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 www.abebooks.com.