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

US Route 199

I was planning on driving US Route 199 for the third time this weekend.  However "external factors" have pushed my visit to US Route 199 back for the time being.  While I can't do a driving log for US Route 199 at the moment I can still write about it's history.


This blog will be slightly different from the usual flair for Gribblenation.  Generally I have a stockpile of my own road photos from which to draw from.  In the case of US Route 199 I was far more focused on hiking photos during my first two visits in 2014 and 2016 than the actual highway.  At some point I will add a series of modern driving log photos but for the time being I will draw from numerous other sources to illustrate US Route 199.


Part 1; the History of US Route 199

Present US Route 199 is a 80.05 mile highway which connects US Route 101 in Crescent City of Del Norte, California northeast to Interstate 5 in Grants Pass of Josephine County, Oregon.  US Route 199 is one of the original US Routes and …

Trans-Sierra Highways; California State Route 108 over Sonora Pass

In the fall of 2016 and late summer of 2020 I took a series of drives over mountain passes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Both traps culminated by way of crossing over the Sierra Nevada Mountains westbound by way of the 9,624 foot Sonora Pass on California State Route 108.  
California State Route 108 ("CA 108") is a 99 mile east/west State Highway which originates at US Route 395 in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.  CA 108 crosses the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains by way of the 9,624 foot Sonora Pass and terminates at CA 99 co-signed with CA 132 in downtown Modesto.  CA 108 has a 21 mile unconstructed segment which would extend it to Interstate 5 near Crow's Landing if completed.  
Part 1; the history of Sonora Pass and California State Route 108Much of the early history of Sonora Pass is described by way of two informational plaques at the actual Pass.  The first documented crossing of Sonora Pass was in October of 1841 by way of a course slightly due nor…

The Tioga Pass Road

Last Summer the Tioga Pass Road over the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Yosemite National Park opened late due to the heavy snow pack from the previous winter.  Approaching the start of July the Park Service finally had cleared the road to Tioga Pass.  That being the case I headed up shortly after the 4th of July holiday during a lull in the tourist season.


The Tioga Pass Road runs from the Big Oak Flat Road at Crane Flat east to US Route 395 ("US 395").  The Tioga Pass Road is largely within the boundary of Yosemite National Park but is maintained by Caltrans as California State Route 120 ("CA 120") east of the Tioga Pass entry station to US 395.  The National Park Service maintained portion of the Tioga Pass Road serve as a implied connection between the two segments of CA 120.  The Tioga Pass Road is the highway mountain pass in California reaching Tioga Pass at 9,945 feet above sea level.



Part 1; the history of the Tioga Pass Road

Tioga Pass first obtained notewort…