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

Former California State Route 1 over Old Pedro Mountain Road

California State Route 1 in western San Mateo County traverses the Montara Mountain spur of the Santa Cruz Mountains.  In modern times California State Route 1 passes through Montara Mountain via the Tom Lantos Tunnels and the highway is traditionally associated with Devils Slide.  Although Devils Slide carries an infamous legacy due it being prone landslides it pales in comparison to the alignment California State Route 1 carried prior to November 1937 over Old Pedro Mountain Road.   Old Pedro Mountain Road opened to traffic in 1915 and is considered one of the first major asphalted highways in California.  Old Pedro Mountain Road clambers over a grade from Montara towards Pacifica via the 922 foot high Saddle Pass.  Pictured above an overlook of Old Pedro Mountain Road facing southward towards Montara as it appears today.  Pictured below it the same view during June 1937 when it was part of the original alignment of California State Route 1.  Today Old Pedro Mountain sits abandoned a

Former US Route 101 and California State Route 1 in San Luis Obispo

Originally US Route 101 upon descending Cuesta Pass southbound entered the City of San Luis Obispo via Monterey Street.  From Monterey Street US Route 101 utilized Santa Rosa Street and Higuera Street southbound through downtown San Luis Obispo.  Upon departing downtown San Luis Obispo US Route 101 would have stayed on Higuera Street southward towards Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande.  Notably; beginning in 1934 US Route 101 picked up California State Route 1 at the intersection of Monterey Street/Santa Rosa Street where the two would multiplex to Pismo Beach.  Pictured below is the 1 935 Division of Highways Map of San Luis Obispo County depicting the original alignments of US Route 101 and California State Route 1 in the City of San Luis Obispo.   Part 1; the history of US Route 1 and California State Route 1 in San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo lies at the bottom of the Cuesta Pass (also known as the Cuesta Grade) which has made it favored corridor of travel for centuries.  Cuesta Pass

California State Route 232

This past month I drove the entirety of California State Route 232 in Ventura County. CA 232 is an approximately 4 miles State Highway aligned on Vineland Avenye which begins near Saticoy at CA 118 and traverses southwest to US Route 101 in Oxnard.  The alignment of CA 232 was first adopted into the State Highway System in 1933 as Legislative Route Number 154 according to CAhighways.org. CAhighways.org on LRN 154 As originally defined LRN 154 was aligned from LRN 9 (future CA 118) southwest to LRN 2/US 101 in El Rio.  This configuration of LRN 154 between CA 118/LRN 9 and US 101/LRN 2 can be seen on the 1935 California Division of Highways Map of Ventura County. 1935 Ventura County Highway Map According to CAhighways.org the route of LRN 154 was extended west from US 101/LRN 2 to US 101A/LRN 60 in 1951.  Unfortunately State Highway Maps do not show this extension due to it being extremely small. During the 1964 State Highway Renumbering LRN 154 was assigned CA 232.  Of n