The Yellow Brick Road

yellow brick road bridge

The way to the Emerald City?

By Dawn Padfield

Nestled in a quiet spot between Albany and Delmar lies the Normanskill Farm and Hiking Trail. How do you get there, you ask?

Why, just follow the Yellow Brick Road.

yellow brick road old bricks

Albany's Yellow Brick Road was originally part of the Delaware Turnpike System and was known as, perhaps not surprisingly, the Delaware Turnpike. The road has existed since the early 1800s as a way for people to travel to the big city (that would be Albany, if the term "big city" confused you).

In the early 1900s, as industry along the Normanskill grew, the road was improved using these golden-hued pavers. No one seems to know why yellow brick was used, although The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum was published in 1900, so that could have been the inspiration. (Albany = Emerald City?)

In 1928, with the construction of the Delaware Avenue bridge (the "New Bridge"), the road was mostly forgotten. So... I guess it was officially "goodbye, yellow brick road" (you knew it was coming).

yellow brick road new bricksThe cool part is that you can still walk around down there and find remnants of the golden bricks along the original "Old Bridge" over the Normanskill and up the hill towards Albany. On the Normansville side of the bridge (the south side), a portion of the brick road has been fixed up to resemble its original golden splendor. While you're there, you should take a walk around the old hamlet of Normansville. It's like something out of Brigadoon down there.

Beside the Yellow Brick Road, the Normanskill Farm is one of the best places to hike/walk around in Albany. The peaceful trails and views make you forget all the traffic and construction on Delaware Avenue above. There are also community garden plots and a dog park so Fido can do his thing. The Albany Police Department's K-9 training academy is located here so you will often see police officers exercising with their pups.

There is always something new to discover down there. The last time I was there I saw a family of deer camouflaged in a field -- only 10 minutes from downtown.

Oh, Albany. There's no place like home.

Find It

The Yellow Brick Road
Old Rd
Albany, NY 12209

Comments

>>No one seems to know why yellow brick was used, although The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum was published in 1900, so that could have been the inspiration. (Albany = Emerald City?)

Yellow brick roads are actually very common in the Hudson Valley.

Most of them just happen to be underneath asphalt now.*

Some remaining examples of other yellow brick roads are DeGraff Street in Schenectady and the alley in Troy just off Washington Park.

Yellow bricks were manufactured in many local places like Mechanicville and Ravena.

The creator of the Wizard of Oz was manufactured around here, too!

L. Frank Baum grew up in Chittenango NY and appeared on stage a few times in Troy during his failed career as an actor.

So the Yellow Brick Road in the Wizard of Oz was more likely inspired by the yellow brick roads in the Hudson Valley...not the other way around.

-----------

*As a kid I remember how the Yellow Brick Road continued all the way up to the Tastee Freez in Bethlehem. The town paved over that stretch, but relocated a few yellow bricks to a sidewalk in the Four Corners.

I love it down there. The last time I was there was on one of those blistering hot and humid days, and I waded right into the creek with the pup. We got to see some K-9 training in the water, and even some cops took advantage of the cool water and splashed around- in full uniform. The dog park is big and fenced in, so you can take your dog off the leash without worrying about him/her running off. It's really a great little hidden treasure.

Wasn't there another "new bridge" constructed not too long ago? It was my understanding that Normansville was much more accessible until the 80s? 90s? Later? The new new Delaware Bridge isn't that old.

Thanks for the info. Duncan. I did see that a few of the bricks are preserved up at the 4 corners. I also remember that Normanskill Blvd. (on the right before the bridge into Delmar) was left unpaved until recently. The first time I went down there it was extremely bumpy and in disrepair, but I didn't realize that was the Yellow Brick Road I was driving on. When I went back this time, I noticed that the bricks are still visible in some places underneath the asphalt.

@ck

Yes there was a new Delaware Ave bridge constructed in the 1990s. As part of that construction, one house in Normansville was moved (or demolished). That opened up access to a really cool (unofficial and maybe posted, now) trail on the Bethlehem side of the Normanskill.

And yes, Normansville was more accessible (by car) in the 1980s, because you could take Rockefeller Road from Kenwood Ave. in Bethlehem all the way down to Normansville.

You can still walk down that road, but it's abandoned and overgrown now.

I remember riding down that road in my family's station wagon as a kid. Part of the journey included riding over a D&H -owned bridge over the train tracks. My friends and I all called it the "shaky bridge."

The bridge is still there, but you can't drive over it any more.

That sad little bridge. rumor has it that the city of Albany Albany claims it belongs to Bethlehem, Bethlehem claims it belongs to the county, the county claims it belongs to Albany. Left to rot, I guess. A great "secret spot" because of the preserved farm and dog run just down the road.

Oh, and about Chittenango, every year they host an event called "Ozfest" to celebrate Baum's book. I bet there are a handful of headbangers who show up every year wondering why there are a bunch of Dorothys walking around.

it's also a decent place to fly fish--more for getting in some casting practice than actually catching anything, according to my resident fishing addict.

If you'd like to contribute to the needed preservation and educational programs at the Normanskill Farm, become a member of Friends of the Normanskill Farm. We're currently raising money for paint and another informative panel for the interpretive center.
Friends of the Normanskill Farm, c/o DANA, PO Box 9085, Albany NY 12209

In cross country in high school (Albany Academy) we used to run to the end of the Yellow Brick Road, and then up a hill at the end. Then we'd run the hill again... and again.

I forgot about this site

http://www.bethlehemfirst.com/yellowbrickroad/default.htm

Just went down there today, what a wonderful little secret place. Saw a tall wading bird, maybe a blue heron?

I found this all by my lonesome on one of my runs. Things like this make me happy to be in Albany.

I grew up in the neighborhood through the 70's and 80's. The old yellow bricks weren't all that bad on the Bethlehem side then. The part that winds up along the now city owned farm and pops out across from Graceland Cemetery was always a mess in my lifetime. Too much unmanaged water coming off the hill into the road. In the winter it'd buckle really bad. I'm not sure how the city ever plowed it.

Back as a young lad delivering newspapers I used to think that was my own quiet place and I used to arrange my route on the weekend to finish down at the farm and linger there a bit enjoying the scenery. I'm glad to see this green space is being preserved for all to see. It's funny when I get back there as an adult and see how small my big woods and creek really is. I used to spend entire summer days in the woods with nothing more than an old army canteen and an apple or two. I'd come back when I'd hear my mother hollering down the valley that dinner was ready like they call from village to village in the Swiss mountains.

As far as fish in that section of the Normanskill, in my 20 something years living, exploring and fishing there all I ever caught were rock bass, suckers, and the occasional small mouth bass and American Eel. Plenty of very large carp there too. If you're into the carp, in the dog days of summer they hang right below the low waterfall under the cliffs on the Albany side 100-ish yards downstream of the newest new bridge.

DANA advertises an open house at the farm. I'm wondering, after getting 'down there', how wheelchair accessible it would be to get around the farm, if there are any displays, booths or anything, that day of the open house. Anyone?

I grew up in the beautiful little village, and my parents remain in the village still. It's like a step back in time. It has started to lose it's splendor of my youth as some of the homes have changed hands from the original old timers when I was growing up. But the one room church I attended still stands at the head of the road. I spent many summers in the creek and neighboring woods. One of my favorite memories is laying under the lilacs that grew along the creek. Unfortunately, when the "new bridge" was built in the 90's, many of the original trees were cut down. There are too many great memories to list in this one spot. I am forever grateful for the experience of growing up in such a unique neighborhood and to be able to now take my children to the village to experience some of the same childhood memories I have.

As a child I lived up a small hill from the Yellow Brick Road and the yellow Brick Bridge. It was the early 60's. Friends would gather on this bridge . When I wanted to read or write I would sit on a concrete pillar of the bridge ..just under the bridge. It was peaceful. I could hear the creek that I and my sisters and brother would swim in! On summer evenings we would walk up the Yellow Brick Rd to the Tastee Freez and walk back to our home. We would pass the old billiard ball company. There were chunks of broken billiard balls strewn on the side hill and along the edge of the road. Warm memories of my childhood embedded in my heart.

Have such wonderful memories of Normansville and the yellow brick road. I was so happy to see the church still stands and was wondering if services are still held there.

I was pastor there for about four years in the mid 70's and remember the Harbuck family.

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