfield, FL and the stairway to Hell

Back in 2015 I went searching the Lecanto Sand Hills for the original Citrus County Seat known as Mannfield.  Unlike Centrailia in Hernando County and Fivay in Pasco County I did find something worth seeing.



Mannfield is located in the Lecanto Sand Hill section of Withlacoochee State Forest somewhat east of the intersection of Citrus County Route 491 and Mansfield Road.

Mannfield was named after Austin Mann and founded in Hernando County in 1884 before Citrus County Split away.  In 1887 Citrus County was split from northern Hernando County while Pasco County was spun off to the south.  Mannfield was selected as the new Citrus County seat due to it being near the county geographic center.  Reportedly Mannfield had as many as 250 people when it was the County Seat.  The town included various businesses one might include at the time, even a sawmill which was common for the area.  In 1891 Citrus County voted to move it's seat to Inverness which set the stage for the decline of Mannfi…

Route 66 Wednesdays; The Twin Arrow Trade Post and Padre Canyon

Back in 2015 I revisited some of my favorite derelict haunts along former segments of US Route 66 between Flagstaff and Winslow.  The first stop was east of Winona at the Twin Arrows Trade Post.   The ruins of the Twin Arrow Trade Post is located immediately east of Padre Canyon off of I-40/US 180 exit 219.






The Twin Arrows Trade Post was originally started in the late 1940s as the Canyon Padre Trading Post.  Apparently business at the Canyon Padre Trading Post didn't start taking off until the two 25 foot arrows pictured above were put in and the name was changed to the Twin Arrows Trade Post in 1954.  I'm to understand the name change to Twin Arrows was partially inspired by close proximity to the Navajo Nation in addition to the booming business at the nearby Two Guns Trade Post to the east at Canyon Diablo.  The Twin Arrows Trade Post shuttered for good in the 1990s and has been sitting on the south side of I-40/US 180 ever since.  To the north of I-40/US 180 the Twin Arrow…