A gate to the past

Albany Archives posted the above pic today and it prompted one of those the-past-seems-like-a-different-place feels for us.

What is now Western Avenue out past Manning Boulevard was once part of the (First) Great Western Turnpike (we imagine some people said that as if it were italicized -- The. Great. Western. Turnpike.). It stretched from Albany to Cherry Valley more or less along the path of what's now US 20. And it was later extended to Central New York by the... Second Great Western Turnpike and The Third Great Western Turnpike.

The Great Western Turnpike was one of New York's first toll roads. And it was part of a huge boom in turnpike planning and construction during the first few decades of the 19th century. At the time there weren't a lot of good options land travel with any sort of (relative) speed, so the idea of maintained road was attractive. The Great Western Turnpike turned into a conduit for moving agricultural products such as grain and livestock from the rural areas of the west to market in Albany (and connections on the Hudson River). And people traveled along the route, many of them in stage coaches (and stage sleighs during winter).

The heyday of the turnpikes didn't last long. The building of Erie Canal in the 1820s provided cheaper and faster east-west travel for products through upstate New York. And then the railroads came along, with even faster travel. By the mid-1800s turnpike revenues were drying up. The roads would later be turned over to local governments.

By the way: "turnpike" refers to the gate arm or pike that came down across roads from the gate house.


Construction of the Erie Canal began July 4, 1817 - will be celebrating the bicentennial next year:

Awesome! Thanks, MB!

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