Friday, June 22, 2007

Albany to Sangerfield cont.

At 28.7 m., in the Schoharie Valley, is the junction with State 30 (see Tour 24).

In 1806 General William North started to develop Esperance, 29.2 m., (233 pop.), as a real estate venture on the newly opened Great Western Turnpike, renaming the original settlement of State Bridge. The Presbyterian Church, (R), a two story gable-roofed stone structure, was erected in 1824 and remodeled in 1897. (Pictured at left.)

On the northern edge of the village (R) an evergreen tree marks the grave of the 'Witch of Esperance.' According to the legend, during the Napoleonic Wars a French soldier brought his family to the village. Upon his death, his widow, unable to speak English and mingle with the villagers, became an object of suspicion and mystery and was called the 'Grenadier Woman.' At a solemn conclave in the stone church her neighbors decided she was a witch and voted her death. Her executioners fired a silver bullet molded from a teaspoon through the window of the widow's cabin and killed her while she cooked at the open fire with her children playing beside her.

In 1838, in the same stone church..., Sheldon Jackson (1834-1909)... was baptized. Fifty years later he was appointed superintendent of public instruction in Alaska, and during his incumbancy he introduced reindeer to the territory as a food supply to end periodic famines among the Alaskan Eskimos.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Albany to Sangerfield cont.

US 20 continues to Duanesburg, 21.9 m. (197 pop.), named for James Duane (1733-97), jurist, land speculator, and mayor of Manhattan 1784-9. Described as 'plump of body... the dignity of his appearance enhanced by such luxuries as gold shoe and knee buckles,' Duane had a 'jolly good humor which quickly won him friends...' Just prior to the Revolution Duane was zealously aligned with the conservatives... He sat in the Continental Congress almost continuously until 1783, serving chiefly in connection with financial and Indian affairs... Duane's greatest nonprofessional interest was in land development.

In Duanesburg is a junction with State 7 (see Tour 10.)

On his land Duane built a lovely little church, around which he planned to promote a settlement that would eclipse Schenectaday. Only the church, the Christ Episcopal Church (R), 22.9 m., surrounded by a few modest homes, remains, a plain, clapboarded structure built in 1789-93. The oldest unaltered Episcopal church in the State, it still displays the interior arrangements typical of the eighteenth century when sermons from the high pulpit dominated the liturgy... The bright red desks and cushions contrast attractively with the white woodwork of box pews, columns and gallery, the latter built for slaves and servants...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An photo tip from TheOldLibrarian

As an aside, if you're looking for photographs of historic buildings along US 20 (or other places as well,) try using the Historic American Buildings Survey at the Library of Congress' American Memory site. It is a treasure trove of very fine black and white photographs of American architecture! The survey started in the 1930s.

I've downloaded several images from there to use in this blog already, like the image of the Case Tavern in the entry below.

Albany to Sangerfield cont.

In Guilderland, 9.4 m. (225 pop.), is (R) the Schoolcraft House (private), an excellent example of the mid-nineteenth century fad, the Gothic Revival cottage. A yellow wooden structure, it is complete with carpenter fashioned buttresses, drip moldings and tracery.

The Case Tavern (L), a large, rectangular frame structure covered by white clapboards, was built by Russel Case in 1799. The building is typical of the 62 hostelries that at the peak of turnpike travel lined the 55 miles to Cherry Valley. (Photo shown here...)

At 20.7 m. is the junction with a dirt road. Left on this road 0.3 m. to the North House (L), a square, two story frame structure of Georgian Colonial design built in 1784 by William North (1755-1836). Born in Maine, North served during the Revolutionary War as aide to Baron Von Steuben, and later was adopted by Steuben... His grave is in Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery in Duanesburg.

A short distance beyond the North House stands the 12 room Georgian Colonial structure known today as the Duane-Featherstonhaugh House, built about 1816 by James Duane's youngest daughter Catherine...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Section b. Albany to Sangerfield; 93 m. US 20

West of Albany US 20 follows roughly the old woods-roads andIndian trails over which the Tory and Indian raiders struck eastward during the Revolution, wiping out settlements and isolated homes. Over this same route rode nineteenth century Paul Reveres, hunting horns blaring, to call the antirenters together to fight the sheriff and his deputies.

Just west of Albany, 0 m., is Mckownville, 5.8 m., a clambake and midget-auto racing paradise. Almost every weekend during the warm season, Albany clubs and organizations crowd McKown's Grove for a 'bake.' A cobblestone lined pit is filled with cordwood, which is burned until the stones are almost white hot. Then the ashes are swept out and the pit spread with a layer of fresh seaweed. Wire baskets, each filled with two dozen or more washed and selected clams, two clambake sausages, one-half chicken, one white and one sweet potatoe, and one or two ears of corn..., are set into the pit and the whole covered with a tarpaulin, edges sealed with wet clay. The steamed clams are supplemented by iced raw clans, bread, pickles and olives.

On Sunday afternoons the Capital City Speedways sponsor midget auto races on the pear shaped quarter mile dirt track in McKown's Grove. The light, stubby cars, 500 to 900 pounds in weight, whirl 21 laps for the main event, their open exhausts clattering, adding din and dust to the general excitement.

Albany NY cont.

(More excerpts from the Albany city section in the guide - TheOldLibrarian.)

The diminutive DeWitt Clinton made the first trip over the Mohawk & Hudson railroad to Schenectady on September 24, 1831. [From the intersection of Western & Madison Ave. on what is now US 20. See picture above.)

The unleashing of energy and the sprut of industrialization that followed the Civil War, together with increased immigration, turned Albany into the path that led to its twentieth century industrial and commercial importance...

Together with its industrial neighbor, Rensselaer, Albany today has large factories making, among other products, checkers..., billiard balls..., drugs, textiles...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Albany NY

(The OldLibrarian: the tour passes over Albany itself, what follows is a very abbreviated version of the entry for Albany in the cities section of the guide. US 20 follows Madison and then Western Avenues through the city, the only part of the route though NY other than Auburn where the route ran through one of the larger upstate cities.)

Albany (18' alt., 130,447 pop.), capital of New York State, inland seaport..., is built along the edge of a plateau that extends 18 miles northwest to the Mohawk Valley... Although Albany is an important manufacturing and wholesale center, its personality is determined by its function as the capital of the state... It is this large group of office workers that gives Albany an essentially 'white-collar' appearance.
The first permanent settlers, who came in 1624, were 18 families, mostly Walloons from Holland. They built a second fort on the site of the present river steamer landing and called it Fort Orange in honor of the ruling house of Holland.

In 1630 Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, with two partners, purchased from the Indians land on both sides of the Hudson River and established the patroonship of Rensselaerwyck.

[After the colony passed from the Dutch to the English in 1664...] The British permitted the Dutch to retain their own language, customs, religion...

The fur trade made Albany traders wealthy and intensified friction with the French. Control by the English of the interior and the fur trade of the Great Lakes area depended on their alliance with the Iroquois and the of the defense of the Colonial frontier, of which Albany was the key.

[During the Revolution...] Capture of Albany was the objective of the British campaign of 1777... The war at an end and the Indian treaties voided, Albany found itself at the crossroad of a free Nation in the making. Lands in the central and western parts of the State were opened to settlement; and the principal route from the New England States lay down the Hoosick Valley to the Hudson, south to Albany, and across the pine plains to Schenectady and the Mohawk Valley. The main stream of westward emigration poured westward through Albany; in 1795, five hundred vehicles a day pushed up State Street hill...

In the closing years of the [18th] century, migration forced the first road improvements and the development of a number of turnpikes radiating from the city. At the height of turnpike travel, 20 stagecoaches left Albany daily over the Cherry Valley route (now US 20)...

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Mass. Line to Albany cont.

Benjamin Budd's Tavern, 11.2 m., (L), now a private residence, was built about 1800 on the site of the cabin of David Brainard (1718-47), Indian missionary. (TheOldLibrarian - the Indians would have been the Mohicans, whose homeland this area was. Pictured here is Mohican chief Etow Oh Koam).

At 11.8 m. is a junction with State 66. Left on State 66 down the Kinderhook Creek valley to the Berkshire Theatre Workshop, 3.5 m., a summer school for dramatic training...

At Nassau, 16.1 m., when legal obstructions can be circumvented, greyhound races are run at the Rensselaer County Fairgrounds. Tickets for admission are distributed profusely without charge ; the large profits are made from betting. The course is sometimes run with monkeys astride the dogs.

Skirting the Hudson Valley fruit belt, at 20.9 m. US 20 unites with US 9.

At 24.1 m. is the junction with US4.

At 29 m. the route bears L. on the Parker Dunn Memorial Bridge.

(TheOldLibrarian - US 20, before it crosses the Hudson into Albany, runs through East Greenbush, in 1940 a region of small farms, and Rensselaer, home of Fort Crailo, site of the writing of Yankee Doodle Dandy etc. A New Yorker, I have perhaps noticed this more in the NY guide than others, the sometimes curious omission of towns along the way.)

Monday, May 7, 2007

Mass. Line to Albany cont.

At 2.1 m. is the eastern junction with State 22 which unites briefly with US 20.

New Lebanon, 2.9 m., (400 pop.), was the birthplace of Samuel Tilden (1814-86) who as member of the state legislature and governor pushed the investigations that smashed New York City's Tweed Ring and the upstate Canal Ring. Tilden was initiated into politics at an early age when conferences were held at his father's house by Martin Van Buren... and other big wigs of the Albany Regency... In 1876, as presidential candidate, he won a majority of the popular vote. But the electoral vote was so close that a special commission was appointed which gave Rutherford Hayes the office by a majority of one... (Pictured here)

Just west of the village is (R) the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes (open May-Nov.), built around a spring. On the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Christopher (July 25), thousands of motorists drive to the shrine for the annual blessing of automobiles.

Crossing the narrow valley of the Wyomanock Creek, the road passes between the Lebanon Valley Ski-Jump Course (R) and Toboggan Slide (L)...

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Section a. Mass. Line to Albany; 29.3 m.

Shaggy Mount Lebanon rises north of the point where US 20 crosses the Massachusetts Line, 0 m., 7.8 m. west of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. As the highway winds down the mountainside it passes several barnlike houses (L), remnants of the Mount Lebanon Shaker Settlement, established here in 1785. The Shakers were one of the earliest religious cults to sprout along the east-west axis of the Empire State. Its distinguishing tenents were celibacy, community of property... The social unit was the large 'family' housed under one roof, but the men and women eating and lodging seperately. The physical paroxysms accompanying their religious exercises gave rise to the name 'Shaking Quakers,' later abbreviated to Shakers. (Pictured here, the Mount Lebanon Meeting House ca1933.)

In response to a revelation, Mother Ann led six men and two women converts to America from England in 1774. This group originally settled at Watervliet, but Mount Lebanon was the first formal Shaker Society...

A combination of communism, industry and inventiveness built a prosporous society during the 19th century... But the sects exclusive dependence on converts and the adoption of orphans to recruit its numbers has led to a slow disintigration until today there is only a handful of aged Shakers left.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Tour 8, US 20 across New York

(Pittsfield Mass.) - Albany - Cherry Valley - Sangerfield - La Fayette - Auburn - Geneva - Canandaigua - Fredonia - Westfield - (Erie, Pa.) US 20. Massachusetts Line to Pennsylvania Line, 387.6 m.

Two, three, and four lane concrete, with stretches of two-lane macadam...

In 150 years trails and woods-roads have been joined to make US 20 a popular route spanning the Empire State but touching only two large cities - Albany and Auburn. From the crest of the Taconics the highway drops into the Hudson Valley; west of Albany it mounts the flank of the Helderbergs, dips into and out of the valley of Schoharie Creek, plunges into the upper valleys of the Susquehanna watershed, rides the serrated northern rim of the Allegheny Plateau, crosses the base of the Finger Lakes, then cuts across the rolling Ontario Plain to Lake Erie, and thence southwest to the Pennsylvania line...

Following the trails made by moccasined feet, the route runs the length of the 'Long House' of the Iroquois Confederacy... The Revolution ended, Sullivan's soldiers went home to New England bearing tales of a fertile land to the west; and with the peace, the westward rush was on...

The migrating New Englanders, besides settling the region with stubborn, sturdy men and women, added their characteristic religious and political vagaries. Memorials of their sects and cults are scattered along the route from the Shakers at New Lebanon to the the Brotherhood of the New Life at Brocton...

US 20 across New York

New York is TheOldLibrarian's home state, and I'm looking forward to this part of the tour. Many familiar and beloved stretches of rural highway here; if you ever can, drive US 20 from outside of Albany to Skaneateles, it is a lovely stretch of upstate NY touring.

The descriptions that follow are drawn from New York: a guide to the Empire State, Federal Writers Project, 1940. Like the other state guides, this title is widely available in libraries (see, and used book stores for modest prices (check

As always on this tour, bear in mind that it is drawn from a series of books now almost 70 years old! This fact is part of their charm and historical interest, but obviously some sites are no longer there and so forth...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pittsfield to the NY line

West of Pittsfield, US 20 crosses the Taconic Range. At 3.4 m. is a splendid view of the mountains (N). Prominent is the 'Ope of Promise, a knob like peak on Tower Mountain. On this the spirits of dead Shakers were supposed to dwell. (Pictured here: Shaker Village round barn.)

The Old Shaker Colony, 4.7 m., was established between 1780 and 1790. At the Community House and Handicraft Shop the handicrafts are still cultivated, though less than a dozen members remain of a once large and prosporous community.

The Summit House (alt. 1480) and an Observation Tower are at 6 m.

At 7.1 m. on Lebanon Mountain (alt. 1400) is a turnout from which there is a view of open fields, and in the distance the wooded tops of the New York Berkshires. In the heart of the valley are a group of buildings of the Lebanon (NY) Shaker Village (L). The Lebanon School for Boys occupies a group of buildings formerly owned by the Shaker Community.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


(TheOldLibrarian: the following is adapted from the Pittsfield city entry in the guidebook... Pictured here is West Street in the 1940s)

Pittsfield, power-source and playground. (alt. 1038, pop. 45,516, incorp 1761.)
Railroad stations: Union Station, West St., B. & A. R. R.
Bus stations: 48 South St. for Greyhound, New England Transportation, Arrow, Interstate, Vermont Transit, Berkshire Motor Coach, Blue Way. Nutmeg and Peter Pan lines.
Accomodations: one first class and three second class hotels; numerous inns.

In the shadow of Mount Greylock, high in the rolling Berkshires, Pittsfield opens the commercial gateway to western Massachusetts. Situated between the upper branches of the Housatonic River, the city is traversed by streams which for a hundred years or more furnished power to factories producing such varied products as silk thread, mohair braid, tacks...

Today the city has a prosporous, tranquil look of general comfort and culitivation which makes it one of the most attractive industrial cities in the state...
There has been a change, however, in the character of the city's holiday population. In the latter part of the 19th century Pittsfiled attracted a wealthy leisure class who resided solidly on spacious estates. The rambling old Maplewood Hotel, in the heart of the modern city, was a relic such as could not be matched short of Saratoga, with its long verandas...
The advent of the automobile has changed everything. The leisurely old school ladies and gentlemen who once trotted sedately in victorias or runabouts are no more. Their modern successors now whirl in and out again in swift cars, and hotels, new and old, are conduits for a never ending stream of summer and winter visitors...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Springfield to US 7 cont.

At 48.3 m. US 20 turns sharply right, ascends a steep hill, and passes charming Laurel Lake (bathing, fishing), 49.2 miles. Back of the lake to the northwest amid forested green hills is The Mount, (pictured here) home of Mrs. Edith Wharton, the celebrated novelist. Henry James was a frequent guest here.

US 20 gives glimpses of Mt. Stockbridge and Mt. Baldhead (L); far across Lake Mahkeenac (L), 49.9 m., is the red-roofed castle like villa in which Andrew Carnegie was living when he died in 1919. It is now a Jesuit novitiate, Shadowbrook.

Lenox, 51.8 m. (see Tour 17), is at the junction with US 7 with which US 20 unites, to Pittsfield, 58.4 m.
(TheOldLibrarian - from Tour 17) Lenox, (pop. 2706, sett. about 1750), was named for Charles Lenox, Duke of Richmond, a defender of Colonial rights. Industries in town included an iron foundry, marble works..., but today only two tobacco mills operate. The town early became a summer resort with fine hotels and magnificent homes.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Springfield to US 7 cont.

US 20, northwest of East Lee, parallels the Housatonic and threads its way among the fertile fields and rich farms. (Pictured here: early filling station in Lee.)

Lee, 46.6 m. (pop. 4178, sett. 1760), named for General Charles Lee, later notorious for his treason to Washington, is a prosporous paper manufacturing town... It is said that one half of the paper used in cigarettes during the World War was made in Lee.

The slender spired Congregational Church, built in 1857, has walls and ceilings decorated by an itinerant German painter in true fresco. The white marble Public Library occupies the site of the log house where the original settlers held their first town meetings.

On Orchard St. is the entrance to Ferncliff, an evergreen-crowned eminence, on the northwest slope of which is Peter's Cave, where Peter Wilcox, condemned to die for his participation in Shay's Rebellion, hid for a time. He was captured, but eventually was pardoned.

Left from the village on West Park St., across the river, at 0.4 m., a road runs left to the Lime and Marble Quarries that supplied marble for the capitol at Washington... The small mill nearby has cut thousands of headstones for the graves of soldiers buried in Arlington Cemetery.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Springfield to US 7 cont.

Tyringham, 5.1 m. (pop. 243, sett. 1735.)... was bought from the Stockbridge Indians. It was named Tyringham at the suggestion of Lord Howe, who owned an estate in Tyringham, England. Maple sugar-making was learned here from the Indians...

At the Center is a brick smokestack beside the brook, all that remains of a flourishing paper mill of the 1850s.

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), lived in Tyringham during the summer of 1903, and presented the library with a complete set of his books.

Left from US 20, State 102 crosses the Housatonic River at 0.2 m. and swings through an Italian colony...

Straight ahead rises the long, lofty ridge of Beartown Mountain, for years the home of a hermit known as Beartown Beebe, whose weather predictions were published in many metropolitan dailies. The lowlands along the highway are called the Hoplands because of wild hops that grow beside the books and river...

South Lee, 2.4 m., lies beside the Housatonic River at the foot of high, forest covered hills and mountains. Spanning the river is a Covered Bridge. Left from South Lee, 0.5 m. on a dirt road are the scientifically constructed Beartown Mountain Ski Trails...

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Springfield to US 7 cont.

US 20 skirts the hill-banked shores of Greenwater Pond and traverses a narrow plain flanked by partly cleared mountain slopes.

At 42.1 m. is... visible (R) a distant mountain range, with October Mountain the most prominent peak.

East Lee, 44.5 m., was formerly a prosporous mill village, utilizing water-power from Greenwater Brook.

At 45.7 m. is the junction with State 102 and an unnumbered road. Left on this... road, through the 'hidden vale of Tyringham,' at 3.4 m., built of stone and wood, with tapering towers, in landscaped gardens, is the home of the sculptor, Henry Hudson Kitson.

Across the valley at 4.4 m. (R) are visible the wooded slopes of Mt. Horeb, on which is Fernside, a former Shaker community... It is said that true Shakers believed that there was an invisible tabernacle here in the midst of a beautiful garden where all kinds of fruit grew in abundance.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Springfield to US 7 cont.

At 31.5 m. is the blue-gray quarry region - home of Becket's early industry. Blocks of this colorful stone are seen along the roadway.

At 32.5 m. is the foot of Jacob's Ladder; the climbing highway opens up many vistas of beautiful mountain country.

At 33.1 m. on a small plateau lies Bonny Rigg Four Corners (alt. 1400), a famous old stagecoach crossroads from which State 8 (see Tour 21) runs right. (Pictured here.)

US 20 rises steadily by a series of steep hills, passing many small clearings in the woods (deer-hunting in season; picnic tables, parking places).

At 34.9 m. is Jacob's Well (R) a wayside spring dating from ox-cart days. Near the top of the Ladder new ofrests of white pine are slowly restoring the richness of the woodland, damaged by an ice storm in 1920.

At 35.4 m. (alt. 2100), at the summit of the pass (picnic and camping), is a wooden Tower (fee 10 cents) affording an extensive view...

Us 20 drops gradually down into a marshy valley where lies Shaw Pond (camping); along its western bank, off State 8, is a thriving cottage colony.

At 38.6 m. is the junction (L) with State 8.

At 39.8 ,. US 20 passes through the cutaway embankment of the Berkshire Street Railway, and continues through wild country the chief crop of which was once huckleberries.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Springfield to US 7 cont.

Chester, 28.9 m. ( pop. 1363, sett. 1760), was incorporated as Murrayfield, in honor of John Murray, treasurer of the proprietors. Ten years later the citizens voted to change the name, apparently as a result of his Tory sympathies. When Murray left the country in 1778, he was forbidden to return.

Agriculture, including the production of maple sugar..., and the mining of mica, emery, and corundum have been the chief occupations of the people...

Beyond (W) the town hall is a high promontory called Big Rock, providing a good view; here are the entrances to some of the old emery mines. The Hamiliton Emery and Corundum Plant, Middlefield Rd., is one of the oldest and most important manufacturers of emery in the country.

Right from Chester on Middlefield Rd. to a trail at 1.3 m.; left on this to the summit of Mt. Gobble (alt. 1600). The ascent is faciliated at intervals by a stairway...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Caution from TheOldLibrarian

Just as a reminder, this blog largely consists of entries from the ca1930s Federal Writer's Project guidebooks to the states and their road tour coverage of US 20. Obviously much has changed since then. Companies have closed, museum admissions and hours changed etc.

Part of the interest I think of the Federal Writers Project books is how they capture this country just on the cusp of WWII, which was to bring so many changes. So if you venture forth on US 20, and I hope you will, please, bear in mind, this blog largely consists of 60+ year old information!

I will add links to contemporary web sites, make comments and so on occasionally, but make no pretense of fully linking that world with this. That's part of the fun I think, to get out on those old highways and see where things have changed. Happy motoring!

Springfield to US 7 cont.

At 14.2 m. is the entrance (L) to Tekoa Park (picnic facilities). Directly opposite, across the Westfield River, is Mt. Tekoa (alt. 1211), a rugged, dome-shaped peak...

(Pictured here: Strathmore Paper Mill)

Woronoco, 15.5 m., is best known as the home of the Strathmore Paper Company Plant (open by permission), across the river. The village is at the junction with State 17.

At 17.9 m. is Russell (pop. 1283, sett. 1782). Here in 1858 the Chapin and Gould Paper Mils were established...

Huntington, 22 m. (pop 1345, sett. 1769), at first called Norwich, was later named for Charles F. Huntington. The town was barely a year old when it organized a military company and began to store ammunition. The townsfolk displayed little sympathy with Shay's Rebellion, and a group of rebels stormed the town, seizing John Kirkland, captain of the local militia...

The Murrayfield Grammer School on the Worthing Rd. houses a historic bell stolen by Union soldiers from New Orleans during the Civil War.

At 22.1 m. is the junction with Old US 20. (TheOldLibrarian - see Tour 4B in the book - this was called the "Skyline Trail," and ran about 20 miles through the Berkshires to State 8.)

Boulder Park (camping, swimming, picnicking), 24.1 m. (L), deriving its name from a huge rock by the roadside, is in the Chester-Blandford State Forest.

At 28.8 m. is the Cortland Grinding Wheels Plant, one of the largest manufacturers of emery wheels in the country.

Beyond the factory is a Fountain, a water spout at the end of the town water main, which in winter freezes to a glittering mosque-like dome 50 to 60 feet high.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Springfield to US 7 cont.

At 9.4 m. is Westfield, (pop. 18, 788, sett. about 1660). The first road was cut through in 1668 and travel increaded so rapidly that four years later Captain Aaron Cook opened a tavern here.

The Westfield Athenaeum (open weekdays, 9-9; Sun. 2-6), corner of Elm and Court Sts., overlooking the Green, is an attractive brick building with limestone trim, housing the library. On the upper floor is the Edwin Smith Historical Museum, which consists of a large hall divided into two parts, the one containing a well furnished Colonial kitchen brought from Connecticut, and the other a living room of a typical New England home of the late 18th century; among the exhibits are women's costumes and a number of dolls...

The State Teachers College, on Court St., established in 1844, is the second oldest institution of its kind in the state. The imposing three story building of red brick stands on a three acre campus.

Left on Smith Ave., 0.1 m. in front of the Westfield High School is Grandmother's Garden, planted with nearly all known herbs and with old-fashioned flowers. (Pictured here)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Springfield to Junction with US 7 cont.

At 5 m. the country is more open, with nurseries and tobacco fields occupying most of the land between the scattered houses. At 5.4 miles the road enters a cut through trap rock, an extension of Mt. Tom range.

At 7.5 m. US 20 crosses the Westfield River, (the US 20 crossing pictured here) tributary of the Connecticut, furnishing water-power for many industries.

At 8.5 m. US 20 crosses the Little River; just north of this point the first settlers built a fort. The last Indian raid in this region occured in 1820 (TheOldLibrarian: this must be a mistake, I should think it was 1720.)

Springfield to US 7

At 0.3 m. US 20 crosses the Connecticut River on the Hampden County Memorial Bridge.

West Springfield, 2 m., (pop. 17, 118, sett. about 1660), has a subsidiary of one of the oil corporations, a large paper manufacturing plant... Large market gardens flourish in Riverdale, and some dairying is carried on west of the town.

The Common was the campsite of three Revolutionary War armies under the respective commands of Generals Amherst, Burgoyne, and Riedsel, the latter in charge of German mercenaries...

The First Congregational Church (1800) on Orthodox Hill, now the Masonic Temple, is designed in the manner of Christopher Wren, with less modification than is usual in New England.

The Day House (open Tues, Thur., Sat., adm. 10 cents), north of the Commons, built in 1754, is a historical museum maintained by the Ramapogue Historical Society.

At the Center is the junction with State 5A.

At 3.9 m. is the junction with Churchill Rd. (L), the entrance to Mitineague Park (atletic fields, picknicking).

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sec. C. Springfield to Junction with US 7, 51.8 m.

Between Springfield and the junction of US 7, US 20, the Jacob's Ladder Trail, crosses the beautiful lower Berkshire Hills.

(US 20 or Jacob's Ladder Trail ca1920.)

Springfield cont.

TheOldLibrarian: the guidebook calls Springfield The Metropolis of Western Massachusetts. In 1937 it had a population of 149, 642, having been settled in 1636. It ...lies on the east bank of the Connecticut River, holding a strategic position in the traffic of the New England states with New York and the West. Its situation on a series of terraces and in gently rolling country produces an effect of spacious leisure... Also noted are its diversified industries, among them then Springfield Armory, still there as a museum.

The region was at the center of the post Revolutionary War event known as Shay's Rebellion, and the Springfield Armory ...became Shay's Waterloo when an attempt to capture the United States Arsenal was frustrated.

An industrial center for much of its history, Springfield served as a business site for two years in the 1840s for John Brown, who ran a wool warehouse here for a time, and had such visitors as Frederick Douglass.

Largescale immigration in the post Civil War era created a very diverse ethnic mix in Springfield of Irish, Italians, Russians, French-Canadians and Poles among others.


TheOldLibrarian: Springfield is, or was in 1937, 92.5 miles out of Boston on US 20. There's a lengthy description of Springfield as it was then in the cities section of the Massachusett's guide book. I'll just note a few highlights in the next entry or two and encourage you to look for the book itself sometime if curious for more.

Remember, to see what libraries in your area own, your local library system catalog of course, and to buy. You're looking for Massachusetts: a guide to its places and people, Federal Writers Project, 1937.

State 9 - Springfield, North Wilbraham

North Wilbraham, 47.4 m. (pop 2969, sett. 1730), is a trading village and the political center of Wilbraham...

Left from North Wilbraham on a hard surfaced road is Wilbraham, 2.1 m., the geographical center of the township. Wibraham Academy, founded in 1817..., occupies the group of brick buildings on the hill... In 1911 it became a college preparatory school for boys after having been a co-educational institution for 94 years.

On Dipping Hole Rd. is Peggy's Dipping Hole, so-called because on a certain winter Sabbath morning one Miss Peggy, who was riding to church on horseback, broke through the ice and was 'dipped' in the freezing water.

Left from Wilbraham is a mountain road to the Lookout Tower, 1 m., on the summit of Wilbraham Mountain, affording a view of the Connecticut River Valley and the Mount Holyoke range.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

State 9 to Springfield cont.

Palmer, 42.2 m. (pop 9437, sett. 1716), was known as the Elbow Tract until its incorporation, when it was named for Chief Justice Palmer. It has developed industries producing cotton piece goods, wire... At Palmer is the junction with State 32.

(Above: Chicopee River Bridge, destroyed in 1938 hurricane.)

At 43.4 m. US 20 crosses the Quabog River. A pile of stones (L) in the middle of the river is the remains of Scott's Bridge, built in Colonial days and used by General Washington on his way to Boston in 1775.

At 47.2 m. is a junction with a side road. Right on this road 0.2 m. is an old covered bridge spanning the Chicopee River. Built in 1852, this bridge is the last of its kind in Hampden County.

An aside from the Old Librarian

Interested in those 1930s guides to the states I am drawing this blog from? Most libraries will have a copy for that state, and bigger libraries may have those for other states as well. If you're curious about what's out there in libraries, check your local library website. A site that works for the whole US is, which draws on library catalogs from all over to tell what's around.

You can buy the guidebooks too, they are often available at used book dealers for modest prices. A good online site is - in the author line put writers project, and in title put "state name."

Monday, March 12, 2007

State 9 to Springfield cont.

Between Sturbridge and Brimfield, US 20 crosses rolling farm country, on both sides of the road fields slope gradually to the base of distant hills.
(L. stagecoach in Brimfield...)

At 30.7 m. is the junction with a road in East Brimfield. Right on this dirt road is Little Alum Pond, 1.3 m. (picnic grove, refreshment stand, boating, bathing and fishing)...

At 34 m. is Brimfield, (pop. 892, sett. about 1706). The village, with its white Colonial church overlooking the village Green, and street lined with closely planted elms, is on the old stagecoach route. Its few industries did not survive the introduction of mass production.
Left from Brimfield, State 19 follows Wales Brook, skirting the southern part of the Brimfield State Forest, with the summits of Mt. Pisgah and Mt. Hitchcock visible to the west.
Wales, 4.4 m., (pop. 382, sett. about 1726), is surrounded by woodlands, market gardens and dairy farms... Dominating the village is an old-fashioned New England hotel with a wide porch extending across its breadth, on which a row of inviting chairs offers a vantage point for observing the leisurely goings and comings of the townsfolk...
Right from Brimfield on Warren Rd. at 2 m. is the junction with a mountain road; left on this road (25 cents toll) is Steerage Rock, a huge boulder used as a landmark by Indians and travellers on the Bay Path during the colonization of the Connecticut Valley. It was said to be a favorite camping place for King Phillip; from here he could watch the villages in the valley below.

Route 9 to Springfield cont.

At 27.7 m. is the plant of the Snell Manufacturing Company, the oldest auger and bit factory in the country. Tools manufactured here were used in building the U.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides); a new set of tools was presented to the Navy by the company when the old ship was refitted.

(L. Icon from St. Anne's Shrine)

In Fiskdale, 28.2 m., is the Shrine of Saint Anne, containing a relic of the saint brought here in 1892. Today clustered about her statue are canes, crutches and broken casts left by the afflicted who believe they have been restored to health by her gracious intercession. About a hill on the grounds are the 14 Stations of the Cross with 49 steps leading to a cross on the summit.

Friday, March 9, 2007

State 9 to Springfield cont

Charlton City, 20.9 m., contains two woolen mills. At 26.6 m. is the junction with State 15. Left on State 15 at 0.3 m. is the junction with State 131l left on 131 is Sturbridge, 0.5 m. (pop 1918, sett. 1729), visited by Englishmen as early as 1633... Dairying, sheep raising and orchard culture were the main occupations until the water power attracted industries including tanneries etc...
(L., Old Sturbridge Village)

Opposite (the Common) is the Old Cemetery, enclosed by a stone wall that was built by four companies of Revolutionary Soldiers from Sturbridge - each company building one side.

Straight ahead is Southbridge, 4.2 m., a manufacturing community lying in a valley. More than half the inhabitants are French-Canadians, who maintain their native customs and languages...

The American Optical Company on Mechanic St., 0.2 m. east, employing 3200 people, is the most important business in town.

The Wells Museum (open weekdays, adm 25 cents), 176 Main St., is a private collection of early American, English... articles. (The Old Librarian notes that this museum, founded by the owner of the American Optical Company, is the origin of today's famous Old Sturbridge Village.)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Sec. b. State 9 to Springfield, US 20, 57.3 m.

Between the junction of State 9 and Springfield, US 20 traverses a pleasant countryside broken by low hills sloping gently into the Connecticut Valley

At 8 m. are the drying beds and fountain sprays of the Worcester Purification Works, where the Imhoff system is used, the sludge being seperated by the 'digestive' system.

Us 20 skirts the city of Worcester; at 13.6 m. is the junction with State 12

At 19.9 m. is a junction with an improved road. Left on this road is Charlton, 0.8 m., (pop 2366, sett. about 1735), named for Sir Francis Charlton, a Privy Councillor of England.Since 1789 the population has increased by only 286, and the Puritan tradition still dominates the community. Agriculture is still the chief means of livelihood...

On the Common is a memorial to William Morton (1819-68), given by the dentists of America to honor the man whose experiments with ether first made possible anesthesia during surgical operations...

On Main St., just south of the Center, the Old Burying Ground (1750), now called Bay Path Cemetery, contains three Photograph Stones - headstones provided with small glass covered niches in which were placed daguerreotypes of the deceased. Once the vogue, few of these curious stones remain.

Here also is the 'Grizzly' Adams Headstone, beneath which one of P.T. Barnum's bear tamers was buried after a disasterous encounter with Bruin....

Boston to Northborough cont

At 33 m. is the junction with the Old Boston Post Rd. and the Southwest cut-off.

Right on this road at 2.3 miles is the Artemas Ward Homestead. Ward, first commander in chief of the Continental Army, later became chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas. The estate is now the property of Harvard University, and the house, largely unaltered, contains the Ward family furnishings.. (L, Gen. Ward)

Just west of the Town Hall is the Common, near which in Colonial days were the stocks and whipping post... The first person sent to these stocks was their manufacturer. His only payment for making them was the remittance of a fine for some previous misconduct.

Us 20 west of 33 m. is known as the Southwest Cutoff, a three lane express highway passing few points of interest and avoiding large communities.

Boston to Northborough cont.

At 26.9 m. is the Williams Inn (L), formerly the Williams Tavern. The original tavern, built in 1662, was burned by Indians in 1776; the present building was built in the following year. Many famous guests, including Washington and Lafayette, have stopped here...

At 29.4 m. is a marker giving directions for a five minute walk to the Monument and Grave of Mary Goodnow. On August 18, 1707, Mary Goodnow and a friend, Mrs. Fay, left the garrison to gather herbs near Stirrup Brook. They were surprised by a small band of Indians; Mary, who was lame, was caught in flight, slain, and scalped, her body being left beside the path.

Northborough, 31.7 m. (pop 2396, sett. about 1672), is a town that was once part of Marlborough. Market gardening and fruit raising are carried on extensively in the area. In 1884 teeth and other remains of a hige animal were uncovered in the lower part of town; these were identified as those of a mastodon and are now in the Museum of the Worcester Natual History Society.

West of the town hall on Church St. is the triangular Green, on which is the Old Congregational Church (1808) with a bell from the Paul Revere foundry... Behind the church is the Old Cemetery, opened in 1750, containing the grave of Rabbi Judah Monis (1683-1764), for 40 years Professor of Hebrew at Harvard and one of the first prominent Orthodox Jews to embrace Christianity in North America.

US 20 runs through a prosporous country of poultry farms, market-gardens, and fruit orchards as neat and gaily colored as a patchwork quilt.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Boston thru Northborough cont.

Marlborough, 25.9 m. (pop. 15,781, sett. 1657), was the site of an Indian plantation called Okammakamefit. The English knew this town as Whipsufferage. Later it was part of Sudbury. (L., Page of Wampanoag language Bible.)
Although Marlborough was one of John Eliot's Praying Indian towns, it was attacked during King Phillip's War. The following account is given:
"On the Sabbath, when Mr. Brimmead was in sermon, March 20, 1676, the worshipping assembly was suddenly dispersed by an outcry of Indians at the door. The confusion of the first moment was instantly increased by a fire from the enemy; but the God whom they worshipped shielded their lives and limbs, excepting the arm of one Moses Newton..."
Today its (Marlborough's) manufactures include paper boxes, wire goods, shoe machinery... It has a large Italian population, who were encouraged to settle here as a strike-breakers after a serious labor dispute in 1899...

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Boston to Northborough

At 21 m. a tablet marks the site of the Parmenter Garrison House, built before 1686. The carpenters building the Wayside Inn (L) took refuge here during an Indian attack.

At 21.1 m. is a junction with the Old Boston Post Rd., again an alternate to US 20.

Right on this road .3 m. is the Wayside Inn (guide; adm. 25 cents), the core of which was built by Samuel Howe in 1686 and immortalized by Longfellow in "Tales of a Wayside Inn." It is now owned by Henry Ford, who added a two story wing and restored some of the original appearance... When the Inn was first opened to the public, it was known as Howe Tavern, but after 1746, when Col. Ezekial Howe put up a new sign, it became known as the Red Horse Tavern...

At 0.4 m. on the Post Rd. is the Redstone Schoolhouse, a small red frame building set in a grove of pines. A tablet on a huge boulder near it says that the old school house is the one immortalized in "Mary Had a Little Lamb." This claim, however, is disputed.

Between Sudbury and Marlborough US 20 passes through a pleasant countryside, predominantly orchard land.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Boston to NY Line

Wayland, 15.8 m. (pop.3346, sett. 1638), was named for Francis Wayland, clergyman and president of Brown University (1827-55). He was instrumental in establishing here in 1848 a Free Library claimed by a boulder on the Green to be the first free library in Massachusetts. Shoemaking and the harvesting of meadow grass were once important in the town, today market gardening is the chief occupation.
The Unitarian Church, completed in 1815, derives its design from the work of Sir Christopher Wren. It is well proportioned and has a charming bell tower with a Paul Revere bell.
(L, wayland Unitarian Church.)

Right from Wayland on the Old Sudbury Rd. at 1.1 m. is the home of Lydia Child, a charming house of old clapboards painted black, with two brick inside chimneys... Lydia Child, author and abolitionist, gave up her work as editor of the Juvenile Miscellany, the first American periodical for children, to follow William Lloyd Garrison in his anti-slavery crusade.

At 18.6 m. is the junction with Concord Rd.

At 0.4 m. is the Israel Brown House, built in 1725... this house served as a station on the Underground railroad for slaves escaping to Canada. Brown used a stake wagon with a false bottom to carry the refugees to the next station at Lancaster; though suspected and often stopped he was never apprehended.

At 0.5 m. on Concord Rd. is a junction with a short private road; right on this road is the Wadsworth Monument, a granite shaft erected in 1852. When Marlborough was fired by Indians in March 1676, Lt. Curtis of Sudbury led a party in a surprise night attack. The leader of the Indians, Metus, was killed... later, Capt. Wadsworth arrived to assist and marched to Sudbury and was ambushed near the base of Green Hill. After fighting his way to the top, he maintained a stout defense, but toward evening King Phillip routed the Colonials by setting fire to the woods. In the ensuing battle only 14 Englishmen escaped. Capt. Wadsworth and 28 of his men were killed, and they are buried beneath this monument.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Boston to NY Line cont.

At 12.2 m. on US 20 is the junction of Wellesley St. (L) and the Upper Rd., known here as the Boston Post Rd. (R), which is an alternate at this point to US 20.
(Golden Ball tavern on L)

(a number of side tour entries follow, which I abbreviate next...)

Left on Wellesley St. is the Oliver Robbins House, (private), on the NW corner of Chestnut and Wellesley, 1.2 m. It was occupied by Thomas Allen in 1698... (and) is a fine example of an early Colonial dwelling, with a large red-brick chimney.

At 1.4 m. on Wellesley are the entrance gates of the Regis College for Women, administered by the Sisters of St. Joseph. The 170 acre campus is markedly beautiful.

Right on the Boston Post Rd. to Weston, 0.3 m. in what was originally the more 'westerly' precinct of Watertown... The town counts among its noted sons the Rev. Edmund Sears, who wrote 'It came Upon the Midnight Clear'; Carlton Coon, author of 'The Flesh of the Ox'...

The Elisha Jones Place, or Golden Ball Tavern (private), 662 Boston Post Rd., was built in 1751 by Colonel Jones, and was the headquarters of the Tories during the Revolutionary War. At this house, John How, a British spy sent out in 1775 by General Gage was discovered. Though he escaped and reached Worcester, the Weston patriots so aroused the countryside that How reported to Gage that any attempt at the movement of troops in that direction would result in certain defeat - with the result that Lexington was chosen for the British line of march.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Massachusetts, the beginning

(US 20 runs from Massachusetts to Oregon. Here we start our tour, from Massachusetts: a guide to its people and places, Federal Writer's Project, 1937. The Route 20 tour in the book is tour 4, starting on page 468. Norumbega Tower is on left)

Tour 4: from Boston to New York State Line, 152.1 miles, US 20.

The road is hard surfaced throughout, but narrow and in poor condition in some of the rural sections; open at all seasons.

Sec. a. Boston to Junction with State 9, 35.2 m.

Between Boston and Waltham, US 20 traverses a heavily congested area. In some places between Boston and Worcester the route follows the Upper Post Rd., an alternate to the first or Old Post Road. between Boston and Hartford, Conn. Many historic taverns still offer hospitality to the traveler. The countryside, dotted with farms and orchards, is beautiful, especially in the spring and fall.

US 20 follows Beacon St. west from the State House in Boston to Kenmore Square, 1/7 m.; thence along Commonwealth Ave. to Brighton Ave., 3.2 m.

Allston, 3.8 m. (City of Boston), is a residential and industrial suburb.

At 5.1 m. US 20 crosses the Charles River, and at 5.7 m. (R) passes the U.S. Arsenal.

US 20 passes through sparsely settled sections and reaches Waltham, 10.2 m.

West of Waltham US 20 runs through a hilly, heavily wooded countryside with fine estates.

At 11.4 m. is the junction with Summer St.

Left on Summer St. is the Norumbega Tower, 1.3 m., a massive stone structure built by E.N> Horsford, a Harvard professor who made a considerable fortune out of acid phosphate. He spent considerable time and money in a vain attempt to establish his connection that Norumbega, the city mentioned in the "Saga of Eric the Red," was here...

Route 20, coast to coast

US Route 20 is one of the most intact of the remaining old interstate highways. A long time resident of upstate NY, I have often traveled the NY stretch of the highway. I am also a long time admirer of the guidebooks to the states that the Federal Writers Project did in the late 1930s, and have decided to try combining the two interests by posting on this blog, as I can, the text of the descriptions of Route 20 from those old books. (I am editing and abbreviating the text somewhat in the interests of space and time...)
Here then is US Route 20 in its heyday, just before WWII and the modern interstates so changed things. If you're interested in learning more about Route 20, try the Yahoo US Route 20 History group. The books I mentioned are widely available in libraries, and can be purchased from used book dealers such as