Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Albany Road and the Eastern Turnpike

Rensselaer, NY’s upper Washington Avenue has been known by many other names, including Forbes Avenue, the Plank Road, the Eastern Turnpike, and the Albany Road. The roadway dates back to colonial Rensselaerswyck, when tenant farmers traveled it to bring their rent payments of grain and poultry to the Patroon, and maintained the road surface themselves, as part of the labor required in their leases.

The pre-revolutionary “Albany Road” ran from the ferry in Bath-on-the-Hudson all the way to Deerfield, Massachusetts. The old route is mapped in detail in the publication Thro’ a Country Not Well Settled: The Albany Road of 1752-1773 (Rensselaer Land Trust). You can read it at the East Greenbush Library.

The roadway’s importance as a commercial and stage coach route grew, and in 1799, the “Eastern Turnpike Road” was incorporated to maintain the road. (Toll roads were considered a fairer means of financing road maintenance than taxes or landowner labor.) The road was to be constructed:
…at least four rods wide, twenty four feet of which shall be bedded with wood, stone, gravel, or any other hard substance compacted together, a sufficient depth to secure a solid foundation to the same, and the said road shall be faced with gravel or other hard substance in such manner as to secure as near as the materials will admit an even surface rising towards the middle by a gradual arch…

The toll for a horse and rider was 5 cents, and a four-wheel carriage with two horses paid 12 ½ cents (3 cents for every additional horse). Travelers in 1825 could leave Bath-on-the-Hudson to start a 35 hour stagecoach journey to Boston along the Eastern Turnpike, at a cost of $8.75 by “Mail Line” (close to $200 today). The 1841 map below shows the general route (click to zoom in).

Next: Famous names amongst the Directors of the Eastern Turnpike Road

Next: The Albany and Sand Lake Plank Road

No comments: